Know Agony (BORK Build)
Hello, and welcome to my Varus guide. First off, I'm sorry for all the weird meta shifts around Varus. So far this season, we've gone through probably three different builds being the most viable, and it's been tough keeping up. Anyway, Varus is a Marksman who can either be played in the bot lane as an ADC or as a mid laner. This guide focuses on his intended role, ADC. Varus has a lot of poke in his Piercing Arrow. He also excels in trades, thanks to his Blighted Quiver stacks, which are then triggered by his Q or E. With an ultimate invaluable in fights, grade-A trading, and nice scaling out of the early game, Varus is a very solid choice for the bot lane.
Pros and Cons
|+ Good DPS due to Crit/W stacks (crit build).
+ Great poke/chunking of squishies with Q (pen build).
+ Good peel with E and R
+ R good for 1v1ing
+ Great late game scaling (crit)
+ Really strong mid game if you hit Qs (pen)
+ R useful in fights
|+ Immobility is biggest glaring weakness
+ Q poke weak late
+ Hard to position in teamfights
+ Not that useful if behind
+ Q less effective against tanks (pen) (still pretty good considering the state of tanks)
+ Can be abused in fights for relative close range compared to other hurricane building ADCs (Jinx, Cait, Trist) (crit)
Which build do I take?
Hoo boy. Instead of making an entire guide for each build, I thought I'd just list the strengths and weaknesses of each below (PLEASE DON'T THINK I'M LAZY <3).
The most recent and probably most viable build, this style of Varus rose out of the buffs to Blade of the Ruined King in patch 7.5. The higher AD and lifesteal, as well as the replacement of percent health damage with magic damage, all make the item once again a prominent first item option for ADCs. This build is similar to that of a Twitch, buying BORK first, and supplementing this strong base with a Runaan's Hurricane and Infinity Edge to give Varus more DPS. This should go without saying, but your primary damage output with this build are your auto-attacks, which are made even stronger with BORK's magic damage, Blighted Quiver, and the attack speed buff from Living Vengeance. Expect a more similar style of play to hypercarry champions, such as Twitch or Caitlyn, and an emphasis on positioning and focusing of priority targets.
Full Crit Build:
Similar to BORK build, so I'll keep it short and sweet. Essentially it's BORK minus the BORK, replacing it with another Zeal item (most commonly Statikk Shiv or Phantom Dancer). Treat the build path the same, but instead of building BORK, simply start with a B.F. sword into Hurricane, as if you were building a Caitlyn. In terms of playstyle, it's essentially the same as the BORK build.
RIP permabanned OP sniper Varus (for now). This build has fallen out of the meta a bit, but can still be useful sometimes. The focus here is from Q damage, which is increased by building lethality items such as Youmuu's Ghostblade or Duskblade of Draktharr. My hypothesis as to why this isn't as good as it was a few weeks ago is probably because of the resurgence of mid assassins into the meta, nerfs to Edge of Night, and buffs to Blade of the Ruined King. Nevertheless, it's still a good option for a poke or pick comp if you have the team for it.
Essence Reaver Build:
This build was prominent in the start of the seasons, when utility ADCs (aka ult-bots) like Ashe and Jhin were prominent. You get 30% CDR from building Essence Reaver and the two other crit items, which lets your ulti off cooldown frequently. Also, it allows you to use Piercing Arrow for some light poke and Hail of Arrows for some self peel often. You also get good DPS with this build, albeit without much mobility.
Passive: Living Vengeance
This passive buffs your attack speed by 20% for 3 seconds upon a minion kill, and by 40% for 6 seconds upon a champion kill. The minion aspect can be very useful in burning down towers, and the champion aspect can be useful in fights. For example, if you kill a carry early on, the increased attack speed can make it easier and faster to whittle down their front line.
Q: Piercing Arrow
Your primary source of damage and your first max. Upon cast, you draw back your bow, and upon click, you fire. You gradually gain more damage the more you charge. This ability is excellent for harass and trading due to its high damage and range. However, it doesn't do a lot before your first back, so don't go spamming it at level 1 expecting huge damage. In trades, try to get stacks of W onto your target before proc-ing them with Q.
W: Blighted Quiver
Gives your auto-attacks bonus magic damage, as well as applies stacks of Blight to the target, stacking up to three times. The "blighted" target can then be damaged with a damaging ability to pop the stacks and deal extra damage. This allows you to trade very well. A nice combo to use in trades would be three autos to apply stacks of Blight, and then either a Piercing Arrow or a Hail of Arrows, depending on whether the target is running or not (Hail if they are, Piercing if they aren't). This can be used for normal trading, but if you want to execute an enemy, get the three stacks, use Chain of Corruption to lock them down, shoot a Q in, and if they're still alive, E to slow and auto to finish them off.
E: Hail of Arrows
This ability deals decent AoE damage and also provides an AoE slow. It pops stacks of Blight, and also helps a lot with waveclear when combined with your Q. It can also help Varus kite and chase fairly well, but you should still be wary of overcommitting.
R: Chain of Corruption
This skillshot shoots some chains (that KINDA look like tentacles) at the enemy, which roots them, deals some damage, and applies 3 stacks of Blight. If other enemy champions are in the area, the spell can spread to them, considering they stick around. As you can imagine, this spell provides for great follow up. Since there are 3 new stacks of Blight, both Q and E can deal heft damage, while saving the other spell for even more follow up. Use this to quickly take down a priority target, or simply as a means of engage, chase, or escape.
BORK and Full Crit Builds:
Blade of the Ruined King
The ultimate jack-of-all-trades ADC item. Gives AD, lifesteal, attack speed, self peel, and on-hit damage. Gives you a reliable early game, and a good platform to jump off of to reach the 50% crit power spike in the mid game.
Gives you DPS and movespeed. Simple enough.
Spreads your damage around well, useful for waveclear, useful in teamfights. Synergizes well with BORK. You also have great attack speed at this point.
This crit steroid brings your DPS to the next level. Increases crit damage as well as crit chance, all bundled with a nice 70 AD.
Keeps you healthy in fights and when pushing or sieging. Also gives good AD.
mercurual scimitar Mercurial Scimitar
Gives decent enough MR, and AD, and lifesteal, but the crucial component is the QSS active. It lets you escape hard CC, so time it well.
Lord Dominik's Regards
Take if you wanna shred armor stacking tanks/bruisers that you couldn't otherwise kill.
Take against healing champs like Vlad/Soraka/Darius/Maokai.
Maw of Malmortius
Take against burst mages like Ahri/Viktor/Vlad, or even more DPS based ones that can take you by surprise, like Cassio.
Taken rarely, make sure your team can save you while you're in the process of coming back to life.
Increases DPS in fights a lot, also increases mobility a bit (can walk through minions/monsters/champs if close to enemy champs.
Good for more bursty damage onto squishy priority targets, helps waveclear as well. Good if behind.
You need to get a tear first back, in order to have enough mana to be useful. Don't upgrade it for a while though, as it takes longer to stack than someone like Ezreal or Cassiopeia.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity
Best boots on pen Varus. Lets you do Q damage more often. not much else to say.
Gives good mobility thanks to active, also some lethality and CDR. TLDR it makes your arrows start to hurt.
Edge of Night
Very good on pen Varus, takes a second to charge up but is essentially a get out of jail free card if you misposition in fights.
Lord Dominik's Regards
Take if you need hard armor pen, as in the enemy team has a Shen and Nasus. This item is especially good at helping to chunk tanks due to the Giant Slayer passive.
IMO better than Dominik's on Varus, since your arrows won't do that much to super tanks anyway.
Maw of Malmortius
Snag this puppy if you need both CDR and a way of staying alive in fights, especially against teams with AP assassins (or just AP hard carries in general). Can also be taken last.
Synergizes well with Varus. Gives you insurance against poke/burst, and you lifesteal just by hitting an ability.
The key element of this item is, of course, the Quicksilver Sash component, which pretty much denies enemy attempts to lock you down with CC. It also gives great lifesteal and damage.
The go-to boots on most ADCs. The 30% attack speed is actually quite nice, and you can notice the difference.
Your core item. The CDR (and additional CDR due to crit chance) is very useful when spamming Q, and the mana refund aspect enables you to do so. That plus some good damage and good crit makes a great early game item.
It distrubutes stacks of your W, give good on hit, attack speed and crit.
A pretty good power spike, due to the good damage and great crit damage multiplier.
A more offensive option, the high damage, lifesteal, and "over-heal" shield are great in fights to keep you healthy and dealing plenty of damage.
All other items for crit build are featured in the pen build section.
Varus, being an ability-based champion (with semblances of auto attack reliance), does damage fast and best through his ability combos. These are mainly facilitated by popping your W stacks with an ability for extra damage. Below is a list of such combos.
The Pre-6 Combo:
3 W Autos -> Q -> E -> Autos
3 W Autos -> E -> Q -> Autos
These 2 sets of moves are mainly used in lane trading, which you should almost always win, given sufficient mana. The first set (ending in an E) should be used if the enemy laner is already low and you're looking for a kill, hence the late slow for follow up. The second can just be used to harass and chunk, due to it going straight from the E to the Q, since the slow from the E can help you land the Q from a safer distance.
The Ulti Engage Combo
R -> Q -> 3 W Autos -> E -> Autos
Basically, you use this combo to take out a priority target at the start of a teamfight or objective (one that you caught out) or as a means to winning a 1v1. Before you use this combo, be sure that your damage is sufficient, as it is very mana hungry and also burns your very useful ultimate. The ulti as the first move not only prevents enemy escape, but also applied 3 stacks of Blight, which allows for a high damege Q immediately after. If their summs are up, don't hesitate to E early if you think it'll help you secure the kill (due to the slow).
The Donezo Combo
Poke with Q -> E -> As many W autos as you can (up to 3) -> Q or E -> R -> Q
This is a situational combo, so only take this if you see an opportunity. If you see an enemy get particularly low due to your or your team's poke, start aggressing more on it. E so you can get in auto range, and pop the stacks with Q. Then if you really think you can finish them off, you can ulti for 3 more stacks and fire off a Q when it comes up for a heap of damage. Due to the high damage of this combo over a long period of time, it's good for taking down tanks.
Varus' early game and laning phase are fairly strong compared to those of other ADCs. With the long sword + 3 pots start, you get a lot of lane sustain and a little more effectiveness with your poke than you'd get with a Doran's blade. Part of the reason ADCs like Jhin, Varus and even Ashe get Long Sword starts (other than getting earlier item spikes) is to increase the efficiency of poke by sacrificing the health lifesteal provided by Doran's, replacing it with 2 more pot's worth of sustain. In any case, the Bloodlust mastery helps to cover the otherwise lack of lifesteal. Try to harass with autos when you opponent goes for a cs, but be careful of ADCs like Corki (who can harass back quickly thanks to Thunderlord's), Kog'Maw (who has longer range and some of the safest harass in the bot lane), and Caitlyn (still one of the strongest laners, great lane control and long range). If anyone gets on your tail, shoot a Hail of Arrows to dissuade them. I wouldn't poke too much with Piercing Arrow before your first back. Your mana will disappear and you won't have an escape tool with your E. I'd prioritize my poke to after I've landed a couple autos, to make the most of my mana. After you get Serrated Dirk, your poke becomes far more potent, and you have the ability to use it more often thanks to Tear of the Goddess. Here, you should start to take over lane if you've gone even thus far. If you have a support like Zyra, Malzahar, Nami, Thresh, Braum and et cetera, you do have the option of looking for a kill (hopefully on an overextended AD carry) with Chain of Corruption, since your support can supply follow-up CC really easily, and you have great chunking with Piercing Arrow at this point. You are very immobile in lane, so your number one priority should be not overextending. Don't be greedy with auto attack harass, and don't flash in for kills unless you're really sure that you have the kill locked up (this means keeping track of enemy summs, having river vision so the enemy jungler won't show up). Position defensively in early fights, you're squishy and immobile, but can also be the MVP of a fight if you land your arrows. Make sure to charge them for maximum damage.
Here's where you start delivering judgement to health bars. By now you likely have Ghostblade, a triple threat of damage, mobility and CDR. Don't be afraid to use its active, even just to rotate for a couple more minions. You can harass enemy champions by comboing your abilities, but the best way to get kills is to wear them down over time (but not so much that they're forced to back), and then look for an ulti engage to finish them off or at least blow a summoner spell. With Ghostblade and E, you have a fighting chance at simply outrunning the enemy engage. Still, if you're farming a side lane or even 1-3-1ing in mid lane, make sure you have defensive wards. I've said before that you can make or break a teamfight, so if you get ganked in a side lane or flanked and locked down by a tank in mid, your team loses a lot of pressure and poke. Be liberal with your poke if your team wants mid game fights (depends on composition). A Caitlyn at half health before a fight cuts her chances of being as useful as you by a lot. As for your ulti, prioritize assassins like Kha'Zix or Zed that can instagib you or your mid laner. Make sure to aim or predict well, and take their Edge of Night into account. Speaking of which, that's your other core item, and you should also use it a lot, similarly to Ghostblade.
NOTE: I'm starting to get into this guide again, so early/mid/late game, supports, and teamfight sections coming soon! :D
Thanks for reading!