Varus Build Guide by Feynt
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Welcome to my first guide. Playing Varus a bit, I've discovered his AP is sorely under utilized by most. Given his unique differences from Ashe however, I feel playing him hybrid is completely viable, and seek to convince you the reader of this.
I'm revising my build as I go, finding stronger or easier progressions. My initial build focused a bit heavily on AP to start for a strong early ult, but this made life in lane a bit difficult.
A friend of mine proposed an alternative item build, though just spouting off a list of items with no build order. I assembled what seems to be the most logical order to build these items, and while the ability power is lacking it's only a loss of 1% on my original build's burst (per stack).
Pros / Cons
Here's just a few reasons why the hybrid idea can work for you:
- Varus' ultimate has a 1:1 AP ratio, so playing up that AP is to your benefit in team fights
- Unlike Ashe who only benefits from AP on her ultimate, Varus has Blighted Quiver for bonus damage from AP. This skill scales well into late game, doing a percentage of the target's health in magic damage per stack that you trigger. With even a modest amount of AP (like just Nashor's Tooth) you're doing a total of 18% max health damage instead of 15%.
- The mix of decent magic damage per hit with a strong physical damage output makes for a potent one on one fighter and a spiker in team fights
Some reasons why this isn't an ideal build however:
- By splitting damage like this you're not as potent as an AD/crit build for Varus. You will never do 800-1k crits.
- No strong life leech or spell vamp until late game means you're relying on your team for healing or recalling after team fights to recover.
- This is not a solo lane build, the early game particularly will have you relying on a lane partner for kills. This is only a con because it denies you solo potential.
To be honest I don't have a full set of runes. I'm more concerned with the acquisition of champions, so most of my IP goes toward that end. I feel that they don't significantly impact game play enough in some cases to matter (obviously MR, gold, and energy increases are exceptions since you don't automatically gain these things per level, and in the case of energy you can't even buy items to increase the cap).
If I did have the runes, I'd pick ones to increase MR, aspd, and AP over levels, and here's why:
- MR is MR, and some of the strongest burst in the game is magic based. This Varus build relies on magic damage to do his bursting as well. So more MR is better. Plus I couldn't really agree on anything else in the seals
- Attack speed is important to this build as well to not only apply your damage faster, but to apply stacks from Blighted Quiver faster. I tried Guinsoo's Rageblade, and while results were promising, I found the Maw of Malmortius works out better for everyone. Thus aspd must be gained elsewhere.
- AP gain over levels is better in this case than flat AP because the percentage of health removed by Blighted Quiver and the flat damage it deals per hit scale well from higher AP values. His ultimate is also 1:1 AP, and since you don't get that until 6, you're not fully benefiting from the flat AP until then. Come level 7 you've broken even on the AP per level though, giving you an almost equivalent amount, and it's all good from there.
- Marks of Malice for extra critical hit. While the damage isn't especially high, my friend suggested that crit on a higher aspd champion might do better. I feel that this gives it the best chance of being less of a rear loaded damage dealer.
- Still AP per level, because late game it will fill out for the lower AP values.
- Still MR as well, as there's less items giving MR this time around and it's always helpful.
- Quints of Alacrity because speed is an issue.
Pretty straight forward, everything that can possibly help you deal damage in Offense is taken, as well as the 10% magic penetration after cool down reduction. That, combined with Nashor's Tooth, gives you almost 30% CDR. The additions from Utility help you get around and provide some early game mana for extra arrows when you need them.
In the alternative masteries build I offer putting a point in the Offense mastery for Surge and Ignite bonuses.
I prefer Teleport myself for cross map pushing, or joining team fights when needed. It's always on my spell list when I play, no matter who I play. Another viable alternative is Ignite of course, and also Surge for its increased attack speed and AP. At max level, +78 AP means another +1% for your Blighted Quiver stacks. Flash is to help with positioning or escaping, because sometimes you need to be "over there a little more" to line up a shot to pop two champion's stacks, and sometimes you need to be "over there right now" to escape a gank.
Exhaust is almost a worthless spell for Varus considering he has a slow. The reduction in damage is not altogether helpful, as you shouldn't be taking prolonged directed damage because you aren't a tank.
Thanks to a friend of mine, there are now two build options. The first (mine) is more of a rear loaded damage build, focusing on blowing the stacks from Blighted Quiver to deal as much as 24% of a target's health in magic damage. With practice, you can trigger this three times in quick succession, even in a team fight (though maybe not on the same target). The second build (my friend's) focuses on an solid front end damage with decent burst tacked on. While slightly slower and weaker for AP burst, the AD/crit addition helps even things out and smooth the transition from early game into curb stomping mid game.
Rear loaded AP focus:
I like opening with the Meki Pendant because early on I do use my Piercing Arrow for last hitting and harassment. I build into the Fiendish Codex and grab boots upon my return so that I can keep up with the enemies and get a bit of a boost for damage on my Blighted Quiver. In truth this covers most poking early game completely as long as you aren't super aggressive about it and time your shots for maximum damage. With the next trip back I build up Stinger, and if I've been doing well finish it into Nashor's Tooth, the only really essential item in the build.
From experience, life drain is vital, even if it's just a little. So after Nashor's I now pick up a Vampiric Scepter, and finish off my Berserker's Greaves for some very decent aspd to apply Blighted Quiver stacks faster.
From here there are a few build options. If you are facing a lot of magic damage, Hexdrinker into the Maw of Malmortius later on gives you great survivability and some damage. If you're in a mix and most of the damage is from an AD carry, or your team is doing particularly well, this could instead be substituted for a Guinsoo's Rageblade. The damage is higher than the Hexdrinker earlier on, but the AP gain is astonishing once you're into a fight. Of important note, Piercing Arrow triggers a stack of the rageblade on notch but not release, so to keep your stacks you'll have to snap fire your arrows. With Nashor's Tooth you'll have more than enough CDR to keep your stacks going all the time, but the drain on your mana may not make it worth it.
The reason I DON'T pick Guinsoo's Rageblade over the Maw is because overall the damage is much higher on the Maw of Malmortius, it sneaks in 400 more health from its magic shield against the burst damage late game, and provides some decent MR.
Previously I opted to get a Catalyst into either a Rod of Ages or a Banshee's Veil next. I still like the Veil, but you could just as easily substitute this late game for a Guardian Angel. Now however is the time you need some more damage, so upgrading the Vampiric Scepter into a Bilgewater Cutlass is a good next step.
I follow this with the upgrade to the Maw of Malmortius, and really treasure this item, because it's saved me from many a final hit as I run away (like Blitz's shield, it triggers before you would die from damage and eats as much as it can), and the damage boost from the loss of health is incredible (but... only because I have a bad habit of hanging around at half/one quarter health...).
Lastly I build up the Hextech Revolver and finish up with the Hextech Gunblade. As was mentioned by Regiel in the comments, a hybrid isn't quite a hybrid if he only has one or two AP items. The hybridization was previously the unlisted Rod of Ages and/or Rageblade, but this gives a solid drain from both your physical and magical damage (particularly magical, if you're religious about waiting for three charges).
Lastly for some survivability I make Rylai's Crystal Scepter and Banshee's Veil. Again, you can feel free to substitute the Veil for a Guardian Angel for a more well rounded defense and a "Get Out of Stupid, Free" card to play.
Alternative build, more AD focused:
Starting with boots and three potions, you lane as best you can and avoid last line hitting with your Piercing Arrow. Only use the arrow at max charge when you've got a sure 2-3 charges on a retreating foe, you don't have the mana to waste otherwise. On your first return, make your boots into Berserker's Greaves and buy a Vampiric Scepter for that early game lane survivability.
Next, for some additional health and AD, buy a Phage. With your aspd passive and items, you may get lucky and trigger it when you need it, but rely on Hail of Arrows for your slow instead.
NOW follow up with the Fiendish Codex, Stinger, and make Nashor's Tooth for the lovely AP, aspd, and CDR. If you made it this far, you'll notice a significant increase in available mana and killing will become much easier.
For more health and a reliable slow, Frozen Mallet. One of the issues with the skill build I propose is the cool down on Hail of Arrows, it's only usable once a fight basically. This ensures no one gets too far before you fully charge your Piercing Arrows.
Next work into an Atma's Impaler for crits, 36ish damage, and some armour to generally make you survive longer. Honestly, I would prefer a Guinsoo's Rageblade here instead, but my friend insists this is a solid purchase.
Lastly juggle between making the Maw of Malmortius and Hextech Gunblade. The Gunblade is a no brainer still, good life leech and spell vamp on your high magic damage. The Maw also is solid because of the improved damage overall.
The focus of either item build is to make the Blighted Quiver deal more damage, and to have a decently powerful Chain of Corruption. First, a run down:
This skill is what makes Varus famous. It scales off of AD, to absurd amounts honestly, and has the undisputed longest range of any normal skill when fully charged. While this is a powerful ability, this build relies on this to blow up the stacks of the next skill...
The crux of your damage with the AP focused item build, but generally a great ability overall. At level 5, each stack will do a base of 5% of the target's health in magic damage, +0.01% per AP (rounding off it seems) when any of your other skills hits the target. With a high attack rate you can apply stacks quickly, and with decent cool down you can rely on your skills to be there to pop them. With my item build, each stack does 8% of the target's health for a maximum of 24% damage for the whole stack. Blighted Quiver also adds flat magic damage to your attacks, with my build offering 40-60 damage (depending on MR) per attack on top of the AD.
Hail of Arrows:
A smallish sized AoE that slows all in its radius and corrupts the ground, halving the healing of those inside it. Getting someone to stay on it so they waste a heal is difficult to say the least, but the slow is the real star of the show.
Chain of Corruption:
An interesting demi-AoE ultimate. It has a 1:1 AP ratio (the other reason this build focuses on AP), so my build will make this thing do 600 damage. It's a skill shot root/nuke that spreads to nearby enemies after 2-3 seconds if they stay in range. The range is quite small and easy to escape sadly, but in a team fight in the jungle where there's little room to maneuver, chances are you will get this to chain past the initial target. If the target dies however before it can spread, it ends there.
First, an explanation of the skill order:
I choose to max Blighted Quiver first because that's where most of the damage comes from. It's on hit effect with Nashor's Tooth alone gives you quite a bit of damage (30-40ish), and the "surprise" burst when you use your other skills jumps from 2% at level 1 to 5% at level 5. Because we actually need skills to use first, though, I take Piercing Arrow at level 1. This way you have an early poke skill, and something to trigger the quiver stacks.
At level 3 I take Hail of Arrows for the slow and the additional trigger for the stacks. Its damage is not bad but inconsequential early on; it enables team ganks, chasing for that last arrow, or escapes (if not for you at least for your team).
Once you get to level 6 and get your ultimate, it's time to rock. Phreak nailed the combo on the head to be honest: Chain of Corruption -> Hail of Arrows -> Piercing Arrow, being sure to attack in between skills to apply more stacks. With Berserker's Greaves and Nashor's Tooth it is very easy to apply 2-3 stacks before they can go very far. If you go with the alternate build and get Frost Mallet, this can actually supersede the need for Hail of Arrows as a slow and make killing in general easier.
If you start the combo with three stacks already, you're likely to see your opponent's health drop by half early to mid game (if you've built up Nashor's Tooth and other AP granting items). Late game this same combo doesn't do nearly as much, especially if they're stacking MR, but it's still a large chunk of their health. Applying 2-3 stacks before launching the Hail of Arrows (or launching it soon after your second attack, as the third arrow is likely to land before the hail does damage and procs the stacks) will more or less seal the deal, and as long as you've put at least one stack on your target before they get out of range, a max charge Piercing Arrow is likely to finish everyone but the people with shields.
At level 6 with Nashor's Tooth you can expect your ultimate to be ready fairly often, with your available mana being the only limiting factor. Unless you're quite aggressive with your skills, you can expect to do no more than 2 full combos before needing to go back to base to recharge. As nice as Nashor's is for mana regen, it can only do so much and then you need the bigger batteries back home.
So that's it. I'm not some kind of super player, I stay away from ranked because I don't like the ***hats remarking about my lineage, parantage, or gender preferences all game long. But I am quite good when I do compete. Comments and suggestions below are welcome, especially if you try out the build and like it.