Varus Build Guide by OTGBionicArm
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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.
Hello MOBAFire! I'm OTGBionicArm, and I'm finally back from my break from guide-writing! Having lost motivation to write I did some soul searching and decided I'd have more fun doing something different. Something from the heart <3. This is a special guide because it's a re-creation of one of the first guides I ever wrote, and it's for Mage Varus. This will also be the first guide I've written in a while that's entirely coded by me. Enough about me though, let's get on with the guide!
OTGBionicArm does not endorse playing Mage Varus against any form of assassin, be it stabby stabby, nuker, or fat men with beer. Any loss caused by playing Mage Varus against such champions is not OTGBionicArm's responsibility. OTGBionicArm cannot be held responsible for any kind of injury, physical or psychological, that playing Mage Varus may cause to you, or your allies when playing against any of these champions.
Mage Varus is one of the first concepts I ever came up with on my own. I realize I'm probably not the first person to do it, but I feel like I'm the first, and only person that uses it on a regular basis. I'm proud of it, I keep surprising people with it and I love using it!
Varus is an unorthodox, but very deadly kind of mage. He focuses on percentage based health damage and is adept at shredding tanks from afar. I know what you're currently thinking; "But... OTG! Varus is a Marksman! Why would you ever build AP on him?!" And I will tell you why!
- Varus's Blighted Quiver can deal can deal 45% of someone's health in magic damage with around 500 AP by proccing three stacks. Big numbers are fun. He shreds tanks like no one's business.
- Chain of Corruption has a massive 1.0 AP Ratio and overall, Varus has amazing utility.
- I find the technical prowess of mastering this play style to be far more fun than the standard Marksman Varus build.
- Despite me classifying this build as a "Burst Mage" Varus still plays like a Marksman even building AP, and still deals respectable magical DPS through Blighted Quiver and Nashor's Tooth.
- Riot officially classifies Varus as a "Mage". It is now fact!
This guide will cover everything you need to know about playing Varus at mid and as a Mage, rather than a Marksman.
Pros+ Very Strong Harass
+ Shreds Tanks
+ High Burst
+ AoE Snare/Nuke
+ High Utility
+ Long Ranged AA
+ Surprise Factor
Varus's main strength as a mage is his very potent health based damage through Blighted Quiver. He also boasts higher than average auto attack range and damage for harassing and safe farming. In team fights he has very high utility between his Hail of Arrows and Chain of Corruption, which blend very nicely with an AoE oriented team composition.
Varus's strengths make him a pain to deal with for a lot of mages early on, but Varus falls easily to enemy assassins due to his lack of mobility and reliance on auto attacks to achieve his burst damage. He's also rather slow and thus is poor at roaming, however his CC still makes for terrifying ganks. Your team mates will also flame you, should you make a mistake, because you are "trolling".
Cons- Low Mobility
- Relies On AAs
- Poor Early Game
- Assassin Food
- Awkward To Use
- Mediocre Roaming
- You Will be Flamed
For my masteries I use a somewhat Hybrid page, akin to something you'd see on Kennen or Nidalee to amplify auto attack harass damage as well as overall magical damage output.
- Tier 1: 4 Points are put into
simply for the 5% CDR. Every little bit helps, and with a Nashor's Tooth and Deathfire Grasp you'll be almost capped out on it. Varus needs his abilities to come off cooldown as fast as possible to function as a mage.
- Tier 2: All 3 points are taken in
to increase AP per level, as Varus's strength lies in the mid and late game as AP.
is take for some added focus fire damage from allies, and because there's not much else to use this point on to get to the next tier.
- Tier 3: Arcane Mastery is a free 8 AP. What's not to love? This isn't very helpful early on, but might as well have it later for multiplicative purposes. 3 points are taken in
to burst low health targets even hard. This is very helpful because Varus's main targets are tanks who are harder to kill and will likely be lower on health anyway. Lastly,
gives you spell damage rewards for auto attacking people, which you have to do anyway. Win-Win.
- Tier 4: This build uses very high AP items like Rabadon's Deathcap and Zhonya's Hourglass, making the 3 points in
very helpful for multiplying Varus's damage.
- Tier 5:
synergizes 100% with Varus's Blighted Quiver for added magical auto attack damage. 3 points in
is taken for the duel physical and magical penetration, both of which benefit Mage Varus greatly.
- Tier 6: Havoc is just a big chunk of extra damage in general. No reason not to take it really.
- Tier 1: 2 points in
are taken to reduce auto attack harass from your mid laner.
is just some sustain padding and filler points to the next tier.
- Tier 2:
may not seem like much, but slightly reduced damage from ALL sources will add up over the coarse of the game.
is just for a bigger health pool at start to not get bursted down as easily.
- Tier 3: Juggernaut gives you +3% maximum health. This isn't exactly helpful because Varus doesn't stack any health, but it's something... and there's literally nothing else you can take that's worthwhile. Running 9 down utility tree is even less helpful.
- Greater Mark of hybrid penetration: Varus will end up dealing about 50% magical and physical damage by the end of any game as a Mage.
- Greater Seal of Armor: Varus has low mobility and is a likely target for ganks from the enemy jungler. Having no armor would make him even easier prety to junglers like Vi. They also help to mitigate any auto attack harass damage you will receive.
- Greater Glyph of Magic Resist: Helps mitigate damage from enemy mages and any random magical damage in general. Against AD heavy teams these may not be necessary. If not using these, I would suggest Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power to add some oomph to your late game.
- Greater quintessence of hybrid penetration: Same reasoning as the Marks.
Barrier is my preferred summoner spell because Varus is a very high priority target for assassins and other burst mages. It can be used to bait and deny kills, or fight like a man and acquire your own.
Flash is mandatory on almost every champion, especially when you're slow and have no mobility like Varus. It can be used defensively or offensively, making it the most versatile summoner spell in the game.
Cleanse is an alternative to Barrier when you're dealing with nasty CC that will lock you down. I would use this when you know you will be targeted abilities like Terrify.
If you're looking to snowball and secure kills, look no further! Added damage onto your full combos never hurts. This works amazingly well if you have a very aggressive ganking jungler.
This spell is a more team oriented choice. Ask your team mates to ward the bushes behind their enemies in top or bottom lane, then show up for a surprise gank with Chain of Corruption! This works a lot better with premade teams.
Living Vengeance: Abuse the bonus attack speed when you kill a minion to stack some Blighted Quiver and trigger it for some easy harass if you can. In team fights, this will trigger the full bonus when you get a kill or an assist, making you a magic damage turret.
Piercing Arrow: This ability is ONLY good for triggering Blighted Quiver. It has an advantage over Hail of Arrows for this at times because its much farther ranged. Use this to finish kills that are too far away to peg with your other abilities, but be aware that it will only do a lot of damage if the target has Blighted Quiver stacks.
- As Mage Varus, it's better to just fire the arrow immediately to trigger Blighted Quiver, since this move scales off AD, which you don't have. Only charge it if you absolutely have to hit something farther away that has stacks on it. Don't even bother wasting mana on this ability unless the target has Blighted Quiver stacks.
- Remember that you can Flash while charging this ability to close the distance and get a VERY far away kill.
- If you cannot reach the target even at max range, just let the charge go all the way through without firing. It will refund half the mana you just wasted.
- If you're being zoned, you can use this ability to last hit creeps that are very far away.
Blighted Quiver: This is your farming tool. This is your nuke. This is Mage Varus. Less QQ, more Pew Pew.
- If you can do it safely, always poke your opponent with auto attacks when they go in for last hits, and trigger the stacks if you have 2 or more.
- It is generally ideal to always wait for 3 stacks to trigger them. If you don't have time to do 3 before they get away, trigger any stacks you have.
- You can actually proc 4 stacks of Blighted Quiver at once by immediately firing Piercing Arrow or Hail of Arrows as the 4th auto attack is in flight. This will lead to even more destructive burst combos.
- If going for a kill on a single enemy, triggering 3-4 Blighted Quiver stacks with Chain of Corruption is a very fast and insane burst, that also practically assures your kill.
Hail of Arrows: This ability is your main trigger for Blighted Quiver because it is easier to hit than Piercing Arrow. It also can setup kills for you if used to lead, or to help you escape ganks.
- In team fights, try to land this ability on top of as many enemies that are close to the target of your Chain of Corruption you can to ensure they all get snared.
- Don't be hesitant to lay this down when fleeing. The slow can cut off pursuers and buy you more time to get away. Alternatively you can use this to block escape routes and choke points in the jungle.
- If going for a kill, use this ability to lead to make sure you land 3 Blighted Quiver stacks and immediately fire Piercing Arrow or Chain of Corruption to close the kill.
Chain of Corruption: This move is amazing as AD Varus, but as Mage Varus this ability is a deadly game changing AoE nuke. However, as a linear skill shot, this ability can easily be missed due to dashes, dodges, Flashes or general player error. Try to really stick this ultimate every time, or else your burst is very harshly affected.
- This skill can absolutely punish teams for attempting to fight in the jungle. If they funnel into a jungle path, use it immediately to trap them all there for an AoE onslaught. It's also amazing to destroy teams with 3 or more melee characters.
- Don't just throw this ability out, try to land it on the target that will most likely spread the corruption to the most other enemies. Generally someone in the middle of the fight.
- This ability can be used to initiate team fights for your team, Flash can help to make this initiation very surprising.
- Hail of Arrows is maxed first because early on, Blighted Quiver will not deal very much damage at all, even with 3 stacks. Maxing E allows Varus to at least harass enemies easily. It also allows you to clear minion waves better.
- Blighted Quiver is maxed second. Around mid game junglers and other bulky characters will likely start having a lot of health, making Blighted Quiver shred them very hard.
- Piercing Arrow is obviously maxed last, and Chain of Corruption is taken at levels 6, 11, and 16.
||As this build is primarily designed to deal magical damage, you need some early magic penetration, granted through Sorcerer's Shoes. The first big item you should buy is Nashor's Tooth, because Varus relies heavily on attack speed to get his blight stacks, and CDR to have his abilities more readily available. The passive on it also adds to your idle auto attacking DPS in between bursts. Zhonya's Hourglass is an essential second item because Varus is the most likely target for Assassins and burst, and he needs a way to drop aggro from himself.|
||After your core items are finished, you can start building some more offensive choices. Rabadon's Deathcap is for a flat, massive chunk of AP and it greatly boosts your raw damage output. Deathfire Grasp is harder to use but overall increases your DPS further if used correctly. Using the active before hitting a target with Chain of Corruption creates very angry bursts and it also increases any following auto attack bonus damage and Blighted Quiver bursts. Void Staff is just to eat through any magic resistance the enemies may have. I usually buy it after my Zhonya's Hourglass because it increases your damage output so much.|
||These items are to be built as needed to survive. Abyssal Scepter is usually built early to mitigate damage from high burst AP champions and also have some damage. The aura drops the MR of nearby champions, making it easier for you, or your team to deal magical damage to anyone pursuing you. Banshee's Veil is for blocking long range key poking abilities or CC abilities that will get you killed, like Nidalee's spears or Thresh's Death Sentence. Guardian Angel is just another aggro drop in team fights and should be sold after it's use.|
||These items will be seldom built. I'm only explaing why you would want to use them due to popular demand so here goes; Runaan's Hurricane is useful if you are very fed against a largely melee enemy team. You can mow down the front line with multi-procced Blighted Quiver with ease. However, it cuts your AP a lot, and it less than useful against balanced team comps. Lich Bane is a more promising alternative item as it provides movement speed and addition burst damage on your auto attacks between spells. It's downfall is mainly that it functions better on spammy champs. Lastly Liandry's Torment is pretty much for snowballing purposes by building an early Haunting Guise with Void Staff for massive magic penetration. The health burn is a nice added touch, stacking with your other health damage and the slow from Hail of Arrows.|
- Blue: These wards are to protect you from ganks from the side brushes at mid. Varus has no true escape abilities besides Flash, so it's important that you get to safety before a gank happens.
- Yellow: These wards are to proect your jungles buff camps. Ideally your jungler should be warding these themselves if they are getting counterjungled.
- Red: These wards are to monitor objectives. Early on Supports will usually cover Dragon, but if you walk by and there isn't already a ward, place one. Always help your support cover these objectives if their hands are tied. From mid, you need to work together with your jungler and Bot lane to secure dragons early on, and later on, everyone must work together to secure/deny Baron.
- Orange: Least concern to you. These are counterjungling wards and your jungler can worry about these if his intent is to steal buffs. You can follow and help him secure enemy buffs if he asks you to, however.
Varus's goal early game is to farm as much as possible, and safely as possible. He can actively harass champions of equal or lower range than him, but he shouldn't go out of his way and miss minions to do it. Varus should not try to harass champions with a higher range than him, like Xerath. Make sure you dodge any skill shots thrown at you, if you can, and if they manage to hit you, hit them back. Even at rank 1 Blighted Quiver hurts when Varus auto attacks and when he hits level 2 he can do a nasty chunk of damage easily if they open themselves up to his combos.
Also, you should attempt to keep your minions near the center of the lane. Varus is very good at farming under the turret, but if you don't know how to, it's better to just keep them near the center, without pushing too far. Without proper warding, Varus is an easy target for enemy junglers if he extends his lane too far. Below is a picture that demonstrates the levels of danger at mid lane.
Varus's ability to farm is a lot better than most mages, so it should be abused. Not many mages get a free damage steroid to their auto attacks (except like, Orianna and a few others.) But around this time you should be looking to get kills. Varus's burst enables him get kills own his own at level 6, but if your jungler comes in, it's pretty much assured. Chain of Corruption is OP for securing kills, abuse the power.
If you're doing well, and you've killed your laner, shove the lane to their turret and start roaming to other lanes. If either you or an ally gets a kill out of a gank, you're that much more ahead. Around this time is also when the first towers will fall, and if an enemy tower falls, that enemy will start roaming and helping other lanes, be aware of this so you don't get caught and killed.
By now you should have your Nashor's Tooth and Zhonya's Hourglass with Deathfire Grasp or Rabadon's Deathcap on the way. Enemies might be building magic resistance, so counter with Void Staff. Most of the outer turrets will have been destroyed and most team fights will be 5v5. Just use your Chain of Corruption in the best way possible (Hitting the most targets) to help your team with every fight as best you can.
You should be roaming around with your team and gathering objectives (Dragon, and possibly Baron Nashor, if your team feels confident doing it early, and turrets.) Just remember to stay behind the relative safety of your teams tanks and bruisers, and watch out for assassins that may attack you suddenly from a brush if you are alone. If you don't have your core items by now; keep farming as much as you can!
By now, you should have your first 5 items done. If you're doing well enough, you will be targeted first or second, and without proper positioning or proper tanks and bruisers protecting you, you WILL be insta-gibbed. Use your Zhonya's Hourglass to drop the heat in combat, the item goes a long way to saving your life with it's active effect.
This is the stage of the game where teams will commonly "force" fights near Baron Nashor, either to take the buff, or to hopefully win a team fight and end the game. Make sure at this point you are helping your team keep Baron Nashor and Dragon secure with Stealth Wards and Vision Wards.
If your team coordinates well and follows up with the window of immobilization from your ultimate, team fights should be easy and you'll ace them. If they insta-gib you, you'll probably lose. Be aware of that because if one team gets aced, it can easily be GG.
Thank you for reading my guide about Mage Varus. Hopefully this guide will help inspire others to play him like this and he will see more play. His carry potential is amazing with the right team composition, and he punishes a lot of casters at mid lane. He also a very unique type of mage, and I'd like to see more unique mages around.
If you liked my guide, shoot me a comment! If you have a problem with something, please comment me first before voting, please! :D
- 10/22/2013: Guide Published, covers build, items, runes, masteries, summoner spells, ability explanations and how to lane with Mage Varus.
- 11/7/2013: Removed spoiler tags, changed AD runes to hybrid pen, altered masteries, added the 4 blight proc trick to the Blighted Quiver tips, added explanations for niche items, added Ignite and Teleport as optional summoner spells, expanded the disclaimer about playing the build competitively.
- JhoiJhoi: For teaching me how to code guides with her amazing Guide to Making a Guide.
- Hogopogo: For making the super epic chapter banners and dividers.
- GrandmasterD: For proofreading, and advising on runes and masteries.