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Hi there! Aenemius from IDDQD Gaming here with an in-depth look at Varus, The Arrow of Retribution.
Varus is the League's latest AD carry - and like this guide's title suggest, is made of nothing but ownage. His mechanics borrow from a number of accepted strong champions including Vayne, Miss Fortune, and his fellow archer Ashe. However, it's the how and why Varus' skills behave the way they do which make him such a terror in lane, and an absolute nightmare in teamfights.
Riot's official champion spotlight:
This spotlight, interestingly, avoids not only Phreak-memes like overplaying the jungle and Trinity Force for tons of damage - but also suggests a large break from the historical meta by placing him as an AD Carry in mid. While I agree Varus is a terrifying mid, in most team compositions this may mean his power is wasted for a few reasons we'll look at below.
2012-05-08 | Varus released on NA server. Testing begins with custom games vs Graves for tolerances, followed by custom 3v3 and open pvp matches.
Feels slow to start, depending on runes and masteries
No direct escape skills
I've had really good luck with Varus thus far - having spent the last two weeks playing Ashe, Caitlyn and Miss Fortune to get used to skills similar to Varus was shown to use in some PAX videos.
How good have I been doing? I've screencapped my match history with the most recent match stats shown - we forced a surrender pretty handily, so I didn't manage to finish the build. I bought Frozen Mallet, scored 2 kills, and the game ended.
My Preferred Build:
Fairly standard AD masteries - though I've chosen to trade out the lifesteal most people get for
Havoc instead. With a Doran's Blade, or building a quick Wriggle's Lantern as I do, the extra 3% from the mastery isn't much help compared to the additional early damage.
My Preferred Build:
Greater Quintessence of Armor Penetration 3
Greater Mark of Armor Penetration 9
Greater Seal of Armor 9
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist 9
I run with full Armor Penetration, rather than a mix of flat AD marks and quints, to deal with early ganks. Since most junglers build armor rather than health or anything else to start, the extra armor penetration makes my poke-backs that much more annoying, and discourages repeated ganks.
Later on, of course, the extra 9 or so AD from masteries isn't as big of a deal - so armor pen is a better choice in the long run, I think.
As a rule of thumb, I usually use one mobility-centered Summoner Spell, and one utility - either defense or offence - depending on the champ class. For assassins and carries, I almost always run with Flash and Ignite.
Flash is a go-to for me because of it's versatility. Need to chase? Flash ahead. Need to escape? Flash over a wall. Unless you're Hecarim and need Ghost for mobility, Flash is definitely a top choice.
Ignite's intensely handy at the start of a game, especially if you manage to burst your opponent low enough for the damage over time effect to kill them from a distance; this is how I get about 60% of my First Bloods. Ignite is a highly aggressive spell - only use it if you're sure it will secure you a kill.
Exhaust is almost as useful in a solo lane as Flash; It can be used to slow an escaping opponent, to help with a gank - or of course to mitigate some damage you're taking while engaging a higher-damage or higher-sustain enemy. Hard to go wrong, especially when playing less aggressively.
If you're being backed by a support, or know you're playing against highly aggressive champs, Heal's a fantastic spell on any carry for sustain. While being a ranged carry means positioning for ganks is less chancy (you're not often in an enemy champ's face), Heal still gets you out of some horrible situations handily.
Note: Exhaust is almost a must in laning with Varus, since he has no direct gap closer. While Piercing Arrow has a massive range, it's not a blink skill, so quick enemies can get out of range faster than it scales.
Living Vengeance grants an attack speed buff on every kill - larger for champion kills. The buff is significant; 40% on champ kills. It's telegraphed by a colour change on Varus' bow; red for minion kills and white for champ kills.
Piercing Arrow is a double-tap skillshot which charges with the first press (increasing both range and damage), and releases toward the cursor on second press. It's Varus' gap closer replacement and is hugely effective for both early sniping, and late-game teamfights and farming.
Blighted Quiver is a non-active skill which adds a debuff to each of Varus' attacks, stacking 3 per target and remaining for 6 seconds after being applied. It's detonated for %Max-Health damage by Varus' other skills. At max level, and using strong timing, this skill eats 20% of a target's max health - in addition to the damage from the skill which detonated the debuffs.
Hail of Arrows is an AoE skill which applies a slow and heal-reduce to the ground struck by the skill. This is a huge help both in escaping (due to slow) and chasing down kills (heal reduction and slow) - as well as detonating Blight when it's been applied.
Chain of Corruption is a skill shot nuke which roots target champions - and spreads to root and damage nearby champions, detonating any Blight stacks applied to them. This ult is amazing for team fights or breaking up turtled enemy teams, due to the spread - as it can easily allow Varus to get into position for a multiple strike with Piercing Arrow, or allow for other AoE ults ( Galio and Nunu come to mind) to be positioned excellently as well.
This is where things get interesting; items on Varus can easily fall into the usual "Standard AD Carry" combination of Phantom Dangcer and Infinity Edge. I agree with this build, but because of my play style and Varus' base stats, I choose to build a little differently for most games.
Because of Varus' base stats, starting off with Madred's Razors into Wriggle's Lantern and the usual Infinity Edge is far stronger than rushing Zeal and IE as most AD carries do. Varus benefits far more from the free ward Wriggle's grants in his early game - and then from the on-hit slow on Frozen Mallet later on, because he has no gap closers. Phantom Dancer is an excellent item on Varus - however, Frozen Mallet is also strong due to the added health, the slow, and extra damage. Varus' passive speed buff from kills means additional damage is always a good choice; and the critical chance from IE helps as well.
Recommended AD Items
Before you flame me - yes, Varus is an AD Carry, so yes, at least two of these three items are absolutely requisite for him to be effective at any given point in the game.
Anyone can argue that varrying item builds, and staples such as The Black Cleaver or Last Whisper will work on Varus as a ranged carry - most ranged AD players I know don't use Frozen Mallet, and never use Trinity Force - but this set of items, for it's particular group of benefits, are the gold standard for a reason.
As with all things, build to suit your play style - what's above just works best for me based on mine. I don't mind sacrificing a little movespeed and critical chance from Phantom Dancer in favor of the slows and health on Frozen Mallet, for example. Besides that, my early game as a carry is much stronger with Wriggle's Lantern than it is with a rushed B.F. Sword or pair of Doran's Blades. But this is me. You need to build like you, and work with the situation you're in, especially on someone like Varus.
Bonus: Ciderhelm's Don't Feed Varus
Ciderhelm regularly releases excellent focus videos on champions, and has one up now for Varus. Don't Feed Varus features a lot of good information on abilities, and some notes on lane partnering and teamfights (which I have below as well).
Team Work - Lane Partners
Unless he's solo in a lane, Varus functions best with a CC-based champion at his side. Without any escape skills of his own, and before he gains his extremely powerful CC-centered ult at level 6, he needs someone who can keep enemies off his face. This CC also helps him kill quickly by locking down champions for Varus' skillshots.
Varus really brings the CC and support tanks back into the game in a strong way. If you build for lifesteal and just a little sustain early on, the massive harass from any of Maokai, Leona, or Taric will help you keep your opposing lane under your heel firmly. Even stronger sustain lanes, like Ashe/ Soraka can barely keep up with these combinations, because of Varus' range.
Team Work - Teamfights and Group Pushing
Strangely, Varus makes an excellent initiator due to his ult, Chain of Corruption. Throwing it into a turtled enemy crew and locking even 3 of them down at the beginning of a teamfight can give your tank more than enough time to get into the battle.
With strong AoE champs on your side - again, Leona or Nunu - initiating on a plan can make a teamfight both inescapable, and terrifyingly quick.
Similarly, attacking even two or three enemy champs during the engage, and detonating your Blight marks with either E or Q in the middle of a fight, can turn a rumble into a slaughter really fast.
Before I can write the usual Champion Counters, Farming, and Harass sections of this guide, I'll need some more experience with Varus. However, I've had some success with him so far - especially once I got a hold of his skill sequence and got used to the Wombo Combo Phreak mentions in the champion spotlight (detonating 4 stacks of Blight with the right timing is a lot like getting Alistar's Headbutt/Knockup combo right).
In short, Varus is exceedingly fun, especially if you're used to ranged carries like Ashe and Miss Fortune. I hope you enjoy playing him as much as I do.
If you have any suggestions for building a better Varus, please comment! Thanks again for reading!
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