Varus, the Arrow of Retribution, is one of the most versatile marksmen in League of Legends. With a 49.04% win rate and a 9.26% play rate, he has the perfect kit for taking over the laning phase and translating that advantage into a dominant mid game. Let’s see how you can use Varus to carry in Solo Queue.
See also: LoL Worlds betting guide
Passive: Living Vengeance
When Varus scores a takedown, he receives 40%(+50% item attack speed) bonus attack speed for 5 seconds. The Arrow of Retribution only gets half of that attack speed on minion and monster kills.
How to use: While you can technically choose the moment when you use Living Vengeance by last-hitting a minion before moving in for a trade, most of the time, your passive will trigger on its own. You’ll have a powerful attack speed steroid as soon as you kill a champion, but if everyone stays alive, you’re effectively fighting without a passive.
Q: Piercing Arrow
Varus draws his bow and takes aim for 4 seconds, increasing Piercing Arrow’s damage and range over the next 2 seconds. Varus can move while channeling, but he can’t attack or use other abilities, and his movement speed is slowed by 20%.
Upon reactivating the ability, Varus shoots an arrow in a straight line, dealing damage to all enemies hit. Once Piercing Arrow finds a target, all subsequent foes struck take less damage. The ability is automatically canceled if Varus doesn’t reactivate it before the channel ends, refunding half of its mana cost.
If Piercing Arrow expunges Blight [W] stacks, its cooldown is reduced by 4 seconds.
How to Use: Piercing Arrow is your main poke ability. Take your time to charge it, and the arrow will deal insane amounts of damage, which makes it perfect for harassing champions under their turrets. Of course, the spell is quite telegraphed, so you’ll likely have to predict enemy movement to land it.
Keep in mind that you can cast Piercing Arrow instantly, which is useful for dealing burst damage and detonating Blight Stacks.
W: Blighted Quiver
Varus’s auto attacks deal bonus magic damage and apply Blight for 3 seconds (up to 3 stacks). His other abilities expunge Blight, dealing more damage based on target’s maximum health. The more stacks Varus’s target has, the more damage it takes.
How to use: Blighted Quiver permanently increases the damage from your auto attacks. Not only that but detonating Blight stacks with Piercing Arrow [Q] or Hail of Arrows [E] cripples your enemies. In general, you want to cast your spells when you reach 3 stacks, but you can proc Blight faster if your target is low on health.
E: Hail of Arrows
Varus sends a hail of arrows to the target location, dealing damage to all enemies hit. The affected area is desecrated for 4 seconds, slowing all enemies inside it and applying Grievous Wounds.
How to use: Hail of Arrows is amazing for proccing Blight [W] stacks. Not only that, but the AoE is fairly large, so it’s impossible to dodge the spell without using gap closers. Of course, it doesn’t do as much damage as a charged Piercing Arrow [Q], but its consistency makes up for the shortcoming.
The slow works well with your other abilities, and the Grievous Wounds debuff makes Varus a solid counter to healing champions.
R: Chain of Corruption
Varus launches a projectile in the target direction, dealing damage to the first enemy champion hit, rooting them for 2 seconds and applying 3 Blight stacks over 1.5 seconds. Chain of Corruption then spreads, applying its effects to nearby enemy champions they don’t move away within 2 seconds.
How to use: Varus’s ultimate makes him one of the few marksmen that can pick his own battles. Landing Chain of Corruption onto the enemy carry will set up a winning teamfight, and using your ultimate on a fed bruiser will let you get out unscathed. The range on it is quite long, and you can easily catch most people off guard. That being said, it’s easy to whiff this ability, and we’d advise you to test it out in the practice mode beforehand.
R > Q > E > W
Varus’s skill order depends on what build he chooses. If the Arrow of Retribution goes with the on-hit build, max Hail of Arrows [E], Blighted Quiver [W], and Piercing Arrow [Q] (in that order) to get the best possible DPS from your auto attacks. And if you pick the lethality build, you’ll be better off maxing Piercing Arrow and Hail of Arrows to increase your ability damage. In both cases, level up Chain of Corruption [R] whenever you can.
Once again, there are two different Varus rune pages. With the on-hit build, you want to pick the Precision tree as your primary. Choose Press the Attack, Legend: Alacrity, and Cut Down to maximize your DPS, and mix in Triumph for the extra sustain.
Your secondary tree is Domination. Grab Taste of Blood and Zombie Ward to have a safer laning phase or pick Cheap Shot and Eyeball Collection to increase your damage output.
If you’re going with the lethality build, take a look at the Sorcery path. The Arcane Comet synergizes well with Piercing Arrow [Q]/Hail of Arrows [E], and you can boost your sustainability with Manaflow Band. Transcendence brings some much-needed CDR, but don’t hesitate to take Celerity if you need more movement speed.
For your secondary tree, choose Precision (Triumph/Coup de Grace) or Domination (same as above). Even the Inspiration path is worth considering for utility-based runes like Cosmic Insight and Biscuit Delivery.
Varus Summoner Spells
Just like most AD carries, Varus wants to go with Flash and Heal as his summoner spells. Use Flash to escape sticky situations or move in for a kill, and cast Heal to survive in teamfights and skirmishes.
There are two viable Varus builds, and both of them are quite different from regular marksman itemization. The first one is the on-hit build:
1.) Guinsoo’s Rageblade > Berserker’s Greaves > Wit’s End > Blade of the Ruined King > Runaan’s Hurricane > Infinity Edge
This item set is perfect for dismantling tanks and dishing out mixed damage. Guinsoo’s Rageblade offers insane DPS in addition to stacking Blight 33% faster, and Berserker’s Greaves grant you a ton of ‘free’ attack speed. Wit’s End is dirt cheap for how many stats it gives, and you can even rush the item if you’re laning against a mage support. Of course, it falls off in the late game, so skip it if you can’t buy it as your first/second major item.
Blade of the Ruined King has a great mix of offensive stats: attack damage, attack speed, life steal, damage based on target’s current health—basically, everything an on-hit AD carry could ever dream of. As for Runaan’s Hurricane, it lets you apply Blight to three targets at once, which is insane against tank-heavy team comps. Finally, Infinity Edge mixes in those hard-hitting crits that are perfect for dealing with frontliners and squishies alike.
But lethality build is much more popular right now, and for good reason.
2.) Youmuu’s Ghostblade > Boots of Ionian Lucidity > Duskblade of Draktharr > Manamune > Edge of Night > Lord Dominik’s Regards
This build revolves around barraging your enemies with a hail of Piercing Arrows [Q]. It’s perfect for sniping squishy champions from a safe distance, allowing you to take out enemy carries before a fight even starts. In this case, Youmuu’s Ghostblade is the best starting item for its AD, CDR, lethality, and extra movement speed active. Boots of Ionian Lucidity throw in more CDR while decreasing the downtime of your summoner spells, which is very useful when playing an immobile carry.
Duskblade of Draktharr is one of the best burst items in the game. Not only that but the fact that it neutralizes enemy wards makes it much easier to land spells from the fog of war. Next, we have Manamune. This might be a bit counterintuitive since Varus doesn’t have a quick way to stack it, but its upgrade provides so much damage that it’s worth it.
Edge of the Night can be a real game-changer if you channel its spell shield before a teamfight., and having more AD and lethality doesn’t hurt either. As for your final item, Lord Dominik’s Regards is the clear-cut best choice. After all, you still want to put a dent into those pesky tanks and bruisers.
Varus Situational Items
While we mentioned many Varus items in the core builds, there are still a few situational purchases to consider. Ninja Tabi are a great choice when you need to protect yourself against AD assassins, and lethality Varus can actually get away with them because he doesn’t need the attack speed from Berserker’s Greaves as much as other carries.
Maw of Malmortius falls into a similar category, and you can buy it instead of Edge of Night or Wit’s End if you’re struggling against strong spellcasters. The same applies to Mercurial Scimitar, as it lets you negate enemy crowd control. Finally, don’t forget about Mortal Reminder. Lord Dominik’s Regards is undeniably great, but you really want to have another way of countering champions like Soraka, Vladimir, and Maokai.
When to pick Varus?
Varus is one of the few AD carries that can initiate teamfights. He’s an ideal pick to round out your team composition when you don’t have enough crowd control. Additionally, Varus’s long-range abilities make him perfect for poking, and the damage from Blighted Quiver [W] turns him into a potent tank killer.
Of course, the downside is that Varus is an immobile AD carry, so he needs some form of protection against hard engage (i.e. a peeling support or a solid frontline). Still, the Arrow of Retribution is a dominant laner, and he can be very oppressive in the bot lane.
Varus Matchups and Counters
Varus is great at pressuring most AD carries . Chain of Corruptions lets him set up favorable all-ins, and his basic abilities punish his foes from afar. Vayne, Sivir, Caitlyn, Xayah, and Kalista will all have a hard time against a good Varus.
That being said, Varus struggles against champions that can force powerful all-ins. AD carries like Draven, Lucian, Miss Fortune, and Ezreal can all take advantage of Varus’s lack of mobility to run him down in the laning phase. Still, there’s always a way to fight back, provided you’re careful with your positioning.
Varus Laning Phase
Varus’s laning phase is all about abusing his range advantage and harassing his opponents. One thing that stands out about him is that you’ve got plenty of starting items to choose from. The usual Doran’s Shield/Blade works well enough, but you can also opt-in for a Long Sword if you want to hit a faster powerspike or even grab Boots of Speed if you need to dodge dangerous skill shots. As for your first ability, you always want to start with Hail of Arrows [E] because it’s easier to land it at rank 1.
As soon as you enter the lane, start hitting the minion wave. You’ll get a decent amount of attack speed from last-hitting creeps, so use it to fire auto attacks at the enemy marksman. Of course, he’s going to try to retaliate, but a good way to work around that is to attack when your lane opponent is trying to CS. If you do it right, he’ll have to choose between returning damage and last-hitting, and either option is a net positive for you. Also, don’t forget to cast Hail of Arrows when possible.
At level 2, you have a choice to make. Blighted Quiver [W] is better for pushing and dealing consistent damage, but Piercing Arrow [Q] is stronger when it comes to harassing champions from a long distance. If you’ve already won the push and forced the enemy duo under its turret, we recommend you put a point in Q. In all other cases, grab Blighted Quiver.
No matter what you choose, unlock the other ability at level 3. With two offensive spells at hand, you can detonate Blight stacks twice, which is massive for your damage output. So start trading. The best way to do this is to last-hit a minion for the attack speed buff, hit a few auto attacks the enemy champion, proc your W with Hail of Arrows, connect more auto attacks, and finish off your target with Piercing Arrow. Of course, this is an ideal scenario, and your opponents won’t just sit around while you’re building up your Blight stacks.
Level 6 is a massive Varus powerpsike. Getting Chain of Corruption [R] means you can lock your target in place and generate even more Blight stacks. Still, remember that your ultimate is a skill shot, and it’s possible to miss it. Just like before, the best time to cast it is when the enemy AD carry is trying to CS, but don’t hesitate to throw it out if you see a good opportunity present itself. Keep pushing and poking with spells. Eventually, the enemy duo will be forced to recall, and you’ll get a free bot lane turret.
Varus Mid Game
Varus’s mid game depends on your itemization. If you went with the on-hit build, you’re pretty much a standard AD carry that’s particularly good at shredding tanks. In teamfights, you want to stay in the back and hit the nearest target while making sure you don’t take any unnecessary risks. Focus on building up your Guinsoo’s Rageblade stacks and proccing Blight [W] with Piercing Arrow [Q] and Hail of Arrows [E].
The lethality build is a bit different. For one, a huge chunk of your damage comes from Piercing Arrows [Q], and you should try to land as many of these as you can before a teamfight starts. Aim for the squishies that don’t have a ton of armor because you’ll be dealing true damage to them. When the fight begins, use Youmuu’s Ghostblade and your basic abilities to kite out the frontline while looking for windows to snipe enemy carries with Qs.
In both cases, Chain of Corruption [R] is an essential part of Varus’s gameplay. If you ever see that the numbers advantage is on your side, go for a root on a key target. And if you’re the one getting engaged on, cast your ultimate as a form of self-peel. Keep in mind that despite your long range, you’re still an immobile AD carry, and most teams will attempt to focus you first. That’s why it’s essential to stay on top of your positioning game. Of course, you should still walk up to hit turrets because that’s your job, but be very mindful of any CC that might be going your way.
Varus Late Game
Varus deals a ton of damage in the late game. If you went with the on-hit build, you’ll be tearing through tanks and carries alike, and the lethality build will let you chunk out squishies for half of their health with a single Piercing Arrow [Q]. Naturally, the same thing can happen to you. That’s why it’s even more important to stay in the back and wait for the opportunity to strike.
Chain of Corruption [R] remains your go button, but it’s even more important that you stack up Blight [W] and detonate it with your basic abilities. Keep in mind that Blighted Quiver is quite good for taking objectives, and rushing Baron or Elder Dragon is always an option. Meanwhile, if the enemy team is foolish enough to go for a neutral objective while you’re still alive, you can pin them down with a barrage of Piercing Arrows.
In the end, playing Varus in the late game comes down to abusing your range. Piercing Arrows [Q] are exceptional for sniping people from afar, and if you’re good at connecting them, you can secure a game-winning advantage for your team. Combine that with the fact that you can land several auto attacks and proc Blight before most melee champions can get in range, and it’s easy to see why Varus is such a late game monster.
See also: LoL Champions for Beginners
Varus is the complete package. He has the range and the skillset to deal insane amounts of damage at every stage of the game, which is exactly what you want from an AD carry. And as long as you land his abilities and stay alive in teamfights, you’re guaranteed to climb the Solo Queue ladder.