Varus has no kinetic abilities. He’s an artillery piece, in the vein of Xerath or maybe Urgot, except he’s an AD Carry, which means that he has to get in close to do his real damage. It’s an odd, initially baffling mix of ranged power and up close DPS that takes more than a little time to get your head around. He’s also a champion without a clear ability that takes preference over all others, the one you should max first, because they’re all kind of useful without being overpowered.
First up you’ve got Piercing Arrow on your Q, by far the most skill-based ability in his roster. It’s a double-cast, where you hit the button and he starts to charge the shot, with the range and power increasing the longer you wait before loosing it. Your movement speed is reduced while you charge, but it is still viable to move around to line up the perfect arrow. It passes through minions and champions alike, meaning if the enemy team is bunched, you can deal a lot of damage in one go.
On your W is Blighted Quiver, which shares functionality with something like Twitch’s Deadly Venom, where, once the ability is purchased, all of your basic attacks leave behind ‘Blight’, which can then be triggered by both your Q and your E. It’s an added incentive to get some basic attacks on your opponent before you let loose, but it’s also one of those things that you don’t really think about during the freneticism of a team fight.
Hail of Arrows sits on your E, and it’s an AOE that leaves behind ‘consecrated ground’, which is a fancy way of saying a sustained slow that also reduces both healing and regeneration in the area. It feels a little like an afterthought, never going to deal /that/ much damage, and the slow itself is negligible.
Finally, your R is Chain of Corruption, by far the most potentially useless ultimate in the game. It’s a short range skill shot that, when it connects with an enemy champion, deals a reasonable amount of damage while immobilising them. The kicker is that, if one of their allies is within range, the chain will bounce to them, and then anyone close to /them/, and so on. But if you miss that initial shot, it does nothing. So it has the potential to be both absolutely devastating, or completely useless. And, as you struggle to get your head around Varus, the latter is more often the case, unfortunately.
All of this makes Varus feel like a cross between Ezreal and Ashe, with lots of skillshots and long range damage, but none of the proper slows or wonderful teleports that the other two champions rely on so heavily to avoid getting completely ganked. The saving grace is the Ultimate, which has the potential to turn him into one of the most useful champions in the game, once you get to the teamfighting stage of the game. It’s also the closest thing he gets to an escape ability, where you can fire it off in desperation if you think the immobilisation is going to save your skin.
The problem is that he is so ridiculously squishy that you rarely get the chance to do even that if you get caught out of position. That’s true of a lot of champions, but especially here where his base speed is so low, and there is literally bugger all you can do to stop a gank early on in the game. And, being an AD Carry, he’s forced to buy buy buy AD items until quite late in the game, where survivability is countered by the heavy damage of the other side, anyway. I’ve been using this guide on Mobafire by arpadon which rushes the Infinity Edge, which, while an excellent item, does leave you out to dry in the early game, as you’re saving for a BF Sword.
All of this means that he’s incredibly reliant on position and vigilance, meaning that the support is even more essential than usual. More so even than heavily skill based champions like Ezreal and Ziggs, Varus needs a huge amount of precision and very little waste when it comes to his abilities to be used effectively.
There’s also the off-putting design of the character, and while that’s an incredibly subjective thing, another dark and edgy champion is a little depressing. His (single) alternate skin is lacklustre, too, just replacing half of his outfits with these odd orange crystals. There’s a lot of potential for Riot to design a few new skins that completely play up to his overtly emo-dark-elf kind of aesthetic, though. I’m hoping for an Armour of the Fifth Age variant.