At PAX East, we got to try out Riot Games' two newest champions, Hecarim and Varrus. Find out what we thought!
Varrus is a mechanically unique ranged AD champion from Riot Games, as he is the first to utilize a "charge" ability with Piercing Arrow. Varrus can charge this ability for up to four seconds (after which it cancels and refunds half its mana cost), with it dealing more damage and gaining longer range based on how long he has charged it. While charging, Varrus can move around (with a 20% movement speed reduction) and can change the trajectory of his arrow, which opens up the possibility for a lot of mind games in lane. Varrus also brings a lot of early game damage with his Blighted Quiver, which gives bonus magic damage to his basic attacks while applying "Blight" to his opponents for six seconds. Blight can stack up to three times and, if Varrus hits an opponent with an ability (Piercing Arrow, Hail of Arrows or Chain of Corruption), he'll instantly proc Blight, dealing 2% to 5% of the enemy's max health per stack (up to a maximum of 6% to 15%, depending on level).
If the above two abilities sound really strong, you might be surprised to know that it gets better (or worse, if you're the one coming up against him in lane). Varrus' passive, Living Vengeance, grants him a brief +20% attack speed buff when he kills a minion, and a whopping +40% attack speed buff when he kills or gets an assist on an enemy champion. Varrus further bolsters his early game arsenal with Hail of Arrows, a ground-targeted AoE ability that deals damage and "desecrates" the ground, slowing movement speed and reducing healing effects by 50% (it could be higher with levels, I forgot to check). Finally, Varrus' ultimate ability, Chain of Corruption, is a strong initiation move similar to Ashe's Enchanted Crystal Arrow ultimate, except it has a much shorter range (about average for a line skill-shot ability) and it roots rather than stuns. Still, Chain of Corruption does have one significant advantage, in that it slowly creeps outward from the affected champion, and anyone who is close to this creeping muck also gets rooted and takes damage. In team fights, the advantages are obvious, as Varrus can hold a choke point with Chain of Corruption by relying on the creep to block off the entire entrance.
It's really not hard to see that Varrus packs an incredible amount of firepower at all levels of the game. While he does lack an on-demand "steroid" ability to buff his damage, the moment Varrus can get a kill or an assist (and it's not hard, considering Piercing Arrow's range when charged), I can see him being able to single-handedly turn a fight on its head. In lane, Living Vengeance also gives Varrus a huge advantage, as a good player should be able to keep up that +20% attack speed buff almost persistently with good last-hitting. This buff, combined with the reduced healing effect of Hail of Arrows, means that Varrus should be able to "out-trade" other enemy ranged AD champions by hitting them a few times before using Hail of Arrows to proc Blighted Quiver and to reduce any heals that champion might have received from his or her support. The only champion capable of dealing heavy damage with healing reduction debuffs is Miss Fortune, and this is the main reason she is considered to be one of the strongest laning champions currently in the game.
It should be noted that because Varrus is so front loaded with offensive abilities that he will probably be one of the defensively weakest AD carries of the entire gang. His only way of protecting himself is to either waste his Chain of Corruption to run, or hope that Hail of Arrows can slow the enemy enough to let him make a getaway. This means that, if an enemy team really focuses him, Varrus will not be able to keep himself safe like other ranged AD champions with movement abilities, Tristana, Corki, Caitlyn, Graves, or Vayne. Still, I think Varrus' incredible offensive potential and strong lane presence will make him a favorite among aggressive players and those who want to dominate their lane early on. I believe Varrus currently has one of the only "cancellable" abilities with Piercing Arrow (by overcharging it), which gives him a lot of mind game abilities. I can't wait to see what this champion can do with a strong offensive support like Janna or Nunu.
Chris "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief