His father slain in front of him and cast adrift in a burning land that was now his responsibility, which he barely managed to escape from. A young prince we have had an eye on for years, who grew into a king; one so respected that he commanded all of the Alliance’s forces. In the end, he even made the ultimate sacrifice for his people. What will he be able to accomplish in the Nexus? Gladiator, King, Commander… what path will he choose?
Roles that Hero Can Fill:
Before level 4, Varian is essentially useless at anything. He doesn’t have wave clear, the ability to secure kills via either damage or CC, mercing capabilities, self-sustain of any kind, or effective peel. From 4-9 Varian is a useful stun bot for aggressive pick off/blow up comps. When he picks up his Heroic, Varian diverges down three very distinct paths. Borrowing from World of Warcraft terminology for Warriors, we’ll be referring to these as Protection, Arms, and Fury. Post-10 Varian is suddenly able to be a blow up enabler via either his Arms or Protection builds. With his fury build, he becomes a sustained damage dealer with high self-healing and is capable of effectively soloing any mercenary camp, including bosses. This dynamic is incredibly important to remember when drafting Varian. He is practically useless pre-10 and doesn’t give your team any effective wave clear or siege to help unlock their heroics. He has to be carried the entire early game. Because he lacks an escape, I’d always classify Varian as an off-tank at best; even with his Protection build, he should not be drafted as a solo tank.
Q; Lion’s Fang: A medium damage, medium range, narrow skillshot that has a decent slow attached. For Protection Varian, since he lacks any form of escape, this is his late game bush check ability. For Fury Varian, it enables him to stutter-step and keep on top of opponents, which is critical to his sustain. For Arms Varian, it adds a decent amount of burst. In the early game all three will use it the same way; helping your team secure kills or for the lackluster wave clear. Try to hit a wave while it is still lined up if you can.
W; Parry: Has two charges. Using Parry denies all basic attack damage for 1.25 seconds. Much like using Illidan’s Evasion, try and pop it when you know you’re getting focused to maximize the mitigation. It counts tower shots so if your team is winning a lane you can use it aggressively drain tower ammo. Certain talents will change the timing of when you want to use W.
E; Charge: A point-and-click gap closer with a short range and a large, albeit short, slow attached. Because of how long the cooldown is, this is best used conservatively in the early game, but once you pick up Warbringer (4) all of that changes and it becomes most of the reason to play Varian. He does not go through terrain and he is not Unstoppable during charge, which means any displacements, knock backs, roots, or stuns will cancel it.
Trait; Heroic Strike: A minor increase in burst damage. It interacts with Varian’s builds in different ways. Note that it counts as ability damage and thus will be enhanced by things that increase ability damage, but doesn’t benefit from things related to auto attacks.
Because Varian has to get to 10 to even be a real hero, maps that are larger and slower are his preferred dynamic. Towers of Doom is his best map because you can afford to sacrifice early game objectives to stay even and get to his level 10 power spike. This applies to Cursed Hollow and Garden of Terror to a lesser degree as well. On the remaining three-lane maps, Warhead Junction, Infernal Shrines, Dragon Shire, Sky Temple, Tomb of the Spider Queen, and Blackheart’s Bay, an intelligent opponent will abuse your early game weaknesses and put themselves in a position to snowball the map; it will come down to your team’s ability to carry you. On two lane maps, like Braxis and Battlefield, you should almost never draft Varian. It isn’t at all uncommon for those maps to effectively be over before 10 because one team is so far ahead and catching up is extremely difficult unless the enemy team makes a mistake. With the nerf to Warbringer Varian has exactly zero early game presence.
In the pre-10 laning phase of the game, your primary objective is not to die and soak XP. You really do not want to get to 10 down multiple levels. You aren’t a real hero yet. Once you are level 4, you can slightly enable pick comps with your stun from Warbringer (4) if your team has sufficient follow up in terms of additional CC and burst damage. Once you are post-10, the dynamic changes dramatically.
Protection Varian: You are about lockdown. Hang out with your damage dealers. As soon as someone on the enemy team is out of position, E them, then R (Taunt) them for 1.25 seconds of lockdown. With the right team composition, that is a free kill. Repeat every 16 seconds. Outside of this dynamic you are still useless on the map, so there is never a good reason to be separated from your damage dealers.
Arms Varian: You want to be with another burst hero and just spend a lot of time sitting in bushes, setting up ambushes. When an enemy hero walks by, they die. The combination of Colossus Smash (10) for the vulnerability and the damage from any other hero will kill almost every hero in the game in about 2.5 seconds. With the right partner, like a Greymane, it will kill any hero in the game, including Cho’Gall. Your fragility requires you to have a burst healer in team fights, even something like Uther for Divine Shield, but the same dynamic applies. If you plus, any of your damage heroes, can get on top of someone, they should just die. You can do this every 20 seconds.
Fury Varian: He is a strong sustained damage dealer and is a highly effective duelist who can solo any mercenary camp. You are the bruiser. You want to get on top the squishiest enemy hero in team fights while your tank peels for you. Outside of team fights, you are looking to either take camps for map pressure or pick off anyone who is over extended, as you will win almost all 1v1s and some 1v2s.
There are certain heroes that Varian is always good with because they are strong early game and he isn’t. Anyone with strong early game wave clear or lane pressure like Zagara, Johanna, Rexxar, The Lost Vikings, Xul, or Zarya are always going to be good with Varian because they will keep you even or ahead in experience in the race to 10.
Protection Varian: 1.25 seconds of lockdown is more than enough for a good team to get a pick with the right heroes. Li-Ming, Jaina, Kael’Thas, Chromie, and Greymane for burst. Tyrande for Hunter’s Mark and extending the lockdown. The key is saving the burst combo for the target you go in on. If that isn’t happening, Protection Varian actually just isn’t that useful. He also helps out tanks who have good lockdown but poor mobility, as he can be an initiator for them. Dehaka is the top of this category with a full 3 seconds of lockdown with Drag.
Arms Varian: He offers 3 seconds of vulnerability but is very fragile, so he requires a burst healer and the ability to end fights quickly. Rehgar and Uther are his top two supports and you could easily include Tyrael in this category for Sanctification. For damage, he wants any other burst hero so when he goes on a target they can just erase them. Many of the same damage heroes that are good with Protection Varian are also good with Arms Varian, which is one thing that can leave drafts with Varian flexible and unpredictable to the enemy team.
Fury Varian: Fury loves mitigation over healing. Because his self-healing is so much stronger when he is below 50% health, things like Pixie Dust from Brightwing, Block Party on E.T.C., shields from Tassadar and Zarya, and Protected or Invulnerable effects from Medivh and Tyrael make him very happy, as it gives him time for his massive self-sustain to do its job. As a sustained damage dealer, he should be paired with burst damage and additional lockdown in the other damage slots, which brings us to what should now be an obvious consideration for all Varian drafts, regardless of which build you are taking:
Varian should never be drafted without burst damage. There are many compositions, particularly double warrior compositions, where you can out sustain your opponents, but Varian really requires someone on his team to have burst to be really strong, regardless of build.
If a hero doesn’t have wave clear or burst, they need a really specific reason to be in a Varian composition. Also heroes that are generally weak in the early game, like Abathur, are very rough to play Varian with against good teams. There is a common mistake of overlapping functions. Illidan is like Fury Varian, playing Fury Varian with an Illidan is almost always a bad idea. Playing Fury Varian with a Sonya is likewise, usually not a good idea. Playing Arms Varian with a Sonya, assuming you have a real tank in the composition, should actually be fine. So try not to overlap the build Varian is going with heroes who do the same thing or it’ll be a weak composition.
Heroes who have weak early game presence make it difficult to punish Varian picks. Nova, Cho’Gall, Tracer, Abathur, etc. At 10, once he becomes a real hero, who Varian excels against depends on his build and the rest of his team. Anyone who depends on mobility or dodging, such as Tracer, is just easy Varian food because of the point and click stun on E from Warbringer (4). Also, all shield dependent compositions will have a rough time against Shattering Throw (16) in the late game. Johanna needs Iron Skin to function, erasing it the moment it goes up is a big deal and it even negates Indestructible as a talent against her. Zarya becomes an easy burst target for your team, but you have to get to 16 and your team has to actually focus her right after you burst down her shield, which is a risk because you just gave her energy.
Protection Varian: Strong against fragile heroes with short range. They have to be slightly further forward to go into the fight at the right time, which means they are in range of Varian. With 1.25 seconds of lockdown with coordinated burst behind him, it’s is enough to kill most heroes. While it won’t kill a tank on average, it will kill just about anyone else.
Arms Varian: Same dynamic with less lockdown and less survivability but offering more burst and a vulnerability.
Fury Varian: His ability to sustain long fights makes him strong against heroes who lack burst and mobility mechanics. If they can’t burst him down from 50% and he can stay on top of someone, he simply shouldn’t die.
Heroes with strong early game push and wave clear that are played intelligently make it nearly impossible for Varian to get to 10 without his team being behind. While HotS has 6.5/10 comeback mechanics, it doesn’t mean it is easy. Xul, Zarya, Gul’Dan, Rexxar, Sgt. Hammer, Johanna, Kael’Thas, Jaina, and Sylvanas are all a nightmare for Varian compositions to deal with because of their push and wave clear.
Protection Varian: In the late game he’s looking for blow ups, so ways to deny the burst, or the lockdown, such as silences, large burst heals (or shields, but he can take Shattering Throw at 16 to deny that), or vulnerabilities are key to countering him. Crystal Aegis from Auriel in particular is very rough to deal with.
Arms Varian: Since he also looks to blow up a hero in the late game, he’s countered by the same things as Protection Varian.
Fury Varian: Weak to movement speed increases, slows, blinds, stuns, and auto attack speed slows or damage reductions. If timed correctly, he can easily be bursted down because he won’t have his sustain. Johanna, Li Li, Muradin, Arthas, Chen, Tyrael, Kerrigan, The Butcher, and E.T.C. counter him. It is really almost identical to countering an Illidan.
The Default: This talent is usually the default pick just because of how strong it is and at best other talents at this tier are only situationally better.
Niche/Situational: One of the most common questions I get asked is when do you take certain less picked talents. They often have uses but the uses are specific to either comps or maps. These are those talents.
Must be Paired with Other talents: Often there are certain talents that, by themselves, are not very impressive but synergize so well with other talents that if you plan on taking the other talent, you should take the talents that pair well with it.
Trap: Trap Talents are either actively bad or, more usually, simply so much worse than competing talents at the same tier it doesn’t make sense to ever take them.
Fun: This can be a little bit of a personal thing, but I’m going to label the talents I personally consider fun even if they are not actually worth taking in real games.
Taunt: The high health, more lockdown blow up option. This does not turn Varian into a tank, it turns him into a hero who can dive a focus target, lock them down for his team to blow up, and live through it. His other weaknesses as a tank still exist. If your team has limited peel, limited burst healing, and limited crowd control, but lots of burst, this is the go-to.The armor is massively valuable, as well.
Colossus Smash: The low health, less lockdown, but much higher damage blow up option. This kind of turns you into a pseudo Tyrande. Note that Smash is also a gap closer with the same range as E, so you can R > E > Q for a lot of burst. It requires a burst healer to keep you up as after your team kills a target because you’ll be in the thick of things. A strong peel tank also helps quite a bit. Note that the vulnerability will also apply to non-heroics, such Garden Terrors, Immortals on BoE, and boss camps.
Twin Blades of Fury: This essentially turns you into a cross between Samuro and Illidan. Varian gets movement speed from auto-attacking and health on hit but you have crowd control options. It is the sustained damage and sustained healing option that also allows you to solo all mercenary camps in the game, including bosses, when combined with the recommended talents for the build. I’d like to note that both of Varian’s other builds require your team to help him to do anything useful. This build does not.
Lion’s Maw: The increased slow and duration gives you more chase potential, and it provides some extra burst that is good for both Arms and Protection Varian. It also works as better peel, which is something Protection Varian actually lacks because he will be using his R offensively in most cases. Despite the increase in damage on Q, you do not take this for damage on any Varian build. Every other talent at this tier provides more damage. So unless you want the increased slow specifically, this is not the talent to take.
Overpower: The reset means any melee hero who tries to trade into you loses the trade. This single handedly makes it possible to not completely suck against everyone early game as any Varian build, in addition to providing near 600 additional burst at 10 which continues to scale. Damage that is guaranteed with Taunt as your heroic pick and very likely as the other two builds. Has some synergy with Mortal Strike (13) as well.
High King’s Quest: The only justification for this talent on any Varian build is Second Wind (7) getting increased healing. Overpower will always end up doing more damage in real games. This is also the highest burst option for Smash Varian if the enemy refuses to auto attack you to get Overpower resets on Heroic Strike. So the major considerations for Second Wind will determine if you take it, which will determine if you take this.
Warbringer: The cooldown reduction is the only reason to take this talent, as having a 6 second gap closer is nice. Is that a good enough reason to take this over Shield Wall plus all its potential synergies? No. The only real exception is highly mobile teams, Tyrael, Lunara, Lúcio, that are also sustained damage which mitigates the value of Shield Wall.
Shield Wall: Because Warbringer is a garbage talent and this isn’t, you take this. Pretty straight forward. Obviously being able to mitigate all damage is quite strong. This is just the strongest option for every Varian build at this point.
Live by the Sword: With the changes that catapulted Overpower and Shield Wall into dominance at 1 and 7, this just adds so much value it’d be unusual not to take.
Second Wind: The only real reason at this point to go HKQ (1) plus Second Wind is against very sustain damage compositions or you are going full Fury Varian, as it allows you to do every mercenary comp efficiently by yourself including bosses. Do not take this without HKQ and honestly don’t take it with Arms or Protection Varian.
Victory Rush: For both Protection and Arms Varian, this is a great sustain talent on any map where you are fighting in or near a lane. Infernal Shrines, Dragon Shire, Tomb of the Spider Queen, Sky Temple, etc. Being able to go to a lane to get full health is always valuable, even on heroes without wave clear, but remember that Varian should always be paired with heroes that have wave clear and that Protection or Arms never want to be alone. Note this talent is currently bugged to apply the cooldown off of building, including walls, and mercenary deaths as well.
Juggernaut: Easy point and click burst. With Warbringer (4) it is on a 6 second cooldown. Both Arms and Protection focus around bursting out targets, this is more burst.
Mortal Strike: Fury Varian provides 100% uptime, which makes it amazing against all kinds of self-healing and sustained healing, but it will always be up on the focus target for all three specs. Often the best solution to burst is large heals, and this denies that for Arms and Protection if you’re against a healer like Rehgar, Kharazim, or Auriel. Also has great synergy with Overpower (1) which you should be taking anyway.
Shattering Throw: Extremely strong against all shields: Tassadar, Zarya, Artanis, Johanna’s Iron Skin, Storm Shields, Shield of Hope, Chen, etc. The clickable effect requires good timing for maximum impact as it doesn’t overkill (the bonus damage is only to shields) but the passive is just good even if you forget you have it.
Banner of Stormwind: The short range on Varian’s E is in many ways his primary weakness as a hero. Good teams will constantly play just outside of that range trying to bait him into over extending. Movement speed gives him not only a way to get in range for his E, but gives him an out if he does overextend as he has no escape mechanism otherwise. It enables what all versions of Varian want to do and patches his largest weakness as a melee hero, all in the same talent. Since both Arms and Protection Varian are interested in diving in and blowing up a target, movement speed also helps their team be in position to focus the same target.
Banner of Stormwind: Second Wind (7) healing for more when you are below 50% health is a large part of the reason Fury Varian tends to prefer this talent. Wait until you are below 50%, pop down the banner, take 25% less damage while healing via your AAs . Fury Varian also doesn’t need the movement speed from Stormwind as much because it is baked into his Heroic.
Banner of Ironforge: With the right composition this adds a ridiculous amount of burst. With Heroic Strike being ability damage and the changes to Overpower (1) you can justify this with any Varian build with that talent, regardless of composition, but obviously with Jaina, Li Ming, etc., this adds a ton of value.
Vigilance: With Overpower (1) this is insanely powerful and will allow you to chain kill heroes who make the mistake of being anywhere near you by yourself over and over again, especially with all the W talents.
Master at Arms: Blowing someone up every 10 seconds instead of every 20 seconds is pretty good. Blowing up multiple people is even better. If you went Arms Varian, this improves what you’re trying to do by a huge margin.
Frenzy: More attack speed, more movement speed, more of what makes Fury Varian’s kit so ridiculously synergistic.
Glory to the Alliance: The banners at 13 are all quite strong. Having them on a 25 second cooldown is a nice upgrade, but having increased health regeneration and healing is incredibly good. Many times the late game will come down to a single fight that decides the game, having increased healing makes it slightly more likely your team will be able to win that fight.
Related: Being a Hero, Blizzard Entertainment, eSports, Guide, Heroes of the Storm, MOBA
Demoralizing Shout: On paper this talent is amazing. In practice if you are on top of the high damage heroes it is good against, they should be dead because you’re Varian. The area is just too small.