Varian Wrynn Preview and First Impressions

by Alebeard on         follow @AlebeardTV

Varian Wrynn may have died on Azeroth (spoiler alert!), but as of November 15th he will forever live on in the Nexus. Varian is an interesting Hero for several reasons.

For starters, Varian was the last of the original batch of Hero concepts that the team developed back in 2010-2012 when their focus was on rapidly creating as many Hero designs as possible. Work on the second iteration of Varian began back in February of this year. Varian is also the first multi-class Hero in the game. He is classified as both a warrior and an assassin. Not only does this mean tremendous build diversity, but it also provides the added bonus of being able to complete both warrior and assassin dailies at the same time. He is also the first Hero to have three different Heroic options.

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Abilities

Q – Lion’s Fang unleashes a shockwave in a straight line that does damage and slows enemies.

W – Parry blocks incoming basic attacks for a short period of time, has two charges.

E – Charge is a medium range ability that allows Varian to quickly close on an enemy and slow them.

D – Heroic Strike is a passive ability that occasionally deals bonus damage on the next Basic Attack.

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Talents

Level 1

  • Lion’s Maw (Quest): Hit Heroes to empower Lion’s Fang
  • Overpower: Parrying a Hero’s attack will refresh Heroic Strike’s cooldown
  • High King’s Quest (Quest): Complete three different Quests to gain Attack Damage

Level 4

  • Shield Wall: Parry prevents all damage
  • Warbringer: Charge has a reduced cooldown and stuns the target

Level 7

  • Lives by the Sword: Parry lasts longer, blocking enemy attacks reduces cooldown
  • Second Wind: Basic Attacks heal you, more when low health
  • Victory Rush: Basic Attacks periodically grant a large heal

Level 10

  • Taunt: Force an enemy Hero to attack you, passively gain Health and lose Attack Speed
  • Colossus Smash: Smash enemies and make them Vulnerable, passively gain Attack Damage and lose Health
  • Twin Blades of Fury: Basic Attacks reduce Heroic Strike cooldown, passively gain Attack Speed and lose Attack Damage

Level 13

  • Banner of Stormwind: Place a banner that grants Movement Speed
  • Banner of Ironforge: Place a banner that grants Resistance
  • Banner of Dalaran: Place a banner that grants Ability Power

Level 16

  • Juggernaut: Increase Charge damage
  • Mortal Strike: Heroic Strike reduces enemy healing
  • Shattering Throw: Deal massive damage to enemy shields

Level 20

  • Vigilance (Heroic): Incoming attacks reduce Taunt cooldown
  • Master at Arms (Heroic): Colossus Smash deals damage in an area
  • Frenzy (Heroic): Increase Twin Blades of Fury bonuses
  • Glory of the Alliance: Banner also increases healing effects
  • Demoralizing Shout: Reduces damage of nearby enemy Heroes

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Thoughts

Varian is a multi-class Hero, not a hybrid, and this is an important distinction. Hybrid Heroes are useful in a variety of situations, but they don’t typically excel at any one thing. Varian can be built to excel at one specific role, but that role can be different from game to game. What role Varian fills is defined by the Talent choices taken at Levels 4 and 10. Level 4 allows you to choose between offense and defense with Warbringer or Shield Wall. Level 10 gives you the option of going tank, burst damage, or sustain damage with Taunt, Colossus Smash, or Twin Blades of Fury. Those choices alone give Varian players six different build combinations, and those builds can be further customized with additional Talent choices. If you think it sounds like Varian has an identity crisis you might be right, but it makes sense if you know his backstory.

Varian appears to be best suited for either a bruiser or damage role. While he can be built as a main tank, he seemed to struggle a bit in that role in the few games I was able to play. I think he can fill the role of main tank when played properly, but it will require a higher skill cap as his survivability is directly tied to how well Parry (W) is used. The other downside to going with a full tank build is that it means passing on Warbringer, and the stun it provides, at level 4. I think the best comment I heard describing Varian was McIntyre saying, “Imagine if Illidan was a stun tank”.

Lion’s Rush (Q) has a surprising long range and can give Varian the ability to safely poke when needed or to secure a kill on a fleeing enemy. Parry (W) provides solid damage mitigation, especially if Shield Wall is taken at Level 4, but the duration is short so proper timing is key. Charge (E) gives Varian the ability to quickly close on his enemies, but it does have a fairly short range. This can become an especially powerful tool when combined with the Warbringer and Juggernaut Talents.

With all of the options available, making a good Varian build is going to require some advance planning. Since each of his Heroics passively buff and debuff different attributes, it helps to decide early which Heroic you plan to take and then choose your other Talents with these buffs and debuffs in mind. Once you know which Heroic you are taking, the other Talent choices often come down to whether you want to increase survivability or damage.

Keep in mind that all of this information is based on the show build that was playable at Blizzcon and is subject to change. It is also based on AI and demo games where the players range from people who are playing the game for the first time to guys like this:

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Varian is scheduled to be released on November 15th, and we should see him on the PTR in the next few days.

For the Alliance!