Varus has a low pro win rate, and drafting may be to blame

The bottom lane has been dominated by a trio of marksmen so far this spring, but the most popular of the three, Varus, hasn’t been putting his money where his mouth is.

Varus, Ashe, and Jhin all bring crowd control ultimates that make them useful in any circumstance and in most team compositions, which is important given the current itemization woes AD carries are facing. To put these champions’ popularity in context, the fourth-highest pick/ban rate for an AD carry belongs to Caitlyn at just 21%.

Champion Games Played Pick/Ban Rate
Varus 91 87%
Ashe 89 85%
Jhin 57 59%
Caitlyn 19 21%

Based on LCS/LCK/LPL through two weeks of play; LMS data is not yet available. More champion stats from premier leagues.

Varus is leading the pack, with Ashe close behind. Most games feature a combination of those two champions, and they’re usually picked early in the draft to oppose one another. Varus is actually more popular than Ashe, though, judging by how often he is selected by the team playing the red side of the map, which typically is the first to choose their bot laner.

Champion Games on Blue Games on Red
Varus 36 55
Ashe 47 42

There are many good reasons for Varus’s popularity. He has high versatility in his item builds, being able to opt into more utility, or more team fighting and tank-killing, and able to focus on either mid-game or late-game power depending on the win conditions of his team composition.

But Varus’s popularity, on first look, does not seem to be justified by his results. In his 91 games, Varus has only a 40% win rate!

Champion Games Played Win Rate
Varus 91 40%
Ashe 89 56%
Jhin 57 58%

A discussion of this fact on Twitter led to a hypothesis from Misfits analyst Naser “Empyre” Al-Naqi:

Empyre’s hypothesis proved to be correct. Here’s the evidence:

Map Side Varus Games Varus Win %
Blue  36 64%
Red  55 26%

It’s unsurprising that any champion’s win rate would be lower on red side. In fact, in the NA and EU LCS, the red side is winning just 35% of games so far. The LCK has managed a red side win rate of 41%, but the LPL’s red side win rate is just 24%!

Obviously the solution to this issue for Varus isn’t as simple as “stop picking him early on red side.” The problem is that if the red team doesn’t pick Varus, the blue side probably will, and Varus’s blue side results are quite good.

There may be a solution in picking for matchups, however. While Varus has been successful overall on the blue side, there’s one champion who has given him trouble regardless of map side.

Lane Opponent
Games Win % Blue
Win %
Win %
Ashe 51 39% 70% 19%
Jhin 25 28% 25% 29%
Caitlyn 8 38% 67% 20%

Jhin has been the third choice globally, but his results suggest that he’s being underused. Jhin has beaten Varus quite consistently, even when Varus has the blue side advantage. That’s not because Jhin wins lane: Varus leads the 2v2 with +2.4 CSD@10 against Jhin in 25 games. More likely the wins are coming from elsewhere on the map, perhaps with advantages gained through different elements of the draft by lowering the team’s priority on having first pick of AD carries.

Armed with this information, teams may decide to deprioritize picking their bot laner early, or they could choose to put higher priority on picking Jhin. Taking the latter approach should be relatively safe, since there’s no real need to fear an Ashe pick from the blue team, either: Jhin has an overall 45% win rate on Ashe in 20 games, and his map side win rates against her are fairly balanced (42% when Jhin is on blue, 50% on red).

But the greater risk from picking an early Jhin, or Varus or Ashe may come from giving up power picks in other positions. At the same time, avoiding an AD carry entirely in the first rotation on red side is dangerous, since it allows the opponent to have their own free choice from the trio. Failing to pick an AD carry at all in the first three picks is even more dangerous since it allows the opponent to ban any of the remaining top three picks and force you to descend the bot lane tier list.

There are no easy answers in the 10-ban draft system, and Varus’s win rate by map side is just one of the variables that is emerging to prove that point. The discussion will continue over the coming weeks: patch 7.2 hasn’t meaningfully altered the state of the bottom lane, so we will have more time to see how teams evolve their strategy around AD carry draft priority.

3 thoughts on “Varus has a low pro win rate, and drafting may be to blame”

  1. Only thing i see preventing a Jhin pick while Ashe is up is fear of the arrow hitting you while you ult, but with edge of night and an entire team that should be standing in front of you, I don’t see how that would ever be a problem. Similarly, if Varus were to get caught in the same fashion, he could use his ult and yoummu’s to escape.
    The alternative would be to give up Varus, but for who in return? Well, taking Ashe would probably be the best option considering she’s almost the same as varus, just with less poke and waveclear, or Jhin/Caitlyn because they can keep their distance. I think his prioritization lies in his versatility despite his immobility, while all the other immobile ADCs are not as versatile. Cait/Ziggs are siege ADCs with little mobility, Ashe and Jhin teamfight/pick, and Ezreal is poke with mobility, but Varus can do all of these with different builds suited for the different team comps. You don’t have to build around a Varus, Varus builds around the team.
    If it were my call I would give up the varus pick on red side every time and wait until phase 2 to pick something to compliment the rest of the team. The risk with that though, is that the enemy would ban out the ADC we want, or if we picked the adc last pick phase 1 then they would ban out the other champions we would pick with that adc. It’s a fine line and the coaches would have to play some good mind games to sneak a pick in. Unfortunately most ADCs aren’t flex picks, so you can’t fool the enemy by picking an adc (unless someone takes the corki pick to bot lane and puts an ezreal or ziggs mid).

  2. The main problem of red side varus in the west is that many teams do not understand how to use him properly, they dont position him and his team correctly and tend to break their phalanx.

    1. I think there’s a discussion worth having about on-paper “perfect execution” and how that can be different from real-world circumstances and how they play out in messy ways.

      LS’s theory work about red side Varus makes sense, but clearly isn’t working out in the real world. That doesn’t mean LS is wrong, but it does suggest that there are other factors at play that must be considered. And it’s not as simple as just “you’re doing it wrong,” of course. :)

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