Varen Aquilarios is a very unique addition to Willpower in the Alliance War expansion of The Elder Scrolls Legends. Before we look at the card, let’s understand a little about the lore surrounding this character.
Varen Aquilarios – ESO Lore
Varen Aquilarios sparked a rebellion after Emperor Leovic legalized Daedra worship across the Empire. He won many victories across Cyrodiil. After he secretly contacted Abnur Tharn for support, his army was able to storm the Imperial City. Varen broke into the White-Gold Tower, killed Leovic, and immediately declared himself Emperor. For Abnur’s loyalty and assistance in the rebellion, Varen agreed to take Leovic’s widow, Clivia Tharn, as his Queen.
Varen, believing that only a Dragonborn could legitimately take the Ruby Throne, was betrayed by Mannimarco, who claimed to know a ritual that would allow Varen to become Dragonborn. After Varen’s group of Five Companions found the Amulet of Kings for him, Mannimarco began to perform the ritual. However, instead of reigniting the Dragonfires (the ancient barriers between Mundus and Oblivion), they were destroyed, as Mannimarco revealed himself as a supporter of Molag Bal. Bal initiated the Planemeld, a forceful attempt to drag Nirn out of Mundus into his own realm. This event is known as the Soulburst.
Varen Aquilarios – The Card in Legends
In Legends, Varen Aquilarios is a unique legendary Imperial with stats of 4/ 6, which is decent for the cost of 4 magicka. Varen’s special ability is indeed unique: when one of your runes breaks, you gain 5 health instead of drawing a card. This effect is very powerful, because it basically forces your opponent to deal the five damage again. As a downside, you don’t draw the card from the rune break anymore. You can think of his ability as “auto-drawing” Healing Potion as a Prophecy, without having to waste slots in your deck.
How Does Varen’s Special Ability Work?
Let’s see an example: if your health is at 16 and your opponent has four times five damage on board to swing, they will break the first rune with their first swing. Aquilarios will bring your life total back up to 16. They then deal another 10 damage, forcing your life total to be at 6+5= 11 and another 5 damage to get your health down to 6.
Please note: this effect will only occur while Varen is present on the board. Additionally, it does not save you in any cases where a rune would be “skipped” either. For example, if you have six health and the opponent attacks with a creature that has six or more power, you still die.
Let’s evaluate the card using quadrant theory.
Varen Aquilarios During Opening
Varen on curve can protect you extremely well against a very aggressive opponent. Around turn three or four, an Aggro opponent might normally be planning to attack and break one or even multiple runes. However, with Varen‘s special ability you get 5 life back, making an additional runebreak rather unlikely during this turn. Basically, Varen can almost double your current life total.
Thus, your aggro opponent will be looking to silence or remove Varen as quickly as possible. With stats of 4/6 your opponent will usually require two cards to remove him. Even when silenced, Varen will still trade favorably into your opponent’s creatures on your next turn.
But Varen is not only good against aggro decks: in a mid-range match-up Varen can effectively protect your life total with similar rigor. You might want to bait out some of your opponent’s removal or silence before playing him. So sometimes holding onto Varen can be an important decision to make.
Against control, the 4/6 body will allow you to go face or double-trade against your opponent‘s early game creatures. Varen will be difficult to remove and your opponent might have to use a Piercing Javelin or a Cast into Time against him, because most of the damage based removal actions cannot deal with the 6 in toughness.
Varen Aquilarios at Parity
At parity, when both players are relying on their top deck, Varen Aquilarios‘ stats make him a decent draw. Granted, he is not an 8/8 guard like Vigilant Giant, who also draws you another card, but with stats of 4/ 6 he can take on many creatures your opponent might be top-decking.
Depending on the remaining life total of your opponent, you can use Varen to slowly gain board control and to set-up a lethal swing turn in the future, or you might even risk going face with him directly. If your own life total is low and you still have a rune or two left, he is definitely going to buy you additional time. Varen might force your opponent to remove him first, before continuing their assault.
Varen Aquilarios when Winning
When you are winning and controlling the board, Varen can potentially put you in a luxury position. You can play him to strengthen your assault by 4 additional points of damage. During this phase of the game, your opponent might need to deal with bigger threats first. This can give Varen the opportunity to sneak in one or two swings of his own. Otherwise, if your opponent chooses to remove Varen first your other creatures will likely be able to get a bit of damage through.
With your own life total being down to between 7 and 15 he can function as kind of a life insurance against double Lightning Bolt or high-power charges from Tazkad the Packmaster or Aspect of Hircine.
Varen Aquilarios as a Turnaround
When you are losing and in need of a turnaround, much of Varen‘s utility will depend on how many runes you have still left and how many other cards you have still in hand. With one or two runes left and a reasonable number of cards in your hand, you might be able to find a good answer to your opponent’s threats. If you have only few cards, though, Varen can prolong the game for you, but he might also prohibit you from drawing a better turnaround card. Therefore, his life gain ability comes at the expense of any potential prophecies or other draws from rune breaks that will not be triggered while he is in play.
Varen Aquilarios is a card that does not need synergistic cards to function properly. The card is already great as a stand alone inclusion in almost any deck that can run yellow cards. Needless to say that you don’t want to include him in your prophecy decks. We have listed a few possible additional synergies below, but, 99% of the time, you want to run Varen for his special ability alone.
Mitigating the Card Draw Reduction
When including Varen in your deck, you might want to review the number of cards allowing you to draw more cards from your deck. It might be prudent to include one or two additional options to re-draw to be prepared against highly aggressive decks. Since Varen Aquilarios is a unique legendary you don‘t need to be over-cautious, but making a conscious decision on this matter is probably a good idea.
Ring of Namira – The Tit for Tat-Game
The Ring of Namira deals damage for every point of life gain. Varen can be a clever inclusion in your existing Ring of Namira deck. If both unique legendaries are in play at the same time and your opponent breaks a rune, you will heal for 5 and also deal 5 damage to your opponent as well. If only this duo could not be removed or at least be drawn to hand more consistently, it might actually become a thing. Unfortunately, it‘s going to stay a meme…
Varen Aquilarios in Self-Ping Decks
Varen‘s toughness allows you to include him into your self-ping deck. With Fighter‘s Guild Hall in play, one point of self-damage can turn Varen into a pretty sizeable aggressive threat. This idea is probably most viable for Guildsworn or House Redoran decks.
Using Varen Aquilarios in Singleton Decks
With Morokei, the Deathless, singleton decks already have a potent option to regain a rune. In combination with Varen, this will make it even more difficult to beat down your health total. Maybe a Ring of Namira singleton deck with a lot of healing options can be created, also benefitting from Siege of Stros M‘Kai‘s ability to pull a support from your deck.
The Mechanical Heart and Varen Aquilarios
The Mechanical Heart returns 1 rune and 10 life when your life total goes below zero. With Varen Aquilarios, you can potentially stretch these ten points and a rune to 15, somewhat virtual, life points.
Reviving Varen Aquilarios
Since Varen is usually quickly removed, you might want to include options to revive him from your discard pile. Discard pile tutors like Falkreath Defiler, Black Worm Necromancer or a buffed Odirniran Necromancer (using Galyn or Luzrah gro-Shar) can help you to re-draw him from your discard pile. This option might not be useful very often, but if your control deck is running any discard pile tutors, you might want to consider getting Varen back before too many of your runes are broken. At a later stage, when many runes have already been broken, it’s obviously less useful to get him back from your discard pile.
Earning a Hidden Title: Nirn‘s Doom
When using Soulburst on Varen Aquilarios, you can earn the hidden title Nirn‘s Doom. It should be noted that you can use Soulburst on your own Varen to ease the pain of waiting for your opponent to play him when you have a playable Soulburst in hand. See a decklist here.
Varen Aquilarios is a damn good card for most decks. When you look at the deck line-ups of all the top 8 players in all four 2019 Master Series Qualifiers you can find Varen in 90% of all aggro decks, in 100% of all mid-range and 69% of all control decks that can run Willpower cards. He is most often a good standalone inclusion and does not require synergistic cards to shine. If you are thinking about crafting an additional legendary card from Alliance War, Varen should definitely be on your list.