This page details various strategies that can be used for the fight and the end of Offered and Lost.
Put off this fight as long as possible, to ensure your maximum possible level, talent and attribute points. This fight has the single highest number of enemy units in any battle, and thus makes it one of the most difficult fights in the game. Most of them are Critter-ranked, but they still have some fairly strong armor, and Ser Varnell can activate a health regenerating aura to heal them faster than you can kill them. On Nightmare, they're also immune to cold damage, so while Winters Grasp and Cone of Cold can still reduce speed, freeze, and Brittle the enemy, only Varnell will actually be damaged, so it's best to save these abilities for him. Fire, nature, and spirit are the most effective elements in this fight, and without sufficient AoE abilities this fight can get very difficult very quickly.
The most important thing to note is that as long as you can stun or paralyze/freeze Varnell, his healing aura will be disabled. At least, as long as it takes him to get back in the fight and recast. The choke point between Varnell's area and the "H-shaped" section is the best place to lay down Tempest or Firestorm, as well as draw threat to the tank. With the right Hawke and party, this choke point can be your best friend and save you a dozen potions. Place the nuke trap (Gravitic Ring/Storm of Arrows/Glyph of Repulsion + Firestorm/Tempest) at the upper right corner of the "H" while stationing your ranged attackers at the right intersection with a clear shot at anything to come into view, with enough distance to take them down. The best way to use this choke point is a Two-Handed warrior with three ranged attackers, which leads to party options:
- Fenris is very effective in this fight, especially when sufficiently developed in his Vanguard, and Tevinter Fugitive trees, and even with a point in Rally and Pommel Strike he can still get his most useful passives by Level 17. Sunder and Giant's Reach from Two-Handed (3 points), Veneer of Calm, Battle Tempo, and Inner Reserves from Tevinter Fugitive (6), and Destroyer and Massacre (5) from Vanguard will be extremely useful in dealing with the volume of enemies here, and his lethality will allow him to draw the greatest threat. Upgraded Lyrium Ghost and Might are his best sustainables, an upgraded Spirit Pulse (to reach Inner Reserves' quota) is a great stun tool, and Bolster can restore his stamina to re-use Mighty Blow (and possibly Scythe and Whirlwind). With three ranged allies, you can control Fenris yourself while ordering the others to take their positions and auto-attack, which means less overall micro-managing to do. With a Strength of 40 and Constitution of 30, he'll have plenty of room to dish out damage and tank for the others.
- Anders brings the best support abilities. Turn off Vengeance in the Tactics, give him a fire staff and activate Elemental Weapons, activate an upgraded Heroic Aura, and cast Haste regularly. Upgrading it beforehand is not required but should make things immensely easier, as well as leaving Panacea on. However, if Hawke isn't a mage, you may have to use him to cast a Glyph and Firestorm in lieu of Gravitic Ring, which may cost you ability points you could spend on support skills. Regroup is your emergency rescue, as always, but if you use it at the wrong time, the enemy will assault them as they rise from the ashes and kill them before they've gotten a single attack.
- Merrill is an excellent choice if you opt for a full DPS assault party. If she has Hex of Torment, Misdirection Hex, and Horror and all of them upgraded (6 points), she is the most effective way of keeping Varnell in check, who seems immune to Pommel Blow. With Petrify, she can freeze Varnell without fail, upgraded Chain Lightning and Tempest are friendly-fireproof and are great for use with Fenris, between Staggering enemies and keeping him covered on the front line. Finally, Rock Armor and a great deal of points in Constitution means she won't have to worry about anyone, even the ones that get near her without getting on the sharp end of Fenris' blade.
- Varric is another option, though he pales in comparison to the others. With Miasmic Flask upgraded he has a good chance of stunning Varnell, but it's not as good as Horror, and Pinning Shot seems to have no effect at all. With an upgraded Archer's Lance and Burst Shot, he can still make good use of Brittle combos. If you've advanced his Sabotage abilities enough, Fatiguing Fog can be upgraded to obscure your warrior in trouble while Disorienting and slowing the horde, and Confusion can turn a handful against each other briefly, giving you time to breathe. If Hawke is a Rogue, it's highly recommended you avoid bringing a second.
For items, bring a weapon like The Brother's End for your Two-Hander, a fire staff for your Elemental Weapons mage, and a nature or spirit staff for the other. Bring a good 6-10 Health and stamina/lyrium potions each. You may not need half of them, but it's better to be safe since you can't leave the Refuge until Varnell is dead. Finally, if you obtained the recipes, Combustion Grenades, Elfroot and Restoration Potions, Life Ward Potions, Rock Armor/Mighty Offense Potions (cannot be used together), Debilitating/Arcane Poison, and Deathroot Toxin can provide extra assistance, especially if Fenris uses Arcane Poison and the others use the other poisons. Mythal's Favor is a great way to turn the battle back in your favor after the inevitable deaths, fully healing the party minus an injury.
As a last resort, the Black Emporium DLC gives you access to some decent options, like Crow Venom to slow enemies, a summonable Dog to off-tank, and Maker's Sigh to re-spec your party and free whatever talent points were automatically spent when your companions joined.
When you're ready to fight, head to Ser Varnell's Refuge. Without a rogue, you'll have to ignore the trap and chest (and 200 XP), but killing this self-righteous zealot on the hardest difficulty is more important. You have two core approaches to win this fight:
1. Cut Off the Snake's Head Edit
This approach has you kill Ser Varnell as quickly as possible. If Brittle, a sufficiently upgraded Dual-Wielding Assassin should be able to eliminate him in one hit. However, this isn't an option for warriors and mages, and since staying in the main chamber will likely lead to your party getting slaughtered, you'll have to retreat to the choke point. After removing enough of the Fanatics at the choke point and drawing threat to the warrior(s), you can command the party to gang up on him, unleashing Winter's Grasp from range while warriors hack him from up close, stunning him periodically to prevent him from chugging potions and disabling that damn aura. He has a lot of health and damage resistance for an Elite, but with the correct application of stun, he'll drop before he can chug a single health potion.
Merrill will likely be a good option for eliminating him quickly, as long as she's been built as described above.
Even with him out of the way, the reinforcements will still put up enough fight on their own, so it's a good idea to take command of the Two-Hander and apply the blade where it is needed most. Refresh the nuke trap every 20 seconds, alternating between spells if you need to. Enemies who break through the choke point should be hog-piled by all four players, which should successfully kill them before they do too much damage to your support line. Archers are the next priority, followed by the two-handers, and finally the dagger-thrusters (fortunately none of them are Assassins).
2. Where Is Your Flock Now?! Edit
Another option is to kill the fanatical horde first, while keeping Varnell from healing them. This strategy requires that your team be able to eliminate 40-50 enemies in a very short period of time, before they can combine their attacks and wipe out your party of 4. With this in mind, a full DPS squad of a 2-handed warrior and three mages/two mages and an archer will be far more effective, and this strategy may actually be more feasible than trying to punch through and endure while Varnell just shrugs off your attacks (even under Death Hex).
You can use the H-choke point, or the stairs near the exit are a very defensible position, since it gives you a choke point and the higher ground, unlike any other point on the map. You can file the enemies here and gang up on them, eliminating Critters as they approach and the Normals after being softened by a Tempest/Firestorm. Same rules apply: Stun/paralyze Varnell to remove his healing aura briefly, then AoE his horde. The only problem is that the third wave (of FOUR) will spawn right on top of you, which necessitates a retreat back to the H-shaped section, at which point you can following the tank-and-nuke strategy mentioned in Preparation. Keeping your team together and using Mythal's Favor when you're down to about 12 enemies all but seals your victory. Varnell will go down like any Elite without his flock, so don't hold back any of the hate you've built up over multiple deaths and retries. Now is the time to sweep for more Lyrium Potions if you need to Regroup and get Fenris back in the fight.