Geneticists encountering the diversity of the malaria parasite's var gene family for the first time often complain that its complexity is a nightmare. A new article by Barry et al. presents the latest and most systematic attempt to date to decipher the var variorum. This important work, combined with other recent articles on var global variation such as that by Kraemer et al., suggests that only the tip of the var diversity iceberg is currently in view. In this article, we discuss these recent results and provide an overview of current understanding of var diversity.