League of Legends has so many different "champion" characters in its line-up at this point (more than 120) that some are inevitably going to be less popular than others. One guy in particular stands out, though, because he's become the butt of so, so many jokes: Urgot.
You don't have to look too deeply into the League community to see that people have a bone to pick with Urgot. While many other unpopular characters simply end up being forgotten, he's a different story. People love to tease him and the people who play as him. When it was revealed that pro League player Piglet had been benched by his new team early into the current North American League Championship Series season, for instance, eSports followers and League fans began to quip: well, of course he was benched, he was playing as Urgot.
Once I started playing as the champion in my own games, I noticed a similar thing. Teammates would regularly ask me at the start of games why the hell I'd gone with Urgot of all the possible champions I had to choose from. When I asked a group of friends I was playing with how to better use Urgot during a game we were playing over Skype together one night last week, their unanimous answer was: don't. Even League developer Riot has confessed to being unhappy with the guy: just yesterday they announced a few buffs they added in the latest patch to beef up Urgot's base stats, adding that he's "going to need a lot more under-the-hood work before he can hit the big-time."
For the time being, Urgot is the closest thing League has to a universal subject of derision.
I began to see why Urgot's so unpalatable a few minutes into my first game with the guy. Many League champions (particularly the most popular ones) stick to a discernible template that helps indicate what position, or positions, they'd best serve their team in. Nimble ranged characters work best on the bottom lane with a supporting teammate, heavy-hitting "tanks" and bruisers go on the top lane or into the jungle, and so forth. Urgot? The two ways he's most often played are as an ADC—a bottom-lane ranged character—or a top-lane tank. These are pretty much polar opposites as far as League positions go.
That might help explain why Urgot's so weird. He's a giant crab-like zombie creature who moves like a slow, heavy bruiser...but also has a default ranged attack instead of a giant sword or hammer or whatever like most tanks do. The actual range of his ranged attack pales in comparison to dedicated ADCs, however, as does his movement speed and agility. He doesn't sit comfortably in either role at first blush, then. Using him left me in many awkward situations where I'd head into a fight, fail to do anything useful since my attacks were so weak, and end up dying because I was unable to flee effectively. Note how sad the dialog box is in this death screen, for instance:
Urgot's special abilities are similarly confusing. His two offensive abilities (his Q and E) shoot acid-infused missiles and tanks of noxious gas respectively, but they don't do serious or sustained poison damage like other champions' similar abilities. As for his ultimate ability, or "ult" in League terms: all it does is make Urgot swap places with an enemy champion.
Most ults in League of Legends (and other MOBAs, for that matter) are game-changing super-powered abilities. The ult for Shyvana, another tank I played a lot when I was first started League, turns her into a giant fire-breathing dragon. Caitlin, an ADC-friendly champion, uses her ult to fire a long-range sniper shot that can hit pretty much any enemy champion on the map.
So, yeah. Urgot didn't seem to have a lot going for him when I started playing as the guy. But like many parts of League, I only began to realize his true potential with time and practice.
After toying around with Urgot in a number of games and learning from experienced players, I realized that the trick to using him comes in combining his seemingly nonsensical abilities. His Q and E don't do much on their own, for instance. But when you use the two of them together, they do some serious damage. Pressing E to drop a gas tank on an opponent infects them for a few moments—lighting up the area under their feet with a bright green patch. This is Urgot's time to strike with Q.
When an enemy is "infected," they become a much easier target for his Q. It effectively turns into a homing missile—hitting any infected target in a wide circle extending from Urgot. So if you manage to hit someone with Urgot's noxious gas tanks, all you have to do afterward is keep tapping Q to hammer them with missiles for the next few seconds. This combo is known as the "Urgot poke," and it's probably his single-most effective ability I've found so far. Whenever an opponent made the mistake of inching within range of my E, I discovered, the Urgot poke was a surprisingly effective way to either kill them off or send them running back down their end of the lane. It was especially satisfying to pull this off when an opponent was getting aggressive at the beginning of the game—pushing far too deep into a lane and trying to go in for an early kill.
Surprising enemies this way wasn't just fun in its own right, though. It also showed me another of Urgot's strengths. Since he's a rare sight in League games, many players either underestimate the guy or don't know what's in store for them. His ult made for similarly vindictive upsets once I figured out how to capitalize on it. Swapping places with an opponent isn't always a great thing to do. But when it is, it can be absolutely devastating. There was nothing more satisfying than waiting for an opponent to get too cocky and back me up against a turret before I hit R and dropped them into the center of my team's defenses. Similarly, I came to learn that his ult can be very helpful in team fights since it effectively immobilizes an opponent—leaving them powerless to my team's pummelling for a few seconds before we changed places.
"What do you think of Urgot now?" I thought to myself after trapping one particularly aggressive opponent this way in a recent game.
Urgot isn't a perfect champion by any means. He might not even be a good one—Riot certainly seems to feel that way. But trying to use him to the best of his (and my) abilities over the past week helped me realize something important about what makes League of Legends such a fun game.
The balance of different League champions works in a unique way, one that leaves you in many fraught and perilous situations where you end up feeling underpowered and outclassed by the opposition. These are scary, intimidating situations. It was only because I kept getting crushed as Urgot that I started to learn how to capitalize on his poke power and his idiosyncratic ult. Similarly, his severely limited speed and mobility pressured me to pay close attention to the map and communicate more effectively with my team. Since Urgot had little to no means of escape whenever I got ganged up on by three or more opponents, I had to lean on my teammates for assistance and learn how to better analyze the location of my enemies.
It's not so simple as saying Urgot is a "bad" champion, then. He's just a...unique champion. The strength and weakness of an individual character often comes down to how a player uses them in tandem with the rest of his or her team, rather than any intrinsic quality of the champs themselves.
By the time Urgot went off the free rotation earlier this week, I'd started to have enough fun with him that I couldn't easily say goodbye. "I've grown fond of him," I typed into the chat box to my team before my most recent game with Urgot.
"Loveable loser?" a teammate responded.
"Pretty much." But I still like him anyways.