My Trusted Friend - Urgot
My goal with this series is to establish historical context by exploring who I think are the best players to ever play those champions. This series will give an in-depth history of a champion's competitive history and showcase some of the best Summoners to ever call them forward.
When Gravity mid laner Keane locked in Urgot on Week 8 of the LCS against IEM World Champions TSM, League of Legends fans from all around the world went wild. Despite his poor performance over the last few seasons, Urgot is a massive fan favorite - where NBA fans have Brian Scalabrine, LoL fans have Urgot. When Keane led Gravity to a come-from behind victory, he seemingly spawned a worldwide revival of interest in the champion - the OGN has also begun experimenting with the pick and TSM themselves brought it out in a game in Week 9.
To many LoL fans, Urgot's appearance in competitive play has been a happy sign of today's diverse metagame. But for Urgot, this resurgence is nothing compared to the true peak of his competitive play. While Urgot's competitive history has been mostly long and torturous, there was once a time when he defined multiple tournaments, even emerging with a 100% pick/ban rate in 96 games at the MLG Spring Championship. Read on and go back to a time when the Headsman's Pride was truly worthy of the tongue-in-cheek nickname Urgod.
When Urgot was first released, the champion wasn't very well understood and was passed over for competitive play. Professional players didn't really understand where they could fit an immobile champion with mediocre range and such a bizarre kit. For a while after his release, Urgot was left by the wayside. Funnily enough, the first true gameplay update to Urgot simply involved removing the "Recommended" tag from his kit - not only were pros having a bad time playing Urgot, rookies were as well. One of the only professional Urgot players was a star mid laner who played alongside jungler Saintvicious. Although the rest of the world looked down on Urgot, this player determinedly used him mid. At a time when AD champions were still played in the mid lane, Urgot was able to mow them down with his high damage and relentless slows. History must repeat itself, because in Season 1 it was legendary mid laner bigfatlp who brought out the Headman's Pride alongside Saintvicious's daring engages.
But in spite of bigfat's efforts, it was only after a comprehensive buff to Urgot's kit that he finally found a place in professional play. As often happens with underplayed champions, Riot would upgrade several of Urgot's spells at once, improving the scaling of his Noxian Corrosive Charge and changing it to physical damage, increasing his attack range, de-bugging his auto-attack, and increasing the shielding on his Terror Capacitor. Urgot also received changes to his Q and base attack damages that improved his late game.
Even in spite of all these changes, Urgot was still considered a niche champion. Players began placing him in the bot lane in the ADC role, but he was seemingly outclassed by the many powerful carries in that position. During Season 2, AD itemization was extremely powerful, and AD Carries were by far the most impactful position in the game. At a time when world class teams like World Elite or to a lesser extent CLG could be built around a hypercarry ADC, many teams felt that there just wasn't a point to playing a champion with mediocre scaling like Urgot.
Eternal life...endless torture
Urgot's first taste of high-level competitive play came at the hands of the legendary Moscow Five. The team had rapidly developed a reputation for trendsetting strategies, a reputation that they began at IEM Kiev with their innovative counterjungle playstyle centered around new release Shyvana. The brilliance of Darien and Diamondprox spawed a worldwide fascination with the Half-Dragon, and she would define much of competitive jungling until her eventual nerf. This time, it was the Gambit bot lane of Genja and Edward that would fascinate viewers with their own unique counter-jungling strategy.
The story of how Genja first began playing Urgot is a fitting one for League of Legend's black sheep. When Genja was practicing for IEM in solo queue, he encountered a player who refused to play support even though he was one of the last picks. Instead, this player decided to pick another solo-lane champion and made the classic threat of "double mid." Hoping to bait his team into a dodge, Genja locked in the troll champion Urgot. As often happens, nobody dodged in fear of losing ELO and the game began. Playing the bot lane by himself on an unfamiliar champion, Genja found himself having an extremely easy time in the 1v2 lane. Urgot's powerful harass with his Q + E combo and his innate tankiness meant that as long as Genja had mana, he could face-off any combination of bot lane opponents. This was complemented by Genja's innate passivity and unique approach to aggressive play. Because Genja only went in when his opponents had made fatal errors, Urgot's kit which excels at punishing out-of-position opponents was a natural fit.
Genja would bring this strategy to Moscow 5 and perfect it. By taking Moscow 5's first blue buff, Genja could lane 1v2 indefinitely. Before the blue buff nerfs, the buff essentially meant that champions could ignore mana issues while also receiving 20% cooldown reduction. After adding on the Teleport summoner spell, Genja's Urgot was simply an immovable wall in the bot lane. This allowed his nominal bot lane "partner" Edward to play strong roaming supports, like Alistar or Taric.
Edward's aggressive style had never synergized well with Genja, and both players would joke that the 1v2 Urgot strategy was a success because it meant that one of LoL's oddest couples wouldn't have to lane with each other. Fans of modern day Gambit know that the synergy between Edward and Diamondprox play a big role in defining the team, their early roams help the team snowball their solo laners. The truth is that Diamond and Edward always had great synergy - their great mechanics and extremely aggressive style allowed them to pick off opponents over and over in Moscow 5's IEM World Championship final match against Team Dignitas. In a way, the Urgot strategy perfectly fit the desires and playstyles of both players. Teams around the world agreed - after the Urgot strategy was revealed it was a must ban against M5 until the champion was finally nerfed.
Only I will remain
Not only did teams begin banning the Urgot composition against Moscow 5, they began trying to learn it themselves. At this time, teams still considered Urgot a powerful 1v2 laner, so they preferred to pair him with roamers like Alistar or Taric much like M5. Taric in particular was a great fit with Urgot, his stun and armor shred fit perfectly with Urgot's potent Q + E harass combo. However, most teams were wary to completely commit to a roaming style and rather played a style where the support would roam more willingly (think of today's roaming support play rather than Edward's all-out style) but would largely stay in lane. Urgot's new purpose was to become an anti-carry: teams wanted to smash the other team's AD so hard that they would never come back into the game.
One of the first teams to begin playing Urgot was Team SoloMid. Star ADC Chaox was famous for his incredible adaptability - he once copied Dignitas's Kog'Maw runes in a critical game and defeated them with their own strategy when using their set-up for the first time ever. His versatility didn't help him as much when learning Urgot, who was simply too different from other AD Carries. Chaox was played a fine Urgot and even drew a few bans during the era when teams didn't fully understand how to play against him, but fell in comparison to the standard set by Genja. It took other players to take Urgot to the next level, but TSM convinced players to try a more standard approach with the Headsman's Pride. Another critical innovation that TSM did bring to the table was combining Urgot with Janna, who provided the chase potential for him to catch up to opponents and destroy them. Xpecial would later bring out this lane to great effect with Doublelift at the 2013 All-Stars Tournament.
Before his exile to the Jin Air bench, Cpt Jack was once one of the stars of Azubu Blaze. Today, OGN fans fondly remember him for excellent teamfighting, perfect Cleanse usage, and mastery of Graves and Sivir - they played a huge role in Blaze's victories. However, Cpt Jack was also one of the first Urgot players. Jack's playstyle was quite similar to Genja's in some respects, he played far back in the lane and preferred to only harass if he could stay safe. Urgot was also a great fit because Jack was also known for his strange deviations from his own style - he frequently would overextend for creeps and die at inopportune moments. Urgot's innate tankiness often turned Jack's own mistakes into baits, especially when combined with timely plays from support Lustboy. Jack and Lustboy would popularize the Urgot Soraka lane, taking Genja's 1v2 strategy to the next level. Soraka's mana restoration spell meant that Urgot could lane without the blue buff, and her large heal + armor bonus synergized perfectly with Urgot's damage reduction to create an unkillable monster.
Soon after, every team in the world began playing Urgot and realizing his power. For a several months stretch during Season 2, Urgot was the most dominant champion in the world. At the MLG Spring championship, Urgot saw a 100% Pick/Ban rate in 96 games and won a whopping 58% of the games he was played in. Things were much the same at the two smaller tournaments of the time - DreamHack Winter and ECC: Poland. Urgot was picked or banned over 80% of the time in both tournaments. The results were clear - The Headsman's Pride was the most dominant AD Carry in the world.
With so many AD Carries picking up Urgot, the competition was stiff to become the best Urgot in the world.The aforementioned Urgot players remained some of the strongest. Few managed to rival Genja's understanding of the Headsman's Pride, and Cpt Jack seemed to have a strange knack for turning fights around on Urgot that teams were still unable to adjust to. Blaze won fight after fight on supposed Jack "overextensions" only for their bot lane pair to turn the fight around with timely ultimates or clutch Lustboy buffs onto Cpt Jack. Of the remaining field, two of the most important Urgot players of the era included CLG's yellowpete and Doublelift. Both players continued to play Urgot in Season 2 after his nerfs, but both largely abandoned the champion save for some one-off games in Seasons and 4.
Although they played on sister teams, the two players had extremely different approaches to the Urgot. yellowpete played Urgot in a style similar to Cpt Jack, he would usually try to stay safe while bullying his opponents out of lane alongside Krepo's Soraka. Funnily enough, Krepo was an aggressive support just like Lustboy, and his propensity for taking kills on the supportive champion eventually led to the "Flash Banana" meme. The bot lane pairing's propensity for Urgot combinations would not wane over the years. Even after Urgot's nerfs, yellowpete and Krepo would pull out combinations of Urgot + Soraka/Taric to try and score surprise wins against opponents, often to great effect.
On the other hand, Doublelift's Urgot could only described by relentless brutality. He played the champion with the inhibitions of regularly passive players like Jack or Genja, and he reached peaks on the champion that other players around the world just couldn't compete with. Doublelift played with the same mastery and understanding of the champion that Genja had - he knew exactly when to go in and how to harshly punish opponent's positioning errors. Two factors pushed him to a level above the Russian genius. Firstly, his superior mechanical play meant that he could often hit those critical Acid Hunters right as his opponents ran out of range or the lock-on expired. Secondly, whereas Genja played alone in a 1v2 lane as a enabler for his team, Doublelift laned alongside the lane-dominant Chauster and served as his squad's focal point. As a result, his Urgot ran roughshod over his opponents. Much like with yellowpete, Urgot would continue to be one of his signature pocket picks many years after repeated stiff nerfs to the champion.
Death is the only escape
Unfortunately, Urgot would never truly recover after his round of nerfs. While Urgot virtuosos like Doublelift or yellowpete would continue to demonstrate their mastery of the Headsman's Pride, Urgot never again would achieve meta status and would largely be relegated to cheese pick status. Most teams instead turned to the holy trinity of Graves, Ezreal, and Corki for the rest of season 2. As the season went by, it seemed like Urgot could have made a brief resurgence in the immobile utility ADC meta of Season 3, when champions like Miss Fortune or Varus ruled the day. Urgot was able to punish these champions and had an easy time chasing them down for free laning kills. Indeed, Urgot saw a brief resurgence near the beginning of Season 3, usually paired alongside lane partner Taric.
One of the most notable instances of the "Turgot" bot lane came during Team MRN's attempt to qualify for the LCS. The team had surprising reached the final rounds of the qualifier after upsetting Cloud9's first lineup, which featured current players like Hai and Lemon in addition to familiar faces Nientonsoh, Yazuki, and WildTurtle in a thrilling base race. To claim the final spot in the inaugural LCS season, the team would turn to the Turgot strategy to beat out Dirtnap Gaming (later Velocity.)
The possible Urgot craze would continue in the very first LCS ever, when Doublelift and aphromoo pulled out Taric and Urgot against TSM. (This was the famous HotshotGG no rune Malphite game.) CLG would continue to play Urgot throughout the season, scoring multiple wins with that team composition. Doublelift clearly had his old mastery of Urgot, but the team eventually gave up the composition due to a combination of meta shifts (the meta moved away from immobile AD Carries towards hypercarries like Vayne/Twitch) and a lack of personal interest from Doublelift, who professed to hating Urgot. Although he would bring out Urgot again to try and win against China during the All-Star tournament, Doublelift would never play a notable Urgot game again. With the player who brought Urgot to his greatest ever heights abandoning the champion, Urgot saw very little high-level competitive play for the rest of Seasons 3 and 4.
As mentioned earlier, yellowpete and Krepo would bring back Urgot during their time on EG in North America, but the team never reached particularly great heights, and the pair eventually dropped the strategy even though it drew multiple bans. Another notable Urgot pairing included GSG's "LeBlurgot lane" combining Urgot's potent laning phase with another infamous lane bully in support LeBlanc. Although the cheese failed to bring GSG to prominence, it did reveal an interesting strategy that future teams may try to emulate.
There's no way around it - during Seasons 3 and 4, Urgot was a largely irrelevant champion. Against certain teams, there was always the threat of an Urgot cheese but compared to his glory days, it's been a rough fall when compared to the glory of mid Season 2. On the bright side, a new era of Urgot play might be just around the corner.
The gift of eternal pain
For a long time, fans have speculated about playing Urgot in the solo-lanes. Although his range is below average for an AD Carry, 425 range is still 300 more than the melee average, and his innate tankiness means that he does not have nearly as much issues with gap closers as traditional AD Carries. Unfortunately, none of these theorycrafters were able to take Urgot to a high Challenger ranking in a solo-lane themselves. Even though these arguments made a lot of sense, most pro players either didn't see these fan arguments or dismissed them because they seemed to risky. These speculations finally came to fruition after a round of Urgot buffs that refunded half the mana cost on his Q and greatly increased the potency of his Terror Capacitor shield (helping it scale off of mana, a naturally buy on the mana-hungry crab.)
Urgot has finally begun seeing solo queue play in the mid lane in Season 5. (I wrote an in-depth discussion about Urgot in the mid lane here.) His tanky passive allows him to survive most assassin matchups, and his high damage/repeated slows allows him to matchup well against immobile mages. In the mid lane, his ultimate becomes particularly powerful as a peeling tool, AD champions generally do more damage than most mid laners. Because he is both a strong counterpick and can be flex into the AD role, Urgot is a great fit into the modern day meta which emphasizes the pick-ban phase. Whereas Urgot was once forced to wait and see what AD Carries he would be facing off against, he now can be first picked with impunity due to his versatile roles.
Gravity mid lane Keane has always been a player extremely unafraid to pick unusual champions. Initially known for his beloved mid lane Hecarim, Keane began spamming Urgot in solo queue, supposedly after he saw Faker playing the champion when spectating the greatest mid laner in the world. If he had seen Faker playing it, it was a mere one-off and nothing in comparison to Keane's practice on the champion. Spamming Urgot game after game after his original 4.15 buffs, Keane was well prepared for when Urgot took took the next step with his Season 5 upgrades. Keane spammed in Urgot in over 50 games in solo queue, but his LCS peers were still shocked when he brought out the Headsman's Pride against the IEM World Champions. Claiming that he would have picked Urgot into any matchup, Keane initially fell behind due to a greedy flash Q, but played a critical role in Gravity's comeback, repeatedly shutting down TSM's carries with his powerful ultimate and sending them to their demise.
Other players around the world have also begun playing Urgot. After losing to Keane, Bjergsen would bring out an Urgot of his own. The abomination has also begun seeing play in his native AD role. PraY, a former Urgot himself, brought out the champion for the first time in the AD role, shutting down KT's Arrow and drawing bans in the next two games. Faker, the original Season 5 Urgot, faked out his opponents by trading Urgot to Wolf and taking Anivia in SKT's potential playoff preview against Jin Air. With his Urgot peers currently either retired or on the bench, it'll be interesting to see if Doublelift brings out his one of his most reliable champions with play-offs right around the corner for CLG. With only one of the original generation of Urgot greats still playing, it's time for new stars to rise and hopefully keep Urgot in the competitive meta. The crab is back, and fans around the world are hoping that he is here to stay.
All hail Urgod.
EDIT: This article has been edited to include information about bigfatlp's mid lane Urgot play and to give more information about the buffs that improved Urgot and sent him to his current state in competitive play. Thanks to RudikRudnikov and OverlordLork on Reddit for these suggestions!