Why is Udyr Everywhere in League of Legends Pro Play?
The League of Legends Spring 2024 Split is underway in all four major regions. While some regions are further along than others, there is a decent sample size of games now to do some analysis. One of the most significant new arrivals to the pro scene is Udyr, who is not in his usual Jungle role. No, Udyr is one of the best blind pick top laners in the meta right now. How did this happen, and why is Udyr such a popular champion in League of Legends right now?
How Common is Udyr and Why?
For those skeptical about Udyr’s prevalence, we have some play rate statistics from the four major regions through January 25. Udyr has been pick/ban in 48 of 85 (56.5%) games played. If you remove the LEC, Udyr’s least popular region by far, that number is a whopping 42 of 55 (76.4%). In terms of presence, Udyr is tied for the number one top laner in the LCS, number two in the LCK, and number three in the LPL.
Clearly, many teams across the world are playing Udyr top. The real question is, why? Teams are picking Udyr right now for multiple reasons. Surprisingly, one of them is NOT the champion being straight OP. Udyr currently sports a 15-16 record, slightly lower than 50%. Udyr has only been nerfed for a year now. No direct changes were made to his kit coming into the new season. The obvious culprit here is the Season 14 item reworks and additions.
Looking at generic builds and solo queue guides is misleading. While Udyr certainly can try building a Liandry’s Torment or Trinity Force to be an AP or AD carry, his real value lies elsewhere. Professional players fill their inventories with tank items when playing Udyr. We see plenty of Iceborn Gauntlet, Frozen Heart, and newer items, notably Kaenic Rookern and Jak’Sho, The Protean.
Okay, so Udyr top is a tank. What’s so special about that? Well, pure top-lane tanks in League of Legends are a rarity nowadays. Aside from K’Sante and sometimes Ornn, we rarely see the top lane occupied by champions that only build tank items. What makes Udyr able to do so at the highest level of play?
The Value of Stability
We mentioned earlier that Udyr in League of Legends is one of the best blind pick top laners in the meta. When a champion can be blind-picked in pro play, it means that they are solid enough that no available counter-pick can come in and ruin their day. Udyr’s inherent bulk and build-in sustain with his W shield, and healing make it very difficult to poke him out of the lane. Even the most aggressive laners aren’t breaking through Udyr and his Doran’s Shield + Second Wind.
Typically, the laning of tanks worsens as items come in. Fighters and juggernauts often get life steal or just overwhelming damage with their completions, while tanks just get tankier, which doesn’t help them in a 1v1.
Udyr throws this concept out the window. Most of his kit has additional scaling based on his level, meaning that Udyr will get much more damage as the game goes on compared to your standard tank. As for getting tankier, he’s got that covered, too. Udyr utilizes tank items exceptionally well. His healing and shielding are worth way more when he has resistance backing them. On top of that, Udyr’s nearly permanent movement speed boost makes him extremely hard to pin down and get any meaningful damage on
Udyr is much too difficult for enemy teams to move. Most of the current meta top lane picks get bricked by having an Udyr across the rift from them. In fact, the most notoriously oppressive top laner of the new season, Rumble, is insignificant when faced with a Kaenic Rookern Udyr.
Here’s a clip of Kwangdong Freecs trying to three-man dive KT Rolster’s Udyr with their Rumble as the primary damage dealer. Udyr is so confident that he’ll survive that he pops Ghost and starts running them down as a Teleport comes in. Comedically, Udyr slaps Viego for minimal damage as the chase goes on. He did his job: walling the enemy team long enough for the cavalry to arrive.
So He’s a Tanky Turtle, What Else?
Udyr’s strengths don’t stop at his durability. Sure, being unkillable in the right circumstance is excellent, but without utility, the champion is just a big sack of meat. Udyr excels in being a team fight disruptor. His fast movement speed makes it easy for him to kite around and space fights, waiting for opponents to present an opening. When Udyr sees one, he can sprint in with Ghost for a reliable point-and-click stun on anyone.
Additionally, tank Udyr maxes his R, Wingborne Storm. This ability provides a giant area-of-effect slow that decimates enemies in choke points, making it even harder to chase or run from Udyr. It also acts as his wave clear, meaning Udyr loses nothing in the side lane for maxing his utility.
Since Udyr is so fast, tanky, and disruptive, he acts as a moving fortress for his team. Enemies must lock down and get through Udyr to win, which is challenging. Here is a fantastic example of what Udyr can do in a fight. Team Liquid and Shopify Rebellion are in a perfectly even game. SR even takes down TL’s jungler to start things off. Yet, Udyr is able to single-handedly turn the fight by simply running circles around his opponents.
What are Udyr’s Weaknesses?
Despite these apparent strengths, Udyr still sits at his 15-16 win rate. The champ isn’t overpowered in a vacuum nor unbeatable. As mentioned, a full-tank Udyr does not do much damage alone. Running in and stalling/disrupting forever is excellent, but unless his team comes in to do the DPS, Udyr will just be sitting there sad.
Udyr also doesn’t feel for his teammates very well. Enemies can dive past his AOE slowly, and he can only stun one target (while at melee rage) at a time. If a team is able to ignore Udyr and kill everyone else, Udyr still loses, even if he’s left alive. Both of the above weaknesses are displayed in this clip.
Team Liquid is again in a tight game, this time against 100T. Udyr looks to run in to disrupt 100T’s Baron. However, he’s stuck between running at the enemy carries and zoning Riven away. TL’s backline gets minimal follow-up damage before Udyr is charmed by Seraphine. Now free, Riven and Vi dive TL and take down everyone except Udyr. TL lose the game right after.
Know Your Role. Fit Your Team
Overall, Udyr is a stable, tanky wall in the top lane that is very hard to displace. His lane phase is solid, and he only gets better with items and levels. Few things are more oppressive than a 4K HP unkillable Udyr running you down with constant slows and stuns. As long as he has the supporting cast around him, Udyr can be the anchor holding down most drafts.
If you want to pick up Udyr top after seeing him in pro play, remember that it won’t be an instant LP experience. Udyr in League of Legends must understand his build and role to win games consistently. If you’re tired of seeing Rumble for the hundredth game this season, a certain Monk with Kaernic Rookern can make things much easier.