Udyr’s rework kit might be simple, but it’s not for new League of Legends players

Andrew Amos
Dragon Oracle Udyr in League of Legends

The Udyr rework is coming to League of Legends as part of patch 12.16, with the Spirit Walker remaining largely unchanged. However, there are some hidden complexities in the Warrior Shaman’s kit appealing to veteran players ⁠— and adding depth new players will struggle with.

Udyr’s rework is going live in League of Legends after a long wait. The Spirit Walker briefly broke into the meta shortly after his VGU was announced in Season 11, running around Summoner’s Rift with the beloved “flash bear slap” being near-unstoppable.

That gameplay isn’t really going away. In fact, as far as VGU reworks go, Udyr’s is the least transformative on the Rift. Riot intended for this from day one ⁠— although they realized there were some changes needed to bring the jungler up to speed in the modern game.

“We really wanted to preserve his unique stand-changing identity and keep him as an auto-attacking melee-focused champion,” product lead Lexi Gao said in an interview. “This is what makes Udyr stand out so we want to keep that the same, but we really want to modernize his gameplay and his visuals while keeping the theme of the Warrior Shaman.”

The four stances ⁠— now named after four Ionian demigods in Anivia, Ornn, Volibear, and Ildhaurg the Iron Boar ⁠— are all relatively similar to his old kit. There’s some smaller changes to his old Phoenix Stance (now called Storm Stance), but that’s pretty much it. 

Where Udyr’s rework kit really deviates from the old “run in and bear slap” identity he held for years is with the new Awaken mechanic. The Spirit Walker is more attuned with the demigods than ever and can tap into their heavenly powers every so often for super-charged stances.

His Q feels like you’re challenging Volibear’s lightning with bolts crashing down from above. The visuals are also made to match with Udyr getting little Ornn horns when he awakens his Stampede Stance on E. This small change to Udyr has catapulted his kit from 2009 to 2022, modernizing it for the modern game.

“I think we all agree that it felt pretty outdated, but what you mean by that might be different. It’s pretty subjective,” champion designer Stash Chelluck said. “My interpretation of this is that it felt kind of flat and it lacked many unique or punchy moments coming out of new champions. 

New Primal Udyr splash art in league of legends
Udyr’s kit was outdated — but Riot believes a little polish is enough to bring it into the modern game.

“That’s how we landed on the Awaken system ⁠— a method for us to give him occasional impactful moments that were thematically in line with the things he was already doing. The trick here was finding exciting and powerful utility that wasn’t a skillshot or a twitch-reaction test because those aren’t the types of things Udyr players tend to be interested in, so we modernized it that way. 

“[Udyr’s old kit] was built for a slower game. A lot of his abilities were like first and every third hit and expected you to stay in a given stance for a long time. The game is a lot faster than that now, so a lot of the power of the kit has been condensed into the first two attacks in each stance.”

Just because it’s still about the four basic stances doesn’t mean Udyr is a simple champion. That didn’t even cross Riot’s mind during the rework. While many League of Legends players see the Spirit Walker as such ⁠— after all there’s no flashy dashes or skillshots to land, just a lot of running ⁠— there’s hidden complexities to the Freljordian’s kit that goes unnoticed.

“One thing we were sensitive to along this line was Udyr has a very specific niche in League of Legends, and it’s not that he’s necessarily easy to play or simple, but he doesn’t have any challenging skillshots or reflex tests,” Chelluck continued. “He’s not going to be intimidating to play in that regard. 

“He’s pretty different to other champions ⁠— he doesn’t have an ultimate, and in that way, he’s not quite simple. 

“Another thing that came up that was more subtle was Udyr players tend to be very strategically minded. The ability to choose the right tool for the right situation. Due to all the movement speed on the kit, the ability to be anywhere on the map and apply pressure strategically anywhere on the map was a big part of Udyr’s appeal. We wanted to make sure he could still do that so we needed to make sure he needed to push waves so let’s not strip all of his AOE out and a lot of movement speed and high uptimes so he could continually push new areas of the map.

“However I hope he’s approachable and you don’t think when you look at the kit ‘I can’t play that.’”

New udyr splash art in League of Legends
Don’t be fooled by how simple Udyr seems on paper — the Spirit Walker has depth to appeal to veterans, not new players.

With all that being said though, Riot doesn’t want to gate his kit to the old guard with boomer hands that need a simple touchstone in the jungle (or top lane, which Chelluck said the developers will try and serve as a viable secondary role).

There’s enough complexity in this kit ⁠— through just pure game sense ⁠— that Udyr is built for the modern game with a strategic brain at the helm of it. Servicing what those players loved for 12 years came first, whether new players can pick him up with ease is secondary.

“Sometimes simple isn’t just for new players too,” Gao added. “From data that we’ve seen, younger newer players actually enjoy really complex champions and it’s actually the older players that need the easier things to fall back on or an easier champion to try out a specific new role they aren’t as familiar with. 

“I look at the phrase ‘new players’ a little differently and we can really dive into that and digest what champion can fit for what player base, and that’s how we approach champion making.”