I’ve been critical of Riot Games’ League of Legends and its infamously awful fanbase in the past. I keep asking for rad stuff that they don’t deliver—variably due to their incompetence, the implausibility of my demands, and the fact that the only people who read my website anymore are my mom and Brazilian spammers.
One of the requests I’ve made frequently is the addition of new maps and modes. I realize that these are generally difficult to create and most of the users are ungrateful for their addition. (Does anyone even play Dominion or Twisted Treeline anymore? Maybe if they brought back the old, better Twisted Treeline so CrumblingCenturion could make cool videos again.)
But one thing they’ve been doing a lot lately is take existing maps (all four of them) and tweaking the two people actually play in interesting fashions. We got Hexakill and Showdown (which were both mediocre) and the hilariously nutso One For All. To all of these they applied the McRib effect: make something available sporadically and for relatively short periods, and people will eagerly anticipate it regardless of its quality. Riot delivered the limited-time goods once again with the Ultra Rapid Fire (URF) mode. And all of their other screwups are annulled by its greatness.
URF mode takes place in Summoner’s Rift, the trilane map where the huge majority of League of Legends’ games take place. The difference is that every character receives ludicrously powerful buffs: increased movement speed, much faster attack speed for ranged characters, reduction of enemy stuns/snares/silences/etc., greater passive money gain, infinite mana/energy, no health costs for skills where normally applicable, and 80% cooldown reduction. That last one is the kicker. Normally you can only get up to 40% cooldown reduction, and that is both expensive (CDR items are often lacking in other features like health and armor), not possible until later in a match, and not ideal on most champions besides. But URF has 80% reduction in the time between casts on not only your skills but the summoner spells, like the now unbelievably useful Teleport. With your skills popping out at least five times the normal rate, the normally slow-paced League of Legends transforms like communion wafers into something glorious.
The increased movement speed alone makes for a much faster game (ganking is dangerous with just about anybody now), but the extra URF changes turn League of Legends matches into a completely bonkers million-ability pileup. Every champion’s spells come out blindingly fast and never end. Both attacks and defensive powers stack on themselves in previously-impossible ways, leading even a simple 1v1 fight to instantly evolve from basic poke-the-other-guy matches into a glorious mess of graphical particles and choppy voice clips that can only end in death and fun.
Summoner Spells being on 80% cooldown is huge now. Everyone still takes the already-overpowered Flash, but the others get their fair share With Teleport on a one-minute cooldown, every player can be anywhere on the map they want to be, especially if your teammates remembered to get a yellow trinket at the start (I know I forgot plenty of times). This makes the game yet even faster-paced, every character even more dangerous, and squabbles over Baron Nashor even more frantic. It’s a definite improvement on League of Legends, that’s for sure.
Players quickly brainstormed the most easily abusable abilities. Teemo mushrooms every couple seconds. Sona heals and attacks on tap. Ezreal having a 0.0000001 second blink. Hecarim going from a decent jungler/ganker to an invincible monstrosity. Alistar actually seeing play now that his mana costs aren’t prohibitive. It’s like an all new game. This is probably Riot’s way of apologizing for never shaking up the stale meta.
Some characters like Rumble (who had no mana costs and low cooldowns to begin with) earned almost no benefit from URF. Others with spammable skills (often supports) like Sona and Soraka, no longer encumbered by mana costs or cooldown times, became nearly unstoppable behemoths despite their frequent fragility. Due to the huge new disparity in power, Riot permanently retired a dozen or so champions from URF mode to prevent their absolute domination over the others, who are merely ultra strong.
Those with toggle abilities (Karthus, Amumu, Singed, etc.) or those whose abilities now lasted longer than the new 80%-reduced cooldowns (especially my old main Rammus) gained fantastic new utility in URF mode. Keeping an ability up for the entire game is an immensely powerful bonus. Usually not enough to wreck the game—as all of their allies and opponents are equally boosted—but still highly enjoyable and undeniably strong. Always-on Swain ult? Why not, let him become an unkillable maniac. It’s not such a big deal when his opponents are just as uber.
URF is highly imbalanced and probably very confusing to players without a knowledge of every champions’ abilities. One For All was better for newbies, Showdown and ARAM better for learning characters you don’t know very well, Twisted Treeline and Dominion for different maps. But URF is the best optional mode the game has ever had, and Riot probably gained a lot of data that they should use to strengthen the quality of the normal matches. I’d love to have faster movement speed all around, though I know that DOTA 2 players already complain about the relatively small size of the League of Legends map.
I loved it and wish it would have stayed forever, but URF is gone again. It only lasted from April 1 (and it was much better than the Rampage clone they gave us last year) until April 13 of 2014. But knowing Riot, they’ll bring it back again when the sales of skins dips below one wheelbarrow of gold bars per hour. Or take another cool idea from their competitors. I’m not complaining. Riot, all is forgiven.