Forg1ven and Gambit: The Lions in the Winter
Gambit Gaming's Forg1ven entered the season with sky-high expectations. For leading SK Gaming to a first-place regular season finish, the Greek AD Carry was rewarded the Spring Split's MVP award. The team's fourth place playoff finish and Forg1ven's subsequent exit did little to dampen expectations heading into the Summer Split. In joining legendary Russian organization Gambit Gaming, Forg1ven was arguably propelling himself onto an even brighter stage. SK Gaming is one of Europe's oldest gaming organizations, but only Fnatic can rival Gambit when it comes to League of Legends history.
On Gambit, Forg1ven found himself alongside a fellow rising star in Cabochard and two living legends in Diamondprox and Edward. With both rising talent and established pedigree, Gambit looked like a world-class All-European roster. Fans reasoned that if Gambit with P1noy could reach the playoffs, Gambit with Forg1ven had a strong chance of winning it all.
Unfortunately, the Russian organization has struggled in a much-improved EU LCS. Instead of contending with Europe's trio of titans, Gambit Gaming find themselves battling for the 6th and final seed with a disappointing 6-8 record. To make matters worse, two of Gambit's last 4 matches are against Origen and H2k, two of the strongest teams in Europe. It's been a difficult season for a player once indisputably considered Europe's finest, but there is good reason to believe that like lions in the winter, Forg1ven and his teammates will roar once again.
Last split, Gambit began the season with a disappointing 5-game losing streak. However, the team was able to turn around the season and comfortably make the play-offs after undergoing a key stylistic change. The defining characteristic of Gambit's resurgence last season was their tendency to play a duo-roaming system. In the early game, the old pairing of Diamondprox and Edward would look to aggressively invade the opponent's jungle. As the game went on, Diamondprox would focus on ganking for Cabochard while Edward and Pinoy looked to score picks with champions pairings like Kalista/Graves + Annie/Thresh. Although Gambit's resurgence coincided with the arrival of Betsy, the rookie was usually the odd-man out in these strategies. The Swedish rookie usually just focused on playing a safe laning phase and distracting enemies with mid-late game split pushes.
The addition of the talented Forg1ven to Gambit's duo-roam system initially promised great returns. Burst AD Carries were central to Gambit's bot lane roam strategy, and while Forg1ven has never played Kalista competitively, his beloved Graves and Lucian both fit the bill as burst marksmen. Gambit's strategy of constant bot lane brawling meant that P1noy dealt the highest damage to champions mark of all European AD Carries. However, P1noy's all-out approach meant that he rarely if ever survived teamfights, leading to poor objective control. Gambit reasoned that Forg1ven's more measured style would mean that he could both deal comparable damage while surviving teamfights to secure objectives.
Unfortunately, the meta dramatically shifted between the two splits. In particular, bursty AD Carries were largely removed from the meta save for Forg1ven's arch-nemesis Kalista. With Lucian in particular rendered a sub-optimal pick, Gambit was forced to experiment to find new options in the bot lane. While Edward's use of Taric as a Kalista counter was clever, the bot lane was never able to settle on particular comfort champions. To make matters worse, Diamondprox was simultaneously unable to find his footing in the new jungle meta and rarely assisted his bot lane even though they were camped for much of their laning phase. For the beginning of the Summer Split, top laner Cabochard was left alone to shoulder the majority of Gambit's carry burden.
However, something has changed in Gambit since their poor start. They were one of only a few teams which came close to challenging Fnatic, currently 14-0 and looking to close out the season undefeated. Much like last season, Gambit has finally found a cohesive team identity. As in the Spring Split, the team focuses its early game around snowballing top laner Cabochard. Diamondprox has never been a strong bot lane ganker - he spent much of Gambit's earlier years with the very passive Genja. Because Diamondprox has begun converting his top lane ganks again, Cabochard has found the resources he needs to carry. Cabochard excels at pushing in his advantages and outside of Huni, there is arguably no better carry top laner in the West. His split pushes help move attention away from his teammates. This large presence at the top of the map has helped distract attention away from Edward and Forg1ven in the bot lane, allowing them to finally play aggressively.
One of the most important players for Gambit has been mid laner Betsy. Once again, Betsy finds himself playing the 5th-wheel role on Gambit, but this season he has put up admirable numbers in spite of his somewhat neglected position. Per OraclesElixir.com, Betsy deals a top 10 damage per minute in the league and a top 10 damage % share while not being in the top 20 for either gold per minute or gold share. Part of this comes from Betsy's use of hyper-scaling champions such as Azir or Jayce, but this level of efficiency is definitely worth commending. A large part of Gambit's improvement this season can be placed on Betsy's far-improved efficiency.
After Betsy, we arrive at Forg1ven, the man expected to change Gambit's fortunes. A common storyline about Forg1ven's gameplay has been that his play has diminished because of his small champion pool. While he should be heavily criticized for his inability to play Kalista (which echoes his hero Doublelift's stubborn refusal to play Draven) his performance on other champions, such as Sivir and Corki, have been admirable. Throughout Gambit's long winter, Forg1ven has remained one of Europe's best AD Carries. A statistical look at Forg1ven's play reveals that he is the only AD Carry in Europe's top 10 for damage percentage, dealing a whopping 28.8% of Gambit Gaming's damage. Although some players, such as Hjarnan or Rekkles, deal more damage per minute than Forg1ven, they also receive much more gold. A look at damage percentage shows that only Hjarnan and Woolite (who only played 6 games) comes close to Forg1ven. Both players clock in with 28.6% of their team's damage. Notable names like Freeze, Tabzz, and Rekkles all find themselves far below Forg1ven in terms of damage percentage.
There are four games left in the season, and last week's disappointing loss to Giants means that Gambit is now fighting for their playoff lives. After significant early season struggles, Gambit finally have found a system which works. The play-offs, played on a patch with severe Kalista nerfs, may be just what Forg1ven needs to cure his wintery Summer Split. These four games will be the most important games of his career. If he makes it through, he may get one more chance to show the world what the "Carry" portion of AD Carry really means.