17 September 2015 - 21:45
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The Real FORG1VEN, Part 1: Copenhagen's Lone Wolf

The Real FORG1VEN is a comprehensive reexamination of Europe's misunderstood native son.
Dot Esports
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Although Forg1ven may be the greatest European AD Carry ever, it’s possible that he will not be playing League of Legends next split. For a player of this caliber, such uncertainty is unprecedented. To some, however, the reasons for his failure seem self-evident. In spite of his talent, parts of the community, and, at times, even Riot, insist on painting the Greek AD Carry as a toxic teammate who can only play two champions. This simplified description has portrayed Forg1ven as a barbaric talent, who can only find success if he would bend the knee and play “the right way.” Sadly, this easily repeated truism has overshadowed Forg1ven’s true playstyle and accomplishments. A brilliant talent has been eclipsed by a wrongheaded meme.

Forg1ven is one of LoL’s most brilliant and relentless competitors - playing alongside overmatched teammates for much of his career, Forg1ven developed a unique approach to carrying his teammates and fitting into a team context, an approach that gives him an independence no other AD Carry can match. Fans can criticize Forg1ven for his sky-high, and perhaps unreachable standards. Riot can ban Forg1ven all they want for his soloqueue toxicity.

But in spite of it all, nobody can call Forg1ven selfish. Nobody can call Forg1ven a bad teammate. And nobody can call Forg1ven limited. Watching even a single game from Forg1ven’s career should begin shaking away these false perceptions. His whole career is a screaming rebuttal to his alleged selfishness. “The Real FORG1VEN” is a three-part reimagining of Forg1ven’s career that aims to take a fresh look at Europe’s enigmatic castaway.

The Forgotten Wolves

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Forg1ven’s name has become associated with high expectations; but, the beginning of his career was completely different. Before adding Forg1ven and Amazing, the Wolves were simply considered a “farm team” for bright talents that would soon leave them. Rekkles was already signed to Fnatic, and Froggen’s desire to create a “super team” with Shook was also well-known. Because they spent the entire Challenger season playing around these two stars, nobody expected the Wolves to do well without them.

However, the underdogs from Copenhagen would do more than exceed expectations – after adding Amazing and Forg1ven, they would go undefeated up until their promotion matches against Meet Your Makers. This lineup would first appeared in the amateur division of IEM Cologne, a tournament where they were expected to handedly lose. SK Gaming had just retooled their roster around rising talents fredy122 and Svenskeren, and the amateur division also contained the highly rated Ninjas in Pajamas superteam. The core of Zorozero, nukeduck, and mithy had just come back from their first trip to the World Championships, and were expected to shine even brighter alongside freeze and hyrqBot.

 As a reformed Gambit Gaming ran amok through the professional tournament, the Wolves not only swept an SK lineup that would go to Worlds after replacing Nyph for nRated, but went on to crush the highly rated Ninja in Pajamas lineup in another dominant 2-0 sweep. Such domination would continue in the group stage of the promotion tournament. The Wolves once again made short work of the opposition, emerging undefeated from a group that contained, future LCS teams, KMT (later to be known as ROCCAT)and Supa Hot Crew. Against Meet Your Makers, however, this reinvigorated Wolves line-up would drop their  first game, a 57 minute slugfest, before taking the next three games to enter the LCS. When asked to comment on the Copenhagen Wolves for this article, Forg1ven stated

“I think CW was the best Challenger team ever after Origen. Like Origen was more ‘known’ and dominating, but with CW we had ridiculous win ratio stats. It’s just in CW, the organization was making poor choices. It showed - the higher the competition the less the success.”

Picking Lucian against CandyPanda’s Vayne in his first broadcasted game, Forg1ven would immediately establish himself as a dominant laner. The Greek rookie  crushed the veteran in the 2v2 top lane, repeatedly bullying him out of lane and amassing a 20+ cs lead by the 10 minute mark. In spite of this laning strength, the Wolves were not a bot lane oriented team.  Although they were later known as extremely weak players, or even outright disregarded as jokes, both YoungBuck and cowTard were very strong sololaners in the Challenger scene. In fact, YoungBuck would repeatedly draw bans on his signature Vladimir and Renekton picks. Because YoungBuck and cowTard were also able to overpower their opponents in the solo lanes, Copenhagen Wolves would work to win all of their lanes en route to victory. To this end, the Wolves would employ a simple strategy predicated on their lane dominance – all three lanes would win and shove up, so that, jungler, Amazing could invade and pin down the enemy jungler, ensuring favorable 1v1s. Even as MYM repeatedly sent four men into the bot lane, Amazing and cowTard rarely followed for counterganks, instead preferring to use the space provided by Forg1ven’s pressure to shove down towers or steal jungle camps. These tendencies would remain an essential part of the team’s identity in the LCS.   

Examining the Wolves’s LCS campaign

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Despite their promising entrance to the LCS, the Wolves were mostly a middle-of-the-pack European squad. When examining the Wolves’s individual talents, even when accounting for Forg1ven and Amazing, the team’s overall level had more in common with relegation teams Supa Hot Crew and Millennium than league frontrunners like Fnatic and Alliance. Indeed, the Wolves were the only team to qualify for the play-offs with a sub .500 record, finishing 13-15, one game behind Gambit Gaming.

A large part of the Wolves’s play-off qualification came from the team maintaining a solid identity within the chaos of Europe’s Season 4 Spring Split. With perennial powerhouse Gambit on the decline, and teams like Alliance or, to a lesser extent, Fnatic searching for their playstyles, the Wolves were able to make the playoffs due to their knowledge of the early game. Even though cowTard and YoungBuck were outmatched by their LCS counterparts, the Wolves consistent amassed large gold leads through their knowledge of lane swaps and tower shoves. Unfortunately, their strong strategical play was not enough to compensate for their lack of talent. Outside of a Day One win against Froggen’s superteam and a mid-season 5 game run that saw two impressive wins against Fnatic, however, the Wolves remained average.

In the play-offs, the Wolves found themselves against two of Europe’s most feared teams in Froggen’s Alliance and Alex Ich’s Gambit Gaming. In both series, the Wolves were favored to lose; but, Forg1ven and his teammates would come close to defeating both European legends. In the quarterfinals against Alliance, Copenhagen Wolves took Game 1 off the back of a predicted lane swap that sent Forg1ven’s Caitlyn into lane against Tabzz’s Twitch. Forg1ven would pin Tabzz and Nyph to the top lane tower, repeatedly drawing ganks from, former CW jungler, Shook. This pressure would give Amazing the chance to do an extremely early dragon on Xin Zhao. Purchasing, the then-overpowered, Feral Flare item extremely early after a second dragon before the 10-minute mark, the Wolves would overwhelm Alliance with a massive gold advantage. In the second game, the Wolves once again built up a large gold advantage that surpassed the 5k mark, but they were unable to close out due to the steady waveclear of Froggen’s Ziggs. Poor warding around Baron gave Alliance the opening they needed to secure the all-powerful objective and turn the game around. In Game 3, Tabbz, the one AD Forg1ven respected as a rival in the Spring Split, was able to match up against Forg1ven 1v1 in the bot lane. Unable to win even with a 5k gold lead, the Wolves had no chance only up 1k heading into the mid game, and were ultimately defeated.

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Their matches against Gambit were a similar story. The Wolves once again took Game 1 off of their control of early game towers, but that as their high water mark. In Game 2, the Wolves once again built a 5k gold lead with tower shoves and early dragons, but an overzealous rush for the second bot lane tower gave Gambit a free Baron Nashor, which they used to turn the game into a stalemate. With a bot lane minion wave shoving into Gambit’s base, it seemed like the Wolves were primed for victory, but an overeager engage by the Wolves after they had tanked the Baron debuff gave Gambit a won teamfight and the game. In Game 3, a legendary performance from Alex Ich on Orianna nullified the Wolves’ massive early game advantage and sent the promising team to relegations.

A holistic look at the Wolves’ 2014 Spring Split makes it hard not to call them over-performers. Although expected to be bottom feeders after losing Rekkles and Shook, they managed a middle-of-the-pack regular season and played two great series against some of Europe’s best teams. In addition, the team’s clear style and consistent ability to amass large gold leads no matter their opponent provided a hopeful sign for their future. Forg1ven, however, did not see it that way. Although they had beaten Denial to keep their LCS spot, the Wolves had aimed for top 3.  Forg1ven, seeing no way to meet that goal, decided to leave the team. When asked to comment on this article, Forg1ven explained his frustration with the Wolves organization, stating

“If the organization was more helpful towards the players in terms of living, flying, etc. we wouldn’t have any stress or distraction from our focus on the game. In playoffs we went 1-2 vs. Alliance and 1-2 vs. Gambit too. We had the chance to change the course of history but ultimately failed.”

Page 2 discusses an in-depth breakdown of Forg1ven's playstyle and the circumstances with which he left the team.

It is wrong to call the Wolves Forg1ven-centric

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To some, nearly upsetting two of Europe’s old-guard with the overmatched YoungBuck and cowTard was already an accomplishment, and most media coverage of the Wolves placed a heavy emphasis on the team’s Forg1ven centric style. LoL fans have seen this story countless times  – the star AD Carry on a bad team that peels for him has appeared over and over in LoL history. Forg1ven’s brilliant mechanics and lane dominance immediately drew comparison to superstars like Doublelift, and Uzi, and his self-professed admiration for these players did little to shake the story that, much like them, Forg1ven was a star AD, giving his team little option but to peel for him. The Wolves’s subsequent tendency to peel for Freeze has done little to change this illusion, and fans today will often think of a “protect the Forg1ven” strategy when discussing the Season 4 Copenhagen Wolves. Unfortunately, this narrative is completely false.

 Although Forg1ven was their brightest star, the Danish squad continued to play a solo-lane and jungle invade centric strategy during his stay on the team. With the team’s solo-laners overmatched in the LCS, the team devoted an even greater amount of resources into Amazing’s counter-jungling. Often, YoungBuck and cowTard would outright give up minion waves to scout ahead for Amazing or to ensure that they could make it to jungle brawls before their lane counterparts. This style was reflected in the team’s champion choices. Although they were billed as supportive players, YoungBuck and cowTard (eSportspedia champion pool statistics are hyperlinked) picked mostly carry champions such as Trundle, Renekton, Gragas, Ziggs, and Yasuo, a trend which became even more prominent in their playoff games.  Even when cowTard was on Kayle or Lulu, these picks were often used to complement Amazing’s engages rather than peel for Forg1ven. A quick look at the Wolves play-off series would confirm this – the team rarely, if ever, teamfought around their AD Carry star.

A true hint of how the Wolves used Forg1ven could be seen in the lane dominant champion pool of his bot lane partner Unlimited

 Who is Forg1ven?

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The Wolves did not play around Forg1ven. Instead, he created his own style tailor-made to carrying his teammates without intruding on the team’s jungle-centric philosophy. Forg1ven was a carry, but he was a selfless one. Outside of picking a lane-dominant support for Unlimited to pair with Forg1ven, the Wolves needed to do little else to reap the benefits of the Greek mastermind’s early-game genius.The Wolves would have been a better teamfighting team with protect-the-Forg1ven comps; but, many of Forg1ven’s strengths were realized even before the teamfighting phase. This is because he brought an early-game dominance and independence unlike any other AD Carry in the world. Due to his efforts, the Wolves frequently entered the mid-game ahead 3-4k gold, even against elite sides such as Alliance, Fnatic, and Gambit Gaming - early game gold leads that wouldn’t come from a traditional late-game centric AD player.Although he has the mechanical firepower to match these players at their own game, Forg1ven is fundamentally different from PvP players like Doublelift, WeiXiao, and Uzi.  At his heart, Forg1ven is a PvE strategist.

In a time when AD carries were increasingly falling away from the Season 2 glory days due to increased tankiness, his focus on towers and objectives over champion kills afforded the Greek strategist an unparalleled control over the game. No matter what Riot’s new buff and nerf cycles bring, ranged champions will always be the best at killing towers. While players such as Doublelift aim to dominate the laning phase to amass large CS leads so as to individually carry the game, Forg1ven dominates the laning phase so that he can shove down towers and relieve pressure from his teammates. In his latest Reflections interview with Duncan “Thoorin” Shields, Forg1ven stated that he “loves the laning phase” and his style of contesting creeps suggests that the talented laner could easily play an “UZI-like” lane focused style. However, his circumstances have never permitted it. When asked to comment on this description of his playstyle, Forg1ven explained that he developed this style because he did not feel comfortable asking the team to play around him, and wanted to help the team in a way that did not intrude upon his teammates.

“I was literally a player with no strategical say or ideas, when I joined CW I was a rookie idiot. I defined the playstyle in a way where I don’t speak or order people to do so, but just by playing, which is rare.”

Using tower shoving abilities such as Lucian’s passive and Caitlyn long range, Forg1ven would quickly bully his opponents under their outer tower so as to push the structure down.. After taking the first tower, Forg1ven would then either immediately rotate into the mid lane or continue shoving for the second tower. These map movements would be planned around creep waves so as to never miss CS. To further his control over minion waves and to defend his own tower when roaming, he would often tank minion waves to keep them from hitting his tower or wave. Because of the Greek carry’s focus on early lifesteal items and runes, this was a small price to pay for greater control.

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This style of tower-focused lane dominance paired with his understanding of minion wave manipulation, made Forg1ven equally dominant in lane swaps and 2v2 situations. This flexibility from the bottom lane gave the Wolves carte blanche in choosing ideal laning schemes to either hide their weak sololaners or take advantage of strong lane matchups. To further help his struggling laners, Forg1ven’s rapid tower destruction would give his weak lanes a much needed gold infusion in the early game. This focus on structures would also end the mid-lane laning phase early, assisting cowTard against Europe’s elite mids. Furthermore, because Forg1ven would be pushed up to the enemy towers to siege lanes so early, he would often draw pressure from the enemy jungler. This strategy was particularly powerful due to the team’s tendency to send their Greek ADC to the top lane, which gave Amazing the chance to take early dragons with impunity.

Forg1ven would specially recognize the synergy between his game and Amazing’s. The German jungler has never been known as a great ganker, instead shining as an invading and skirmishing specialist. With Forg1ven outputting massive lane pressure and dominating hard objectives like towers, Amazing was given full control over soft objectives like buffs and dragon. In his first Reflections interview, Forg1ven would not only briefly explain this style, but call Amazing the second or third best jungler in European history. When asked to comment on his time with Amazing, Forg1ven explained that he felt his style was most successful with Amazing, stating that [Amazing’s invades],

“made sure the enemy jungler went bot as few times as possible by creating pressure on the other side of the map so there is confusion and multiple focus all around. Whereas other junglers would play around mid, Amazing was invading everything and not ganking much. By choosing what was best for him, from there he was able to choose what was best for the team. My success was mostly with Amazing.”

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For Forg1ven, this unique style was more than just in-game actions. Forg1ven would develop a whole new methodology to playing AD carry that extended to his item builds, runes, and masteries in his pursuit of the perfect tower push. On Caitlyn, and later Graves and Varus, Forg1ven would eschew attack speed in favor of immediately following up his Bloodthirster with further AD in the form of Infinity Edge so as to maximize wave clear and tower damage. (On Lucian, Forg1ven would still occasionally turn to this build, but would generally go for a Bloodthirster into a Trinity Force, which was considered the standard at the time and already helped take towers.) When given the opportunity, his high AD builds would also allow him to immediately burst down enemy champions in pick situations. Because Forg1ven frequently found himself in 1v1 situations in the river due to constant rotations, a burst build would allow him to quickly kill his enemies before moving onto towers. These same builds would further allow him to poke down his enemies under their towers.

His runes and masteries were similarly customized for lane dominance and tower destruction. Forg1ven was one of the first AD players to take swap some AD and MR runes for attack speed runes, weakening his all-in potential in order to “smooth out” auto-attack animations for easier last hitting and tower/champion harass. One of the popular Reddit ideas in Season 4 was to take utility masteries for an early Biscuit of Rejuvenation. As other pros mocked this strategy, Forg1ven instead experimented with it, speccing deep into the utility tree on Caitlyn to buff her early game with the biscuit and increased cooldowns.

Leaving the wolves

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To this day Forg1ven credits the Wolves, especially veterans YoungBuck, cowTard, and Unlimited for teaching him how to play the game, and all 5 former members of the Wolves are seemingly on good terms. When Thoorin criticized YoungBuck and cowTard in their first Reflections interview after he had already left the team, Forg1ven exclaimed, “You want me to say something bad about my teammates, but I won’t!”

Yet to this day, many fans still believe that Forg1ven left the Wolves due to his toxicity, due to an angry tweet he made criticizing his teammates. A subsequent fine for solo queue raging, which some wrongly believed was due to flaming in the LCS, did little to help matters.

After joining TSM, Amazing spoke up in favor of Forg1ven, explaining that the source of his raging wasn’t toxicity, but an overeager thirst for victory. ,

“Forgiven has been a really really eager person, but he may be a bit overzealous, which shows in his style of arguing and trying to bring points forward. He adapted a lot towards the end of the split, toxicity was only an issue for me in the beginning of the split, he really tried to hard to improve in that department. He is one of the hardest working players out there, so he earned my respect, he really wanted to make the team he was in the best team it could be, but people didnt follow up, and didn’t work as hard as he did, therefore creating a gap in individual skill level. I expected to become top 4 that split, but we didn’t manage to, and it is not due to Forg1vens “toxicity”.”

A deeper look at the circumstances with which Forg1ven left the Wolves further disproves his alleged toxicity. Although he was given the option to kick veterans YoungBuck and cowTard and build his own team around himself, he stated that he couldn’t do it due to ethics. Instead, Forg1ven played a fantastic relegation series against Denial, keeping his mentors in the LCS as a final parting gift before leaving alongside fellow star Amazing. Although Amazing would go on to play for TSM at the World Championship, Forg1ven found himself teamless after a prospective contract with NiP fell through.

In his absence, fans continued to stereotype and disrespect the Greek gunslinger. Forg1ven’s desire to improve and refusal to bench his teammates should have blown aside all the accusations of toxicity. His PvE playstyle, which nearly carried the Wolves past two of Europe’s old gods should have made a mockery of the accusations of selfishness. Of all the criticisms to hurl at Forg1ven, the two the fans chose were the least accurate. Unable to silence his critics, the early-game mastermind could only stew in Greece, biding his time as his good name was soiled by false accusations.

Photo Credits to cowboy.tv, onGamers, and the DailyDot.

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