The Real FORG1VEN, Part 3: A Greek in a Russian Winter
Part 1, covering Forg1ven’s time on the Copenhagen Wolves, can be read here.
Part 2, covering Forg1ven's time on SK Gaming, can be read here.
On October 13th, Russian e-sports organization Gambit Gaming announced that they were benching their star AD Carry Forg1ven. The announcement cited the team's inability to successfully utilize Forg1ven's individual play as the primary cause behind the decision:
After the conclusion of the current competitive cycle one of our main tasks was to make a decision whether or not we want to continue playing with our current line-up. On the one hand, we are overall satisfied with the performance and the commitment to practice of players individually. On the other hand, even in the end of the split our results in certain games resumed to be unsatisfactory. Eventually our head coach and management agreed upon removing Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou from our starting line-up and moving him to a substitute position.
This decision obviously was not simple, since we expected to achieve more with him on our roster. Even though FORG1VEN's individual performance was nothing short of outstanding, we failed to come up with an approach to the game that would allow him to transition his individual proficiency into a significant in-game impact.
The day after, Forg1ven released his own statement. The Greek marksman emphasized his gratitude towards the Gambit organization and his desire to remain in competitive League of Legends. One of his most interesting statements concerned his teamplay on Gambit. While the organization's statement emphasized their problems working together, Forg1ven noted that his greatest accomplishment on Gambit was learning to be a team player.
As of the future, i intend on taking a decision after world championship ends on whether i continue competing on LCS or just simply skip a split (not retiring) and do something else. This decision is not easy to take and i sincerely try be as reasonable as possible, cause last split was a complete disappointment (although i finally learned to be 100% teamplayer and not 50%) and the game has grown to be not fun to play in comparison to previous seasons.
It seems startling that a player could at the same time be both a team player and difficult to work around, but in a sense, these kinds of inconsistencies came to define Forg1ven's time on Gambit, a time unlike any other in the Greek warrior's career. To Forg1ven's harshest critics, his time on Gambit was simply a continuation of his earlier failings, as he was once again haunted by champion pool issues and accusations of toxicity. To them, this was simply the final nail in the coffin. To others, such as e-sports journalist Thorin, Forg1ven's time on Gambit was defined by a mis-use of resources. This group believed that Gambit had squandered Forg1ven's formidable carry potential by focusing on players rather than their star AD Carry. It's certain that Gambit disappointed, but the reasons why are still unclear.
Part 3 of "The Real Forg1ven" will re-examine the outspoken marksman's role in Gambit Gaming's disappointing finish to discover whether or not his claims of "100% teamplay" are truly accurate.
Ever since his time on the Copenhagen Wolves, Forg1ven has brought massive expectations to every team he's played on, and Gambit Gaming was no exception. Last split, Gambit had made some impressive regular season runs before losing 1-3 to eventual runner-up Unicorns of Love in the semi-finals. One of the team's biggest issues in the playoffs was the poor positional play of famously over-aggressive AD Carry P1noy. Teaming up with legends Diamondprox and Edward along with rising stars Cabochard and Betsy, Forg1ven once again brought hope of a new all-EU super team. Of particular note was Forg1ven's partnership with infamous "support carry" Edward. The Greek AD had once stated "the only way to play bot lane is forwards." In Edward, he was pairing off with the man who had literally invented aggressive support play by pioneering the use of Ignite bot lane. But in spite of the hopeful signs, fans would quickly realize that it was not to be.
One of Gambit's early games against Fnatic
During the spring split, Gambit lost their first 5 games, causing the community to call them "Mosc0-5" a play on the team's Season 2 sponsor. The Summer Split was not much better - Gambit would lose their first four games. Whereas Forg1ven's previous teams boasted well-defined roles and playstyles, Gambit would play extremely different compositions in all 4 of their first games. In their first game against Elements, Gambit built a team composition around Evelynn, Lucian, and Thresh, the signature champions of their three best-known stars. Quickly building up a 20+ CS lead against Tabz on Urgot, it seemed like Forg1ven's lane bully into tower shove playstyle would again carry the day. Unfortunately, several failed 4-5 man bot lane fights by Gambit would swing the game too far into Element's favor. From then on, Gambit would largely abandon Forg1ven's preferred playstyle in favor of a top-lane centric system focused on French carry star Cabochard. In their next game, Forg1ven picked Ezreal, a low waveclear champion, seemingly the opposite of what he has prized throughout his career. From that champion pick, it was clear that Gambit would not play around their new acqusition's preferences. Instead, the composition was focused around Cabochard's Jax, to whom Ezreal could provide a powerful attack-speed boost. The next two games were more of the same - Forg1ven would pick Ashe and even Sivir, a champion he had once vowed never to play. Unfortunately, those three games only provided more of the same. Forg1ven and Edward would amass a notable lead in the bot lane, but would fail to translate these advantages into wins for Gambit. Forg1ven's critics rose once again, pointing out that although Forg1ven played a strong laning phase, his team's late game losses meant that he wasn't one of the region's leading marskman. However, these critics failed to note the key shift that had already begun for both Forg1ven and Gambit Gaming.
Although Gambit would recover from their "0-4g1ven" start, those first four games showed key trends which would follow Forg1ven for the rest of his time on Gambit. The Greek marksman had made his bones on Copenhagen Wolves and SK Gaming by pioneering his unique tower shove playstyle. Due to his mechanical similarity to champions like UZI or Doublelift, fans often mistake Forg1ven's playstyle for a traditional hypercarry playstyle. Instead, Forg1ven focuses on champions like Graves, Lucian, and Caitlyn, with which he could bully his late opponents into submission before quickly taking their tower and rotating around the map for further global objectives. The high-AD spells on these champions helped him quickly clear minion waves, freeing him up for further rotations. It's wrong to call Forg1ven's PvE style selfish - while most players bully lane to accrue individual advantages, Forg1ven instead bullied lane to score his team tower gold. However, it's definitely true that this PvE oriented playstyle afforded Forg1ven an unprecedented amount of individual control from an AD carry role which had been repeatedly battered with nerfs.
On champions like Ashe, Ezreal, and Sivir, Forg1ven was much more reliant on his teammates. Those picks not only don't have the same tower shoving ability as Forg1ven's preferred trio, but they have much less individual carry potential due to lower mobility and damage. Instead, those picks made up for their lack of carry potential with increased utility. Forg1ven was turning over a whole new leaf - he had never played any of those champions in his competitive career. In those three games, Forg1ven's play was a mixed bag. On one hand, the team's victory or defeat when he had those picks wasn't entirely his responsibility - his job was simply to support his teammates. On the other hand, his dedication to tower shoves proved problematic on those champions, who were much less suited to the job than his standard picks. In particular, outside of Ezreal, both Ashe and Sivir had mobility issues in the early game, meaning that it was easy for other teams to punish Edward and Forg1ven's aggressive play, especially because of Diamondprox's tendency to stay top side for most of the early game. Playing without jungler support on champions that dramatically cut his independence, Forg1ven simply did not fit into Gambit. For a while, Forg1ven truly was a Greek in a Russian winter, isolated and out of place, but help was just around the corner.
The addition of Shaunz
Because Gambit failed to make the play-offs, many have dismissed the team as simply overhyped. However, almost all public statements made by EU LCS player have suggested that the team, had it qualified for the play-offs, could have been a dark-horse contender for a spot at the World Championships. In a pre-game interview, Huni pointed to Gambit as the team's biggest competition, quite the compliment for a team then battling for the final play-off seed. After the team fell into relegation, Elements jungler dexter tweeted that Gambit's brutal 3-0 sweep of mouz was expected for a match-up between a Worlds-level team and one that deserved to be playing for relegations. Whether or not Gambit actually could have competed at Worlds is a separate story, but even the harshest critic can't deny that the team markedly improved after their 0-4 start.
Many have credited the team's improvement to their Shaunz, who joined the team on a trial (later permanent) basis during Week 3 of the Summer Split. The addition of Shaunz marked a new evolution for both Gambit Gaming and Forg1ven, which the coach summed up in his AMA.
Forg1ven is a lot about laning phase so that's why he was the strongest on Lucian and Graves, he wants to win the lane and then snowball from that. He was trusting Gambit to "carry" that's why he started to learn Sivir with me pushing him to play this champion and he was doing really well. He became a lot more team play that what I knew from him.
While Forg1ven had gone through the motions of playing champions like Ashe, Sivir, or Ezreal, he had maintained a tower-focused style throughout. This led to issues because Diamondprox's poor start to the season and top-focused playstyle meant that he was rarely able to take advantage of the pressure the team's bot lane drew. Even after teams repeatedly sent 3 to 4 players bot lane, Forg1ven still stubbornly tried to knock down the bot lane tower as soon as possible. Under Shaunz, Forg1ven adjusted his playstle to better accommodate his teammates and his situation. The brash marksman who had once only desired to play forwards slid into a new but nonetheless important supportive role. In addition, Gambit begun better accommodating Forg1ven's tower shove playstyle by introducing Corki as one of the team's core picks.
Meta changes and personnel meant that Forg1ven generally could not play his beloved trio of Lucian, Graves, and Caitlyn. (Lucian in particular became well-known for his terrible solo queue and competitive win rate in the Summer Split.) Although those picks were still very powerful in lane, the tanky Cinderhulk meta generally meant that those picks could not break through the increasingly powerful front lines as the game went on. For Forg1ven to play those champions, he needed teammates capable of taking advantage of his early pressure and gold leads through towers. For instance, SKT's Bang, used Lucian to great success in OGN throughout the Purifier's supposedly weak Summer Split due to the team's top-mid centric focus. Gambit couldn't afford to give up Forg1ven's damage, and Corki was a suitable compromise between Forg1ven's favorite champions and what Gambit needed. As his skill with Sivir increased, the Greek marksman quickly added her to his main champions, even drawing 4 in a row on her near the end of the Summer split, when she had already fallen out of the meta. When asked to explain his favorite champions, Forg1ven highlighted waveclear, safety, and versatility as his most important characteristics.
In 3 splits i have played Caitlyn, Lucian, Graves pretty much or even before challenger. Common fact on those champs - Wave clear, Sort of mobility/dash, Burst, High DPS, Lane bullies, Fits every comp even if not used properly, Can check bushes, Can commit into killing backline. When i didn't get these champs it meant that the enemy ad-carry was also forced on less impactful champions cause of the remaining pool was always worse than those picks. What champs did i played also after those: Sivir, Corki mainly. See common things again?
But although Shaunz helped the team better play around Forg1ven, he also mandated that the bot lane sacrifice their laning phase strength in favor of increased teamplay. One of the most consistent trends in Forg1ven's career has been his tendency to partner up with off-meta support picks in the bot lane. On CPW, Unlimited frequently picked the poke-heavy Karma, and nRated often turned towards Lulu. Forg1ven's partner on Gambit, Edward, had built a career off of lane aggression, particularly on Sona, Annie, and Thresh. Although the latter two champions were still in the meta, Gambit instead would often give him Alistar, a decision with which both Edward and Forg1ven would express their disappointment. Oftentimes, even when Forg1ven did pick his lane bully picks like Lucian or Graves, they were paired with Alistar, meaning that they could not properly emphasize their greatest strengths. Similarly, although Shaunz praised Forg1ven's play on hypercarries like Tristana and Jinx in his AMA, Gambit never picked those champions even though other teams such as Origen or CLG were tearing apart their leagues with "protect-the-AD" compositions. Gambit's bot lane were important threats, but the team was clearly built around top lane Cabochard and his carry abilities. For the rest of his time on Gambit, Forg1ven was not given a starring role on the team.
Nonetheless, the addition of Shaunz clearly improved the play of both Gambit and Forg1ven. With Shaunz, Gambit boasted a much-improved 7-5 record and truly looked like a contender for the final worlds spot, especially after the late-season struggles of rivals H2k. Gambit's defeat of Origen was particularly impressive. Off the back of fantastic Nidalee play from jungler Diamondprox, it seemed like Gambit was in prime position to secure one of the last two seeds for the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Gambit would then drop the next game against Unicorns of Love, a win which would have likely secured their berth into the play-offs. Nonetheless, it seemed like the team would remain in prime position for the play-offs, with a critical match against Elements in the next week. If Gambit could beat Elements and a slumping H2k, they would have secured their Worlds berth. Even a single win could have secured a tie-breaker. Unfortunately, the UoL match would be the last one Forg1ven played for Gambit. After Week 8, Forg1ven was suspended for four games for toxicity, a decision which several Gambit members have publicly protested. For his own part, Forg1ven noted in a Reflections interview with Thorin that Riot had just praised him for his improved behavior shortly before banning him. Regardless, the damage was done - Forg1ven's ban had cost Gambit, who would go winless in Week 9, their shot at Worlds.
Evaluating GMB Forg1ven
A closer examination of his time on CPW and SK would show that Forg1ven's teams have never been truly built around him. Although Forg1ven's attitude and skills suggest a hyper-carrying AD player, Forg1ven's tower-focused playstyle instead translates his formidable skills into team-wide advantages. However, Forg1ven has been frequently criticized as a one-trick pony because of his team's inability to find success with other strategies. Indeed, this phenomenon was most prominent on SK Gaming, a team that was clearly a one-trick warhorse focused on a triple lane shove strategy. But while Forg1ven's critics suggest that his time on Gambit was simply more of the same, the Greek marksman's time on Gambit was completely different.
Once again, the team wasn't built around Forg1ven, but this time, the team did not even incorporate his tower shove strategy. Instead, Forg1ven was asked to play safely, only strategically drawing pressure rather than constantly playing forwards. Graves and Caitlyn were replaced by Sivir and Corki, and where Forg1ven had once picked Lucian whenever he was available, GMB Forg1ven usually only got to play Lucian when those two picks were taken off the table. Gambit's losing record might suggest that Forg1ven failed to help his team on those picks, but their 7-5 record with Forg1ven under Shaunz (including a sterling 4-1 finish on Corki) suggested otherwise. The truth is that even on these picks, Forg1ven retained many of the attributes which made him a great player. Per OraclesElixir.com, Forg1ven finished 2nd out of all regular AD Carries in CS advantage @ 10 minutes, finishing with 5.1 behind Freeze, meaning that he was able to keep on bullying lanes even without partnering with a lane bully support champion. Forg1ven also finished with the second highest damage share out of all AD Carries, with 28.3%. Most impressively, Forg1ven flaunted his understanding of creep waves by finishing with the highest CS per minute in the league, with 9.7. Although fans may accuse Forg1ven of stealing creeps from his teammates, Cabochard led all top laners in CS per minute and Betsy finished near the league average for mid laners. For Forg1ven to maintain his greatness in a much-diminished role with all new champions bodes well for his future competitive career.
However, it's wrong to solely praise Forg1ven for his time on Gambit. One of Forg1ven's biggest issues during the season was his refusal to play Kalista, one of the strongest AD Carries in the meta. The Greek marksman has frequently claimed that he dislike Kalista because he feels that she cannot carry hard enough in the competitive meta, a claim which seems strange in the face of hard-carry Kalista performances from players like imp or Bang. (Other Gambit members have stated that Forg1ven is simply a terrible Kalista player.) Upon understanding Forg1ven's game philosophy, it's easy to see why he would dislike Kalista - Forg1ven prizes strong early game, waveclear, and tower shoves. In a sense, Kalista provides the exact opposite skillset - she only begins clearing waves on her second item Runaan's, and her tower shoves and early game are both particular weak points. However, Kalista undoubtedly would have helped Gambit win games, particularly due to her synergy with engage champions such as Alistar, which Gambit constantly played. Because they weren't able to pick Kalista, Gambit almost always had to ban her regardless of which side they were on. On the other hand, it's wrong to over-emphasize Forg1ven's Kalista weakness. Fans frequently pointed to his inability to play Kalista as a sign of larger champion pool issues, but his strong play on Corki and Sivir, not traditionally Forg1ven picks, should have put that claim to rest. Forg1ven's lack of Kalista play should simply be judged on the basis of that one champion rather than extended into a general trend, and as EDG's star Deft showed at MSI and both LPL splits, weak play on Kalista does not make for a weak player.
It's been a long and winding road for Forg1ven, the Greek star who has never truly found a home. After two years of playing, all Forg1ven has to show for it is his Spring Split MVP, an award for which he has no interest.
I still am motivated and hungry to do something outside of winning individual titles but i transparently think i have reached a point that it is not worth it to play for a low-placed lcs team.
Forg1ven has never stayed with a team for more than a split, but at each stop he has grown and improved. On the Copenhagen Wolves, Forg1ven built a unique ideology on how to play the game. On SK, Forg1ven took his philosophy to the highest level he had yet played on, but meta shifts and fall-off from his teammates stole away the championship he desperately wanted. On Gambit, Forg1ven learned to fit his style into a team and, in his own words, play 100% around his teammates. We can only hope that at his next stop, Forg1ven finally finds a home, and the success he has been chasing his entire life.
Part 1, covering Forg1ven’s time on the Copenhagen Wolves, can be read here.
Part 2, covering Forg1ven's time on SK Gaming, can be read here.