"He will do the necessary things — the necessary plays — in order to win a game. He will flash in with 0 HP, he doesn't give a f*** if he will die. He will build the right items. He will move correctly into the map. He will try."
—Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou-Napoleon on what he values in players and, in particular, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, Summoning Insight Episode 41
On Friday, H2k-Gaming and Origen will play against each other for the second time in the 2016 regular season. Before the start of the season, this would have seemed like an exciting match with both H2K and Origen projected to top the European League of Legends Championship Series standings. With Origen’s recent performances, in particular their struggles with the draft and in-game coordination, few dare to predict anything outside of an H2K victory.
One thing this matchup has going for it — it’s still a clash between the two best AD carries in the EU LCS.
An unlikely rivalry
Unable to play for Fnatic due to age restrictions in 2013, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson went on loan to Copenhagen Wolves during their small rampage as a Challenger team in minor events. One of the region's most promising AD carry prospects, Rekkles joined Fnatic at the end of the year once he turned 17. Many expected Copenhagen Wolves to crumble without the young carry and jungler Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema, who left at around the same time to join Alliance.
The Copenhagen Wolves made their debut at the 2013 Intel Extreme Masters Cologne Amateur tournament with two relative rookies, Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider and Greek AD carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou-Napoleon. The Wolves flattened the Ninjas in Pyjamas — a team that featured three members from the World Championship qualifying Lemondogs — in the finals. FORG1VEN finished with a 21 KDA (the only KDA in the amateur tournament above 10) on three games as Lucian and one as Caitlyn.
If nothing else, the Copenhagen Wolves gave European audiences their first major taste of FORG1VEN. From the beginning, he favored lane dominant champions, sported high CS numbers, and a few dared to call him a direct upgrade over Rekkles.
Shortly after, FORG1VEN became a well-defined personality in the European League of Legends Championship Series. He rarely avoided expressing his opinion on a particular subject matter or discontent with a team environment. Since his debut, FORG1VEN has played for a different team every split he's participated in while facing champion bans, public conflict, and a temporary suspension for “toxicity” in solo queue.
With FORG1VEN, what you see is often what you get, but when teams weigh the pros and cons, he always seems to find his way back into the competitive scene. There’s usually at least one team willing to accept the possibility that FORG1VEN’s demanding attitude will create unrest for the sake of, not only his prodigious talent, but the dedication and focus that has apparently driven him to be listed next to some of the best Korean and Chinese AD carries in the world despite rarely having had the opportunity to play against them on the international stage.
By contrast, that’s an opportunity that Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen hasn’t lacked. Rather than talented AD carries, Europe has a much more storied history of fathering world class mid laners, and when one of their most storied, Enrique “xPeke” Cedeno Martinez, made the decision to raise a new team from Challenger, they elected to do so with only one rookie.
Rekkles returns to the story, but again not as one of its stars. As one of xPeke and Paul “sOAZ” Boyer's previous teammates, Rekkles recommended that they sign Zven (then known as Niels). As a result, initial comparisons were made between Zven and Rekkles, but over time they would prove unwarranted due to the fact that Origen devoted much more jungle pressure and resources to their bottom lane.
The star solo laners played more utility and wave clear roles as bottom lane and jungle became Origen's primary focus. High dragon control rates showed Origen’s willingness to focus on skirmishes with their bottom lane and jungler, giving Zven an opportunity to stand out. He relished in it, and used the limelight to become known for his teamfight positioning and his world-class Kalista play.
Unlike FORG1VEN, Zven’s LCS debut placed him on a team with a more defined sense of unity that seemed to improve over time. “I had a really good team,” Zven said when asked how he managed to become so successful in his rookie split.
On his lack of jitters at the World Championship, he added, “I had an entire Challenger Split and nine months of LCS to be bad, haha! I think personally that I didn't play so well in LCS until the final against Fnatic and then the gauntlet. From there on, I think I played really good in almost every match at Worlds and IEM.”
Most would agree. The 2015 World Championship Group Stage accelerated the advancement of Zven’s form when Origen’s superior cohesiveness allowed him to perform against the likes of Gu “imp” Seungbin, who was touted as the world's best AD carry going into the tournament.
In the current split, Zven leads the league in percentage of team damage dealt to champions at 35.6 percent and percentage of team gold at 27.7 percent. Despite Origen's rough start to 2016, they manage to consolidate around Zven to give them a sense of direction.
Even though FORG1VEN compared Zven's style to Rekkles and despite Origen failing to break the Top 5 in the EU LCS standings, there’s an argument to be made for Zven being the best individual AD carry in the league.
With both players exhibiting drastically different styles of play, it may genuinely come down to preference.
An unFORG1Ving sense for pressure
On multiple occasions, FORG1VEN has made it clear that he values players based on their laning phase. On his most recent Summing Insight episode, he attributed the sentiment “You judge an opponent based on the lane phase” to Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, but stated that he agreed with it. Throughout his career, FORG1VEN has favored champions that lane well like Caitlyn, Lucian, Graves, and more recently, Corki.
While Zven deals the highest percentage of team damage to champions, FORG1VEN leads the CS@10 ranking among EU LCS AD carries and only trails behind Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet’s. A lot of this comes down to H2K’s lane swapping proficiency which allows FORG1VEN to benefit from the freeze and push of creeps more than many other AD carries, but CS advantages in 2v2s have also consistently characterized his pro career.
Outside the laning phase, FORG1VEN specializes in aggressive teamfight positioning and occasionally will double as his own initiator. FORG1VEN seems to favor Corki for his use of The Package ability to knock aside targets,and quickly burst down squishy enemies. In the past, many of his most picked champions have shared these characteristics to some extent. The upfront burst damage from champions like Corki and Lucian allow FORG1VEN to take more risks. As long as his reflexes allow him to escape quickly, or in so far as he can account for the crowd control on the enemy team, FORG1VEN takes advantage of champions that can toe the front line and burst down targets before escaping.
Yet, in FORG1VEN's own words, H2K "don't play solo queue."
As H2K have perfected their style, the team has relied less and less on FORG1VEN to do the majority of their damage. FORG1VEN went from dishing out 55.8 percent of team damage dealt and participating in 100 percent of his team's kills in their first game to 58.3 percent kill participation and 25 percent of team damage dealt in their last game against G2. H2K are in the bottom four for average combined kills per minute, which means FORG1VEN is often shuffled into side lanes to push turrets and farm.
While there's no shame in having a developed sense of team macro-strategy, this game approach minimizes opportunities for FORG1VEN's individual strengths to make an appearance. In fact, in part as a result of H2K drafting fewer champions designed to peel for FORG1VEN, there will be instances where H2K's poke and siege composition unravels, and FORG1VEN is left as the obvious target in a forced fight. This makes him look more at fault than he would be otherwise for an H2K "throw" if it seems he's been caught out of position in a team composition not designed to benefit him.
FORG1VEN Kill Participation and Team Damage Percentage over time per game
Far from a simple decline in damage dealt to champions over time, however, FORG1VEN has shown a difference in average percentage of damage dealt depending on the champion he picks. Fifty percent of FORG1VEN's games this split have been on Corki, and he has dealt, on average, 38 percent of team damage as the yordle pilot, but only 27 percent of team damage in their other five games. As a result of Corki's early power spike, this has also lead to a -.39 correlation between percentage of team damage dealt and game time for FORG1VEN in H2K's games.
As a player, FORG1VEN has thrived in situations where he's given the resources to take a lead. It seems as if we've seen that FORG1VEN less and less this split. H2K's fixation on out-rotating the opponent occasionally causes them to collapse when they're forced into a fight.
Perhaps the return of Yoo "Ryu" Sangook can improve H2K's teamfight coordination in addition to their more questionable Baron calls. Until then, the result looks more like FORG1VEN hasn't been able to be the same player he's always claimed to value. As H2K are winning, it's unlikely that he minds, but if H2K ever have a gap in their vision and find themselves caught, eyes fall to FORG1VEN, whose self-sufficiency and game impact has always been his strength. The undeveloped team fighting side of H2K may deserve a second look on the way to the European playoffs in Round 2, especially following a loss in a Baron fight against G2 Esports.
Doing more with the same
Zven has been less outspoken than FORG1VEN in his short career and, as such, the public has less of a sense for what he values in an individual player. Yet following Week 3, Zven made a comment that rings true of his development so far.
"Once I get to the point where I'm actually playing Lucian with Lulu, then I feel like I'm playing really good. I do more with this than some other people do," he said.
In moving from FORG1VEN to Zven, one becomes familiar with a very different kind of AD carry. Rather than relying on himself to initiate and enter a fight or burst down his target before they can turn a situation, Zven plays patiently, and he relies a lot more on his teammates providing utility and gold resources to be effective — but this is where he begins to set himself apart from the Rekkleses of the EU LCS. Zven seems capable of doing more with what he's given than other AD carries that have taken center stage for their teams.
Much of this comes from Origen's alternate approach. Rather than focus on avoiding fights, they sit in the Top 3 for combined kills per minute. Within this setting, Zven's kill participation has yet to fall below 50 percent. Lulu has become known as a formidable power pick for Origen, not because of PowerOfEvil's proficiency with the champion, but because of Zven's ability to use the peel and resources Lulu provides to turn Lucian into a hyper carry.
Origen still hold the highest dragon secure rate in the EU LCS, but this comes more from wanting to force fights with their bottom lane than actually placing value on objectives. They don't always find these fights, but old habits die hard, and Origen are falling back on something that always used to work for them.
Zven leads the league in percentage of team damage dealt and percentage of team gold earned. He's also completely avoided playing Corki so far this split, preferring champions with later power spikes like Lucian (in conjunction with Lulu) and Ezreal. Perhaps the best comparison between FORG1VEN and Zven comes through when one examines how they choose to build their Ezreals. Zven prefers to build the now-standard blue build that allows for kiting, while FORG1VEN rushed Trinity Force in the only Ezreal game he's played so far this split for the burst damage it provides.
FORG1VEN's signature Lucian has become Zven's most played champion this split with his own Kalista perpetually held out of his reach. While FORG1VEN seems to use Lucian as a front-liner, relying on his gap close as more of an escape mechanism after unleashing his cooldowns up front, Zven waits patiently for an opportunity to enter a fight. When cooldowns are burned on his front line, he'll use Relentless Pursuit to find the right opening and damage his opponent.
As with FORG1VEN, Zven's personality can be seen in his play. He isn't as outwardly vocal, but he's unexpected and at times difficult to read. Zven is in and out before the enemy team has time to react.
While FORG1VEN has taken more of a back seat for the sake of his team's fight-avoidance strategy this year, Zven has become increasingly central to Origen. Origen put pressure on Zven, hoping for a sense of unity while their communication struggles. This means slightly more Malphite and Tahm Kench picks for sOAZ than Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu. It also means more focus on laning for Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez.
So far, this system hasn't been perfect for Origen. A team that focuses on late game teamfights continues to make communication mistakes around the Baron pit. Even so, it does a lot to bring out Zven's strengths as an individual player. Unlike FORG1VEN, Zven shows an increased correlation in percentage of team damage dealt with game time (.60). Zven has also boasted a solid CS lead at ten minutes with more focus on his lane (8.2). He plays more aggressively in lane, as he is in a position where he's forced to get a lead, where he's forced to make that lead count and make the necessary play.
Perhaps if H2K's current style didn't de-emphasize some of FORG1VEN's strengths and Origen had a better grasp of coordination, we wouldn't even be in a position to make a comparison between FORG1VEN and Zven. A team of strong talents built around facilitating FORG1VEN might be better than team built around facilitating Zven — or a team with Origen all communicating perfectly and enhancing their current style could buck the trend of the meta, as they did at the World Championship, enough to contest H2K Gaming.
Zven's performance has been the rock to which the current iteration of Origen cling. FORG1VEN's ability to remove himself more and more from center stage and focus almost soleley on chipping down turrets is, in a strange way, nearly as fundamental to H2K's success.
So for now, the debate is open. Both FORG1VEN and Zven are making the necessary plays to make H2K and Origen win as many games as possible. For now, that's enough of a reason to watch H2K take on Origen this weekend.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.