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Big Greek Shoes: H2K take a chance on Freeze

by theScore Staff May 25 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

How do you solve a problem like FORG1VEN?

For yet another team, it seems the answer to this question is: “Replace him.”

H2K-Gaming’s fans may have some apprehensions about the Summer Split, after losing a player of Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou-Napoleon’s caliber. FORG1VEN has long been considered one of the best AD carry players in the LCS, and that’s not an easy act to follow.

The man tasked with filling those big Greek shoes is Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek, who most recently played in the NA LCS with the LA Renegades. Like FORG1VEN, Freeze has very much been a journeyman: with this move, he will be playing on his fourth team in five splits, after bouncing around from bottom-tier team to bottom-tier team.

For perhaps the first time in his career, Freeze has now found himself on a contending roster. And as a head-to-head comparison of Freeze and FORG1VEN shows, there are reasons to believe that Freeze should not only fit seamlessly into H2K, but make them an even better team.

Champions

It’s always important to contextualize players’ performance stats by looking at which champions they played. Here’s a full list of champions played by FORG1VEN and Freeze in the 2016 Spring regular season, listed in order of times picked and win-loss record.

Champions Played

FORG1VEN Freeze
Champion W-L Champion W-L
Corki 4-1 Lucian 2-3
Lucian 4-1 Kalista 1-3
Caitlyn 3-1 Caitlyn 1-2
Ezreal 1-0 Sivir 2-0
Kalista 1-0 Draven 0-1
Sivir 1-0 Kog'Maw 0-1
Kog'Maw 0-1

FORG1VEN has always focused on winning his lane by applying heavy pressure and shoving his opponents under their tower, and he tends to pick champions that enable that playstyle. Drafting Corki, Lucian and Caitlyn in the spring regular season allowed him to be a lane bully: among AD carry champions played at least 10 times across top professional play, these three champions had three of the four highest CS differential at 10 minutes stats. That trend is evident in FORG1VEN’s laning stats, explored later in this article. Playing Corki and Caitlyn also helped FORG1VEN achieve high damage stats, with both champions tending to produce relatively high damage per minute through poke patterns and sieging.

Freeze’s champion pool showed a bit more team orientation than FORG1VEN: Kalista and Sivir both bring a lot of utility to a team composition, and Freeze played those champions more often than FORG1VEN did. Kalista tends to produce one of the lowest damage outputs of any AD carry, so that should be borne in mind when interpreting Freeze’s damage numbers. These utility ADCs also tend to have slightly higher kill participation than Lucian and Corki, because of the types of team compositions they are drafted into.

Combat

Both FORG1VEN and Freeze put up impressive combat numbers last split, though they fell into different profiles. FORG1VEN was a strong contributor to a successful team, while Freeze was the centrepiece of a team that had trouble finding wins.

Combat Statistics

Statistic FORG1VEN Freeze
Record 14-4 6-10
KDA Ratio 7.2 4.0
Kill Participation 67.2% 76.1%
Death Share 15.5% 14.1%
Damage Per Minute 624 560
Damage Share 31.7% 30.9%

Freeze has a history of producing high KDAs and low death shares, despite playing on losing teams. Last split, that trend continued, as he managed a very respectable 4.0 KDA, mostly by positioning safely and avoiding mistakes. Freeze’s 14.1% death share is an excellent sign for an AD carry, especially one who was involved in more than three-quarters of his team’s kills, the third-highest kill participation of any starting ADC in the NA LCS.

By contrast, FORG1VEN managed an even more impressive KDA, and kept his own death share respectably low, but his team played around him less on the map, more often leaving him to his lane while they skirmished elsewhere. That led to one of the lowest kill participation marks among EU LCS ADCs.

FORG1VEN had very impressive damage numbers with H2K, but Freeze’s lower damage output needs to be interpreted in light of his champion pool, especially his heavier use of the low-DPM Kalista compared to FORG1VEN’s use of the high-DPM Corki. Given the differences in champion pool and team records, Freeze’s damage output compares fairly well with FORG1VEN, leaving both players on pretty even footing in their combat statistics.

Laning

There may not be an AD carry anywhere in the world who can match FORG1VEN’s laning stats. Because of his high-pressure laning style, FORG1VEN regularly stacks up huge CS advantages and individual gold leads in the early game.

Laning Statistics

Statistic FORG1VEN Freeze
CS Difference @ 10 Minutes +11.2 +4.1
Gold Difference @ 10 Minutes +178 +137

Double-digit CSD at 10 numbers are incredibly rare, but this was the second time FORG1VEN achieved that feat in three splits, after posting a +12.2 CSD at 10 in Spring 2015. In Summer 2015, FORG1VEN earned “just” a +5.6 CSD at 10, second among EU LCS ADCs. Who bested him that split? That’s right: Freeze.

No one in the LCS is on FORG1VEN’s level in the laning phase, statistically speaking, but Freeze can make a pretty strong argument for himself. In his past three splits, Freeze has placed second, first, and second in the CSD at 10 standings among starting ADCs in his league.

Freeze’s ability to earn individual gold leads at the 10-minute mark is especially impressive given that his team averaged just +43 GD at 10 when Freeze was in the lineup. While Freeze was getting ahead, the rest of his team was falling behind, a sign of how much of the heavy lifting Freeze had to do himself. (The roles dragging down the Renegades’ GD at 10 were mostly mid and jungle, for what it’s worth.) FORG1VEN averaged higher gold leads than Freeze, but benefited more from his team’s overall play.

If H2K were looking for a player who could rival FORG1VEN’s laning prowess, they couldn’t have found a much better replacement than Freeze. It will be very interesting to see what Freeze can do as part of H2K, a team that has always excelled in the early game through smart macro play.

Resource Investment

Both FORG1VEN and Freeze are used to being the VIPs on their teams, which means heavy investment of resources into powering them up.

Resources Statistics

Statistic FORG1VEN Freeze
CS Per Minute 9.4 9.5
CS Share Post-15 Minutes 31.0% 32.4%
First Blood Rate 17% 38%

In spring 2016, Freeze received the highest post-15-minute farm share of any player in the NA LCS. (For reference, Freeze’s CS% post-15 was only exceeded globally by Origen’s Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, at 32.7%, and CJ Entus’s Jong-Hoon "Kramer" Ha, at 32.9%. Note that LPL stats are not available, however.) High farm priority has been a consistent trend in both Freeze’s and FORG1VEN’s careers: they have routinely ranked among the top two or three farm shares in their leagues over the past three splits.

Resource investment is about more than just farm, though: jungler attention is also a valuable resource to be assigned around the map, especially in the earliest parts of the game. Freeze received more of that resource from his Renegades team than FORG1VEN received from H2K, and it shows in the players’ First Blood Rates. Freeze earned a First Blood kill or assist in six of his sixteen games, third-highest of NA LCS ADCs. Those FBs came at an average time of 4:50. FORG1VEN, on the other hand, had a First Blood kill or assist in just three of eighteen games, coming at an average time of 6:37.

Given H2K’s familiarity with funneling farm into FORG1VEN, it’s likely that Freeze’s farm share will stay high on his new team, though that may depend on how the Summer meta shakes out. And with the gank-first mindset of H2K’s jungler, Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, we should expect to see plenty more First Blood attempts in Freeze’s lane. If Jankos does spread his attention a little more evenly than Freeze has been used to, though, Freeze may need to adjust his play accordingly.

Addition by Subtraction

In combat, laning, and resource investment, both FORG1VEN and Freeze are very strong players. Still, it might seem by the numbers that H2K has taken a small step backwards: FORG1VEN showed slightly higher damage output and laning stats with lower resource investment in spring 2016. Some of those gaps can be explained by differences in champion pool and win rate, but not necessarily all of them. Since Freeze fits a similar player profile as FORG1VEN — a lane-winning, high-resource primary carry — it isn’t immediately clear how H2K might benefit from this move.

As always when interpreting player performances and team fit, though, there is more than meets the eye.

With FORG1VEN’s departure, H2K have lost a player whose individual mechanical play and dedication to winning may be unrivaled in the Western scene. But they are also losing FORG1VEN’s larger-than-life personality and out-of-game distractions, including his temporarily deferred call-up to the Greek military, which reportedly contributed to a negative team environment.

The team has made assurances that FORG1VEN’s personality was not the reason H2K chose to cut him loose, but head coach Neil “pr0lly” Hammad has admitted that FORG1VEN’s circumstances hurt H2K’s mindset and communication, and top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu acknowledged that the team struggled during the playoffs with the quality of their practice time. In other words, even if the issues weren’t FORG1VEN’s fault, removing him may be a valuable addition-by-subtraction, given that H2K’s main weakness last split was a lack of communication and coordination in their teamfighting, and specifically their inability to set up and execute strong initiations.

Freeze’s similarities with FORG1VEN should make the transition relatively seamless for his new teammates, which is a positive, but there are other ways H2K will benefit from signing him. In-game, Freeze is arguably a better team fighter than FORG1VEN, with excellent positioning that keeps him out of harm’s way but still allows him to get his damage out and contribute to a very high percentage of his team’s kills. On the Renegades, Freeze was held back by his team’s inability to set him up in fights, even when he was ready and waiting to unload his damage. Freeze’s new teammates include some reasonably good individual playmakers, so if the communication can come together, H2K should be equipped to solve their teamfighting woes.

Freeze has also showed more diversity in his champion pool than FORG1VEN, with a greater willingness to play utility-oriented champions like Kalista that fit more of a team concept. Let’s not forget his sneaky Draven pocket pick, either. It should be harder for opponents to prepare against Freeze than it was to predict FORG1VEN’s more one-dimensional style of play.

Out-of-game, H2K are hoping that Freeze will help shore up weaknesses in the team’s coordination and synergy, by contributing to a more positive atmosphere and practice environment. If Freeze’s addition leads to improvements in this area, that may have a larger influence on H2K’s success than anything he does on Summone’rs Rift.

Naturally, Freeze has weaknesses, too. H2K will need to work with Freeze to address occasional situations where he gets caught out farming too far from safety. They will also need to see how effective Freeze can be when he is not the primary focus of a team composition, and has to give up more farm and jungler attention for his teammates. In terms of mentality and communication, it’s been a while since Freeze was not clearly the strongest player on his team, so H2K will need to be careful to manage egos and expectations accordingly.

The Verdict

All angles considered, Freeze looks like the perfect addition to H2K’s lineup, at least on paper. H2K is gaining a player who should fit smoothly into their existing setup, while granting them more flexibility and a refreshed team environment. Freeze, for his part, is finally getting the opportunity to prove himself as part of an undeniably strong roster, something he has never enjoyed up to this point.

It will be up to pr0lly and his staff, as well as Freeze’s new teammates, to quickly integrate their new ADC and prove that, like Counter Logic Gaming before them, H2K made the right choice by removing a superstar carry from their lineup and heading down another path.

All stats in tables are generated from the 2016 Spring regular season.

Tim "Magic" Sevenhuysen runs OraclesElixir.com, the premier source for League of Legends esports statistics. You can find him on Twitter, unless he’s busy giving one of his three sons a shoulder ride.

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