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Fatal flaw: Speculating on what has held FORG1VEN back from success

by theScore Staff Jun 8 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of EU LCS 2016 Spring Semifinals / Riot Games

Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou-Napoleon is one of my favorite players to watch in League of Legends, but again and again, he has fallen short. Spring splits, which are by far his most successful seasons in the European League of Legends Championship Series, have ended in fourth place over the past two years and obvious hurdles in team cohesion and motivation have arisen in his summer splits. Discouraged, FORG1VEN has publicly contemplated giving up on the LCS entirely on more than one occasion.

Prodigious skill or not, there's something about FORG1VEN that holds him back. After he was benched by Origen on Tuesday, it’s time to admit that FORG1VEN is more than just “unlucky.” His current circumstances present the perfect opportunity to examine FORG1VEN’s flaws and finally criticize the issues that are so often skirted.

RELATED: Origen benches FORG1VEN, xPeke in as ADC

One should start with the reason that Origen gave for benching FORG1VEN for the remainder of the summer season. “With the following brief communication, we would like to announce that due to lack of motivation, Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou will no longer be part of the starting lineup of Origen throughout the rest of the split,” the announcement reads.

FORG1VEN reinforced the claim in Origen’s announcement, stating that lately he has been more drawn to play Overwatch than League of Legends, and that he and Origen made a mutual decision to part ways.

A lack of motivation doesn’t necessarily fall in line with the common narrative that one of FORG1VEN’s greatest flaws is being demanding of both himself and his teammates, but this isn’t the first time it has come up.

When FORG1VEN left SK Gaming, he said that he found himself “demotivated” from not receiving a North American offer. When talking about the decision to replace FORG1VEN on H2k-Gaming, H2K coach Neil “PR0LLY” Hammad claimed that it was obvious that a lot of negative thoughts going into playoffs had distracted both FORG1VEN and the rest of the team from achieving success.

Though driven, FORG1VEN has shown a tendency to dwell toward the negative if things don’t go as planned, specifically in the laning phase. FORG1VEN has made it clear that the kind of play he values is very lane-oriented.

FORG1VEN often leads in CS at 10 minutes, averaging 11.2 CS over his opponent in the 2016 EU LCS Spring Split. He believes that to succeed, a player must get ahead early and abuse their lead throughout the course of the game. His focus on the laning phase in his commentary suggests that FORG1VEN is prone to believing that the match can be easily decided in the early game.

Outside of FORG1VEN’s own words, PR0LLY has commented several times on the difference between FORG1VEN and H2K Gaming’s new AD carry, Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek. In almost all instances, PR0LLY emphasized the aspects of Freeze’s personality that were team-oriented.

“After playing a split with a purely mechanical player,” PR0LLY said. “I think it’s a lot more beneficial for the style that I coach and the style the players have to bring in a lot more team-based macro-style AD carry that’s really more focused around rotating and kind of taking map objectives that way.”

PR0LLY added that, “There’s a lot of new things we can try now with Freeze, so we spent the last week and a half kind of experimenting with things that we weren’t able to do with our last roster.” The inference to be made here is that the new strategies H2K spent the time before the new split practicing were in line with the team-based element Freeze added.

While Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski was consistently praised throughout the 2016 EU LCS Spring Split, his jungle pathing appeared inefficient at times. Relative to other junglers in both the EU LCS and internationally, Jankos seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time camping lanes — i.e. sitting in a bush and waiting for a gank opportunity — over actually ganking or farming. This wasted a lot of time and energy.

RELATED: FORG1VEN to take an indefinite break from competitive League of Legends

More often than not, Jankos would do this near FORG1VEN’s lane. While Jankos directed more ganks toward mid lane on average, he spent more time looking for gank opportunities in the duo lane. The failure of this pathing style doesn’t necessarily fall to Jankos or FORG1VEN, but the decision to direct more attention to FORG1VEN’s side of the map made some of H2K Gaming’s earlier macro strategies more restricted and one-dimensional than they otherwise could have been.

These factors together paint a picture of a FORG1VEN who is very demanding of his teammates to allow him to get ahead. A lot of credit goes to FORG1VEN’s high mechanical ability, but much of the soft pressure Jankos applied to FORG1VEN’s lane set him behind in favor of his AD carry in the early game. When one says that FORG1VEN is a very resource-heavy AD carry, one doesn’t necessarily have to speak of gold, but of time and the stunted versatility that went into ensuring FORG1VEN escaped laning phase with a lead.

Again, this in itself doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Providing a definite identity can sometimes make a team more successful. Teams with too many options have scrambled for a focus and seemed split around possible strategies, unable to refine or make a single one truly effective. While H2K aspire to be able to execute multiple strategies, there’s no guarantee that they are capable of doing so until they achieve results on a roster without specific limitations.

Yet the kind of player in the position FORG1VEN made for himself needs certain leadership qualities. A player demanding of his teammates and resources should also be demanding of himself and give himself the responsibility to carry the team. A player prone to discouragement and distraction, regardless of circumstances, is not that player. It’s easy to understand why the army conscription could have distracted FORG1VEN, but he’s demonstrated a tendency to shirk the responsibility as a leader or main carry in the past.

FORG1VEN is seldom publicly self-critical (this doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t privately self-critical), and he has stated that he doesn’t see himself as a leader. Specifically in his note on leaving SK Gaming and joining Gambit Gaming, FORG1VEN mentioned, “I rejected both times the opportunity to build or rebuild teams, since i don't see myself as a leader or as capable of having also this responsibility.”

Also in his note on his departure from SK Gaming, FORG1VEN said that he is “worn out a lot by the failures [he] encountered already… and the lack of success (or lack of motivated teammates).” In this instance, FORG1VEN deflects most of the responsibility for the failure from himself and cites a “lack of motivated teammates” as a possible reason for not achieving the results he desired.

It’s possible that FORG1VEN’s teammates weren’t motivated, and this was a big reason for his failures, but at least in the case of H2K, PR0LLY attributed that in part to the negative atmosphere FORG1VEN propagated. He said, going into the split, that he was aware of the unique challenges that FORG1VEN presented, but in the end it didn’t turn out to be a good fit.

When people think of FORG1VEN’s struggles in a team environment, they think of the Riot Games “toxicity” label. They think of the adage that FORG1VEN is prone to flaming his teammates, they imagine a situation in which his face turns red, he spews obscenities, smashes his keyboard, pushes his support out of his chair, and storms out of the room.

This depiction of FORG1VEN is not only ridiculous, but highly unlikely. FORG1VEN’s problems in a team environment, based on recent and past evidence, are more likely to be related to being demanding and restrictive of his teammates in game without taking the responsibility of the demands he sets. If something goes wrong, it seems that, in FORG1VEN’s mind, his teammates lost motivation or there’s some flaw in how the team itself is playing, but his own focus and playstyle doesn't change.

Yes, H2K seemed very similar to SK Gaming, but a lot of this falls at FORG1VEN’s feet. A logical macro style to execute when an AD carry tunnels on laning phase involves prioritizing the taking of turrets quickly. If a player already pressures a lane, then it’s logical to aim to siege quickly and rotate the AD carry to available lanes with more CS so he can continue to grow his advantage.

H2K didn’t play around FORG1VEN in teamfights, he often separated from the team — which lead to sometimes comically executed late games — but they did play around him in the sense that their strategy seemed to evolve from his focus on laning. This created an eerie echo of SK Gaming, who probably developed their strategy with the same restriction in mind.

A team that sacrifices variety or other resources to prop their AD carry’s laning phase fails in part when the AD carry fails. H2K had many more problems than FORG1VEN, but not finding any fault with FORG1VEN would appear unreasonable. Two springs in a row, strong teams built to feature FORG1VEN's love of laning phase have failed, and FORG1VEN hasn't changed.

With this depiction of FORG1VEN in mind, it’s easy to see how an environment like Origen’s could bring out his negative qualities. Players on Origen have a reputation for a slow start, and if the team doesn’t immediately fall in line in a way that accommodates FORG1VEN’s tendencies, they’ll start to lose.

According to FORG1VEN, the team lost “90% of scrims in last 2 weeks.” These circumstances might set FORG1VEN on a path that takes him further from League of Legends and his own motivation, as was the case after SK Gaming placed fourth in 2015 LCS Spring and FORG1VEN reached Rank 1 in Heroes of the Storm.

Hindsight is 20/20. Despite everything I’ve said, I was optimistic about FORG1VEN joining Origen, not least because Origen top laner sOAZ is almost everything FORG1VEN isn’t. sOAZ’s experience has allowed him to take a more laid back approach to the regular season and still find a great deal of success in his career both internationally and domestically. He’s been to more finals and achieved more international recognition in the last year and a half than FORG1VEN despite FORG1VEN playing one more split of LCS than sOAZ.

More casual fans may be shocked to hear that FORG1VEN has been benched for motivational issues while sOAZ remains on the roster. sOAZ has expressed some of the same struggles with motivation that FORG1VEN has and his own form recently has been lacking, as it often is at the start of a season.

Yet sOAZ knows how to conserve the motivation he has. With a few exceptions, the sOAZ who can carry games appears around the summer playoffs. The sOAZ with strong Teleports who can easily pick up and abuse the flavor of the month top lane monster has been instrumental in wins for both Fnatic and Origen in the past.

FORG1VEN’s patience wore thin before this sOAZ appeared, but sOAZ’s own facilitative nature in Origen’s comms, despite him not being a shotcaller, and his tendency to focus on accommodating his teammates were things with which I assumed FORG1VEN would mesh well. A top laner like sOAZ who doesn’t necessarily value his own laning phase leads would play well around FORG1VEN. With his Teleports, he could occupy the role Jankos did on H2K for FORG1VEN on Origen.

When the news that FORG1VEN had parted ways with Origen emerged, many quickly pointed fingers at Origen. Yes, it’s likely that Origen lacked the infrastructure to accommodate a player like FORG1VEN, but so far there hasn’t been an organization in the EU LCS that has succeeded with FORG1VEN.

FORG1VEN isn’t toxic, he just tunnels too much on the aspect of the game at which he excels and seems averse to taking responsibility or leadership in the direction in which teams built around him trend. In a game like League of Legends that so heavily emphasizes team play, that’s a fatal flaw.

None of this makes FORG1VEN less of a talented player. His ability to duel, his quick reflexes, and obvious individual talent makes him worthy of consideration next to some of the greatest AD carries of all time, despite never placing above fourth in the EU LCS or making it onto the international stage.

It’s just that, as sOAZ himself put it not long after H2K lost their third place match this spring, “People don't realize how much of a team game league is right now, your individual performance means pretty much nothing if You dont[sic] know how to play according to your teammates, having a bad mindset for a team can just kill everything and ruin your split.”

FORG1VEN is the most obvious case study in the west for proving sOAZ’s words.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter where the "unlucky" FORG1VEN gif frequently appears.

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