Konstantinos-Napoleon "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou is a legend of the AD Carry role, his reputation and feats bordering on the mythical by now.
Once upon a time, he was one of the best mechanical players in the game and self-styled saviour of the West. His carry mentality and drive to destroy his peers won him a legion of fans the world over. With the "father of ADC" set to return to competitive play this split, discover the psychology that built his esteemed reputation.
"In his errors a man is true to himself. Observe the errors and you will know the man." -Confucius
The great man
FORG1VEN was a great Western player and this is undisputed by experts of League of Legends. He turned a lacklustre Copenhagen Wolves into a playoff team. After an MVP spring split, he had SK Gaming at the top of the LCS. The Gambit spell that followed saw them as one of the only legitimate threats to the 18:0 FNATIC of summer 2015. In H2k, his team were transformed into true title contenders and would finish up 2016 in the semi-finals of the World Championship. The only connecting factor between all these feats is FORG1VEN, and he stood as the primary in-game force behind them over the majority of that time period.
Observe those teams after FORG1VEN's departure from each. Copenhagen Wolves were barely relevant again, relying on Freeze to replace him and play the role of FORG1VEN-lite. SK went from semi-finalists with him to relegated without him the next split. Gambit did nothing. H2k tanked so hard they had to humble themselves and find a way to bring FORG1VEN back, turning around their split and almost winning out to reach the playoffs, beat FNATIC and qualify for Worlds.
At said Worlds, they equalled the best finish in history from any Western team with a top-four placing. When he exited a second time, they were never again close to besting or equalling his accomplishments in the following two years of LCS play.
A special talent
FORG1VEN is a rare example of someone whose aptitude for video games goes beyond one chosen discipline. As well as being one of the best League of Legends players for numerous years in a row, he showed an impressive amateur ability in other titles.
One such is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, where he went up to the top public rank of Global Elite in an absurdly short amount of time, and in Heroes of the Storm, where he easily secured a top rank in an entirely different style of MOBA.
The most immediate strength FORG1VEN possesses is his incredible mechanical ability. There have been few players in history who can match him in this regard, Asian super-stars included. Even as a lesser-known pro, he was grinding solo queue hard with a specific focus directed towards mastering this aspect of the game.
"On Copenhagen Wolves, I was a player that was fresh to the competitive scene. I was like climbing the ladder in Challenger so I had a personal goal besides a team goal, to develop as an player into an insane individual mechanical or not entirely, so I was try-harding in both modes (premade and solo queue)," he said.
"Once I achieved it," he continued, "I lost my interest in the solo queue goal and I just started playing on smurfs, combined with the fact that Copenhagen Wolves was not an environment I was enjoying. So, instead of spending 10 plus hours playing the game, I started approaching the game with a different method, which is that I just started playing scrims like LCS matches, along with the fact that I was try-harding every single time irrelevant of the opponent or anything else."
Your money or your life
FORG1VEN is synonymous with aggressive laning, to the extent he can be considered the pioneer of the most extreme manifestation ever witnessed. He was to the West what Uzi was to the Asian AD Carry player.
"His viewpoint of the laning phase," explained H2k analyst Michael "Veteran" Archer, "especially when asked about specific matchups (always 2v2, very rarely will he answer AD vs. AD in a vacuum) he had a depth in knowledge I've never heard before and it taught me a lot. What pr0lly's done for my knowledge of macro, FORG1VEN has for a lot of microelements."
The ADC role has always been dependent on farming up, to get the gold necessary to gain access to the items which amplify attack damage, the true currency of the role, and here was where FORG1VEN's attack began. He would contest every minion the opponent attempted to kill, forcing them into a choice between taking damage in exchange for the minion or fighting him back and risking losing the minion. This had every ADC he would face cornered into a pressure cooker of decision-making which the wrong answers to repeatedly would lead to a massive deficit in the laning phase and put their team on a timer within which they had to neutralise FORG1VEN or see him arrive at team-fights a beast terrifyingly difficult to slay.
"Contesting, denying and capitalizing are having a bigger importance than the role they had before [FORG1VEN], which was rather a "side role" or side effect of gaining advantage in lane," said nRated, FORG1VEN's Support in SK Gaming years ago.
From this foundation, FORG1VEN granted his teams' advantages and built his own strength as an individual player long before the team-fights of the late-game which had been the defining realm of the ADC's play for most of the game's history.
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FORG1VEN once said, "I always divided players from 'I hide behind my team or wait for my team to provide me with an advantage to play with' to 'I get an advantage or I believe that I will meet no resistance and then, later on, I will transform an individual advantage into a team advantage, which means: Lane pressure, jungle attention, more people focusing X in teamfights, manipulating Wave Control, more damage output and much more.'"
Staying right up in your grill
FORG1VEN's constant pressure won not only the attention and admiration of many of his peers, but also the greedy eyes of opposing Junglers and the focus of the other team's coaching staff.
"I wouldn't compare him [to anyone]," his peer Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek said years ago. "His play-style is very unique and I haven't seen anyone play like that. His overall strength is his presence and pressure on the map. He will always try to pressure in laning phase as hard as he can."
"His biggest strength, as well as weakness, is his play-style. He will always push in laning phase. He will always try to pressure the enemy botlane. And he will put himself in situations that are easily punishable by jungler. But if your jungler doesn't punish such a play-style then your botlane will suffer under his rule."
By creating constant pressure in his lane, FORG1VEN forced the opposing team, in a similar vein to the way his contesting of every minion forced the opposing ADC to make a difficult choice, to choose whether to deal with him directly or risk letting him snowball his lead to dangerous levels of dominance. Both he and his supports are infamous for complaining about playing two-versus-three or four in their lane, such was the attention he would draw from the opposition.
"Holy shit, having FORG1VEN as my ADC is a whole different game, playing 2v3, 2v4 every game, need to get used to it before LCS starts..." said Edward, FORG1VEN's Support in Gambit, prior to EU LCS S5 Summer.
In the team-fights which have been the battleground of his role for so many years, FORG1VEN was one of the best in the game from any region at understanding threat ranges, cool-down timers and which target to focus. He would not give his life easily, imperative with some of the less-skilled teams he played upon, but also was not to be found waiting for the lion's share of the fighting to be done, as some notable ADCs have at times been accused of. FORG1VEN danced at the edge of opponents' threat range, ever aware they sought to dive him wherever possible and eliminate a huge damage source from his team, but also probing and waiting for the moment in which to enter the fight and become a pivotal factor in winning it.
"People will always look for an opportunity to kill me instantly," he once said. "I know that if I dash in they can return with a stun and I am [dead]. [My sense] is natural. Hand-eye coordination and anticipation of how the fight will develop. I work with what I am given and what I think I can do. Zero deaths in some games is bad, but in some games it's hilarious how much pressure it creates. Combine it with laning phase, sieging towers, manipulating the map, having dragon control etc."
Mind of a monster
"If you get an advantage, you play on your advantage. Otherwise why the f**k did you ever get the advantage?"
Accompanying his all-encompassing pressure style of play came one of the most singularly driven mentalities to carry ever witnessed. FORG1VEN, born from the pits of flawed and under-powered teams, was certain of his belief he had built himself into the best player and could exert his strengths to carry his teams to victory.
"I just believe I am the most aggressive player Europe has ever seen in competitive ADC and I created a 2nd type of player, since most of them could only see Rekkles on FNATIC or in general when I wasn't playing. Tabbz tried to do what I could, but it's a combination of being gifted and having a work ethic. Before my splits, or until I showed myself in solo queue, everyone was going even in lane, being the last in team-fights to hit people who came to the ADC etc."
"They never played to win by themselves; they waited for their team to win for them. Loser mentality. You try to create opportunities for you or your team that can create even bigger opportunities or consequences for the opponent after. I just play as an individual to help my team."
If a game could be won from the ADC position then FORG1VEN believed he could execute the necessary plan to make it a reality and if not then he might disagree with reality and attempt it anyway. Nonetheless, he still maintained he did not demand resources and to carry as much as many will suggest or imagine.
"On Copenhagen Wolves I was forced to carry and I don't mind being the number one carry or being the second or third man. But when I have a lead, which happens 9/10 times, I don't demand to be played to, but I want it to be capitalised upon."
Saviour of the West
Years before Caps showed again that the elite Western player could match up with the best Asia had to offer, FORG1VEN walked this realm in resolute belief no Asian man was ever born that could best him at the ADC role. This sentiment is easy enough to ape or put on as a pretension for the public, but FORG1VEN genuinely believed it and at a time when Korean League of Legends had the world locked up and was mining championships at a ferocious rate.
While players like Doublelift, Bjergsen and Rekkles spoke with reverence regarding the best Asian counter-parts for their roles, promising to play their best and hoping for positive results, FORG1VEN privately and publicly was unafraid of brazenly stating he felt he was better and could prove it.
"I don't think there is a gap [between Western and Eastern elite players], only team achievement gaps. I believe I can win individually against them. I don't know about in a 2v2."
"I don't have these [intimidation] issues. If I respect someone I play better against him or it matters more for me inside my mind if I perform vs. him. Like we played against WE and we stomped the shit out of their bot lane [WeiXiao and his support] in equal or [theoretically losing] match-ups. It felt better than winning against UoL's bot lane."
"It's pretty evident for me, at least from IEM and some scrims, that laning phase will be hard for [Asians]."
The dark lord
FORG1VEN sought not just to win or best his opponents, but dominate them individually and, if possible, destroy them utterly. In this sense, he was akin to a dark side user of The Force in the Star Wars universe. Channelling his frustration, anger and willpower, FORG1VEN fueled himself to new heights of individual excellence and focused his mind to the task of decimating whoever faced him across the server.
"I am more like towards Doublelift's theory, that you understand the skill level [of your opponent] and his psychology in the laning phase. Because lane is where players display their true individual skill. I don't study people, I play against them, I spot weaknesses, flaws, patterns not by doing it consciously, but by micromanagement in a way."
"I don't care how they perform against other players, I care how they want to deal with me, if they want to."
The team component and drafting element of the game did not always make it possible to directly dominate the lane, but whenever the opportunity arose FORG1VEN felt it was imperative the better player applied his advantage accordingly.
"If I have a matchup that this can happen yes, of course. I take advantage of my power as a player and their weaknesses. I have forced teams to lane-swap or use teleports or gank me bot lane enough times to take pressure away from my team."
If FORG1VEN's team cannot get ahead in unpressured lanes elsewhere or with the Jungler's attention firmly directed to the botlane, then questions are rightly to be asked of the players in those lanes.
FORG1VEN is a player who has come under scrutiny for his champion pool, which has rarely been the widest in the scene. His philosophy was to focus upon a few champions and master them so entirely that he either could consistently carry games with them into any match-up or demanded target bans from the opposing team. Lucian, Caitlyn, Jinx and Graves have all been enormous threats to opponents during FORG1VEN's best years.
"I am skilled so I make picks work and I can understand what picks work along with my play-style. I can't be target-banned and if I am then it benefits my team and I am gifted so I don't mind going back to other champions."
Again, it seems obscene to focus upon a player receiving two or three target bans as the reason for a team's failure if that left his team-mates with wide-open champion pools from which to potentially exploit the opponent.
Greatness is greedy
FORG1VEN was one of the most incredibly demanding team-mates of any player I'm familiar with. That extended past his team-mates generally and particularly focused upon the Supports that shared his lane.
"He is the most demanding lane partner I have worked with so far," said LCS champion and FORG1VEN's support at SK Gaming, Christoph "nRated" Seitz. "He has very high standards for his own laning which also transitioned into his demands for me as his lane partner."
As FORG1VEN put it to me once "if they play with me then I am demanding, obviously, and I push them to their limits." Without testing one's limits how can one truly know where they lie and which are illusions, capable of being transcended or overcome?
FORG1VEN is an old school competitor in a sense that he is a throwback to the great sportsmen of the 80s, a time before money and mass media attention had warped the big traditional sports. Just as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson's rivalry had them constantly watching the other to see how they measured up, and pushed each other to new levels in the pursuit of glory, so too did FORG1VEN compare himself directly against his peers to see how good he really was.
"Yes, I always think how my performance was compared to the enemy ADC, while taking in account the game by itself: if people were ahead or not, what advantages and who had the advantages, game impact etc."
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This drive to be great and to exceed the level of any opponent, no matter their team's strength or style, made FORG1VEN a difficult player to deal with in all environments and famously led to his ban from competitive and public play in 2015, as a result of too many reports by teammates for in-game text abuse.
"My 'toxicity' came from my desire and motivation to win and dominate everything possible, at least as an individual. I will be exactly this guy as long as I am motivated and still have hunger and passion to win and achieve something as five."
FORG1VEN has never wavered in his tangible goals and his will to be remembered as one of the best to ever play the game.
"[My goals are to] either win [LEC] at some point and then try to get past quarter-finals in Worlds, or, if I will never have the chance or ability to do that, I will try to be one of the players that would first come into your mind when you will question yourself about 'who are the greatest AD Carries of all-time?'"
FORG1VEN has already accomplished a semi-finals finish at a World Championship, but that LEC title has still eluded him. He is unapologetically himself. Driven, dominant and entirely unique. He put the "carry" back into the ADC role in an era of marksmen just doing their jobs. Perhaps he is a villain to some and if so boo him if you please, for it won't phase him. He is FORG1VEN and there is nobody else like him.