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Before you ask, no, William Nieminen didn’t pick the handle “UNF0RGIVEN” – previously stylized as “Unforgiven” – to emulate or mock the former Greek bot laner Konstantinos-Napoleon “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou. UNF0RGIVEN had just played a lot of Yasuo at the time, and his title is ‘The Unforgiven.’

When pressed if he would pick Yasuo in an official match, UNF0RGIVEN said “maybe,” primarily because he hasn’t played the swordsman in a long time.

Such is the interesting origin of MAD Lions’ newest addition to their roster, a rookie bot laner plucked from the burgeoning European Regional Leagues to be molded into an elite player. Just like their former bot laner Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság, who set news outlets abuzz when he joined the French bees in Team Vitality to form the much talked about super team.

And what a start he’s had, too. In his team’s most recent match against Astralis, Unforgiven ended the match 6/2/8 on Jinx, leaving caster Aaron “Medic” Chamberlain very impressed.

“This guy is so consistent. His positioning in fights seems almost perfect at times,” Medic said. “And here, on his back, MAD Lions take the win.”

The young lion roars

Coming into 2022, some questioned MAD Lions decision to sell key players to their rivals after winning back-to-back titles in the League of Legends European Championship. Marek “Humanoid” Brázda departed to Fnatic and donned the famous black and orange, while Carzzy left for Team Vitality.

To replace them, MAD signed two rookies from the Prime League: Berlin International Gaming’s Steven “Reeker” Chen and UNF0RGIVEN, from SK Prime. On-paper, they hardly had the pedigree required for a title defense. However, as MAD have proven before, they are never been afraid to pick and start promising talents from the ERLs or even other regional leagues (with top laner İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek coming from the Turkish Championship League).

UNF0RGIVEN himself said he was a bit astonished to be playing in the LEC, from his first post-match interview with Laure “Bulii” Valée.

“Things in MAD have been really good,” he said. “I’m quite surprised to be here but I’m really happy to play with the team and Norman ‘Kaiser’ Kaiser in bot lane.”

Before the season started, he endured the scrutiny of analysts and fans alike, and in his first official game, faced the player he was brought in to replace. Despite UNF0RGIVEN admitting he felt nervous during his first LEC match, he never put additional pressure on himself by feeling he had to replace Carzzy.

“I didn’t feel that pressured because I don’t want to pressure myself unnecessarily. That will just make me play worse,” he said. “What I am trying to do is just play as good as I can.”

MAD Lions put Vitality to the sword, and UNF0RGIVEN even whipped out his signature Kathus pick from the ERLs – which he describes as a “fun champion” – finishing the game 4/1/5.

Five games later and UNF0RGIVEN has accumulated some interesting statistics from Oracles Elixir that highlight his blistering start so far. He is third in Kills/Deaths/Assist (7.5), third in Kill participation (71.4%), second in both Average gold difference (245) and experience difference at 10 minutes (203), third in Average damage to champions per minute (652) and the first in Damage share (31.8%).

Despite the good run of results and performances so far, UNF0RGIVEN said he has a lot to work on, though he is generally happy with his performances thus far.

“I would rate my performances honestly, pretty good,” he said. “But I still want to play way better, because there’s a lot of stuff that I still mess up on. I wouldn’t say I’m playing bad but I feel like it’s not good enough. I’m not satisfied yet.”

Working with the team

The MAD Lions won spring last year and made it to MSI 2021. Can they do the same this year?
REYKJAVIK, ICELAND – MAY 18: The MAD Lions won spring last year and made it to MSI 2021. Can they do the same this year? (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games, Inc. via Getty Images)

Even before they rebranded to MAD Lions from Splyce, the team’s coaching staff always worked closely with their academy roster and slowly built up the infrastructure seen today.

From 2020, MAD have promoted five players from ERL to their LEC team, with Humanoid staying on from the Splyce days. Reeker and UNF0RGIVEN make it seven, and are expected to stay with the team for at least the duration of 2022 to develop.

In an LEC post-match interview with Laure, Kaiser mentioned both players “fit into the team culture already” and they have been working closely with UNF0RGIVEN, mentioning his rapid improvement from the time they started. And for the rookie bot laner, he is enjoying his time partnering up with Kaiser.

“I like him inside and out of the game, and I also think he’s a really good player,” he said. “It’s kinda hard to look bad when you play with Kaiser as well.”

He also described the MAD Lions staff as “really insane” and said it’s been really nice to work with them thus far.

Having already waved off the pressure of stepping in the shoes of MAD’s former bot laner, UNF0RGIVEN is keeping level expectations for himself in the spring, even though the Lions are still the defending champions. He doesn’t mind finishing top three or top four, but UNF0RGIVEN certainly wouldn’t mind a trip to attend the Mid-Season Invitational 2022.

“I think, for me, finishing a minimum of top three or top four is my goal, and also performing really well,” he said. “Of course, it would be really nice to go to MSI, and I will not complain if I get to go, but I don’t want to set my expectations too high.”

Playing bot lane in this meta and… Draven?

To achieve those goals, UNF0RGIVEN will need the resources necessary to hard carry the game. This helps him both play at his best and live out the fantasy of every AD Carry, ever. He’s shown that he’s more than capable, as well, which he has epitomised in his last three games on Jinx.

While he has been extraordinary on Jinx when given the time, space, and resources, UNF0RGIVEN is famously associated with another champion from his time within the ERLs: Draven. He drew many Draven bans for his teams in the past and, as such, has only gotten to play him a handful of times. Will fans get to see UNF0RGIVEN lock it in for future LEC matches?

Unfortunately for Draven enthusiasts, UNF0RGIVEN explained he has not played Draven much recently, and that he doesn’t think Draven is very strong because Conqueror has not been that great on ranged champions at the moment. And while Lethal Tempo is fun, other champions like Jinx utilize it better. But overall, it will probably depend on his mood.

“I mean, I would probably pick Draven when I’m in the mood to play Draven,” he said. “Right now I’m not in the mood to play Draven, I think he isn’t very strong at the moment.”

Disappointment for Draven mains aside, Kaiser mentioned in the LEC post-match interview previously that they are also refining his skillset to play weak side on bot lane, UNF0RGIVEN does currently enjoys the meta for bot laners, especially when he gets to be the main carry. He mentions players who are very strong mechanically benefit the most in the current meta.

“You really get rewarded if you’re fed and really good at teamfighting,” he said. “For example, like in the last game against Astralis, I’m on Jinx with like three or four items and Lethal Tempo. You just kill them all if you play well.”