Fourth time’s the charm? International experience could play vital role in Caps’ success at Worlds 2020

The most dominant mid laner in the LEC is aiming to become a world champion.

Photo by Michal Konkol via Riot Games

Danish mid laner Caps is looking to win his first League of Legends World Championship this year. From a swap to the ADC role in the Spring Split to a strong mid lane performance during the regular Summer Split, he’s continuously stepped up as the key factor to G2 Esports’ success.

At Worlds 2020, Caps will face off against some of the best mid laners from around the globe, like Showmaker, Yagao, Chovy, and Knight. They’re all top-tier players but lack Worlds experience. Caps, on the other hand, will be playing in his fourth World Championship this year. He’s passed the jitters and nerves that some players get when they play in an important tournament.

This year, the experience he’s gained and the lessons he’s learned at previous World Championships could be his biggest asset in G2’s quest for the title.

From winning the TCL to his Worlds finals appearances

Photo via Riot Games

Caps began his professional career in January 2015 on Enigma Esports. After swapping teams multiple times within a small timeframe, he landed on Dark Passage in July 2016. The Turkish team gave birth to other LEC legends such as Fnatic’s Bwipo and Origen’s Xerxe. Dark Passage finished the Summer Split’s regular season in second place and won the playoffs with a convincing 3-0 series over Papara SuperMassive. After Caps’ dominant performance in the TCL, Fnatic quickly acquired Caps in December 2016 for the upcoming Spring Split. Dark Passage hasn’t won a single TCL following Caps’ departure.

Caps had a strong debut year in Europe’s premier league, earning his team a Worlds appearance with a 3-0 series win over former EU LCS organization H2K Gaming. The team emerged from the group stage but was knocked out in the first round by Royal Never Give Up. Caps set a goal for himself: to come back and prove that he’s one of the best mid laners in the world.

Following this loss, Caps came back in 2018 swinging, finishing both splits in first place and winning the playoffs. Fnatic won Rift Rivals as well, while also making a solid appearance at the Mid-Season Invitational. With this performance, they attended the World Championship and stomped through most opponents with ease but fell to Invictus Gaming in the finals in a clean sweep. The series wasn’t pretty and Fnatic failed to withstand the fast-paced LPL style.

A new team to call home

A bomb of a roster move happened in the offseason for the following 2019 split. Caps’ rival, Perkz, swapped to the bottom lane and G2 acquired Caps to play in the mid lane in his place. 

Under the G2 banner, Caps had an even more dominant performance compared to his time on Fnatic. G2 won Rift Rivals, the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, and both LEC seasons, which gave them Europe’s first seed going into Worlds. They looked unstoppable and ready to avenge the region from the 2018 Worlds finals series between Fnatic and Invictus Gaming.

G2 made it out of the group stage with a similar record to Fnatic in 2018 at 5-1. They swept through Damwon Gaming and T1 easily in the first two rounds of the knockout stage, reaching the Worlds finals. The two Korean teams were no match for G2’s vigor and gameplay, which was aggressive and relied on flex picks due to Perkz being a high-caliber mid laner in the past. The finals once again became an EU vs. China series. But this time, it was two different teams: G2 and FunPlus Phoenix.

Although the teams differed from the previous year, the result was the same. The series was once again brutal and the LPL playstyle was too much for EU to handle for a second year in a row. FPX easily swept through G2, giving Caps a 0-6 record in the finals of the World Championship.

A short visit to the bot lane

Photo by Michal Konkol via Riot Games

After a strong showing in 2019, G2’s Caps and Perkz decided to switch positions. While fans and industry experts initially viewed the move as questionable, G2’s owner Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez said the goal was to have these two players be flexible with champions and roles as well.

Caps had a decent 2020 Spring Split in the bottom lane but failed to stack up to other ADC stars in Europe like Rekkles and Upset. He was behind in most stats, according to gol.gg data, leading only in average damage to champions per minute. His performance was seen as decent but not impactful. Even though G2 finished first in the regular split, they weren’t widely considered the favorites going into the playoffs. They hit a road bump in the first round, too, once MAD Lions knocked them down to the lower bracket.

Caps stepped up in the lower bracket, however, and G2 won three straight best-of-five series against Origen, MAD Lions, and Fnatic in the finals. This earned G2 their third European title in a row, signaling a rising dynasty following the region’s rebrand to the LEC.

But even after winning the 2020 LEC Spring Split, the team reverted Caps and Perkz back to their former lanes.

The MVP of the 2020 Summer Split

Compared to the previous year, the mid lane in Europe became much more stacked with plenty of rookies showing up. Rogue’s Larssen took the role’s crown, leading most stats among LEC mid laners. Caps had a decent split but it wasn’t on par with his dominating performances in 2018 and 2019. He failed to lead the league in a single stat and was only tied for first in average kills with Larssen at 4.8 kills per game, according to gol.gg.

Even in the playoffs, Caps trailed behind the other five mid laners in stats but was ahead in terms of teamplay. He prioritized helping other lanes and often sacrificed minions in the laning phase to roam and assist his teammates. Other lanes couldn’t keep up with this playstyle and favored laning over roaming, thus securing better stats on paper.

Caps played 11 unique champions over the split, showing his impressive flexibility and adaptability. He favored Zoe, securing four wins and a loss on the champion, while playing other mid laners only once or twice. His flexibility and mechanical prowess set him up as one of the world’s best mid laners and earned him the MVP award for the Summer Split.

The year of Claps

Photo by Colin Young-Wolff via Riot Games

When Caps first joined the EU LCS, he outperformed other veterans in the scene and earned the “Baby Faker” nickname. He was capable of plays that mimicked Faker’s performances, such as smoke-and-mirrors gameplay on high-skill champions like LeBlanc and Zed.

But over the years, that nickname has fallen off. The community has started referring to him as either “Claps” or “Craps” depending on his performance in any given game. His performance at the beginning of the 2020 Summer Split gravitated more toward Craps, but he turned it back around to Claps and carried his team to another domestic title.

Caps led his team through their slump in the Summer Split and proved that he can be a one-man carry. League fans are bringing Claps into the discussion of top global mid laners more and more following his dominant performance. But one small misstep and Craps could be at the forefront once again.

If Claps shows up at Worlds and overcomes the barriers he’s faced over the past two years, G2 might have a shot at capturing their first World Championship. While that journey is just beginning and it’s unclear how G2 will stack up against LPL and LCK teams, they have Caps in the mid lane, who’s shown countless times how strong he is. His multiple Worlds appearances trained him for this moment—for the glory of winning a world championship.

Before achieving that title, they need to first go through the group stage and play against Team Liquid, Suning, and Machi Esports. While both Liquid and Machi might seem like easy opponents for G2 on paper, Suning could prove to be a challenge due to their aggressive LPL style.

G2 will begin their Worlds run on Sunday, Oct. 4 against Suning, arguably the strongest opponent in their group. If they manage to take down the LPL representative, they should be able to keep the momentum going and beat Liquid and Machi as well.