A week after this year’s League of Legends World Championship final, Rasmus “Caps” Winther will celebrate his 20th birthday – and he’ll certainly have a lot to reflect on.
The young Dane has already had a pretty spectacular career; he’s accomplished more than most of his fellow LEC players. Caps has played for the two of the most successful European League of Legends teams ever; he has attended and won international tournaments; and he has stood toe to toe with the best players the world has to offer.
But all of that would pale in comparison to bringing Europe the Summoner’s Cup, a goal that the midlaner has always had.
Last Sunday, Caps played one of the most important series of his career as he starred in G2’s phenomenal 3-1 victory over SK Telecom T1 to book his team’s place in the Worlds final. The G2 superstar overcame his demons – aka the Unkillable Demon King Faker – as his team defeated SKT and tore down the ceiling in Madrid. It was an intense series that saw G2 fighting from behind the majority of the time, but capitalising to devastating effect when they found an opening.
It was especially tough in game four as SKT were on the verge of tying the series at which point, Caps admitted he was feeling the pressure. “I was trying to think of how to win, the game was feeling hard to play,” he says, following their eventual victory. “I think that was probably the hardest of all the games. We were trying to find our win conditions and realised we had Syndra, Ornn, Gragas and Yasuo so we could really easily go on Nautilus. We thought if we just teamfight a lot and if I had Zhonya's Hourglass for Vladimir we would probably win.”
During those games, Caps had perhaps the toughest challenge of all as he went head to head with Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, known as one of the greatest players of all time. During the budding years of his career, Caps was nicknamed “Baby Faker” as a compliment of his seemingly otherworldly plays.
“I mean, I think Faker is obviously still the best ever.”
Yet, Caps has done everything in his power to make his own name an iconic one. The G2 man was clearly playing mind games in the semifinals, copying Faker’s thumbs up in the team introductions before locking in the Korean superstar’s signature Ryze pick in the very first game. It was almost as to say, anything you can do, I can do better.
And that’s exactly what he did. Caps played Ryze in a very different manner, waltzing into a sidelane and split-pushing to great effect – a strategy LEC fans will have seen many times this season. When Faker got his hands on the pick however, it didn’t work out so well as he lost a professional game on the champion for the first time in a staggering 729 days – the last time being SKT’s Worlds 2017 final defeat to Samsung Galaxy.
Caps says taking on Faker’s best champ was a fascinating battle. “It was pretty interesting because we always banned it out against him at MSI I remember,” he explains. “I think this time around, we couldn't ban it if we wanted to have a good draft. So we played against it and it went pretty good, but I think we just had a really good comp and a good way of shutting him down. Ryze had a lot of CC but we had so much of it as well so it was hard for him to play.”
“I don't want to end up with another second-place, so we'll just try our best and that should be enough.”
“I mean, I think Faker is obviously still the best ever,” Caps adds. “It hasn't been the best few years for him I feel like, but the calibre of his play still is. Thinking of all the Worlds and MSI titles he's won is just amazing. And he's still so, so good. I feel like he was for sure the best player on the team, and he was the one winning the game for them in the second and fourth matches.”
The G2 superstar pushed Faker to his limit but more impressively, did so while not feeling 100 percent. “I became sick two days before the series; the day before I was just laying in bed all day basically. I was more nervous about my health and really angry at being sick because I thought we probably wouldn't win,” Caps explains.
“I think having the crowd behind us helped for sure. Going into the SKT series, I just had a headache, but by game three I was full of energy, I got so much adrenaline and a lot of that comes from the crowd with them permanently cheering for us. You can't be falling asleep while everyone is screaming, so it kind of woke me up. It was for sure a good thing.”
Caps now has a week to recover and regroup with his team as they prepare to take on the equally-as-eccentric FunPlus Phoenix in the final. The midlaner is the first European player to ever make two Worlds finals – and has done so back-to-back. Having got so far last year only to get destroyed by an LPL team, he’s all too aware of the threat FPX pose.
“I think the LPL teams are just very aggressive. SKT, in general, you know what they're doing because they play by the book. LPL teams definitely don't do that, so it's a lot harder to predict what they're going to do. And they play a much faster pace so you have to be able to punish them – and if you don't then you'll end up really far behind.
“We've scrimmed against LPL teams,” Caps continues. “We played against FPX a lot and we're obviously going to prepare a lot for them. I'm sure we'll have some plans and ideas; I don't want to end up with another second-place, so we'll just try our best and that should be enough.”
Caps has had a lot of jokes sent his way with the “Claps or Craps” meme but never has there been a more important time for him to show consistency. G2 are one series away from earning Europe its first World Championship in eight years and lifting the Summoner’s Cup in front of 20,000 screaming fans. After last year’s bitter disappointment, Caps will be desperate to prove he has evolved since his Fnatic days and that he is now part of Europe’s strongest ever roster.