There must be something in the European waters as the region has produced fantastic midlaners over the years with many capable of taking on the best, and the 2019 League of Legends European Championship season was no different.
A plethora of fresh faces stepped up to the solo-lane role to make a name for themselves over the past 12 months, while veterans were there waiting to teach the rookies a lesson or two. It was a difficult task, but here are just four of the superstars who wowed fans throughout the year.
Caps – G2 Esports
Rasmus “Caps” Winther turned 20 just last month but has already experienced a phenomenal career that most pros can only dream of. He is the only European player to have ever competed in two World Championship finals and has done so in consecutive years; he’s the only European midlaner to have lifted the Mid-Season Invitational trophy (discounting his teammate and now ADC Luka “Perkz” Perković) and he has won the last four European titles.
Caps’ move to G2 Esport was perhaps the most shocking roster move in LoL history, joining Fnatic’s bitter rivals just months after competing in a Worlds final. However, the move turned out to be a stroke of genius as Caps was suddenly unhinged and able to unleash his full wild and creative potential.
Draven, Talon and Renekton are just some of the less conventional champions that Caps has won games with this year, but the most memorable performance was perhaps Pyke as he and G2 pulled out a sensational funnelling strategy to surprise Origen in the Spring finals.
With Caps always looking for kills, there is still talk of his inconsistency but this year he regularly showed up in important games. He had three monstrous performances against Team Liquid in the Mid-Season Invitational final and he was one of the major factors in G2’s historic five-game win over Fnatic in the Summer Split final.
Caps had an extraordinary year but knowing him, he’ll already be thinking of improving and finally getting his hands on the Summoner’s Cup next season.
Nemesis – Fnatic
Fnatic has a habit of developing superstar midlaners, and the past year has been no different as they took a gamble on rookie Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek, who had impressed in Spain with MAD Lions.
It was a rocky start for the Slovenian as Fnatic endured a torrid start to the Spring Split, failing to find a win in their first four games of the season. At first, Fnatic appeared to ease Nemesis in slowly by putting him on safer champions like Lissandra. It wasn’t until the first game of the Spring Playoffs where we got our first glimpse of the true Nemesis as he closed out the series with a penta-kill on the recently reworked Kayle.
From then on, Nemesis sky-rocketed to the top as one of the regions best players, let alone midlaners. With his ice-cold composure, Nemesis showed very little emotion on stage while crushing his opposition to the point where some of his signature picks like Twisted Fate were regularly banned.
By the Summer Split, Nemesis really began to settle in and slowly became one of the team’s main threats, an impressive feat in itself with the ever-aggressive Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau in the top lane and the icon that is Martin “Rekkles” Larrson. Nemesis sported the highest average gold difference at 10 minutes (340) and the second highest amount of assists (101) of all midlaners in Summer, but his best was yet to come.
Many questioned whether Nemesis would finally crack under the pressure of the Worlds stage but he thrived as the team’s best performer at the tournament in many people’s eyes. His solo kill over Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok as Veigar, a champion he had spent hours learning with a high elo one-trick, is a moment fans will remember for some time. Can he rise further in 2020?
Humanoid – Splyce
Another rookie who debuted this year, Marek "Humanoid" Brázda had a slow start but went on to become a key factor in Splyce’s qualification for the World Championships.
The Czech star went on a killing spree in the Summer Split as he lightened the load on Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup’s shoulders, picking up 13 solo kills in that Split alone, with Caps the only player in the entire league who earned more.
Humanoid proved to be extremely strong on assassins, with particularly impressive performances on Akali; one such display Misfits will certainly want to forget.
However, his most dangerous champion of all might be Qiyana as he tore apart Fnatic on the champion shortly after her release. He hasn’t played the champion on-stage since, with even Worlds teams unwilling to give him the pick.
Having now faced off against the likes of Faker and Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang, Humanoid will only have grown as a player, and next year will be his chance to develop even further as he leads the young and inexperienced line-up of Splyce’s evolution, MAD Lions.
Nukeduck – Origen
Finally we have Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm, a veteran who attended Worlds back in 2013 with Lemondogs. Martin “Deficio” Lynge would regularly sing the praises of the Norwegian midlaner on broadcast, labelling every season as the “year of the duck.” So, it was no surprise that when Deficio became the general manager of Origen, Nukeduck was one of the signings he made.
Nukeduck had a phenomenal Spring Split with a standout performance being his bold Zed pick against a then-undefeated G2. It was a choice that worked wonders as he solo-killed Caps in lane and went on to carry the game, ending G2’s nine-game win streak.
That was just one of the many champions Nukeduck succeeded on, as he astonishingly played 24 different champions on-stage this year alone. The Summer Split didn’t go Origen’s way, but with a new-look roster for 2020, Nukeduck and the team are well-equipped to aim higher than ever before.