Claps or Craps? The alter egos of a League of Legends star

PARIS — G2’s Rasmus “Caps” Winther always seems to have a smile on his face, even during one of the biggest matches of his career.

It was the League of Legends World Championship semifinal in Madrid at a filled Palacio Vistalegre, the Colosseum-like venue housing thousands of fans trying to will their home team, G2 Esports, to the grand final against China’s champion, FunPlus Phoenix.

G2’s opponent, South Korea’s SK Telecom T1, is the winningest organization of all time. Having the three-time Summoner’s Cup winners face off against G2, the strongest team of the year, was a dream matchup.

G2 vs. SKT would go on to become the most-watched esports match in history. Per Esports Charts, which tracks viewership across streaming websites, 3.9 million people tuned in at the stream’s peak during Game 4 of the series. This didn’t even include global TV or viewership numbers in China, which would have added millions more to the overall count. From the frenzy of cheers and chants inside the arena to the record-breaking audience at home, this faceoff felt less like a semifinal and more like the grand final itself.

Still, with the entire world watching, Caps and his G2 teammates were treating it as if it were 3:00 a.m. on a Friday and they were playing casual games with nothing on the line.

“All of you are wearing hoodies, but I’m not that cold anymore,” remarked G2’s jungler and reigning European MVP Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski as the team waited for the series to begin. “But maybe I’ll just wear it after my first death [in-game].”

“So never?” answered support Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle, the rest of the team laughing in the background.

“Exactly, Miky!” Jankos yelled.

Over the course of the series, the light-hearted and relaxed attitude would stand in stark contrast with what was happening on the field, where the two teams were neck and neck throughout. At one point, after a kill on SKT’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, considered the best player to ever play League of Legends, Caps said, “I’m really f—ing [overpowered], by the way,” en route to a first-game victory. When they lost Game 2 and SKT tied up the series, he informed his teammates he might have been dying a bit too much and it was time to win now.

Even when they had locked up the match victory in Game 4 after a back-and-forth game ending in a climactic brawl, G2 questioned whether they should wait a few seconds before ending the game so their coaches could celebrate alongside with them before ultimately deciding to finish after Jankos happily interjected with “F–k the coaches” and the rest of the team agreed in turn.

Smiles, trolling and a whole lot of style — this is G2 Esports.

It’s hard to imagine Caps in another uniform than G2’s nowadays, after the team’s historic 2019, but for the first two years of his professional career, he was actually their archrival. A top prospect from Denmark, Caps was signed to Europe’s historically strongest franchise, Fnatic, winners of the inaugural League of Legends world championship in 2011 and perennial domestic league winners.

His immaturity was a topic of discussion in his early days. After his signing, screenshots of the 17-year-old telling an opposing player that he should try to not make his “hate list” unless the amateur player wanted his career to be over before it started popped up on social media.

Caps would apologize for his actions and keep his head down heading into his debut season, but the growing pains of being a professional didn’t end with what was happening outside of the game.

Nicknamed “Baby Faker” for his mechanical prowess and towering potential, Caps tried to run before he could crawl. His first year as a pro was a mixed bag, with a slew of highlights showing off his raw, technical skill but also revealing his tunnel vision of always believing he can make a big play work.

Although he would come into his own by the end of the year and Fnatic would make the world championship, the team’s run ended in the quarterfinals by the hands of China’s Royal Never Give Up. Caps’ inexperience would be exposed under the spotlight of worlds knockout stage, with him failing to make any sort of impact in the final two games of the series that sent his team back home.

In these types of situations, usually, young and hungry players with a bright future take the loss, return home and decide to shore up their game by working on the holes in their arsenal. For Caps, this would mean working on his overaggression and becoming a more patient, learned player. He’d find the limits within his own individual skill and develop into that Faker-style player people always hoped he would one day become.

Caps didn’t do that.

Instead, he doubled down on the way he played the game, maturing outside of the game as a teammate but keeping his devil-may-care style while playing. Eventually, this would become his calling card, the community at large administering two different names to Caps, both a play on his gamertag.

There’s “Claps,” which is what he is known as when he’s on his A-game. Claps is arguably the best player in the world. He takes big risks and engulfs opponents with his relentless pressure. This was the form Caps showed in May for the Mid-Season Invitational with G2 Esports, burying North American franchise Team Liquid in what was the quickest international final in the game’s history. Claps was awarded the MVP, and those prophecies of him becoming the Western version of Faker didn’t seem so ridiculous in hindsight.

His alter ego on the other hand, “Craps,” is a different story. One series Caps can be in his Claps form and then the very next match he can be Craps — his bold risks turn into failed gambles and result in a chain of trips into the opposing team’s meat grinder. This side of Caps was never more on display than at the 2018 League of Legends world championship, where, after failing in 2017, an improved Caps and Fnatic made it all the way to the grand final. There, Craps reared his ugly head and kept Claps back in the hotel room. Fnatic was steamrolled in a 3-0 sweep by China’s Invictus Gaming at the Incheon Munhak Stadium in South Korea.

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