MADRID -- "To be the king, you've got to beat the king. Faker still lies ahead," said commentator Isaac "Azael" Cummings Bentley on the upcoming match between Europe's G2 Esports and South Korea's SK Telecom T1 in the 2019 League of Legends World Championship semifinal.
For G2, this is what they've been waiting for the entire year when they first put together this team. They're on home soil as the final European team remaining in the tournament and are against the greatest franchise the game has ever seen in T1, winners of three Summoner's Cup. They won the spring season of the European domestic league. They ousted T1 at the Mid-Season Invitational semifinals and went on to win the western region's first international title in seven years. Heading into worlds, they captured another domestic crown, putting them on the brink of being the first team in history to complete the grand slam of winning all major competitions they competed in during the calendar year.
But in their way of making a magical trip to Paris for the grand final stands Faker and T1, still the king, with or without its crown. If G2 fail to overcome T1in Madrid, a year of success will be wiped away, including their elimination of the same team at MSI. Worlds is where legends are made and legacies are written forever, and as Azael said, for Europe's villains-turned-heroes to become the true kings of the most popular esport in the world, they must first eliminate the king.
Featured Matchup: Faker vs. Caps
It's the cliche matchup to highlight, but sometimes the most obvious selection is the best one. Rasmus "Caps" Winther's entire career has centered around Faker. When he first broke into the scene as a rookie on Fnatic, he was given the nickname "Baby Faker" in jest due to his overwhelming potential and technical prowess. As he grew as a player, so did his accolades, eventually bringing him all the way to the 2018 world final versus Invictus Gaming as a part of Fnatic.
There, Caps showed his other side -- the one that is callous and overly eager -- resulting in iG picking apart his brash tendencies and running away with a sweep to win the world championship. While Caps went on to win his first international title as a part of G2 this year, besting Faker in the semifinals, it was the man Caps has always been compared to that seemed to get the better of the Danish mid laner on the day. And even in the summer season of Europe's domestic competition, the League of Legends European Championship, those unforced errors kept creeping back into his play.
Faker is Faker. He's won over 100 international games following T1's series over Splyce, and although he still doesn't feel like he's back to his peak condition, Faker is performing at a level expected from one of the best players at the tournament. Where Caps is struggling with an internal battle within himself about staying patient and not overextending, Faker has his own internal struggle is going on. He's chasing the perfect version of himself that made him famous in the first place and won him back-to-back world titles in 2015 and 2016.
Neither player will probably have conquered the battles raging on inside of them by the time Sunday's semifinal comes to a close, but perhaps Paris could be where they find the answers they're searching for.
This series could come down to: Perkz
What a moment for Luka "Perkz" Perković. In 2018, he was regarded as one of the best mid laners in the world. After failing to make the worlds grand final and bringing Caps over from G2, the Croatian captain switched positions to AD carry and is now considered one of the best at that role in the world. Even without his signature mages he carried over from the mid lane being too successful at the world championship, his Xayah play has been a sight to see.
While the main showdown will be between the mid laners with both junglers probably trying to help out to gain dominance in hopes of roaming across the map, I think this series could come down to how well Perkz can do in the bottom lane. Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle will be looking to make plays throughout the map and the chances of either bottom lane overwhelming the other without a clear win in draft seems unlikely, but come late game, Perkz will need to be able to keep up with SKT's late-game win condition in the form of Park "Teddy" Jin-seong.
It's easy to forget since SKT lost the series to G2 at MSI, but in game five of that series, it was Teddy on Varus that was slowly bringing the South Korean champions back into the game. It wasn't until a poor call to go for Baron combusted any hope of their comeback and wasted Teddy's efforts to claw himself into a position where he could have carried the team in a late-game team fight.
G2 can't hope for another series where SKT makes a short-sighted call around an objective to win them this series. If it comes down to a pivotal game five where both teams are too nervous to do anything in the opening 15 minutes and leads into a razor-thin end of the game, Perkz, unless he has a secret ace up his sleeve in terms of champion selection, will need to overcome an opponent that has been playing traditional marksmen far longer than he has.