BUSAN, South Korea -- After upsetting China's best, Royal Never Give Up, in the quarterfinals at the League of Legends World Championship, G2 Esports jungler Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski yelled "Hey guys, I'm really happy that we actually won because that means we beat the best Chinese team so that means we can also beat the second-best Chinese team. That probably also means that we can beat the third one!"
Top laner Martin "Wunder" Hansen jumped out of his seat and was immediately was brought into a fierce hug by mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perković. The two had been key components in G2's two-pronged attack that took down the first Chinese seed and tournament favorite RNG.
The G2 top laner is now the man of the hour as G2 have lumbered their way through quarterfinals, and now prepare for a presumably tough semifinal matchup against Invictus Gaming. The question that appeared during play-ins a month ago of whether the team is too reliant on Wunder's carry prowess has now morphed into a different question entirely: can G2's opponents shut down Wunder enough in order to beat G2?
Nearly a month ago, Wunder towered over his G2 Esports teammates. He and Jankos bowed first, and the others quickly following suit. For a player who could command the spotlight in and out of the game due to his performances on the Rift, Wunder has been comparatively camera-shy throughout this worlds tournament, letting his play primarily speak for itself.
Wunder began playing League of Legends due to his cousin's insistence and it was in his cousin's friend group that he met future teammate, mid laner Chres "Sencux" Laursen. Previously, Wunder had only played MMOs.
"I really liked the MOBA style so I started playing a lot of League," Wunder said. "I guess it all just happened that I eventually became good at the game and since I really like to be competitive I started joining teams and forming teams with [Chres "Sencux" Laursen] for small LANs here and there."
As Wunder continued to climb the ladder, he reached a crossroads in his education. He had received good grades in his elementary education and was accepted to a good school, yet wanted to see how far he could go playing League of Legends.
"It would be much more time consuming so I decided not to go anyways and take some kind of extra elementary school year while I pursued going pro in League," he said. "It was not a very hard decision and my parents were also very supportive and they didn't mind me taking an extra year to pursue this since the school system is forgiving."
Unlike many of his peers' experiences with convincing or dealing with parental resistance, Wunder's parents have been a consistent source of support for the top laner. Most recently, they showed up in South Korea to support him at the world championship, two G2 supporters that looked out over the crowd, an isolated, albeit tall, speck of grey and black in a crowd of predominantly Chinese and South Korean fans. They fly frequently to Wunder's events, learning about the game bit by bit each and every time.
"My family flying out to various events I qualify to is really great and helps a lot with the mood and everything," Wunder said. "Even though I can't go out and eat with them every day, since I have to practice for the event itself, it's still nice to have them around and I'm sure they're having fun as well and they often tell me how they would have never travelled to so many different countries if it wasn't for me and they're very grateful for that."
Wunder's career began to take off in 2016, when his Dignitas.EU lineup with Sencux became Splyce and made an unlikely run their rookie year to qualify for worlds as Europe's third seed.
"I really enjoyed playing with the Splyce lineup as we were all rookies and kind of experienced going through LCS together," Wunder said. "I felt like we all progressed really fast especially first year where we went from eighth place to second and going to worlds. I actually had a lot of good offers after our worlds run going into 2017, but I felt like we had so much more room to grow and I enjoyed playing with the team so I stuck with it for another year."
Although that Splyce roster hit a wall and went their separate ways the next year, Wunder said that he has no regrets sticking with the team for two straight years. That being said, despite being recognized as one of Europe's rising top laners, G2 was a significant step forward due to G2's domestic success over the past two years. Coming to G2 meant that Wunder had made it.
"Going into it I was not going to play with rookies but established names from the start," Wunder reflected. "So it was all very new to me and I felt like having different perspectives on the game really allowed me to grow more than having the same roster for two years."
Wunder is now a crucial part of G2's gameplan. As the meta has shifted into more solo-lane-focused gameplay, he's been a consistent, reliable top performer, first in Europe and now on League of Legends' largest stage.
What began as a shaky play-in performance, where G2 was accused of being overly-reliant on the top laner, in hindsight became a springboard for at least a semifinals berth.
"I don't think we were that awful in play-ins like people make it out to be," Wunder said. "But we definitely had some meta reading problems and we didn't fully commit to our flex picks and stuff that we do now, but it was for sure a clear advantage, that we could get more stage games and build some momentum and comfort for the group stage."
Momentum best describes G2's worlds experience this year, as the team has looked more assured each successive time they've stepped onto the Rift. Wunder's willingness to grow and reliability both in and out of lane is a pivotal factor in their worlds success.