Splyce has many reasons to celebrate as of late. After trouncing Team ROCCAT in a 2-0 showdown this week, morale was strong on coach Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi's squad, which was riding the high off of strong performances from Chres "Sencux" Laursen and Martin "Wunder" Hansen.
From two high schoolers who were casual gamers to contenders for the top spots in the European LCS summer split, it's been a long and bumpy ride. For Wunder, it involved important changes: one to his player handle, and the other to his role.
A quick Google search would enlighten anyone as to why he shortened his in-game name from "Wunderwear" to its current iteration: It is an underwear trademark. But that is not the sole reason he changed his nickname, which he borrowed from a cousin's World of Warcraft character: "I felt like when you search my name, and when you try to find me on social media, it's a bit easier to have a short name that you can say really easily and search upon that no one has."
The second change may come as a surprise to those who didn't see him evolve through solo queue, from Silver in Season 2 to Diamond 1, 99 LP in Season 4 (before Riot accommodated such players with a Master rank). You see, Wunder was not always a top laner.
Back when he, another cousin and Sencux used to sit for hours in a row during summer vacations, he would gank opponents from the jungle with pick-centric champions and duelists such as Lee Sin, Elise and Nocturne. But the emergence of tankier team fighters in the role early in Season 4 made jungling boring. Seeking a change of pace, he noticed that the top lane landscape in Europe fell extremely short of impressive, to say the least. "At the time, I felt like there were really bad top laners in EU, and in Denmark as well," he noted.
Top lane was far from boring for him early on. "I played a lot of cheese champs, one-trick - LeBlanc top, Akali top sometimes," he recalls. "I had fun in solo queue, but eventually I had to learn top lane champs. The meta champs were really strong, and you couldn't play a lot of random stuff."
Wunder grew to prefer the role for its ability to have a bigger impact on the game compared to the jungler. Soon enough, he and Sencux joined forces, this time to take on Europe's challenger scene. With Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup alongside them for the majority of their run, they reached the Challenger Top 8 by July 2014, then ranked among the best throughout 2015 under Team Dignitas' banner. But when they qualified to the LCS in late 2015, Dignitas had to choose between keeping its landmark NA team and its promising yet unproven European squad, per Riot's rules.
This is where Marty "LazerChicken" Strenczewilk, owner of Follow eSports (later Splyce), entered the picture. "We were like 'Follow eSports? Who's Follow eSports?' when we got sold," Wunder notes. When he first met with LazerChicken, "he seemed like a really genuine and nice guy. We were pretty happy. He met up with us in Copenhagen, even, so it was a pretty big commitment from him. It was the start of a nice relationship."
The relationship started blossoming as soon as the organization provided its team with a coaching staff headed by YamatoCannon. There was also a support staff that managed day-to-day matters: food, setup and other needs of the five young professional League of Legends players. YamatoCannon was instrumental in developing his players' understanding of the game, and the team gradually moved out of the bottom tier.
The process may have seemed slow to onlookers, but the squad did not falter. Wunder notes that he and his teammates knew that they lacked the experience another Challenger-to-pro squad, Origen, had developed. He then adds: "Our motivation stems from us being really good friends and [being] happy even after a loss. We would shake it off and would be like, 'We lost, it kinda sucks, but we will still practice with each other because we like each other and we are happy in this environment.' When we won, the few times that we won, we celebrated really hard."
Following a rough acclimation to the LCS stage and its pressures, Wunder noticed the gap in skill between Splyce and established squads: macro play. Teleports were off, communication jitters occurred, and the players' overall understanding of the game was relatively low. But a nearly perfect game against Fnatic in Week 6 of the spring split served as a landmark victory and attested to Splyce's improvement.
Since then, Splyce has become a front-runner for one of the top three spots in the league. "I feel like in mid and late game, we're the best team in the league right now, and that says a lot," declares Wunder, noting the progress the squad has made. "I think we could improve our early game, and that's basically it. Our early game needs work, and Yamato has helped us get all the basics, and even more now in the split."