League of Legends

Bwipo speaks on NA, fan backlash and playing at Worlds

With Fnatic’s League of Legends team having a solid showing at Rift Rivals and the team being 6-0 domestically, it almost feels like the sins of the Spring Split are forgiven. But the players of Fnatic haven’t forgotten. Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau took some of the brunt of the criticism in the Spring Split as many fans considered the sophomore top-laner to be washed up or a one hit wonder.

During Rift Rivals, GINX Esports TV’s Amanda Stevens spoke with Bwipo about the Spring Split, fan backlash, and playing at Worlds.

Credit: Riot Games

When you were on the LEC broadcast, you were asked if any of the North American top-laners were any good. Now that you are here and played everyone, how would you rate the North American top-laners? Are any of them even as good as you?

I mean sure, Impact is a really good player. The other two are decent but they make a lot of mistakes in the laning phase and I can expose those. Anyone can actually exploit them which is why I do not think they are great just yet, but I think if you iron those mistakes out, they are really good. When I play the game and I feel like I can cheat through doing basic things, then I do not feel like I am playing against someone that is on their A game.

Fnatic is currently 6-0 in the LEC, do you see yourselves maintaining that lead or do you think that maybe G2 is having too much happy League of Legends and that contributed to the win. Or do you think even if they played more of a standard comp, the outcome would be the same?

I think that they played a standard comp, but it just did not work out for them. And we can discuss how much of it was happy league, but like I said, there was basic mistakes and that type of cheating. That is what happened. I get a solo kill at level 2, it does not matter if it is Wunder or Caps, it is more so like Wunder would not make that mistake normally, but neither would Caps. 

You can say it was happy League of Legends because they made a mistake but I feel like that discredits any real bigger mistakes. There is just simple macro mistakes on a macro level that people would deem as mistakes whereas now, when people make simple mistakes it is just a happy mistake. It is their responsibility to not make those mistakes and whether they are having fun or not or playing happy League of Legends has nothing to do with the fact that it is a mistake, fair and square.

To go back to the question, do you guys think that you are in a form that you can potentially not drop a game this split because you have played most of the teams in LEC? Do you guys think that there is any team that can take a game against you?

Yeah, easily. We can never underestimate our opponents because it is stupid. There is no need to come out and say I am going to have an 18-0 split. If it happens, then that is something you can be happy about, but it is not something that you should be aiming for. I think you are aiming for every individual win.  

Even when we went 11-7 after going 3-7, even we were like, had we just won one more game against SK or Vitality or OG, then we might have been able to play for second place. Right now, we are just trying to win as many games so we can get that first or second seed. Then, if you get first place with an 18-0 record, then it is a happy surprise. What is truly important is getting that first and second seed.

Who do you think outside of G2 is your biggest competitor for that first and second seed. Do you think somebody like Splyce or Schalke have any potential to upset what people think is the natural order of Fnatic and G2? Where they end up is the debate and many can argue Origen being in that mid range.

Sure, I think it is definitely possibly to lose to any of those teams and all of those players. Maybe not all of them, but a few of their players can pull out clutch games. That is what makes the game fun. If you queue up and are better than someone and beat him 100 percent of the time, you can get sick of the game. If I always knew that queuing up into the game, they would have no chance. 

The game would get stale after a while. I feel like all of the players on that team are skilled enough to compete on an individual level, I think that is the big deal. It is important you can do that across the board against the top teams like OG, G2 and Fnatic. If you look across the board, these are all really talented players to play the game against because they are going to exploit you if you don’t.

The first time we did an interview was right before Spring Finals in 2018 and one of the things that struck me by the way you described yourself compared to a player like Wunder was that you said “It does not matter how well the matchup went. I feel like my four players on the Rift are stronger than anybody else on the Rift”. Fnatic has gone through an obvious change in the mid-lane, losing Caps. Do you still feel a year later that, across the board, Fnatic still has the top four players in other roles?

I think my perspective on the whole thing changed because I am no longer a substitute. When I was a substitute, I felt like it was my job to believe that because if I believed they were the best,  then I would make them feel like they were the best. Now that I am sharing that responsibility as a starter, to be the best, it is about dragging them up when something goes wrong. 

For the TSM game, I feel like I could have done that, but I choked in certain key moments. It is a bit frustrating, but I think that is the biggest part about being a starter vs a sub. You are there to make them better and enable them. It is not, everybody is trying to carry. When you are bringing in a substitute, the mindset is wanting the players to get a win and making sure players walk off the stage with a smile.

Credit: Riot Games

You guys are playing with Dan, the statement at the beginning of the split was that Dan and Broxah would be sharing stage time. You’ve been starting Broxah in the LEC and he has been smurfing on people. Dan has struggled a bit on stage here at Rift Rivals. As somebody who was in that substitute position, have you been able to share some advice to him and help him out?

Honestly, it is kind of hard because the situations are different. When I was coming in, I was not even considered. I was not going to see the light of day on stage. It was emergency only. That changed towards the end of spring. I feel like my performance -I think there is an advantage to only playing one game a day. As a sub you only play one game so you can give 120% of your energy to that one game and then ‘int the rest of the day in solo queue, all those losses don’t matter. If you need to smurf, you can. 

I feel like I did that really well and in the one game that really did matter,  I just tried to be the best that I could be and that caught on as people began to view me as really good. Unfortunately, I feel like it is difficult for me to help him in that sense because it is a different type of relationship too. Broxah did not make a first step forward in making him play. Soaz made the first step in asking if I could play one game a day of scrims. That is the biggest difference because Dan is way more about competing where Soaz was more about giving me a chance. 

I was talking to Broxah about the difficulty of schedule. There is a bit of a slog if you are not the number one seed in League of legends. You have to play the gauntlet to then doing the play-in stage and then if you are considered one of the best in your region, you play all stars. Then, you come back after a short break. If you look at the whole year with playoffs, MSI, Summer Split, Rift Rivals, it is a long year. Do you think that the way League of Legends is currently structured, is healthy for the players in preventing burnout?

For me, this is something that I took care of this year in finding personal support and this something or someone is my girlfriend. I felt like it was mandatory for me to do this because I am an emotional player. Everybody knows this, and they see the good side of it all the time. But, when I am down, they do not see it. I hide it, but it does exist and it happened in the Summer of 2018 when I played two games in playoffs and lost both. Soaz went to go onstage and win every game after that. It hurt that I was a liability for my team when I was normally considered a positive. Even though other people didn’t see it that way, that is how it felt for me. Having personal support was necessary for me at least to attack that burnout. 

It was not necessarily about burning out from playing too much because I am a player that is responsible with how much I play because productivity is more important than quantity. But even so, playing a healthy amount of games and being emotionally stable is important. Being emotionally stable and coming in happy is a really important and valuable trait within a team. Getting my girlfriend to move in with me and making a life with her would help me on a day to day basis of smiling and being happy.

It is interesting because when players lose, you do not get to hear that side of the story. In those immediate moments, what do you look for when you talk to your team? When that happens, do you immediately internalise it until you can talk to her or was there anybody on the team where you can share those feelings or do you separate that from the team environment?

It is very different from being a player. Me and Hylissang had a very personal bond. We bonded together and our day to day was me and him. I would normally wake up at 12:30 and rush to the office, but I changed that for Hylissang. He would wake up at 10am so I would wake up earlier at 11 so we can get some duo queue games in the morning. When we scrimmed together, we would play bot lane together and every single game, review, talks, matchups. It was a day to day grind. After scrims, during the break, we would eat together, scrims again, solo queue and then go to the gym together. We were together all the time. It just created a bond between me and him and I was able to talk to him, but once I was expected to play bot and top at the same time, our relationship disconnected a bit more. I had to play my top lane solo queue games and even though we still duo queued together, it was not the same. In general, there are people I can communicate with and Hylissang was one of them, but at that point, I just needed someone that did not know me. 

I felt like people would just judge based off of what I have done and not judge how I am now. I wanted to look at myself in the present moment and gauge if I was underperforming. I just want someone to understand, that it does not matter how well I play for the whole split. What matters now is that I get my shit together and I go kickass at Worlds. Which, I ran into my girlfriend and she did not know that I was a pro player and it just worked out. For me, she always felt like a special person to talk to and it just felt right. It is hard not to sound cheesy when I talk about my girlfriend because I have a lot of feelings for her and now that I have a good schedule and my routine is setup, I feel like I am going to be a lot stronger at Worlds this year.

You guys are looking like you will make playoffs and hopefully qualify for Worlds. How much time do you spend looking at IG, SKT, Griffin? How do you think the competitors are beginning to shape up? How much energy are you putting in preparing for those future opponents?

I don’t think that is something that I do. I like to just have one idea in mind. This is something that this team does, this is something that this player does and then keep that in mind. Other than that, I want to be reactive. I don’t mean that by being less proactive, but I want to react to the game. If the jungler starts pathing somewhere, I want to be ready. I do not want to come into practice and think this team only plays botside for example. I want to be able to respond to that immediately.

I do not want to have a thought where I need to play safe because it is a certain team. I want to make the most out of any situation for sure and I feel like I need to be aware of what is happening in the game. Rather than what people have a tendency to do. When it comes to competitors for me, what do they have the tendency to do and keep that in mind. But, I am still going to focus on what I can do best in that moment.

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