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Bwipo: “We definitely need to step up if we want to contest for the title”

Tom Matthiesen

Fnatic fans sighed a deep sigh of relief last Friday, when their team defeated SK Gaming 3-1 in the lower bracket of the LEC Spring Split Playoffs. Now the team is up against Schalke 04 Esports, who made reigning champions G2 Esports sweat, bringing it to a fifth game. Fnatic top laner Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau realizes that his team needs to step it up if they want to keep their hopes of winning the title alive.


Bwipo is critical of Fnatic’s play, but remains hopeful for the LEC Spring Split Playoffs. Image courtesy of Michal Konkol for Riot Games.

After the victory over SK Gaming, Bwipo spoke to us about his team’s performance. He went in-depth about the mistakes Fnatic makes and how their communication is at the root of it all. Bwipo also looked forward to the rest of the Playoffs and what his team needs to do to stay in the race for the championship.

Hotspawn: Thank you for joining, Bwipo, and congratulations on the victory! That was a much closer series than many thought it would be—with what feelings are you walking away from the series?

Bwipo: I think it was a pretty sloppy series on our end, but we won through the things that we were doing. So it’s good that we can leverage our strengths to victory. I think that that’s the most important part of any team. Outside of that… Well that was my main takeaway, really. [Laughs]

It was a pretty sloppy game, but our bot lane and jungle played well in the early game, mid lane played well, I was trying my best to survive. I didn’t manage to do too good of a job at that in the last game, but other than that, I think I did a pretty good job. I guess in the Karma games, I could’ve done better, but in the other games I was surviving well, farming up well, and that was that.

Hotspawn: Can you tell me a bit more about the preparation for the series? How did you try and target SK Gaming?

Bwipo: They are a team that requires their bot lane to win. When they lost, they lost relatively fast, and their AD Carry fell very far behind. So we knew that, if we would play to our strengths, we would be having a good time. It was as simple as that. [Laughs] Nothing really happened on the top side for them during most of the games. So we looked for some early ganks in the first two games and that worked out pretty well for us. Ultimately, in games three and four, we decided to just play a hyperscaling top laner and play the game from there. Just play Karma and scale up.

Hotspawn: Throw some Q’s here and there.

Bwipo: Yeah! I mean, in game three I was throwing some shields, in game four I was throwing some Q’s. That’s how it went.

Hotspawn: We already saw your bot lane being very strong during the regular Split. So, in preparation, was there more focus on figuring out the meta and the champions you wanted to play, rather than figuring out how to play around the bot lane?

Bwipo: Hm, it was a bit of both, I guess. Being more coordinated and being able to play around it was important. Even though our bot lane was usually performing very well, it didn’t always translate to victories for us. So we made sure that we were much better at playing around our bot lane as well as addressing some of the meta picks, figuring out what we consider to be the best thing to play.

Hotspawn: After a comfortable first game win, you guys lost the second game despite being quite far ahead. Did you guys have an easy time brushing off that loss and just focus on the third game?

Bwipo: We spent a lot of the time in-between the games to make sure that we were reset mentally. Everyone was making sure that they understood ‘It doesn’t matter what happened. Next game.’ Based on our performance, I would say it worked. [Laughs]

Hotspawn: In the post-series interview on the broadcast, I heard you say that your team need to focus more on coordinating plays. Can you give me more insight as to what is going wrong, and why you guys have a difficult time pinning down what to do?

Bwipo: I don’t necessarily think it’s a difficult time, or that we are having a hard time communicating. It’s more that we make our play very well, and then the way out is where we kind of mess up, if that makes sense. [Laughs] Let’s put it like this: we’re a very good team at pulling the heist off, but getting out is where we are having a hard time. We get in, we get what we want, and then often things go wrong.

Hotspawn: To the viewer, it seems like the team overstays its welcome. I’ll simplify it a bit but: instead of chasing more and overextending, why don’t you guys just walk away after a fight?

Bwipo: I mean, it’s a matter of following up and who still is going. So, for example: me and Hylie commit to a play, and the other people follow up. But then the people who followed up still have some spells or some tools left in order to continue the fight. But Hylie and I don’t, so we start backing off and they start walking up. That’s where it gets awkward. In that moment, we don’t sync up fast enough to either follow up immediately, or back off together. What ends up happening is that there is a little split. It’s in that moment that the enemy team gets to pick us off or look for another opportunity. I think that’s usually the case.

For example, it happened today. Nisqy was playing Azir, and we wanted to fight. Everyone started backing off, and then he used his E to go in. There, for example, if we’re all still committing and still are looking with him, maybe their Kai’Sa can’t turn it around because we’re all near Nisqy. But because we were a bit split up, they turned it around. The point being: we picked the fight, things happened, we backed off, and in that moment we cross each other, but we didn’t adapt. Some people kept going, and we were going the other way.

Hotspawn: [Laughs] You’re looking over your shoulder, seeing them run past you!

Bwipo: Yeah, exactly. [Laughs] That’s something we need to work on a little bit. We need to make sure that we’re on the same page in that moment.

Hotspawn: How is that something you can improve, other than just playing more games together?

Bwipo: It’s a state of awareness, you know? It happens because there is a disconnect. Should we leave now, because we got what we wanted? Or are we still following up because we have some tools left? In the end, it’s definitely an individual skill thing. You need to be able to tell what’s going on. It’s a mental thing as well, asking if it’s even worth taking the risk and take another fight there. The combination of those two things is what makes it a little bit tricky, and I’m not 100% sure myself how we can figure it out.

Hotspawn: Let’s look at the positives now: you guys won and advance in the bracket. How do you foresee you guys’ progression for the remainder of the Playoffs?

Bwipo: I think we need to play much better League of Legends in order to compete for the title. That’s a given. I think that for our next best of five, if we play like this, it will be a close series at best. There is a chance we play Rogue, for example, and then it will be very rough for us if we play at this level. I think we definitely need to step up if we want to contest for the title.

Hotspawn: So what’s the next step of improving going to look like for Fnatic, then?

Bwipo: I think the ultimate secret to winning the Playoffs and having a good performance is cleaning up your gameplay. The thing about League of Legends and stage matches in general—this is also something about playing on stage—is that cleaning up your play will go a looong way. You make sure that you get your early game dragons—we’re already doing this, we have a strong bot lane, our jungler is getting dragons well.

If we clean up the rest of the map, make sure we have a solid early game, no awkward stuff, stack our dragons… We’ll probably have a good game! Can you lose that game? Absolutely. But the thing is: that level of League of Legends is where small differences are what make the ultimate difference between winning or losing. Reaching the point where there is a team with two dragons and you’re contesting with priority at 17+ minutes, you’re looking for that dragon: that is where draft makes the difference. It’s not so much about players.

At this point, most players in the LEC, if not all of them, can execute the draft. It’s just a matter of getting there. You make sure that you can effortlessly get to that third dragon stage with a draft that will win a dragon fight. And you play the game. I think, for us, we’re doing that well. But in between these dragon spawns, there are some moments where we falter and things go wrong. I think that’s what we need to be improving on.

Hotspawn: Just because you did mention the stage: how did it feel to be back in the studio? Were you back home?

Bwipo: It felt very good! It didn’t feel like home, but there are a lot of memories here. It was a fun series, it was nice to be back. It was like a warm-up series, I guess. I mean no disrespect: the enemy team played some solid League of Legends. Jenax played very well later on in the game. I don’t want to disrespect them by saying it’s a warm-up. [Laughs] They played their hearts out.

Hotspawn: It was more of a wake-up call then, this series. Realizing it’s Playoffs time and you really have to go in?

Bwipo: I mean, it was a wake-up call in the sense that we were really smashing them in game one and two. We were 10k gold up, and we were thinking ‘holy moly, what a free win,’ you know? But then we lost, so we had to make sure that we didn’t do that again. The losing part, let’s stop doing that. I think that’s basically the moral of the story of Fnatic, honestly. This year, at least, I think that we’re in a great spot, generally speaking. Many of the games were in the palms of our hands and we managed to throw it. It’s something that we need to continue to stop doing. It’s not that easy of course. [Laughs] But that’s the goal.

Bwipo and Fnatic’s next playoffs match is against Schalke 04 on Friday, April 2nd, at 6 PM CEST.