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Bwipo: “Yamato trusts me a lot with the champions I suggest”

Tom Matthiesen

Though their start was rough, Fnatic are steadily climbing back to the top tier contender they’ve been for years in Europe. After a shaky start to the Spring Split, with the team searching for a new identity with a new mid laner and AD Carry, the team is now on a four-game win streak in the LEC. Reason for Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau, one of the longest-standing pillars of the team, to be cautiously optimistic.

Bwipo is cautiously optimistic

Bwipo and Fnatic are steadily finding their new identity in the LEC. Image courtesy Riot Games.

After Fnatic’s victory over SK Gaming in the fourth week of competing, Bwipo sat down with us for an interview. He told us about locking in Riven for the game, which ended up being a massive carry for the team, and how he and the team decide on the wackier picks to lock in. Bwipo also spoke about getting on track with Fnatic in the Spring Split and the trust that’s put into him by his new Head Coach, Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi.

Hotspawn: Congratulations on the win, Bwipo! That was quite a crazy game, especially from you on the Riven. I can imagine you must feel elated right now.

Bwipo: Yes, it was a great opportunity to play a champion that I have been preparing for a long time. So, I’m glad that I actually spotted the opportunity. [Laughs] At first, when we were in the draft, I didn’t realize it. But then I went into a deep think, looking at all the champions. When I finally spotted Riven, I was like: “It’s a Riven game.” So I didn’t see it at first glance, but I’m happy I got to play this champion. I think she’s really strong and hopefully, she can enter the meta in some other spots. The new items make her quite strong.

Hotspawn: What lined up in the draft for you to realize that you can lock in Riven this game?

Bwipo: Well as I said, I had been preparing the champion for a while. So honestly, any excuse was an excuse to play her I guess. [Laughs] But it’s a champion that, in this particular composition, as long as you can get your spells off on Riven, you can do everything. The opponents didn’t have much crowd control other than the Alistar combo, and the lane matchup was more than doable. I don’t think Vladimir loses this lane in particular, but I can farm just fine. I think Riven scales super well, so I think the lane matchup was fine. I felt it was a comfortable Riven game.

Hotspawn: You came into this week off the back of a great showing against G2. Does momentum like that influence how comfortable and confident you are with playing a more ‘wacky’ pick?

Bwipo: Ehm, honestly not really. Not for me, at least. I always suggest what I think is the optimal champion, and champions that I think would also be good but could be more comfortable for my team to play with. I don’t want to hold them at gunpoint and tell them that my suggestion is the only champion I could play in that situation. It’s better to have options, and if my team is ok with me playing the champion I suggest, I will do that. I don’t play Riven here because I wanted to be spicy—it was because I genuinely thought that it was the best option.

Hotspawn: If I look back in the Split, this game against SK Gaming was perhaps the best game I’ve seen of Fnatic so far. Do you share this perspective?

Bwipo: I think we played a great game today, yeah. I think everyone had their standout moments. We had the Samira basically pentakilling them in the fight before Baron Nashor. A continuation of that was the double kill at the dragon going over to SK [laughs] but it happens. But yeah, in general, I think it was a standout performance from everyone. Hylissang was finding the engages in the bot lane, there were the follow-ups from Nisqy… It was a great game from everyone. Selfmade got to show off in the base a bit as well. Everyone got to shine a little bit.

I’m just happy to be in a team where people encourage playing champions like the Riven, and that they’re happy to play with it. I think that’s what makes it work better. I have a lot more confidence playing it right out of the gate then.

Hotspawn: In the weeks before, Fnatic has had quite a few games where things looked scrappy. Is it fair to say that the team is back on track now?

Bwipo: Hm, I would say: Give it a couple more best of ones to solidify that. [Laughs] I don’t think it would be good to say we’re fully back on track now. We’ve had some clean games in the past two weeks. The Astralis game, of course, wasn’t the cleanest. But the G2 game and the game we played today against SK, were pretty clean games. So I’d say let’s give it one more week after this one. Two more clean games, and then I’ll let you know if we’re on track. Right now, I think it’s too overzealous to say that we’re on track with just two clean games. It’s not that many, you know? You play eighteen games in the Split, of course. So I’d say we need at least four of five clean games, and then I’ll agree with you.

Hotspawn: Is at the core of things starting off shaky that you have those two new members on the team? After all, you’ve played with Hylissang for a long time, and with Selfmade for all of last year.

Bwipo: I would attribute most of it to new voices, new players. Also, we’re figuring out the meta and what we’re comfortable with playing. The first Gragas game I played was a disaster. Like, it was rough, you know? [Laughs] So all things considered, I think it’s a combination of many things. I think what got us to this point, where we’re looking really good, is the resilience of the team and the fact that we’re committed to fixing problems. Whenever there’s a problem in our team right now, we fix it by the end of the game. If something comes up when we’re playing a scrim game, we make sure we deal with it and that everyone is over it.

We take the time to address the issue, and then we move forward. I think we do that with every single issue we have, inside and outside of the game. No day ends with feelings crossing over to the next day. I have to say a huge thanks to the coaching staff for facilitating that for our team.

Hotspawn: That’s a great segway into the next topic. Yamato is a very different coach from Mithy, with his own approach. So, how has it been to work with Yamato so far in the Split?

Bwipo: I can say nothing but good things about it. It’s been a great experience so far, and I think we’re doing very well. It’s hard to describe how Mithy worked with the team. I had really good experiences with him, actually, so it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it was he did well. But the thing I like about Yamato is that he trusts me a lot with the champions that I suggest and the preparation I do with them. Obviously, I have to prove to him that it was worth putting in the effort first. [Laughs]

But at this stage, he really trusts me to find the right picks and find good opportunities. Having that kind of trust with the coaching staff really makes me feel like I’m worth the amount of resources that I’m taking. I’m taking quite a bit of resources I think—that’s how I feel, at least—so the fact that my team and my coach trust me to do that and still put the game in a good position feels very comfortable for me.

It’s a really nice place to be in. So all things considered, I think Yamato is doing great. Shoutout to Tolki as well, he’s doing a lot of good work. And Fabian, our Performance Coach, is putting in a lot of work too. And then there’s Chris, our manager, and he’s doing a really good job as well. Honestly, our whole coaching staff and staff structure, in general, have been doing really well this year. I think people behind the scenes don’t get enough credit when they do their job well.

Hotspawn: I fully agree with that!

Bwipo: On the flip side, when they don’t do their job well, they also don’t get much flack. [Laughs] So I guess it works both ways. Not to throw any shade on people, but it’s just something I’ve noticed. I feel that, when people do their job well, it’s nice to say a thank you.

Hotspawn: Lastly, I want to talk about your perspective on the top teams in the LEC. For so long, it’s been G2 and Fnatic as the undisputed best teams in the league. Now, however, we have a team like Rogue who’s looking insanely strong. Is this the year that the top grows larger in the LEC?

Bwipo: I mean, honestly, it kind of was like that. It’s always been top three in a way, but it depends on what your perspective is, right? Are you looking at who’s going to play in the finals? Are you looking at who finishes where in the regular Split? If you ask me who are going to play in the finals: then yeah, it’s hard for me to make any arguments for Rogue still. In best of ones, they’ve always performed very well, right? Last year in Summer, they were the first team at the end of the regular Split. So, whether or not they can continue that form in the Playoffs has always been the question. They got very close last year, I’m not taking that away from them. So it’s a matter of seeing how far they can push that.

Fnatic play against Vitality next in the LEC, on February 19 at 10 PM CET.