After Fnatic's 3-0 win over G2 in the EU LCS Spring Finals, Blitz Esports sat down with Fnatic top laner Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau, an unexpected substitute for sOAZ following his recent injury. As it turns out, Bwipo was being considered for playoffs even before that injury, and he also thinks his team is just "really, really fucking good."
In one month you've gone from Fnatic sub to winning the European title. How does it feel, and what does this mean for you?
I think, for me personally, I got to prove that I was good enough to compete at the top, if not the best. Rekkles said in a post game lobby a while ago, he was like, "Wunder, sOAZ, and Bwipo are top 3 for sure, like they're the top three top laners and every other top laner doesn't really play the game," or something along those lines.
So it was getting to prove to myself and the team that I can step into the shoes of sOAZ, because he's the superstar top laner that's been in Fnatic. He's the second face of Fnatic, basically. The second player you're gonna think of after Rekkles is sOAZ, and being able to prove that I can play just as well if not better than him means a lot to me, because I have a lot of respect for Paul.
How did it feel matching up against Wunder, who many touted as the best top laner in EU, and showing you can hold your own?
Despite all the trash talk, I do admit that I held back in the laning phase because I knew, across the board, I had the better players on my team, which means my stats in the early game looked pretty bad, and I even choked on some deaths.
But like I said, I knew that when it comes to team fights, I have the better players, and I'll be able to outperform him in the 5v5 setting, because I feel very comfortable team fighting. I think is one of the traits I have best, is that no matter how far behind or ahead I am, I will outperform or at least match the enemy's top laner in the 5v5 setting.
Were you a Fnatic fan before you joined the team?
What makes you a fan?
For me, rather than a fan, I looked up to Fnatic. I wasn't a fan as in, "Oh, I'm never going to reach these players," it was more like these players, this is what I want to be.
For example, Rekkles, he's always struck me as a player that will always try hard until the end. No matter how hard he gets 'inted' in solo queue or whatever, he's always going to make sure he's trying his hardest to win the game, and if you give him any edge, any inch, he'll take a mile, if not more than that. And then there's obviously sOAZ. I think he's the most accomplished Western player of all time, and that speaks for itself right? I play the same role as him. I get to be around him, around all these big names. Caps and Broxah are obviously up and coming as well. They've been here for a year now, they showed their worth at Worlds, and Hyli as well, you know what I mean? There's YoungBuck, Hyli, Dylan, everybody in our team is just really, really fucking good.
So this is the first title win for Fnatic since the dominant 2015 roster. Do you think your current roster can go on to represent Europe as the best team as they did?
I think what's very important for us is that we figure out the meta very fast, because I believe the new patches, or the patch that MSI will be played at, will be very different for a lot of champions. I think what's important is that we find our own style again, because as you saw in the series, we were banning the carry top laners.
After everything I said, at the end of the day, we were the guys banning Camille even though I'm good on it. We were the guys banning Fiora because we didn't want that in our games, because we knew we were going to beat them anyway if we just forced a tank versus tank top lane matchup. That's what we even agreed on before the series. I told several people: the second they lock in a tank versus tank, they concede the series.
That being said, I think internationally we're going to have to step it up. We're going to have to be able to play through the top lane, play the carries, and depending on how the meta shifts, that's going to favor us or be a detriment towards our lineup. I think for me personally, I'm very comfortable in the carry role, but if I get to decide, I'd rather be on the tank and just ride the wave of my team, just ride the flow. If they want to do stuff, I'll make sure that they have the room to that.
Now that you've qualified for MSI, as usual, people think the best teams are either from Korea or China. What do you think about these teams?
Rather than the team, I look at the top laners. TheShy? This guy is known for—one of the Riven combos was named after this guy! When it comes to mechanics, he has to be the best, if not equally skilled as Khan, who is the next guy in line. It's Khan, Ssumday from NA 100 Thieves, Impact from Team Liquid, like these kind of names... I grew up as a player, my career went up and up watching these guys play.
I can see you're very excited to be among those top laners.
Of course, because for me, what's important is that I can prove that I can compete with them or beat them. Winning or losing, I think the first step comes from me is can I beat these players? Can I compete with them? And once I can compete with them, I think I can fill my role on the team, and we can play our own game to win.
That being said, I don't know if we're the favorites or whatever, because they've been playing on the new patch more than we have, and I do think it's very important for us to figure out how the patch works for us. I think it's good for us, because I've generally been relatively flexible. I think Martin is very flexible as a player, Caps is very flexible. Broaxh is too and Hyli is too, so all around I feel like, when it comes to meta shifts, we're going to be the quickest to pick it up when it comes to Europe, because all our players are very skilled individually and grind the most hours I've ever seen a professional team grind. Like, If you look at our solo queue stats, I believe we smash every other team in terms of hours put in. It's crazy.
Is there a specific team, player, or region you really want to take down at MSI?
Take down is obviously—it's really hard not to be cocky—but who I want to take down? Kingzone.
We looked at Kingzone, and we were like, "We want to be Kingzone." We want to be this team, we want to be these guys who just roll over early game, play Jayce, play Taliyah, play Galio, just smash early game with Olaf. I think they're like... they're insane. They're so good, and if I had a choice to take anybody down, it would be them if possible.
Usually people say Korea, but is there any other team or player—
Invictus Gaming for sure. TheShy, like I said, Rookie, there are some big names on that team, and they're big and scary. They're scary names, it would be lovely to fight them.
Even Team Liquid, right? Doublelift? Impact? Even Pobelter. These are all cool people from what I can tell because I don't know them very well, but I'd love to get to meet them, play against them, and just get the entire experience.
At the end of the day, I've been here for what, for a split? Not even. A few months, and then suddenly I get thrown into MSI most likely. I'm not sure how it's going to go with Paul, whether I get subbed or he gets subbed, I really don't know who's going to be starter position. What it looks like is I'll be playing the start of MSI, considering he has to recover on all this stuff. But I don't have any dates. I don't have any time. We don't even know when the boot camp is happening exactly, but it is coming. So just think about it! I get to go bootcamp in Korea. That's awesome!
Have you ever bootcamped there before?
I've never bootcamped in Korea. I've been there for a week for an IEM back when I played for Dark Passage, but that wasn't exactly anything special.
I'll actually be in there for a long period of time, purely for the sake of practice and tryharding. That's what I'm looking forward to. And then just competing internationally, hopefully. I don't know how we're going to do with sOAZ quite yet, but from what I've seen, we were considering starting me regardless of what happened to sOAZ. So yeah, there was a good chance that I was going to be playing this finals regardless of what happened.
You've said your mom is one of your biggest supporters, and today you definitely made her proud. Any words you'd like to say to her?
I can't thank her enough. There's really no words to describe what my mother did for me. I've said plenty, but having that blind trust in your son to go into something that she had no understanding of is something that—I don't know. I don't think I have words to describe how impressive that is, that she let me... she let me be me. And she had 100 percent trust that I could make it as long as she gave me the time, and that's what she did, because two years is a long ass time.
One thing is, I'm going home on Monday, and she doesn't know. So hopefully I get to give her a big surprise. It's really hard for me to say anything to my mom without saying too little.
And to finish up with some gameplay: NA bans Gangplank all the time, but here in EU you see it go through a lot. What do you think is the reason for this?
I think it's a matter of both. I think Gangplank is a champion where, right now we're seeing very stale lanes a lot. You're seeing tanks just farm up until banner, and then they get banner, and then they minion dematerializer each other's banners for the next 5 minutes—not even 5, 15 minutes—and then nothing happens really, and then there's just crit AD carries that are scaling like Xayah, Rakan. The bot lane supports are like Braum versus Tahm, the only time's these champions are dying in lane is if there's a hard forced jungle gank when they have full information on the enemy jungle, but that's where the Tracker's Knife change comes in, right?
Back then, you could just ward a side of the jungle, and if he was there, you could make the play on the other side. If he wasn't there, you could assume he's there, right? Now you don't have the info, so if you're like, "I want to dive this guy top," you have to think twice, because the enemy jungler could be there, I have no idea what he was doing. Even seeing the teams, they fake leash, or don't leash at all, everyone starts lane, and the jungler is soloing with the Olaf, the Skarner, the Trundle, and that makes it hard to predict pathing. You don't know where people are, so people are scared of making a proactive play unless they have all five involved. And even then, oftentimes there's no need to make the play. We don't feel forced.
And Gangplank in that type of meta is the best champion, has to be one of the best champions. Camille is in the same league, but Camille is a little different there, but Gangplank is, it's just the ideal setting for him, it's the ideal meta setting. And I think that, in NA, the games are even slower than in EU, and having his global ultimate so that you can be proactive is—like I say, I think the biggest strength Gangplank has is that, if you don't know where the enemy jungler is, he gives you so much time to make the cross-map play because of his ultimate.
So why do you think that he went through a lot of drafts? Do teams just play faster and figure him out better?
I don't think so at all, I just think it's a matter of stylistic difference in the sense that people feel more comfortable having just a beefy tank up front, because a Gangplank does take more skill to execute as a team as a whole, not only individually.
The laning phase, there's a risk when you pick Gangplank, that risk of he can go 0-3 very fast in certain matchups. We saw this happening against Ornn for example.
So I think he's permabanned because scrims differ, for example our scrims are really fast paced, without saying too much of course is that generally speaking there's just way too many kills in 15 minutes to mimic the stage experience. And when it doesn't work in scrims, people are hesitant of doing it.
We didn't pick GP even though it's one of my favorites, one of my personal favorites and definitely something we considered a lot. We played it a lot coming in here, in the semifinals I played it twice. He's my go-to "I'm 1v3, I'm on the island, I'm safe" champion, and I just think that for this series, like we said, if we get tank versus tank, we cannot lose, so we just decided not to take it ourselves, and if they wanted it, whatever man. That was the idea.