2019 was a mixed year for Schalke 04 in the LEC. The Spring Split ended disappointingly, with the Royal Blues ending seventh out of the ten participating teams. However, it turned around in the Summer Split. Schalke ended the regular season as fourth, and managed to qualify for the Summer Split Playoffs in Athens, chasing a ticket to the World Championship. Unfortunately for them, they were trumped by Fnatic, ending Schalke's competitive year right there, in Greece.
We had a chat with Felix "Abbedagge" Braun, Schalke's mid laner who debuted for the team at the start of the year. He spoke about what 2019 looked like for him, peaking back over his shoulder at the results. Furthermore, Abbedagge shared his thoughts on the three new teammates he'll be playing with in 2020, and rates his team's chances in the LEC.
I first want to take a look back at the competitive year for you and Schalke 04. In an interview with The Shotcaller you said you hoped to be Rookie of the Split. How do you look back on that period now?
Yeah I mean, at the start of the Split I was really confident in myself. I thought I had a good chance of becoming Rookie of the Split, but obviously it didn't work out as much. I think it had a lot to do with how the team as a whole was performing too.
Yeah, what was going on with the team in the Spring Split? As we saw in the Summer Split, you guys had the potential to end higher.
I think we had a couple of patches that weren't in our favor, so we couldn't really play what we wanted to play. We had thought of a strategy for picks and bans, and we had practiced for that, but than the patch just didn't make it viable. It didn't fit the team identity. So then we tried to play simple stuff, but that also didn't work out.
When you talk about team identity, do you just mean the patches that didn't fit Schalke's style, or were team dynamics also off?
I would say it was mostly the patches that didn't work in our favor, so we didn't really know what to play.
In the Summer Split you guys recovered, and got fourth in the regular season. Was that also because of patches, did you guys bootcamp a lot, or was there something else?
I think we started bootcamping like a month, month and a half before the start of the Summer Split. We tried to figure out what we wanted to do. But a big change for us was Trick, the new jungler we got then. We didn't really have someone who would say what they wanted to do during the game, and that's what he did. He was like a team captain during the game.
The Summer Split ended with you guys going to Athens. What were your expectations?
I think we had a good chance, just from what I saw from us. We had the potential.
You guys fell short of making it through. What did you learn from that?
Hm, let me think for a second... During preparation for Athens we basically came up with a pretty risky strategy. We thought that it could either give us the edge to win, or it would fall flat. And then, obviously, it didn't work out. I don't think the gap between us and Fnatic was that large in Athens. We had scrimmed against them, and we did pretty well there.
The narrative for European League of Legends is that, at the moment, only G2 and Fnatic are true competitors on the international stage. Since you felt that Schalke and Fnatic weren't too far apart around Summer, what is your perspective on this?
Well it's hard to disagree with that narrative, right? They are the only teams that have delivered results on an international stage. I think there have been other European teams in the past that were also that good, but at the moment I think at least the past year only those teams were at that level.
I think what's also a difference is that Fnatic has such a good mindset. Not that we were feeling bad or something, but they were just able to play like they normally would. I've been on a big stage too, but there is just something about them that makes them perform internationally. It's like they flipped a switch or something.
Now that we're in the offseason, many rosters have changed, and so has Schalke's. Let's talk a bit about your new teammates, and let's start with FORG1VEN. When did you hear the team was going to bring him in?
Three weeks ago, I think, they told me that they were thinking of adding him to the team. I was pretty excited, but I was mostly just curious about how he was going to perform. He has been away from the big stage for quite a long time, so you have to see how good he still is. If he still knows how to play, and still got it.
And? Has he still got it?
Yes, he's still good. We haven't been scrimming for very long but you can tell he knows a lot about the game and still plays well.
Since he's such a veteran, has he taken on that role of team captain, like Trick was?
FORG1VEN isn't really vocal in the game itself. He tries to bring up a lot of ideas outside of the game, like how he thinks the game should be played, how he views teamfights and so on. He says how he thinks we should play around the bot lane, but he doesn't say, like, how mid or top should play.
So he coaches more on direct gameplay than overall strategies?
Another player that joined is Dreams, who came over from SK Gaming. When was he brought up to you, as players, and what are your thoughts about him joining?
We heard about Dreams around the same time as about FORG1VEN, I think. So like three weeks ago. I think he was probably the best player on his old team, SK. I think he's gonna do a good job.
How is the dynamic between him and FORG1VEN during the scrims?
I mean, they still have to figure a lot of it out. They only started playing last week, and they just have different playstyles. So yeah they've just been practicing a lot, but I think they will have it figured out before the season starts. They are making progress. They just have different ideas about how they want to play, so they have to find a style together.
Lastly we have Gilius, who came over as jungler. What do you think about him?
He's also coming back from a pretty long break from the LCS stage. He likes to play very aggressively, and I think he needs to adjust a little bit more for the style the team is trying to have. I'm sure he'll do well.
There are a couple of teams in the LEC that are bringing in new players, rookies. You guys, on the other hand, are bringing in veterans. What's the train of thought?
I think it's mostly just how it worked out. There wasn't a specific reason, I think. And I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m not sure what the teams hiring so many rookies are trying to do. I think it will take time to work.
Given the roster changes that have happened in the LEC, how do you rate Schalke 04's chances in 2020?
I think I would place us around the top four teams.
So, third, fourth, fifth?
Nah I think third, fourth, maybe second.
Oh, second! So you think the roster you have now would be able to trump Fnatic or G2?
I think our team dynamic, compared to last year, is maybe less consistent now, but has a higher ceiling. I'm not saying we had worse players last year, but I think we have a lot of experience in the team now. I think the dynamic gives us more potential for 2020.
Then finally: is there anything you want to say to the fans supporting you and Schalke?
Watch out for us. Also thanks for the support of course. But I think next year Schalke will make it a very interesting Split. So look out!
Images via Riot Games
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.