He has performed on the biggest stages League of Legends esports has to offer: Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau. This weekend Fnatic's top laner has joined pro colleagues and fans from all over the world in Las Vegas for the 2019 All-Stars event. It's going quite well so far too: with EU he beat NA, and he has made it to the semifinals of the 1v1 tournament.
We caught up with Bwipo for a lengthy chat about the departure of his mentor and Fnatic mascot Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen to Team Liquid, Fnatic's new jungler Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek, and the lessons Bwipo has learned the past year.
Welcome to Vegas! How are you liking the event so far?
Thank you! It's been great. I really enjoy it. Obviously I don't really get to enjoy the 'Vegas part' of it, because I'm 20. I'm not quite 21—that's happening on the 24th. I'm a Christmas child, or like a Christmas Eve kid. So it comes with its pros and cons, and aging late in the year is one of the cons.
But do you get twice as many gifts?
I used to, when I was a kid. Nowadays I'm successful enough to get my own gifts usually. And generally speaking I'm pretty happy with just a computer and getting to grind League, so most of the gifts are going towards my family and my girlfriend.
That's very nice! Let's talk about Worlds. In 2018 Fnatic made it to the finals, and but lost to IG. What are the main factors that influenced your team's average performance this year, where you didn't make the finals?
Confidence is a huge deal, in general. I feel like, personally, it's a huge deal for us, especially for me and Hylissang. We feel comfortable setting the pace of the game, and I feel like when we lose that, and it's not me and Hylie dictating the game, it gets kind of difficult for us find the right fights. We get swept up in the pace of the enemy. Me and Hylie are very emotional players, so when the pace is going the enemy's way, we're gonna make emotional decisions to try and get the pace back. This can backfire quite often, and I think that's one of the reasons why we lost against IG last year, as well as this year against FPX.
In 2020 Broxah won't be on Fnatic—he's joining Team Liquid. How do you think he's going to do?
I think he's gonna do great. I think Broxah is the best teammate you can find in League of Legends esports. The amount of compassion he brings to the team, as well as having a calm personality, it just makes you feel comfortable around him. At least, I always did, and I'm sure that most of my teammates felt comfortable around Broxah, and felt like he was reliable as well.
Outside of that, the thing is, you can't really say anything bad about him, right? He might not be Faker-levels of individual gameplay, or Tian-levels, or whatever you wanna say, but he can always compete with the best. I think that's what is most important. He can always contest them. At the very least he can contest them, and if his teammates have his back, I feel like he can come out on top on pretty much any given day.
I think that's the biggest strength. The combination of how good of a teammate he is, and how nice it is to have him on your team because of his personality, on top of the fact that he does have the individual skill to compete with the best, make him a huge asset for any team, in my opinion.
Is it hard to see a teammate go?
It's mostly Broxah. I sat next to that guy for like 80% of my career. He was always there, right? Just as a personality and someone that was always very caring of me. He always made sure that I was comfortable, and I'm sure he did the same with my other teammates. That's what was so great about him. I always felt like he cared. He actually cared about me, not how well I performed on stage. Obviously it was important that I was performing and it obviously influence his opinion, and that's normal right? But ultimately he cared about me, and when there was a lot of stress on me or anything like that, he made sure that I was ok, and he personally addressed me to make sure that I felt like I was a part of the team.
That is something that I'm definitely gonna bring over to as many teams as I can in my career. Be it Fnatic for the next 10 [years] or whatever team I end up on, this is something I learned from him and I feel like I owe it to him to give the same treatment to my newer teammates.
How do you think that Selfmade is going to do in your team? Are you excited about the change?
Well I basically told Fnatic in the offseason that they're playing with fire, making this decision. We're gonna have a ridiculous amount of very strong opinions. The thing is that me and Hylie obviously have our own opinion, and we feel very strongly about them. So having Selfmade and Nemesis—obviously them being a duo right, they go way back—they're going to share their opinion and then Rekkles is gonna have a third opinion. It's gonna be three really strong opinions, that are all gonna have a different outlook on the game at times.
I told [Fnatic]: You can go with this lineup, if you're confident that you can find a coach that can wield the fire you're playing with. If Mithy can actually wield the fire, you're gonna have one of the best lineups you can find. You're gonna have a lineup that can beat G2, contest G2. I'm confident. We already did. In my opinion this lineup can have more potential, because the players feel more comfortable working together—specifically mid and jungle will feel much more comfortable working together, which I think was a huge deal in why Fnatic didn't find much success consistently.
Our mid/jungle was a bit in shambles at times, and it never really formed. Ever since Spring, it was never really a thing, and I felt like one was always trying to compensate the other, rather than working together to be a whole. Bringing in Selfmade will hopefully change that, creating a situation where it's going to be a mid/jungle unit.
What do you think we can expect of Fnatic in 2020?
Contesting for the title. Both LEC and Worlds. I think this should be the expectation—I think it's very possible. Again, I think that individually we've got the talent, and again, the fact that we brought a jungler in that already has shown promise with Nemesis and is able to work together with him a long period of time—two years in MAD Lions, I believe, or at least one—points me in the direction to believe that it'll make our mid/jungle unit much stronger. I don't think it was necessarily Nemesis' or Broxah's fault, I just feel like they didn't match, which is why it was so difficult for them to succeed as a unit.
"I feel like at times [my personal life] had priority over my team, whereas I think the balance should always be there. (...) I feel that my teammates had to pay for that at times."
What is something you took from Worlds that you will be applying in 2020? You mention that you all have strong opinions, and that you are an emotional player. How do you work around that, to make sure that it doesn't happen again?
For me personally, I felt like if I was individually performing better, especially in the FPX series, I could have carried one, if not two games. The Rengar game was definitely on me, and I felt like if had popped off more—like if I got a solokill at level two, and he had no teleport, I could've frozen that wave forever—I could've completely destroyed him. I didn't take responsibility, and I didn't call the jungler to dive him and punish him for the mistakes he made, and I didn't freeze and punish him enough myself either. I was 30 CS up or whatever, but he got all the experience and whatnot. It wasn't as much of a lead as it should've been, and I feel very guilty for that, and I feel like I let my teammates down a lot making these mistakes. So, that's something for me individually.
Towards my team, I felt like in general this year was very important for me for setting up my own personal health, the relationship with my girlfriend, and making sure that everything is going well there was super important for me. I feel like at times this had priority over my team, whereas I think the balance should always be there. I wasn't able to balance that as well as I should be. I feel that my teammates had to pay for that at times. I didn't do as much as a teammate because I was trying to figure myself out first. I feel like that's a golden rule for most people: make sure you're in a good position yourself, and then help your teammates. I stuck to that, but maybe it was difficult for my teammates at times, or maybe I wasn't always there for them. I feel bad about that. I feel like I could've been there for everybody, and I wasn't. That's what I learned the most.
I can't speak for my other teammates, but as a team I think gaining experience year after year is just a huge deal. For example, for me as well, I learned that I shouldn't be afraid of people coming to me. I shouldn't be afraid. Like, FPX was a team that would always play towards the side lanes. I shouldn't be afraid of them coming to me. Let them come. I should be the one taking responsibility for my teammates, instead of asking like "Oh Renekton is going to be really strong, can we please ban it? I don't wanna play against it." Instead I should be like: "You know what, let them play Renekton. I'll make it work, and if they come dive me, don't worry, I'll be fine."
That mentality, to reassure my teammates that it doesn't matter if they come towards me, is something I should force more. I think it's one of my traits as a player, that even though I might be 0-2, or just running it down a little bit, I'm still making sure that I'm relevant in the game and that I'm bringing something to my teammates regardless.
That's very good. Do you have some final words for your fans?
Thank you very much for supporting me. I hope you're enjoying All-Stars, it's my first time here. I hope you guys are enjoying seeing me, because I'm gonna be playing a lot! I'm gonna to be playing a TFT game, more 1v1s, and an URF showmatch, so I hope you're enjoying the content because there's more coming.
What's most important to me is that the fans also understand what was going on with Fnatic. I dont want to give the whole story, because that's just not necessary. But I want for people to understand why a decision like this was made. Swapping Broxah for Selfmade was a huge decision. Broxah was a cornerstone of the team, to say the least. I just want people to understand that we're well-aware that this is a risk—we're just willing to take a risk to win it all. I think that's ultimately what the fans need to understand, and I hope they respect that decision. So I'm saying it now, because that's the goal going in.
So if next year we crash and burn, people know that the plan all along was to win everything. We're gonna try everything we can to make it work out. At least I am, I can give you my word on that. I'm gonna make sure it does work out, and that we show a better performance than we ever have.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.