In a double interview following their semifinals win over Misfits Gaming, Fnatic's Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool and Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau talked to Cybersport.com about how mentality within the team changed all for the better and the mistakes that led to Misfits' demise.
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One thing I've noticed in Fnatic is that Bwipo and Caps love to clown together, especially when it comes to coming up with pick ideas - random chats about Teemo and stuff...
YoungBuck: You've seen Legends in Action.
Yes, and I would like to know if there are more moments like those as far as Bwipo is concerned.
Bwipo: The main reason we did is because in bot lane, there was some point in this split where you could quite literally play every single champion. Most of the pushing came from Caps, but Hylissang and I tried some 2v2 combos that we thought were good and tried them in scrims, and eventually didn't come out to the stage just yet, because we felt it was more consistent to play more solid scaling. Most of the champions I play and still have in store are really oppressive in the lane 2v2, but they don't quite translate when it comes to the later stages of the game.
We feel like the way the meta is right now, just picking a tank top, a crit AD carry and running your early game controlled and allowing your jungler and mid laner to have most of the influence on the map is the way to win the game.
Caps does things to the enemy team that are not fair.
YoungBuck: And he definitely has some crazy ideas. [Bwipo laughs] He tried Xin Zhao AD carry, Jarvan AD carry, Graves AD which he said was really OP. What else is there?
YoungBuck: Ahri, but that one actually worked.
Bwipo: Yeah, that one was actually good.
YoungBuck: It was really funny. It didn't really work, but...
Both, not in unison: They died a lot. [Everyone laughs given Bwipo's giddy facial expression on that one.]
Bwipo: That's when we realized it was a scaling issue, basically. All in all, I feel it's more about trying. Even the LCK went Kled AD, Teemo "AD." I feel there is some merit to it. There are some OP champions, and we as a team... Especially Dylan, he really thinks there are really OP champions nobody is good enough or willing to play. Wukong is actually the champion that proved that point — that they are there — and if you as a team can play around them, they will actually give you wins on stage. It's really oppressive to play against certain champions. Of course, in the summer, there was Wukong. I'm sure there are going to be solo queue champions that will come up and look really oppressive, and really overpowered even.
That's nice as a team that we are willing to try that, and I think Caps and I talk about it a lot. Hylissang is the guy that always has an argument in favor of it. Hylissang is usually that guy.
Bwipo: Funnily enough, yesterday I told Dylan, "If the enemy blinds Galio, you need to make sure you lock in mid on the fourth pick and not the fifth, because Hylissang will choose what Caps wants. We ended up with the Vayne mid.
YoungBuck, imitating Hylissang: "I'm locking in Vayne, guys. I'm locking in Vayne."
Bwipo: Hyli just decided that. I respect it, and I think it was fine, even from our perspectives. It didn't really matter what champion we picked mid as long as we had something that was relatively safe and could maybe cover our bot lane... but anyway, we went with the Vayne pick, partially because of the relationship between me, Hyli, and Caps in the sense of when there is a new champion [idea], we're the ones that jump on the hype train immediately.
Dylan must have cursed all the things! [laughs]
Bwipo: No! That's the thing. This would never go through if we never tried it in scrims. That says enough about that.
YoungBuck: Something really important: Caps was saving the Vayne mid for the finals, because he thought Team Vitality would play there. They played a lot of Galio. But then Vitality went to the third place match, so this was his only chance to play Vayne into Galio. In the finals, FC Schalke 04 Esports are not going to pick Galio. It was a now-or-never moment.
Let's say G2 Esports went on points: that would have been disgusting.
Hasn't it been months in the making, the Vayne thing?
YoungBuck: It actually has been. Week one in the summer, or maybe during spring.
Bwipo: It might have been MSI, dude. It's been a while. He's been really hyped about it. I think it was actually in the [spring], near the end, because that's when Galio was picked a lot. In MSI, we were considering it, but it died off. We just favored the Corki. But it's been there; Vayne has always been a conversation for Caps.
YoungBuck: I remember the endless conversations on whether Vayne would beat Camille/Galio in the side lane, with Trundle jungle.
Bwipo: "Who beats who? Camille or Vayne?" I always made the argument that Camille would win, and he always made the argument that Vayne would. One day, I'm going to play against him and his Vayne mid (or top) in solo queue, and I will 1v1 him. I will find him and kill him.
That's some Taken levels of stuff.
Bwipo: We're really trolling. Half of the time, we talk about things like that. That's what's fun, though. Hyli and I have a really relaxed relationship, in the sense that we laugh at each other. For example, when we won and he came off stage, he was just baiting me, trolling me, "I'm happy we played with sOAZ instead of you, because you int-picked the Sion, and Ornn was 10 times better! Then we had a Maokai..." Me and Hyli have had a really good relationship since we started playing bot lane together, so I'm really happy about that.
Caps is just pretty easy to get along with. Everyone on the team can appreciate Caps' goofiness; and he does things to the enemy team that are not fair. It's really not fair! When Misfits Gaming died 2v1 bot lane, we were just like, "That's how imbalanced we are..." It's really unfair.
Now, let's talk about something: Hyli is a very aggressive player. Hyli thought that you were batshit aggressive. Doesn't that say something absolutely insane?
Bwipo: Of course! But I think everyone on our team — especially Joey — knows that I always contest. That's my biggest strength and my biggest weakness. I contest every minion, every wave, everything. In гame 1, you saw how it paid off [Fnatic snowballed a lead he and Broxah obtained in the top lane — Ed.] and it basically wins you the game; we started the game 4:0 because I contested every wave without respecting Ivern, and all of a sudden he's ganking me and I'm like, "Wait a minute." I didn't expect this gank, and if he came, I could probably turn [it against them] because I had a really big creep wave.
It's a double-edged sword, and it's the biggest reason why I can respect our team taking sOAZ over me in every case. In game 3, sOAZ was called in to the stand and asked to play, and I respect that. I know there will be times that when you have a top laner that contests as much as I do, it is beneficial to the team comp, especially if you're playing tank versus tank. I can also respect wanting to have someone really safe, and just being capable of holding back.
I feel we've addressed a lot of our issues as a team that we might have had at MSI
What's most difficult in this game of League of Legends is not doing anything. I have to force myself not to trade, not to initiate team fights if I think they're good. And in game 3, I think sOAZ was a better fit, because I would have had to force myself not to do all of that, whereas sOAZ has a more natural approach to that idea of playing slow.
YoungBuck: Not much to add to that. I also think the substitution was a mental reset to the team, and we discussed it beforehand: If we lose, we're going to change the roster: either sOAZ going top and Bwipo going bot lane, or sOAZ going top lane and Rekkles bot. When we lost, it was pretty clear. I don't think Bwipo underperformed in the first two games, he played really well. Having said that, I think sOAZ is really disciplined at not trying to force things. I think you mentioned it: you mentioned doing a Sion ulti that you really regretted, when you went bot lane with Sion. I think sOAZ would always go back to his lane and push it.
Bwipo: I think so too. And onto that point, what people underestimate is: when going from game 2 to game 3, actually hearing someone else's voice really rides it home that it's game 3. It's like it's a completely different game now. When you're thinking of game 2, you're thinking of all the mistakes and what went wrong. When you go into game 3 and hear someone else, you're like, "Okay, it's game 3."
YoungBuck: Also, I can see from Misfits' perspective: "Oh, they lost? They put in sOAZ. This is the real roster." Maybe you're like the Easyhoon to [sOAZ's] Faker. You get the mental advantage for your team.
But Faker is more aggressive than Easyhoon...
YoungBuck: They were both the best mid laners in the world by that time, so I hope he's not offended by that, being the Easyhoon of the team.
Now, as far as you [YoungBuck] are concerned, you beat Moose again.
YoungBuck: Yeah. The rivalry is over now. I do hope they go to Worlds after seeing this [Fnatic vs. Misfits]. I want teams that deserve it to go to Worlds. Let's say G2 Esports went on points: that would have been disgusting. We hope that FC Schalke 04 Esports go on points, and whoever wins the gauntlet deserves it the most — and it looks like it's going to be Misfits. I think it would be a really good European roster for Worlds, and I hope that the dream stays alive: Schalke lose to us, but Vitality lose to Misfits (and Schalke go on points).
Most western teams go to Worlds with the idea of "let's make it out of groups and go home," but I think this team can do much better than that.
Bwipo: One of the reasons why I want Misfits to go is that they're all Europeans as well. Same goes for Schalke and Vitality, but G2 aren't. But for me, if Misfits go to Worlds, I would really want to see the individual players step up and take their share of what needs to be done. In this series, you saw Sencux gave up at minute 1 of game 1. Not even that: he gave up a week ago, when he heard he was going to play against Fnatic. You saw him practicing stuff like Vel'koz, and that's what we scouted. But then he was playing Lulu blind pick—
YoungBuck: Malzahar, Lulu, Galio, Grasp [of the Undying] Twisted Fate with Bone Plating and whatnot...
Bwipo: Even against PerkZ. I respect it if the coach calls it, and it's mandatory to win the game, but honestly: if you're a team that wants to compete at Worlds, you need to be willing to play what is meta and go head-to-head against the best in the world or you're not going to make it out of groups. Maybe you do as cheesers, because it's nest-of-1 after all. This type of picks does win more often or have more pay-off in Bo1, but if you can't play a normal 5v5 matchup in the mid lane or in any lane without playing the game out and translating it into good macro, I don't think you belong at Worlds.
YoungBuck: I can respect that they put a bandaid for this week, they probably want to get as far as possible in the playoffs. But that bandaid needs to be ripped off.
Bwipo: By Gauntlet, I really want to see some contesting again [from Misfits.] In the early summer, the reason why they were doing well was because Sencux was on par with other mid laners with his Irelia and Yasuo, which were in the meta at the time, and I feel they should bring that back — not necessarily the champions, but the level of skill that he can actually contest other mid laners in the lane without FFing. To me, how it felt [in the semifinals]: they basically played two lanes. Playing against Alphari felt the same: past 15 minutes, that guy didn't go to the sidelane to farm, he stopped pushing the side lane. I felt they were so tunneled on their bot lane having to carry the game that I was left unimpressed.
It felt like Maxlore was bot lane only, and the solo lanes had to take it and go support them. I'd rather have seen them pick Lulu top and Karma mid in this type of strategy. I think Alphari is a really good player, Sencux can be a really good player — of course, there's the mismatch [with Caps]; don't get me wrong, I see that too, but the way they approached macro really felt like they gave up on their solo laners.
They just gave up on their solo laners gaining any advantage. I think that was partially because of game 1. I felt their strategy was to actually gank top, and then they went 0:4 or 1:4 in 6 minutes top side, so I guess that makes sense? Maybe if that didn't happen, it would look different. But after it did, I felt they gave up on both solo lanes. The jungler barely contested River; in game 3, they didn't even contest it from what I understand and they were just running bot only. I can see the one thing they wanted to do in-game: run bot, hope Mikyx and Hans sama carry. I don't think that's going to work against any high-class team.
YoungBuck: The entire series, we pushed out mid lane then ran towards the lane that had Hans Sama in it and controlled the river. They couldn't even push out. Then they couldn't play the game.
Bwipo: I think that was the best strategy they could muster. Game 1, going for top lane ganks: I contest every CS and all that and they identified that but it backfired. Once it did, they gave up on any other lane. Not sure if I'm right there, but that's how I feel.
I imagine you had to up the bar. You got to Worlds before playing a single playoff game, I'm just saying.
YoungBuck: Which released so much pressure from us. I was really stressed because we were playing different lineups, and Bwipo was put in a really unfair situation: he has to share his solo queue time and his scrim time on two different roles. We probably didn't show it, but we as a staff were really stressed out about not making it to Worlds directly. So, when we got there on points [after Schalke and Misfits won in the quarterfinals — Ed.] a huge weight went off our shoulders, and then we started winning every single scrim. We were like: Let's bring it home.
We probably didn't show it, but we as a staff were really stressed out about not making it to Worlds directly.
Bwipo: I didn't notice we were that scared, but I wasn't thinking about it too much either. Like Joey said, I had my hands full; I had to play two different roles with four-five different classes of champions at the same time! Even at that stage, we couldn't get away with playing only mages. We had to start practicing AD carries, then suddenly I'm not playing three different types of champions. I'm not playing bruisers, tanks and mages: I'm playing [those] and AD carry. I was playing every style of champion you could (or you can) in the game, and I didn't have time to worry about Worlds. I needed to make sure that I was ready to play whatever champion I needed to in scrims.
In the end of the day, everything is performance-based. If I play Ornn in scrims, if it is worse than Paul's, then I'm not going to see the light of day in the top lane. The other way around in bot lane: if I'm playing an AD carry or a mage bot, and the performance is worse than Rekkles', then I'm not going to play — and I agree with that statement. I'd get that one game when the series is run home, or when we basically win the split. That's what gave me the motivation to keep playing and practice two roles.
I think it's really funny that I'm a top laner and I go bot lane, and I'm number 2 on the all-pro team [in bot]. That alone made it worth it. [laughs] It gave me a lot of motivation to play. The relationship with Hyli really helped me. I just like seeing my teammates happy, I like seeing them winning. I'm happy right now that they won even though I went 1:1; I maybe wasn't the reason we lost, but I was certainly not the reason we won the last two games, but I'm happy nonetheless.
All-around, it was a good summer split for me. I'm really happy [about it] personally. I feel we've addressed a lot of our issues as a team that we might have had at MSI, and the future is looking bright for Worlds in my eyes right now.
YoungBuck: I've been saying this for weeks: we're going to win Worlds. Most western teams go to Worlds with the idea of "let's make it out of groups and go home," but I think this team can do much better than that. After MSI, most players feel the same way. There's going to be a lot of fans saying "We're crazy, what are you thinking?" and there would be a lot of memes if we go out of groups right now...
Bwipo: But I think that's part of it. If anybody watched the Royal Never Give Up games, we were going to win all three games if we were more disciplined, more practiced, more anything.
I remember those games: RNG were kind of behind in all three games, and they would start tracking Caps...
Bwipo: They were fully behind. But all those games were winnable. Even the games in group stage were really winnable. That's how we feel. That's what it comes down to. MSI left a bad taste in our mouths; we had the feeling that we could at least beat RNG or at least take it to Game 5. Sure, maybe bullshit happens, Vayne condemns a Tristana 35 minutes in and one-shots her. [laughs] I was laughing my ass off when that happened [Caps ruined Misfits' hopes of winning game 3 off that one play — Ed.] But I believe international competition is ours to win, maybe? I feel we should be a team that people should at least respect, look forward to playing... I feel we have a lot to give, and I'm certain we're going to give it at Worlds.
There are going to be some rules that you guys don't know about yet. I'm going to make sure that we behave as world champions now!
YoungBuck: The most important thing for me is that we have the mindset that we're going to win Worlds, and not that we're going to make it out of groups. We sometimes maybe half-assed something, or people didn't put in the extra work — that was myself included last year.
Bwipo: That's what I'm saying. That's why summer split has been good to me. Every day has been about surviving the next day, it gets about being worthy enough of being considered to play the next day. That taught me discipline, and it pushed me to a higher standard. I've also been going to the gym three times a week purely for the sake of committing to what I say I'm going to do, so when we as a team say "We're going to win Worlds," going to the gym is a way for me to prove "If we say it, I can do my part, and I can push myself to at least carry my chunk of weight with the team," because we're going to do it.
YoungBuck: Just asking yourself: What does a world champion do? Sometimes, they do things they don't want to do. In the end, a world champion probably sacrifices more than other people. We do meditation as well. Also, Korea is going to be special. There are going to be some rules that you guys don't know about yet. I'm going to make sure that we behave as world champions now!
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Fnatic will play FC Schalke 04 Esports for the EU LCS title this Sunday and should they come on top, it will be back-to-back triumph for the black-and-orange jerseys — even if the team is already locked in for Worlds.