In the 2021 Spring split, Fnatic had what one may argue to be their worst split yet. From finishing at least top 2 alongside G2 Esports, Fnatic finished 5th place in the Spring. As a household name in the LEC that has such a rich history in League of Legends esports, expectations only grew higher as time passed by; for many Fnatic fans, the word, disappointment, was an understatement.
Prior to the start of the 2021 LEC Summer split, Fnatic announced a roster change that many did not expect. They announced that Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau, who has been the team’s top laner since 2018, would be role swapping to jungle, replacing their previous jungler, Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek.
Before the Summer split kicked off in the LEC, Inven Global had a chance to speak with Bwipo on the role swap, the acquisition of Fnatic’s newest top laner, Adam “Adam” Maanane, and the mindset that he’s bringing to the revamped roster of Fnatic. It was made clear that despite playing in a role that he may not be as familiar as the top lane, his role as a leader was something that Bwipo was all too familiar with.
I know that there was the official statement from the team, but I think the story coming directly out from yourself through our conversation will look to clear any lingering doubts.
Fnatic decided to make a move on Adam, who’s an up and coming rookie. They wanted to secure long-term contracts, because they wanted to rebuild from the ground up. For example, practice is something that the organization wants to change for the upcoming years. All of the players are having mandatory workout sessions that are planned into the practice schedule to even have a healthier diet; being healthier and being more aware of our own health outside of the game is being addressed.
From this, I derived the idea that the organization wants to look at the whole picture, and see what they need to build; Adam came in as a new player in their initiative. I don’t have all the specifics, so it’s difficult for me to pinpoint this. From my perspective, I think the roster move happened because the organization wants to build from the ground up, saw an up and coming rookie, has two out of the five players that have re-signed for the future, and decided to grab a third one.
I didn’t know what Fnatic’s plans were with Selfmade and I after their acquisition of new players. As this was happening, there were talks of me playing jungle; there’s always been talks of me playing jungle in our team during the off-season. Whenever issues with jungling arose, the coaches always saw that potential role swap with me, because I was very malleable in the idea that I receive feedback very positively, and change up what I need to for the match.
With that trait in mind, plus the fact that I’m mechanically pretty good, the only thing that would make that a little bit difficult in the role swap was me not having enough time to know the champions and learning to play with my team in the jungle role. This time around, I think the timing was pretty reasonable, and I was happy to try it. Our coaching staff also pushed for the idea, because in their opinion, it came down to keeping either Selfmade or I on the team, and they felt like I was a more valuable team member.
By no means, do I mean that Selfmade is a bad player; I think he’s very talented. However, at the end of the day, in the eyes of the coaching staff and the org, they deemed me to be more valuable. All this sounds a bit messy, because this is a situation I’ve never been in before; while it has been talked about in the past, it was something that I didn’t expect to happen, especially in the middle of the year.
One of our journalists recently interviewed LIDER, and he stated, “Yeah, he is good at the game but it doesn’t feel like he is playing top lane properly. Maybe jungle is the perfect role for him.” How does this statement resonate with you?
I always try to be an impactful player; sometimes, moreso for the enemy team [laughter]. I always pushed to do more and more, and I actually think that was when I was at my weakest. So it doesn’t surprise me when certain people that watch me feel that way; I might not be playing top lane ‘properly’. When I was playing ‘properly’, I felt like I had a solid game plan going into a game and I was doing what was necessary; rather than trying to squeeze water from stone, which I was guilty of trying many times over the course of my career.
I can see where that statement can stand to be true, but outside of the times where I felt I was at my weakest, I feel that I’ve always been a pretty good top laner. By no means, I’m not the best in the world, but I’ve always been able to compete against anyone that was put on my plate.
On the Worlds’ stages, for example, I never felt that the individual skill difference in the top lane was what decided the series. You can maybe argue that the 2018 Worlds finals was decided based on ‘top diff’, but outside of that series, I always at least held my own against the best top lakers in the world. I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit of an ego hit to hear that I was not playing top lane properly [laughter].
You’ve once expressed (around last year) that you hoped that the team would take a different direction, especially in mid-jungle. Since you’re now in the driver’s seat as the jungler, what kind of a team do you hope to shape, both in-game and outside the game?
I definitely want to be a part of a team that emphasizes the strengths of the players. A lot of the teams try to do too many things because they get ideas like, “Oh, if we can’t do this on the Worlds stage, we’re not going to make it deep into the tournament”. It might not be something that they’ve heard publicly, but behind the scenes, teams go, “Oh, if we can’t play top side, we’re not going to beat teams like FPX”; stuff like that.
I don’t want to say that these types of conversations come up all the time, but sometimes, these types of reasoning do occur. I don’t buy into that; it’s always about finding the most consistent way to win, and pushing that to our advantage.
I know that Upset-Hylissang are, in my opinion, the bot duo that’s the best laners in the LEC, and I know for a fact that they can push that all the way to the Worlds stage. For me, focusing on their strengths as laners and trying to enable them is key in order to find ways in performing at a high level.
I want to create a team, in this case, that would be playing around our bot lane, because in my opinion, they’re the ‘star power’ of the team. This is where we have our strongest laners relative to the opponents’ as well. I think Adam and Nisqy are also great players, but relative to what we’ve seen, and when I think about it logically, I think our bot lane is our strongest win condition, and trying to create a way where I can bring Nisqy to really leverage the fact that we have a stronger bot lane is something I want to drive forward within our team.
Do you think the other role swap in the LEC (SK Treatz) will work out and what do you think is the difference between role swapping from top vs role swapping from jungle?
The biggest difference has to be gaining vision vs the skirmishing game. I think that top laners are far more proficient at skirmishing when playing champions that like to fight. I’m sure that I’m more comfortable to take a skirmish on certain champions than Treatz, because I have more experience playing against champions in the top side. At the same time, he has more experience in the same regard against support champions.
I’m pretty confident to say that I’ll have an easier time picking up skirmishing champions, while he’ll probably have a much easier time playing the vision game. I’m not saying that my vision game is necessarily bad, but since gaining vision is an integral part of a support player at all points in the game, I think that’s where Treatz has the advantage over not just me, but also the other junglers as well. At the same time, it’ll be faster for me to pick up playing these so-called ‘carry’ champions; champions like Lee Sin or Kindred. At least, it should be. Who knows? Maybe Treatz will pop off on champions like Lee Sin and absolutely destroy the LEC [laughter].
This is the fun part about role swapping for me. It feels like being a rookie. There’s not much riding on your shoulders, because you’re the new guy playing the jungle, but imagine if you show up, play champions like Lee Sin, and absolutely decimate some of the most household names in the LEC. It’ll be fantastic to run circles around Inspired and Elyoya on Udyr.
It's something that I miss about being a rookie. The longer your career goes, the more expectations are set for you; the only time you feel like you excel at your role is when you’re playing at Worlds. The idea of having a great game is to fulfill those higher expectations set for you, and at that point, it’s nothing that people haven’t seen before.
The statement, “It’s nothing we haven’t seen before” is something that I sorely missed, so I probably tried to recreate too much in my career. What ended up happening is, I was trying too hard to make people see things that they haven’t seen before. Now that I’m a jungler, there will be many things that they haven’t seen from me and bring some positives.
I know that you’ve been doing very well in solo queue, but in terms of practicing as a team [scrims], how has the jungle learning experience been?
Honestly, it was easier than playing solo queue. The easiest part about the role swap for me was the fact that I talked to everyone about it individually. It wasn’t a decision that was made behind anyone’s back. Everyone was asked if they’re confident that they can make the swap work; well except for Adam, because he’s the new guy [laughter].
Everyone, even our director, Javi, was confident that I can make it work, so from that point onwards, I made it very clear that I will need guidance, on things such as, am I farming too much or too little. I’d have a good feeling for things like that myself, but I told them to be more comfortable in being proactively vocal about feedback, because it’ll only help me in the long run. Conversations about the game like that are very easy, and everyone can talk about everything; no matter what’s on our minds, whether it’s laning phase or jungle pathing, all feedback is welcome.
As the “rookie” jungler, how would you describe the current level of the junglers in the LEC?
If I’m being brutally honest, lower than I expected. However, jungle is a ‘simple’ role; and by that, I don’t mean ‘easy’. There are certain rules of the jungle, you know? The rules that come by nature, if you will. Like, you have almost no leeway in certain matchups; matchups definitely determine how much leeway you have in these rules.
For example, in my experience, if you try to gank too much against fast clearing junglers, they’re going to just take your camps and make your life miserable. It’s a very simple rule, right? But you can’t break it. There are rules in the top lane, but you can break them and be very smart about it; it’s much more difficult to break the rules in the jungle, because you get punished much heavier when you try to break them and fail.
A lot of jungle play is also about execution. Execution in the laning phase is much more simple in comparison, because there are less factors involved. In lane, you’re only playing 1 vs 1, or 2 vs 2; when you’re jungling, you’re adding at least two champions into every interaction. When you’re contesting scuttle crab, you’re involving eight champions into that contest from minute one, and there’s so many more scenarios that can pan out from that interaction, as compared to in lane.
What I’m trying to say is, it’s a simple role, where you have simple rules to follow, but the difficulty comes from factoring in multiple variables. Fortunately for me, I feel that I have a good grasp of what’s going on and have good awareness, but in the end, the struggle for me comes from those variables.
Obviously, things can go wrong; the whole Blaber & scuttle crab thing is a prime example. They do happen, which is another thing that you need to factor in to be a good jungler. Over the years of playing top lane and showing up at random places when I’m not supposed to, has taught me a thing or two on what to do when the game gets hot and spicy.
Talk to me about Adam. I only know him as that French top laner with a huge fanbase. I’m sure that you had numerous candidates outside of Adam, so what aspects of him, both as a player and as a personality, made him a cut above the rest?
I wasn’t involved in the acquisition process of getting Adam; I watched some of his VODs in EU Masters, but I was busy practicing jungle [laughter]. My experience with Adam has been pretty simple. I learned quickly that his mindset is definitely the main reason why Fnatic decided to bring him onto the team. He’s hungry for improvement; he’s always trying to be mechanically the best, and always making sure to be the best top laner in the LEC. He’s the guy that’ll never be satisfied to be some low tier top laner; he’s here to win, and I’d argue that’s what separates him from the pack.
Now that you’re playing in a new position, does your's and the team’s goals change at all?
Making it to Worlds is definitely the goal still; winning Worlds is the goal for me, on Fnatic of course. I believe that from the organization’s perspective, this was the most optimal time for them to rebuild from the ground up, which is a mindset that I respect, because it aligns with the mindset that I’ve always had as a player.
‘What can I do more for my team? What can I bring more to my team?’ are the questions that I always ask; Fnatic’s adopting that mindset and is focusing on what the organization can do to make the team successful. With that, they’re bringing in players that are willing to accept the change moving forward.
Moving forward, my mindset is to accept the help I’m given, and try to make the most out of it, even if I don’t believe that I’m 100% on board. I don’t feel like a veteran, but as a pro player who’s going into his 4th year of competitive play, I noticed veteran traits within my mindset; I’m much more robust in the things that I do want to do, as opposed to those that I don’t.
For example, when Fnatic was like, “We’re going to exercise and eat healthy”, I was like, “What is this? Why am I being forced to exercise and eat healthy? Let me have my cheeseburgers!” [laughter]. Fnatic’s trying to do more as an organization, and they want to have players that are open-minded in exploring that with them and pushing for greatness from square one.
As a player, the goal’s always been simple; I want to be the best! If I’m not the best, it means that there’s more to be done, and when I am, I still want to do more. I want to make the most difference for my team, and contribute to the point where if I were to leave Fnatic tomorrow, they would not function the same way. I want my team to feel that the game is easier to win because I’m playing with them. Being the best is the byproduct of that.
Considering the results from this split, is it possible that we could see you back in the top lane? or do you actually consider continuing your career as a jungler?
To be honest, I don’t know. I intend to explore free agency at the end of the year; if I decide to re-sign with Fnatic for another 2-3 years, I’m basically committing my whole pro career into this organization. As a competitor, I think that’s a great move, so while that’s something that I have thought about a lot, as a human being, I want to seek more experiences in life. Allowing myself to explore my options and see where I can experience something different is attractive to me.
In my current state of mind, the future doesn’t matter; the only thing that I truly care about is performing the absolute best I can for Fnatic. The only thing I’ll care about in the future is that I know I’m doing the best I can to be the best. To make sure that I’m number one. If I’ve done everything but fail to be number one, I can accept that, but I definitely don’t want to accept any less.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports