When 1st seed Team Liquid was matched up against 4th seed Evil Geniuses in round 1 of the upper bracket of the 2022 LCS Spring Playoffs, the series was widely expected to be a one-sided affair. Instead, EG put up quite a fight against Team Liquid, forcing the series to the fifth game where the veteran squad of TL ultimately prevailed in the series.
After Team Liquid's win over Evil Geniuses, TL top laner Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau spoke to Inven Global about how his incorrect read on the matchup coming into the series cost TL a game or two and the progression of the top lane meta.
Evil Geniuses put up a much better fight than was expected by the majority of the scene. Was this a result to them playing above their perceived level, or do you think Team Liquid made mistakes that allowed them to win two games against you today?
I think I had the wrong mentality going into the series. I gave them a lot of angles that shouldn't be possible if I play smart. For example, last game, they found one really scuffed dive top, but I didn't give a s**t about that death. Other than that, they found nothing top side, and ensuring that was kind of my purpose in this whole series.
I didn't realize how much they would be playing to the top side. I thought it would be better for me to contest top side and create a pressure point so that our bot lane could have more breathing room, but it was just not worthwhile.
From what I could tell, the matchups we were playing were very stale, so I just had a really poor read on the series. Rather than doing what worked against EG — which is to just f*****g farm *laughs* — I was contesting and giving them angles. It made the game really complicated.
You've played more champions than any other top laner in the 2022 LCS thus far, and a lot of them have been carries. However, today, you found your success on mostly tanks. Was that due to what you realized was eventually the proper read on how you should play against EG?
It wasn't the game plan, but it's what I quickly realized. Game 1 was a great example of where they can't win if I'm stable in top lane. Game 5 was the same thing. Even though I picked Gragas in game 2, I was playing really aggressively because I found a solo kill and I was much stronger than Impact, so I could put him in the ground if I played very aggressively.
It ended up just being a bad decision, because I got camped. Obviously, they're going to try and camp me since everyone else was trying to farm while I was trying way too hard to get leads. It was just a really poor decision for me to play so aggressively. In my Graves game, I got caught out a few times in the mid game for trying to take the wave too deep. I think these things are why the series went a bit wide.
Obviously, game 4 was just a s**tfest from level 1. *laughs* We lost our Flashes, their Lucian came to lane with five Health Potions and I was like, 'Oh my god, I can't play this lane anymore.' You can't lane as Gangplank into Lucian if he has that much health. It's very difficult, so it was just a really tough game from there. Everyone was f****d from level 1, so it was a bit of a flip game. That's how I see it, at least.
We had the winning formula, but because I misjudged in game 2 and decided to build damage, Graves was really strong that game and carrying. That was all because I gave him so much gold because I was dying. The overall series was poorly played by me. I didn't have the presence of mind to decide to just keep playing tanks. The only reason Impact was strong was because I fed him gold.
If I had played well, it wouldn't have mattered. You saw in game 5 that it didn't matter. They were really desperate and trying to find plays. As long as we stayed stable on the side lanes, the game would be won. I think that if I had that mindset from the get-go, this would have been a really easy 3-0. However, I had the wrong mindset, so it was just bad.
Do you feel like you did your job well in games 1 and 5, in that case?
In those two games I did, yeah. In my Ornn and Sion games I played to my condition and played well, but in the other games...In my Gragas game I think I could have done well if I had the right mindset.
Instead of trying to fight him, I should have just farmed. They would never have broken me top if I just didn't interact with Impact and that should have been my goal after getting the free solo kill. However, my mindset was definitely to win top and create a pressure point, which was just a bad read.
It's kind of tempting after getting gifted that solo kill that early, no?
It's not even about that, it's just the matchup. In that matchup, I know I can do that, so I felt very confident. To provide a bit of insight, a lot of people consider the Gragas vs. Graves matchup to be Graves-favored, but I have a certain rune setup and build where I feel very confident I can win the matchup on the Gragas side.
I like to play very forward and aggressive in that matchup, but when they have Ryze mid and Lee Sin, taking the risk is just not worth it. It's better to just keep farming, stay safe, and try to stay as healthy as possible to not get dove; even drop some CS if necessary. It's a combination of many things, but overall, my read was just bad. I didn't expect them to play towards top lane so much, but EG really like doing that, so that was my bad. *laughs*
Do you think we're going to see teams play towards top lane more in the post-season, or is this something specific to EG?
Playing to top lane against Summit seemed to work pretty well for 100 Thieves. He was dying a lot. Summit is a very lane dominant player, so taking him off of his comfort picks and putting pressure on him seems to work well.
In general, I think teams will look top, but I also think the meta will evolve into tank vs tank matchups top lane. Both teams will just agree that top will be a dead lane as well and people will just farm. We will have very slow games. I think this will be the evolution of the LCS meta, but I could be wrong.
People have already griped about top lane being relatively more irrelevant in the current state of League of Legends, but you think we are going to push that further into just tank vs tank farm lanes?
Well, I think picking a scaling champion into a tank is not bad. For example, Graves is perfectly fine, and Jayce makes sense as well. There is a lack of Jayce in the LCS, including me. Today was hard to draft Jayce, but I do think the champion is very powerful.
There are two ways to play top lane. The first is to pressure no matter what, get gold anyway and risk dying — which is what I did in the Gragas game, but that didn't really work that well because Gragas doesn't scale so well *laughs*... Even though I was dying, I was equal in CS; I was fine; I was pressuring him until I wasn't able to after the second death, but even then, I was still farming fine. The point is to play aggressively and force the other team to come and answer you.
You can do this well on champions like Camillle. T1's top laner Zeus does this magnificently: he plays Jayce, dies two or three times, but it doesn't matter. He's fed and he's really strong because he's been pressuring, getting turret plates, and getting gold while the rest of his team managed to squeeze some leads out because the enemy jungler was top often. Then, T1 just play the game from there and manage to win.
I think this is a style of play you can conform to, but there is also making sure to pick a safe champion that scales well. You farm your creeps, join your team, and get carried! *laughs* Well, not necessarily get carried, but usually. Sometimes you have an angle you can find to carry, but in this style, it's rare. Oftentimes, you're just looking to farm.
I think depending on what kind of player you are and what kind of identity your team has, you can do both styles. In the LCS, I think it's reasonable to expect, especially given the players, that the teams we've seen play in the playoffs will do that.
Obviously, Golden Guardians and FlyQuest still have yet to play in the post-season, so I don't know what they've prepped. They also have had another extra week to prep, so it'll be interesting to see what they're going to play and what their approach is going to be, but I assume it will be some form of farming, scaling, and playing safe on the top side.
I could be wrong, but I just think that's the winning formula for beating C9. If Summit can't get big leads, C9 does look a little bit lost, and I'd say EG is the same. Their drafts are aimed towards finding leads in the early game, so if they're not able to find them, EG can be beaten. C9 definitely have drafts where it's important that they get ahead, or at least have a tempo advantage in the game to get going. If they make a mistake, it's often very hard for their compositions to play.
I think that's really important because I think drafts really describe how the game is played. There are people undervaluing how important it is to have a very solid draft. For example, 100 Thieves had really good drafts against C9 yesterday and found a couple of good early game plays. If you have three scaling lanes and an early game jungler who is able to find the opportunities to make plays and find early kills, the game is so hard to play from the opposing side.
That has always been the case. Closer managed to find a lot of picks early game and get a lot of kills, which is why I think 100 Thieves ended up stomping C9 so hard in the end..."for free." You always have to put quotation marks when saying "for free" because sometimes your champion is not supposed to find kills in the lane matchups that are being picked, but Closer found them anyway. It's obviously not as simple as completely free kills, but you get the idea.
I want to ask you a few questions about the rest of the LCS Spring Playoffs. What are your thoughts about 100 Thieves' form in general, as well as your upcoming matchup against them stylistically?
I think we are very similar teams. I think people underestimate how similar we are in our drafts and I think approach to draft will determine who will win or lose. 100 Thieves like playing Ornn and playing scaling compositions where if their top laner doesn't die, their mid and bot lane usually have strong enough scaling that their team will be fine, no matter what. I think that's the name of the game for them, and it's the same thing with us.
In many of our drafts, if I don't die and our bot lane has good enough scaling, we're going to be at least equal in the late game, if not at an advantage. I think that's kind of how our matchup will go against 100 Thieves.
Obviously, there are a lot of nuances in the jungle and the bot lane in terms of how that will exactly play out. There are windows for difference in gameplay. I consider our bot lane to be stronger than theirs by a very reasonable margin and I believe that, one way or another, they will be able to get 2v2 leads. At the same time, I think Ssumday is a great player, so I think top lane will come down to who first makes mistakes.
I think 100 Thieves is quite evenly matched with us in terms of style, but I'm not quite sure how strong they are as a team. Obviously, they're going to be looking to punish top lane and I'm going to have to watch my ass. *laughs*
Thank you so much for your time, Bwipo, and congratulations on your victory. Is there anything you want to say to the TL fans now that you're headed to Houston, especially those fans who showed up to the LCS arena today to support you in person?
That was amazing. I'm really grateful people came out to support us and I'm grateful for the people online who are supporting us. I have to say that the Team Liquid community is super, super lenient with their players compared to my experience in Fnatic. I feel like people here are super understanding of having a bad series or having something go wrong. They really appreciate you for your highs and they are very lenient with your lows.
That's how it feels on TL right now and I'm very grateful for that as a player that has both and always have been that kind of player. Being in a position where the fans understand that and appreciate me for that is a relief. I'm obviously aiming only for the highs, but I'm only human, and one of my flaws is that sometimes I just....'Weeeeeeeeeeee'....
You swing big, but I feel like more often than not, it does work out.
Yeah. I don't believe that I'm a bad player. A bad player doesn't qualify for the World Championship four years in a row. I'm not insane and I'm not the guy who carries your team 1v9, but I'm a pretty f*****g good player and I do what I can for my team. Victory is always my goal. I will prioritize winning over anything else, no matter what.
Sometimes, I lose track of what's happening and have the wrong idea, which I think is my biggest weakness as a player. Sometimes, I think I know what it is that we need to win and I end up executing on that...and then it's completely wrong! I end up inting. And then I'm like 'Oh, FUCK!' because if there's something I believe will win us the game I will commit 100%.
For example, the reason I was so committed to playing aggressively in the Gragas game was that I thought that if I pressured my lane, their bot lane would struggle and we would get leads bot, which would be good. In the review, I realized that what I wanted was impossible because nothing was going to happen in the bot lane and I was like, 'Aw f**k.' *laughs*
That's terrible insight from me and a huge blunder on my end because I'm sure we would have rolled that game if I had just farmed creeps. Instead, I fully committed to pressuring when EG was trying to get things going on, and that can often lose you the game. Being hyper-aggressive can often win you the game, but it can often lose you the game...I'm rambling a bit here.
Well I'm sure the fans are ultimately happy with a TL win.
Well, yeah. I'd be surprised if they're not happy with us winning, but 3-2 against EG is not promising into 100 Thieves, who just 3-0'd Cloud9, but I do feel like that in the NA LCS, having the right read into what your opponent wants to do is usually good enough.
There are some LCS players with their champion combinations that are creative, but on a large scale, most LCS players are not very creative. That's what I see — the way they approach mid to late game is not by doing something we never expected. It's usually just what we expect in terms of how they want to play at various phases of the game.
There are still creative combos like Closer on Lee Sin, for example. He's very creative on how he picks fights and that can change the flow of the game very quickly. There are creative players in the LCS, but generally speaking, if you have a draft that outscales and you reach that point, not many NA teams will be creative enough to stop that from happening.
I think that's kind of what I've realized in the last two best-of-five series' I've played on Team Liquid: if we play very stable and standard, it will be very difficult for our opponents to come back. They will not be that creative, we just need to make sure we don't leave the window open, because if we do, anyone can jump through it.