Gabriël ‘Bwipo’ Rau has a long history as a pro player, and a well-earned reputation for his creative picks and unique view on the top lane meta. Now, he’s confident that Team Liquid will win it all in the LCS Playoffs.
Since Team Liquid’s disappointing 0-3 performance against Evil Geniuses in the Spring Finals, faith in this super team waned a bit. However, Bwipo’s incredible Sett performance against EG was a statement game: I’m back.
Bwipo (along with the rest of TL) pared back their champion pools and tried to make their drafts more consistent. Yet, this plan seemed to backfire. And, after talking to Bwipo for upwards of 10 minutes about Olaf top, a pick only he has used in the LCS, it’s safe to say Team Liquid is past that phase and back to being one of the most creative LCS teams.
But this process wasn’t easy. Bwipo spoke on some of the biggest things he learned after TL’s loss in Spring.
Bringing the team together
“For myself, at least, the learning I had is that it’s important to communicate what worked in the past and integrate that into the team I’m on right now. I’m not a miracle worker. I have my own style, my own way to win the game.” Bwipo went on to clarify that he feels like Team Liquid has found “… a great middle-ground where almost everyone on the team can have a great performance.”
While talking about Bwipo’s champion pool and Team Liquid’s improved performance, we touched on one of the often overlooked factors when it comes to making a team work: Are they having fun?
For Bwipo, being able to have fun on stage is more important than you’d think.
“Yes. I believe that enjoying the process is important for anyone. Like, enjoying the process is just a motivation factor that adds on to the experience. I don’t think having fun makes you better. I don’t think having fun makes you more efficient. But, as you keep coming back, it’s what you look forward to doing.”
Bwipo went on to give a goofy (albeit effective) metaphor for what having fun can do to motivate you as not only a pro player, but in life as a whole.
“If I look forward to building a closet, it’s like, I’m gonna do a better job of building that closet. Rather than, like, ‘Oh god, I’ve left this IKEA box here for 3 weeks and I’ve just not touched it.’ And then you finally get to doing it and you’re probably half-a**ing it because you just can’t be bothered to do it. Compared to, like, ‘Let’s goooo! IKEA just arrived! Let’s f***ing make this f***ing closet!’ You know? And then you’re gonna smurf it. I think that’s a big difference.”
Plundering the top lane
When asking about some of Bwipo’s more off-meta picks that are unique to him, he had a lot to say about Olaf.
“I’ve always played Olaf. I enjoy playing melee characters that are beefy and deal a lot of damage. I just like juggernauts.” Bwipo is the only player in the LCS playing Olaf top, and it’s not just because he enjoys Olaf. Although that’s a big part of it, Bwipo also believes Olaf is one of the best top laners you can pick right now.
“Once he got reworked, I put 35-40 games of solo queue into the champion and I re-mastered how he should be played, at least in my vision. I think that, now that he’s been reworked, he’s a completely different champion than he used to be. So, in my opinion, people are sleeping on him because they just don’t understand the game well. I just don’t know how else to say it.
I don’t know how you can look at Olaf in his current state and not think he’s a good top laner.”
“I don’t know why people aren’t playing him, I have no idea. I think he’s a great champion, he does a lot of things well. Is he good enough to pick in every situation? Definitely not. But I would say not being able to play him right now as a top laner is a detriment to your champion pool.”
Bwipo has 5 games played on Olaf in the LCS, and a 3-2 record on the champ. And, in the games Bwipo has won on Olaf, he’s completely run the game over. In his eyes, Olaf’s rework has turned him into a late-game scaling hard carry.
“Almost all bruiser champions either shield a lot or heal a lot, and Olaf just doesn’t care about that. His DPS is so high compared to other bruisers. That’s why I say Olaf is a hard carry champion. If you look at the damage numbers Olaf can pump out in a team fight, it’s comparable to an ADC building full crit. That makes him a hard carry for me, and it’s why I value him as a champion.”
Bwipo went on to call Olaf a “lawnmower”, and pointed out how well he does in a meta where most bruisers build Death’s Dance and Maw of Malmortius, items that lack health and are easily countered by the true damage on Olaf’s E.
He made a really good case for Olaf, and it compelled us to ask more about some of his other recent picks.
A calculated victory
Bwipo had a lot to say about his Sett pick against EG in their Week 7 win as well, and he illuminated his thought process on why he picks these champions and what makes his read on the meta so different from other top laners in the LCS.
“It depends on what your champion wants to accomplish, right? Sett is known for having strong peel options. That is his single strongest trait. If the enemy team composition relies on a champion initiate by going in with their body— not like, Sejuani ulting or Ornn ulting, but if someone has a Wukong they rely on, or a Rakan, you can input buffer your ultimate on their engage tool and it will snag them out of their dash and just slam them back into their own team.”
There’s a lot that goes into how Bwipo thinks about the champion he’s picking, especially when he can get his hands on an R5 counter pick in the draft. And, he’s well aware of the pros and cons of every champion he chooses.
“The question for me is, ‘Can I lane?’ Because I think that a lot of bruisers like Sett are very strong champions, but the issue is they just have a really hard time laning. Or they get outperformed by tanks. You don’t counter pick Ornn with Sett because Ornn peels better, engages better, generally scales better.”
When Bwipo drafts a certain champion, he’s often doing it in response to what the enemy team has or in anticipation of what the rest of his team needs. Rather than just defaulting to a Gnar blind pick and farming for team fights like many other top laners, Bwipo uses his knowledge of the League of Legends meta and his vast champion pool to come up with creative draft solutions.
None of this would matter if Bwipo didn’t have the mechanics to back those picks up. Fortunately, he’s got the brains and the brawn to carry games for Team Liquid when he has to.
His performance has been a big part of what catapulted Team Liquid right back to the top of the LCS.
Winning the mental game
The mental game is just as important to Bwipo as playing League of Legends itself, and he had a lot to say about what it takes to win the mental game. After asking him whether or not CLG had a shot at taking either 100 Thieves or Evil Geniuses’ spot at the Playoffs, he had a very intriguing answer.
“Well, I know for a fact that some of their players, there’s one in particular, that has a really bad mental. So like, I don’t think that guy can play through a best of 5 and keep up his 100%. But, you know, if they win every best of 5, maybe. I just don’t see that happening. Even if they beat, let’s say us, or 100T, or EG, they have to do it twice. I feel like the one time they drop a single best of 5, I don’t think they’ll come back from that. And I don’t think that they’re gonna straight up just f***ing wipe everyone on the way to finals and win it. So, that’s my take on why CLG’s not gonna make it.”
When asking about Bwipo’s confidence in whether or not TL would snag a top 3 spot, he replied with complete confidence that TL isn’t just going to make it to Finals: They’re going to win it all.
“I’ll say this— If we keep up this style of play, I think we’ll win. I don’t see how we can lose. I actually don’t. I genuinely, not trying to jinx it or whatever, I just think the way we’re playing the game as a team right now is really clean. I really like what we’re doing. I’m really happy with the way we’re playing. I’m super proud of our team for finally finding a compromise for everyone.”
Bwipo went on to explain some of the possible obstacles for Team Liquid. And, by the sound of it, Team Liquid’s biggest obstacle may be themselves.
“The mental stress you’re under in a best of 5 can change your perception of the game really quickly. And it can change your habits. Like, what you perceive to be the right habits can change really quickly under that scope of like, ‘We just lost game 1, what’s going on? What do I need to change?’ And, in that moment, it can be very easy to change your mindset on how to win. Just like that.
If that happens, we’re gonna be in a tough spot. I hope we can find a way to bring ourselves back if that does happen.”
In a lot of ways, Bwipo’s explanation of what can happen in a Best of 5 set harkens back to their loss at the hand of EG back in the Spring Playoffs.
Santorin missing Smite because of Baron leveling up and giving Danny one of the most memorable pentakills in competitive history can’t have felt good on the receiving end. That one moment may have had a big impact beyond just the first game of their set against EG.
It wasn’t a skill issue or a bad call, it was a small game mechanic making a big impact at the worst time for TL. But they’re looking to set the record straight and claim the LCS title this time around.
“If we have the confidence and we trust each other to continue playing the best game we can play, we’re gonna win the split. No doubt in my mind.”