Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Bean is subbing in for Upset on Fnatic’s starting Worlds 2021 roster.
Fnatic, the League of Legends European Championship’s second seed, bring their historic brand to the international stage once more by qualifying for Worlds 2021. Upcomer wrote an extensive preview on them and how they got here, so this time we take a look at a few other insights on how Fnatic might fare at Worlds.
With the help of two LEC casters from the European Regional Leagues in the form of Roberto “KenRhen” Prampolini from Italy and Tomasz “Magvayer” Filipiuk from Poland, as well as some quotes from Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau himself, we take a dive once more into the black and orange sea that is Fnatic.
Group C: C for ‘chance’ or for ‘condemned’?
In Upcomer’s recent groups roundtable, 3/5 people picked Fnatic to exit Group C, but almost everyone agrees that it will be very close, especially with Hanwha Life Esports here to potentially spoil the party.
It’s fair to say Group C is potentially one of the most uncertain groups and it wouldn’t be surprising to see almost any combination of teams make it out. KenRhen believes so too, and thinks Royal Never Give Up will have the slight edge, pointing out that bot lane duos are stacked in Group C.
“Man, oh man, bot lanes in this group are stacked. Elias “Upset” Lipp and Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov need to be at their 100% if they want to give it a shot,” he said.
— FNATIC (@FNATIC) August 18, 2021
Unfortunately Upset was confirmed to have a family emergency and will not start for Fnatic Worlds 2021. In his place, Louis “Bean” Schmitz, a young German bot laner from Fnatic Rising (Fnatic’s Academy), will be filling his large shoes.
Bean has made the NLC finals twice so far and came close to defeating Karmine Corp in the EU Masters last summer. For those less familiar, Bean has performed remarkably this year, especially on champions like Aphelios, Varus, Tristana, Jinx and he’s been practicing Lucian in solo-queue.
KenRhen also adds that the LEC’s comfort zone is best-of-one’s due to how the league is structured. But best-of-five’s, if Fnatic make it out, could pose a problem.
“I, unfortunately, think Fnatic with their current lineup, still lack international experience to stand great chances in best-of-five’s, but I’m totally open to be surprised in that regard,” he said.
However, no matter how you slice the cake, Fnatic have always pulled out surprises at Worlds in days past. Whether it be in 2017 where they went 0-4 to 2-4 and exited via two tense tiebreakers, or their run to the finals in 2018, their love affair with this tournament runs deep. Magvayer, arguably Poland’s biggest Fnatic supporter, remembers those moments fondly. He has high hopes for this team and agrees with KenRhen’s assessment.
“I think Fnatic have a really competitive group and it’s going to be one of the most interesting ones. It will be so hard to get out in first place but overall, Fnatic stands a good chance of making it interesting in best-of-ones,” he said. “They’ve been through everything and I have high hopes for them. Fnatic have this gimmicky style of playing that I feel like they could be a real threat in best-of-one’s, you can never expect what they’re going to do.”
The heart of the team: Bwipo
When Fnatic made their off-season plans known to compete in the LEC 2021 Summer Season, fans were undeniably left in a limbo of uncertainty, as if time stood still. Bwipo, now former top laner, announced he was going to play in the jungle. He had no prior competitive experience playing this pivotal role. LEC analyst Marc Robert “Caedrel” Lamont mentioned in the preview piece that he was always confident in Bwipo’s roleswap due to how knowledgeable he was as a player. Both KenRhen and Magvayer agree on this assessment.
“Ever since the roleswap was announced, I’ve been a huge fan of it. I always thought about Bwipo as one of the most knowledgeable and smart players in the LEC,” KenRhen said, mentioning how Bwipo’s wave management and teleport usage as top laner was one of the best. “I always thought of Bwipo as ‘wasted’ as a top laner. The lane management was taking away a lot of time, focus, and resources from him and his gameplay. As a jungler, Bwipo has more agency to play around the map, can be a better leading voice inside the team and can way more easily translate his game knowledge into a team advantage.”
Magvayer was a bit more skeptical at first due to Europe’s available talent pool, especially from the ERLs, with many junglers for Fnatic to choose from. But as time went on, Bwipo’s performances spoke for themselves, and he cites Bwipo’s synergy with Hylissang as a key factor to Fnatic’s successes.
“If you remember the 2018 Summer Season when Bwipo played in the bot lane with Hylissang, it was one of the most fun periods in Europe and they actually looked quite scary as a duo,” he said. “Now they are not playing in the same lane, but playing jungle and support is almost like playing one role.
“I think alongside role swaps like Luka “Perkz” Perković to bot lane or Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao to top lane, this is one of the more successful roleswaps so far. Of course it’s only one season, but Bwipo got his team to qualify for Worlds. He’s such a creative player in the jungle that I have been impressed by it.”
I thought I wasn't good enough to make it as a jungler, but my team really proved me wrong.
So grateful to play at Worlds again.
— Bwipo (@Bwipo) August 22, 2021
Bwipo himself spoke about how he approached jungling. It was something that he didn’t think of as very difficult to pick up since it was what he expected it to be. He said that he built a solid foundation first with his prior knowledge before taking ideas from other junglers such as Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu, and that he is jungling as smartly as possible while finding his style.
“I asked myself, ‘what is smart jungling and who is smart in the jungle?’ For example, I thought Canyon jungles very smartly,” Bwipo said. “I just wanted to be a jungler that can play a stable game, play scaling champions, get items and be useful for the team since I know how to play very well around minion waves and try to exploit laners. That’s what I tried to do.”
“I try to jungle smart, I think it’s important to play with your teammates, more than anything as a jungler. Sometimes you don’t do smart things because you get influenced emotionally, be it positive or negative. It’s something a lot of people underestimate. I think it’s something I’m working on, and I would say Bwipo’s jungling style is not anything until I figure it out what I really want to do.”
When pressed on his thoughts on his experience of jungling in the LEC, Bwipo comments that while he thinks the LEC does have a lot of solid junglers such as Kacper “Inspired” Słoma, there is leeway to get away with the little things compared to playing against junglers from China and Korea.
“I think everyone [LEC junglers] has their own quirks and way of looking at the game, but when it comes down to it, I don’t think it’s ‘ridiculous,’” he said. “I’m not pooping my pants compared to some of the Asian junglers that I know. They scare me! There’s a thing or two that can go wrong and that’s when I feel it’s over. In EU, you get a lot more leeway. When your matchup goes bad, you still get a lot more breathing room. I think that’s the way it is.”
Group C’s junglers, especially RNG’s Yan “Wei” Yang-Wei, will certainly put Bwipo’s months of hard work to the test.
The weird and wacky picks at Worlds 2021: boon or bust?
Worlds 2021 Play-Ins have come and gone, with a plethora of familiar and foreign champion picks all around. While we have not seen solo-queue picks such as Ekko/Sylas support or Xerath bot lane, picks such as Amumu support, Graves top, the assassin trio of Zed/Qiyana/Talon in the jungle and the dreaded Tryndamere mid have all made appearances in the Play-Ins. What can we expect from Fnatic?
“I believe Fnatic with their creativity, with their wide champion pools, can be of great influence on the meta and shape it their own way,” Magvayer said, mentioning that Fnatic were not afraid to play the Garen/Yuumi combo in official matches.
“I would like to see Hylissang on Pyke once again. Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer was always this player who’s like the chameleon and he will play whatever his team needs,” he continued. “With their adaptability, coach Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi and with these crazy picks, I actually think that meta is going to suit Fnatic quite well.”
— Bynjee (@Bynjee) October 10, 2021
But what about the jungle meta and the trio of assassins that have been the talk of the town? While Bwipo has picked up many champions in the jungle, and even carrying in games where he’s on Viego, assassins and a purely selfish, carry style is not something you would wholly associate his time in the jungle with.
KenRhen doesn’t doubt Bwipo can pick them up but offers a different viewpoint on this often debated topic to close the subject.
“A huge point for Fnatic is not how or if they will play those champions, but how they can play around them,” he said. “If we take junglers like Talon, Qiyana or Zed, they all have an unfortunate detail in common: a horrible win rate against basically the whole of Bwipo’s champion pool. Trundle and Xin Zhao are great against them, and Jarvan IV is really strong right now. And if we want some spice, add Rengar and Volibear to the club. Fnatic will do just fine.”
He did, however, leave the final word as a plea to Riot Games: “This does not mean, in any way, that I consider Goredrinker balanced right now. Please Riot, nerf Goredrinker. Rework Gorendrinker. Remove Goredrinker.”