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A Bwipo on the Radar: How Fnatic’s Flex Laner Has Changed Their Game

Little known until this year, Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau has become an essential piece to a Worlds-bound Fnatic squad. Times are a’ changin’ and Bwipo’s willing to change with them.

Chances are that when you think of Fnatic, a certain legendary bot laner comes to mind almost immediately. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson has undoubtedly earned his spot among League of Legends’s greatest names, which made his self-benching in Week 3 of the 2018 Summer Split all the more mystifying for analysts and fans alike. Sure, the meta wasn’t kind to the crit-based, hyperscaling marksmen that Rekkles had made a name for himself on, but it was still a shock for him to admit he wasn’t ready to adapt to what was truly a massive meta shift.

Where would Fnatic turn? How would they get even a fraction of the playmaking power back in the bot lane with Rekkles on the sidelines?

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Enter Bwipo. With his introduction to the starting bot lane role, there was a healthy wave of skepticism to follow. Fans and analysts weren’t exactly sure how he’d stack up  or what kind of role he was looking to carve out in what was most certainly a meta in wild flux. The combination of variables and question marks seemed to have endless combinations, but by the end of the Summer Split all of those questions and concerned had evaporated into thin air when Fnatic locked in an uncontested first place finish. The Bwipo bot lane experiment has been a rousing success, but one has to wonder how the puzzle pieces fell into place so quickly. Let’s dive in and see how Bwipo took the bot lane by storm, and how Rekkles might shake things up as he works his way back onto the squad!

Diversifying Assets

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Very few times in League’s history have there been such seismic meta shifts like there was with Patch 8.11. It broke the bot lane wide open, with mages and bruisers running rampant over traditional marksmen. Rekkles wasn’t the only major star that failed to make the adjustment quickly enough, other big names such as NA’s Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi also struggled to cope with all the change. Rekkles, not content to drag his team down with him as he learned, suggested that the team go full speed ahead with Bwipo in the bot lane.

At that point, Fnatic’s hand was forced. Whether they wanted to or not, they were going to have to diversify their bot lane portfolio. Internally, the team was confident that Bwipo could transfer his top lane skillset to the bot lane with no problems. However, from the outside looking in, onlookers weren’t as sold. But Bwipo was soon to prove the doubters and naysayers wrong. His experience on casters and bruisers meant that the new bot lane playstyle was right in his wheelhouse. Yet even the biggest Bwipo optimists (outside of perhaps Bwipo himself) couldn’t have predicted just how quickly he—and his teammates—would change the face of Fnatic.

Refreshed, Revamped

For years, Fnatic’s calling card was always Rekkles. Even when up-and-coming talent like Rasmus "Caps" Winther joined at the end of 2016, Rekkles remained the focal point of a roster loaded with talent. So when Bwipo stepped into the starting role, it only made sense that the rest of Fnatic would have to change with him. It was a daunting prospect, but as Kha’Zix so aptly notes: “Change… is good.”

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Bwipo brought new strategies, new possibilities, and new playstyles to Fnatic in a time where the meta demanded change lest it sweep teams off their feet and straight to the bottom of the table. With a mix of both AD and AP damage coming out of the bot lane, Fnatic have been able to get creative with their drafts across the board. If Bwipo plays more tanky options like the mage-duelist Ryze or the sustain captain Swain, his teammates are freed up to pick up more damage-oriented champions that otherwise may not have fit into a compositions that want to peel for a glass cannon AD Carry.

This means that, with Bwipo on the Rift, Fnatic’s win conditions change drastically. Rather than scaling and protecting a decked out, six-item AD Carry, they can instead look to get proactive and find fights earlier. It’s this potent mix of meta demand and Bwipo that’s completely rewritten Fnatic’s identity. Over the course of the Summer Split, Fnatic shifted into early-to-mid game hyperdrive and, while that was still possible to do with Rekkles out there, it’s become the default every time Bwipo hits the stage. The quicker pace and more aggressive style could have fallen flat on its face, but Bwipo and Fnatic were quick to embrace the challenge and their mastery of the new style turned them into one of the most fearsome opponents in the EU LCS.

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An unforeseen by-product of this switch in playstyle was the acceleration in Caps’s growth. He was already well-renowned for his mechanical prowess coming into the Split (let’s not forget his performance at the Mid-Season Invitational), but this summer he became an even bigger part of Fnatic’s success. With less resources being invested into Bwipo, Caps and Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen have created quite the jungle-mid synergy. Caps has proven to be worthy of the extra attention and, throughout the Summer Split, he’s been a carry threat on champions from Zoe all the way to pocket picks like Wukong. While Bwipo isn’t directly responsible for Caps’s explosive growth (only Caps’s drive and great coaching can take credit for that), his more utilitarian style has allowed Fnatic to heavily place their carry bets in different lanes.

Rekkles is just as hungry as his teammates, though, and in the last couple of weeks of the regular season Fnatic has been easing him back into the roster. It’s sure to affect their strategies and rotations going forward, but by how much?

Rekk-les?

Just a few weeks before the end of the Summer Split, Rekkles and Fnatic announced that he’d be returning to the starting line up. What’s happened since then is a rotation between him, Bwipo, and Paul "sOAZ" Boyer depending on what combination the coaching staff feels gives them the best chance to win in a given matchup. This has made Fnatic incredibly difficult to predict and prep for due to the varying styles that Bwipo and Rekkles bring to the Rift.

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It may seem like insanity to try and work Rekkles back into a squad that finished first and is the favourite to take their second-straight EU LCS title, but that’s simply not the case. While Bwipo has performed greatly and changed how Fnatic play, patches over the course of the Split have started to bring crit-heavy marksmen back into the meta. Games have slowly began to lengthen and damage threats that can shred through tanks and provide consistent damage are once again rising to the forefront. This is where Rekkles comes in to save the day… sorta.

Even with the rise of marksmen back into the meta, Fnatic have shown an incredible level of resilience, largely sticking with Bwipo in the bot lane. With that being said, having Rekkles back as an option is a gigantic boost to Fnatic’s strategic repertoire. It allows the team to switch between the quick-strike early game that Bwipo provides, and the consistent damage shred from their perennial all-star Rekkles. Plus, if the meta continues to trend towards longer games, Rekkles will be a priceless asset to have as the Playoffs—and Worlds—loom on the horizon.

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It’s hard to imagine a Fnatic team without Rekkles, and chances are that we won’t have to—at least not entirely. He’s a vital piece of a Fnatic squad that’s found a bounty of strategic diversity between him and Bwipo. It’s not an indictment of Rekkles, rather it speaks to his leadership and shows that he values what he and Bwipo both bring to a team that’s got high hopes not only for playoffs, but for international competition at Worlds. There’s no doubt that Bwipo has made Fnatic a more fierce squad to face off against, but that’s because he’s given them another strategic layer for the opposition to struggle with. Rekkles is here to stay—as is Bwipo—but that just means anyone who stands in Fnatic’s way has got one hell of a fight ahead of them. With two bot lane aces up their sleeves, Fnatic’s a team that nobody wants to see with their tournament lives on the line.

Who has been your stand-out bot laner?

Let us know in the comments!