After almost four years of dominance, one of the most renowned coaches in the LEC - Fabian "GrabbZ" Lohmann - left G2 Esports to join an exciting project: Team BDS, the newest team in the LEC.
As a new team full of rookies, BDS didn't find much success in their early LEC days, but that doesn’t stop GrabbZ from aiming for long-term goals with the team.
During the final week of the Spring split’s regular season, GrabbZ sat down with Jaxon to discuss his first split as a coach of the team and the expectations that he has on his players going forward.
You might be out of playoffs but what are your thoughts on the performance of the team so far in the super week?
Disappointing, but not surprised given how we practiced recently. I mentioned it in PGL and I will keep saying it because it's something that I think they have to learn. It's just that practice reflects playing on stage, right? We haven't taken it as seriously as we should be.
Until Week 6, I was really happy with the progress. We went from not being able to play early games to staying in them. Despite throwing, we got mid-game leads as well.
In Week 6 we lost two games because of Dragon Soul, which we shouldn't, but it showed that we are actually getting somewhere. But then the last two weeks have been a regression. So, of course (I’m) not happy, but I did not come into the week thinking anything else would happen.
Do you think the practice went downhill because of the playoffs and you being eliminated?
It's part of it. I wouldn't say that practice before was great. I think we have had the issues for a bit longer. For people that don't know, scrims are a bit more loosened compared to stage [games]. That means you will not have these games, like on stage, when it's even for 10 minutes and both teams try not to die.
It's more like a game of people taking fights that they shouldn't. Very often, we find ourselves in a spot where we have a lead. Let's say we are 4k gold ahead in 15 minutes. Then my players choose to play the game out in a way where we just fight, instead of actually trying to practice the movement on the map.
Sure, it's more fun to see the enemy champion and wanting to kill him, but we don't improve the team there. That is something that haunted us a bit this split - the last weeks even more - and it is something that has to drastically improve.
Where would you say BDS struggled the most during this split?
It was the mid-game decision-making. Duffman and I have a very specific way of how we want to set up waves in the mid-game. This works pretty well if the team plays disciplined around it, but it's also harder to play. If we skip a step in the process, the games become hard.
This is what happened in most of the games that we threw. For example, in the game against MSF, we had a 2k gold lead at 11 minutes. Matty Galeforces in mid lane into a Jinx, dies while we get bot side vision. The game there should have been stable and we could play it out.
He saw a window, but mistakes happen, right? This is not meant to target him specifically because he gets enough hate already, which is crazy to me. If we make these mistakes and we slip away control, then the good teams will not give the control back. Teams like G2, FNC, RGE have shown on stage that if they have the tempo, they will make you suffer.
“The plan is: basically, coming Summer year 2, to be a team which is established in playoffs and then contending for Worlds. That's the general plan of BDS, and I have been very clear coming in, and they are supporting me on that goal as well”.
Do you think the meta also played a part in your unsuccessful split?
I wouldn't say so. We can play everything in this meta. You could argue that we played too many (things), which is something that I traditionally like to do.
If we would have wanted to aim for 6th place, we could have played only one style and drafted the same way every single game. It would have been easier, but I want my team to understand the game on a higher level and make decisions on what champs they are currently playing, not what the meta is.
That's one criticism that I can take: okay, we tried too much, and therefore players were confused sometimes, especially in stressful situations. Besides that, I don't think meta played an issue.
So you took over BDS and it was something different for you. When you took over the team, were you expecting fast results or did you know it would be more of a Summer Split product?
I told BDS, clearly, that I don't care about playoffs in Spring. If we reach playoffs in Summer, that's good enough already. This is a long-term project. I had no illusions. Basically, I wanted to have those players and find out with who of them I can build around in the future.
People forget, sometimes, that Matty didn't play LEC at all, Cinrkof had 14 games five years ago. Even Adam and Nuclearint played just one split before. It’s their second in the LEC. They have to learn a lot still, so I want to find out who of these players I can build up with to be a core of a team and then slowly, if needed, build around and change players here and there.
The plan is: basically, coming Summer year 2, to be a team which is established in playoffs and then contending for Worlds. That's the general plan of BDS, and I have been very clear coming in, and they are supporting me on that goal as well.
“I told BDS that I want the academy team to be in Berlin next year. This year couldn't happen because of logistical issues but I want to have some sort of a 10-man roster where all teams know their role and have this competition.”
As you said, there is some unfair criticism on some of your players. Can you see the community's opinion on the player affecting them?
So, for Adam, it's something that he had expected, right? How he handled the whole Fnatic Worlds thing was poor. He could have done it better. Coming into the split, I think he knew that there will be people who will flame him. I think he was prepared for it.
Matty, in the beginning, I think did suffer from it. He said he doesn't watch Reddit or Twitter but it always gets to you. I think it's really impossible to ignore.
It's not about being good now, I don't care about that. I don't care about getting to 6th place and then losing the first game in playoffs. That does not achieve anything for me at all. That's why it's a long-term project and I make sure they understand that. I have some experience in getting flamed in my whole career (laughs).
I am basically being told I am a sh*t coach and I cant draft, which started with memes with G2 but it is how it is. So I can tell from my experience how I deal with it and I make sure that they understand that the people who decide are me and Duffman and nothing else matters.
So if they show day-by-day on the work they do, that they want to play and deserve to play, the whole of Reddit can flame them, doesn't matter. I tried to reassure them of that.
Do you then believe in the competition argument that players do get better when competing for a position? Do you think it boosts performance?
I hope so. I told BDS that I want the academy team to be in Berlin next year. This year couldn't happen because of logistical issues but I want to have some sort of a 10-man roster where all teams know their role and have this competition.
I think when it doesn't work it's usually because the coaching staff can't vocalize what the issue is. I think a player should never be surprised why he doesn't play, he should never have another warning that he might be replaced. So I am really confident that Duffman and I can pull this off so that's the long-term goal for BDS.
For now again, as I said, I think academy knows, the main team knows, the only reason why we would make a change currently is if a player does not give the effort. If a player plays badly, it's my fault. I am happy to take the blame for that. I think I have a history of being the scapegoat.
I happily do that as long as they put the effort, which is something that I criticized publicly in PGL because at some point, they have to learn that the current efforts are not enough, right?
And then suddenly, the door could open for someone from the academy but we have plans for the offseason where they have a chance to reinstate how much they care about it and show me that they deserve to play.
So, right now, I don't think changes will happen but of course, if I see one of them slacking or not giving in 100%, I will keep the door to make changes.
So I take it that the offseason is not going to be a vacation for you and BDS.
Noo (laughs), they can take a bit of vacation if they want to. I mean, it will be 3 months until we play again. Take one month off, I don't really mind.
There are clear expectations, they know what I want to see from them. It's not only about solo queue, it's about how they think about the game. This is not a one-week process. Duff and I have been at it for some weeks now.
I talked to Limit earlier in the season and he told me that solo queue is not a learning experience and that he would love to have something similar to Faceit in CSGO or champions queue in the LCS, for example. Do you think this would be a good addition?
Oh for sure. I don't think Riot has to implement something themselves but they should open the door for other 3rd party organizations to be able to do that. Because, ultimately, as we compare to CSGO, there is a clear gap between the very best and really good players, right?
I think there should be a way for solo queue players to qualify for it. Let's say you are new in the official server and you get 1.5k LP you should be able to go champions queue and meet the pros. I think it should be still open, that's important but giving the player the chance to actually have a good practice environment is really important.
At least, from my POV, I know it's an excuse but players always say - “Ah, I hate solo queue because I play against this Ivern OTP mid lane, I don't learn anything.” It's just an excuse but I can kind of see where it comes from.
At least, this way coaches around Europe would have an easier time forcing them to play more because they won't have an excuse.
“I am privileged that in my work I can choose where I get satisfaction from. In G2, the satisfaction came from winning of course. I very consciously came to BDS and they know that what would make me happy is just to see the daily and weekly improvements.”.
Would you change anything if you could go back to the beginning of the split? Do you think if you took a different approach, maybe the results would be different?
I think I should have been not necessarily harsher, but more demanding in certain aspects. I tried to ease them into what I wanted and I think I could have been more direct. Care a bit less about them arriving not to see a good environment but making sure that they know what I want. Which is what we are doing now for Summer basically.
You were basically more patient.
Yeah, I think that makes sense. I was a bit too forgiving I would say. I think we made the necessary steps in the last two weeks to make sure they understand what is expected of them as a pro player and hopefully, they can show me and Duff in the future that they belong.
That's all on them. Ultimately, they make the decision if they want to play or not. If they put in the work, they will play, it's that simple.
You are someone that's used to winning. Now you have changed to a different approach with a different team that takes time. How is being in that position affecting you?
I am privileged that in my work I can choose where I get satisfaction from. In G2, the satisfaction came from winning of course. I very consciously came to BDS and they know that what would make me happy is just to see the daily and weekly improvements.
To see that these players get what they need and they show it on stage. As I said before, we could have gone 0-18 this split and we were not that far off. If I would have seen an improvement each week, I would have been satisfied because I know this leads somewhere.
There is an end goal. I would rather go 0-18 and improve than being a team that plays one style only, gets 9-9, goes playoffs, and loses 0-3 in the first round. That's not a team I want to be, that's not where I would get satisfaction from.
That's why I said, until Week 3, I was really happy. We had five games in a row that we lost and we could have won all of them. In the MAD Lions game, we were 5k ahead and we engaged for no reason and suicide. We lost two games with dragon soul as well.
We could have been right now a 7-10 team and then it's suddenly, oh, you are almost at playoffs. It's a bit of COPIUM of course but if you watched the games it's how it was. I am not saying we deserved that, I am saying we could have been and I was happy with the improvement.
The last two weeks were a bit disappointing but back to your question, that's where I get the fun from. To tell them something with Duffman’s presentation and then next week they do what we want them to do. That’s when it feels good to coach.
In G2, you were probably tired of winning all the time. Now, in a different long-term project, does that reignite your passion for coaching or the game?
I wouldn't say it reignites it, it's just more the passion for coaching itself. Because ultimately, in every team, there is a limited amount of space you can take.
If you are in a team like G2, as a coach, it's more beneficial to shut the f*ck up sometimes and let the players talk. Not even the way you don't think you could offer anything but it's good if players discuss themselves and if they do it naturally, give them the space to do so.
Whereas in BDS, the players don't always know what to do so I have way more room to also implement my own view of the game. As I said before, we have a clear direction of how we think the game should be played and we try to teach them that. That's just a different way of coaching and a lot of fun for me.