Team BDS fared much better in the 2023 LEC Winter Split than most preseason power rankings predicted. The team had a rocky first week in the best-of-one stage and went 1-2, but turned the ship around in the subsequent weeks. A 5-4 score at the end of the first phase put BDS in fifth place, more than enough to qualify for the Group Stage. There, however, BDS stumbled again. With a loss to eventual champion G2 Esports in the first round and a loss to Astralis in round two, BDS dropped out in seventh place.

At the end of the Winter Split journey, support player Labros “Labrov” Papoutsakis spoke with Em Dash about BDS’ final series. He also reflected on the Winter Split in its entirety and explained why he feels much more comfortable playing for the underdog team than he did for Team Vitality’s superteam last year.

Losing to Astralis

Welcome, Labrov. Team BDS ends the Winter Split in seventh place which, I imagine, is quite disappointing in light of the success the team found in the best-of-ones. It felt to me that, both BDS and Astralis, played with extra caution in this elimination match, which might’ve hindered both teams’ performances. How do you view that?

I could agree with that for the first game, personally. But in the games we lost, we were so far behind in the early game that we couldn’t do much. [Laughs] I think, in general, people play more scared on stage.

“You have to be ready for the next split as well. You can still prove that you can be a strong team.”

Did you feel any extra pressure, or did you notice the team behaved any differently, knowing that it was an elimination match?

Nah, I didn’t feel much pressure during the games, personally. Of course, there is still some pressure when you play an official match, but there wasn’t any extra pressure for me.

What was your read on Astralis?

We felt that their bot lane is the strongest part of the team. We tried to not give them their best champions, the ones they prefer to play. In the second game, we adapted by banning Caitlyn. But we fucked up. We should have picked Varus so that they couldn’t play it. I don’t know why, but we just didn’t follow our preparation and we changed our pick randomly. Then, in the third game, it all was over pretty quickly.

Labrov LEC BDS 2023
Playing for BDS helped Labrov, since it came with far less pressure from the outside. (Source: Michal Konkol for Riot Games)

BDS’ Winter Split in review

I don’t want to dwell on the series itself too long. At the start of the split, the expectations for BDS were very low. Overall, I would say you still showed up much stronger than anticipated. How do you look back at the Winter Split?

Even though it really feels bad right now to lose like this, especially because you want to prove to people that you can actually go even higher, I think you can still take away a lot of positive things. You have to be ready for the next split as well. You can still prove that you can be a strong team. There are a lot of valuable lessons to learn from playing on a stage with the team in official games. You need to use those lessons for the next split.

I obviously had high expectations for myself. I would say it went decently, overall. Today was kind of bad, but the rest of the Winter Split was ok.

“When people don’t have expectations for you, you don’t feel the extra pressure.”

You came into BDS, a team with few expectations, from Team Vitality, a team that had incredibly high expectations last year. How has that transition been for you?

At first, it was kind of hard. I worked at Vitality for a few years, so the [BDS] environment was different from what I was used to. It’s mostly about how the people work here. Slowly, with time, I adapted. I like it now.

For me, I would say there is a big difference mental-wise as well. I don’t feel any pressure at all. When people don’t have expectations for you, you don’t feel the extra pressure.

Was that an issue for you last year?

In the Spring Split for sure. In the Summer Split, I think I managed to keep the pressure at a good level.

The bot lanes in the LEC have looked really strong overall, and you and Crownie did not fall behind. How has it been to work with him again, after you played with him in 2021 on Vitality?

So, yeah, I kind of knew already how he thinks about the game and how he is as a player. It wasn’t too hard to agree with him about how we should play. We could just work on the things we needed to work on.

Labrov BDS LEC 2023
Labrov has found more success with BDS than anticipated by analysts and pundits. (Source: Michal Konkol for Riot Games)

Closing thoughts

The best-of-threes turned out to be a hurdle too big to take for BDS. How do you feel about the format, after one split?

Honestly, I think we just played badly on the day. You can always blame the draft or something like that, but we just played worse than Astralis in the end. Playing best-of-threes feels new. Hopefully, we’ll get to play more next split. [Laughs]

To round up, is there anything you’d like to say to the BDS fans? You’ve accumulated quite a few this split, actually. [Laughs]

[Laughs] True. Hm, I want to say thank you for supporting us, it was really nice to get that support, especially during the best-of-ones. Sorry for today. It was a rough day, but I’m sure that we’re gonna use the valuable lessons. We’ll work even harder in the next split. Everyone wants to do better than this and we have the potential to do it.

Team BDS plays its first game of the LEC Spring Split on Saturday, March 11, at 7 PM CET against SK Gaming. You can watch the game live on the official LoL Esports site.