Excel Esports came out swinging in the opening weekend of the LEC Summer Split of 2022. The team, who finished in sixth place in the Spring Split, destroyed Misfits on day one and knocked over Fnatic in a nail-biting game on Day 2. While Excel On the third day against G2, they made one thing very clear: they are determined to finish higher in the Summer Split. A ticket to Worlds is the minimum, an LEC title is the target.
After Excel’s first win of the weekend, mid laner Erlend “nukeduck” Holm spoke to Inven Global. The veteran looked back at the end of Excel’s Spring Split and what went wrong for them in the game against Vitality. Nukeduck also spoke at length about Excel’s multi-week boot camp in South Korea during the off-season, explaining what it brought to the team as they brace themselves for the summer split.
Welcome, Nukeduck! Before we talk about the opening weekend of the LEC, let me call it back and start with the end of the Spring Split. You finished in sixth place, which was below what the team was aiming for. What did you think of the Split?
I’m not sure about the atmosphere in the organization, but I thought we were a bit suffocating in Vitality. I feel like we just didn’t perform that well. I think we – or at least me – had a slow start to the Split, so we got into the bottom bracket, which wasn’t the best situation. And then, in the actual game against Vitality, I thought we were better man by man, but it turned out not really. We just choked it.
You let Mikyx join the team after a few weeks, which changed the team dynamics. How do you look back on the growth you had when he came to him?
I had actually forgotten that. [Laughs] But yes, we lost quite a lot in the beginning. The team’s first iteration didn’t work very well, so we had to make adjustments. That’s why we had a bit of a slow start, but I think it was my game too. Now I think we’re getting better and better. We have a full split with Mikyx and we can work with him from the beginning. We don’t have to rush into it.
“They give you a ‘test block’ of three games. We played against T1 and we played well, they thought, so we kept playing them quite a lot.”
In the off-season, Excel went to Korea to boot camp. How was that?
It was fun! Lots of good players to play against with different playstyles. Queues are fast, games end quickly and players play aggressively. Not even necessarily to win the game – and this goes for scrims too – but they play aggressively for fun and to improve. Still, you play the game more, I’d say. In the EU, it’s more about scaling, even in a solo queue.
The only downside was that there was an MSI meta, which was a complete early game meta. Anything you would pick, especially for me in the mid lane, which isn’t a CC roamer, was downright not a viable champion. You couldn’t play Orianna, you couldn’t play Viktor, you couldn’t play Azir. All those champions were not viable. It was all about Lissandra, Ahri, Galio, Twisted Fate and maybe Yasuo, Diana and LeBlanc. But a lot has changed since the patch. So for me I didn’t get a lot of reruns in Korea on the new meta, you know? I’ve played a lot of champions that aren’t really viable now. I may still be playing them, but it’s definitely not a meta now. That’s the only problem.
Speaking of scrims, I assume you were scrimping against some pretty high-profile teams when you were there.
Yes, we were lucky, because Nelson has connections, and Mikyx knew some people too. We played well, that helped. What the good teams do is they give you a “test block” of three games. We played against T1 and we played well, they thought, so we kept playing them quite often. We played a lot of T1 and RNG, TOP Esports, EDG… we actually played against the best teams. We were very lucky with that.
No disrespect, but I can imagine that in some of those games you also get a slap. How’s that for the team?
So I’m the kind of player who stops playing a lot when the Split ends. When we got to Korea I needed some time to get back in shape. The first week, I’d say, I played pretty badly. But after that I was fine. You just play against better players. In some games you will of course lose and in some you will win. It was fine. Some players on specific champions were clearly a level above others so it was hard to deal with.
“I don’t think we really addressed the issues we had against Vitality. You can’t really know if you’ve addressed them until the situation hits again.”
For example, don’t give Faker his Ahri. [Laughs]
Yes, Faker was also very good at Twisted Fate. Zeus was good with Jayce; he stomped the job in matchups where other people aren’t even the champions at. There were some Chinese players who were really good too. I thought Angel [mid laner of Weibo Gaming] was super good. For me he was the hardest opponent.
If you evaluate how the team performed in the Spring Split and compare it to the things you learned from the boot camp, what has improved?
I think the way we played against Vitality was we just weren’t performing. They also had some meta-reads, but I think what went wrong with us isn’t something that has been helped by Korea at all. I think we just played a lot of replays and tried to get better. But I don’t think we really addressed the issues we had against Vitality. You can’t really know if you’ve addressed them until the situation strikes again, right?
Of course, you cannot repeat that you are under the same pressure.
Precisely. You can’t say, “We played well in the scrim, so it’s not all better.” But I think we have a lot of good reps in Korea, so I think it was good. For the playoffs I’m not sure what it does.
Well, at least people have said you’re doing well in scrims here in the EU, and you’re taking off with a dominant win against Misfits. On the way to the Split, is the team in a position where you hoped it would be?
I really think if the meta had stayed the same, we would have been crushing. We actually played well in scrims against MSI’s top teams. I had the feeling that that meta really suited us. In the beginning, when we got home, people hadn’t really adjusted yet. Now we don’t crush so hard anymore because we really need to learn something. We scrambled against Astralis and we even learned some combinations from them working in the meta, and we couldn’t do anything against them. We are still learning and adapting to the meta.
The team has been very clear about the goal: to make Worlds. However, it is very competitive this year; how do you feel about that?
I think we certainly have what it takes. I see that we really have to be very careful with our mindset. [Laughs] We’ve won a lot and we’ve done so well, but now in the new meta we’re not that good and people are getting a little frustrated. If we stay sober and try to focus on just improving, I think we can do it.