Excel Esports came out swinging in the opening weekend of the 2022 LEC Summer Split. The team, who bowed out in sixth place in the Spring Split, demolished Misfits on the first day and toppled Fnatic in a nailbiter game on day 2. While Excel bit the dust on the third day against G2, they made one thing very clear: they’re hellbent on finishing 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 with Inven Global. The veteran reflected on the end to Excel’s Spring Split and what went wrong for them in the match against Vitality. Nukeduck also spoke at length about Excel’s multi-week bootcamp in South Korea during the offseason, explaining what it brought to the team as they braced themselves for the Summer Split.
Welcome, Nukeduck! Before we talk about the opening weekend of the LEC, I want to dial it back and start with the end of the Spring Split. You guys finished in sixth place, which was lower than the team aimed for. What were your thoughts on the Split?
I'm not sure about the vibe in the org, but I thought that we choked a bit against Vitality. I feel like we just didn't perform that well. I think we — or at least I — had a slow start to the Split, so we got in the lower bracket, which wasn't the best situation. And then in the actual match against Vitality, I thought we were better man for man, but it didn't really show. We just choked it.
You had Mikyx come into the team after a few weeks, which changed the team dynamic. How do you look back on the growth you guys had when he joined?
I forgot about that, actually. [Laughs] But yeah, we did lose quite a lot in the beginning. The first iteration of the team didn't really work that well, so we had to make adjustments. That's why we also had a bit of a slow start, but it was also my play, I think. Now, I think we are getting better and better. We have a full Split with Mikyx and we can work with him from the start. We don't have to rush anything in the middle of it.
"They give you a 'test block' of three games. We did it against T1 and we played fine, they thought, so we kept playing them quite a lot."
In the offseason, Excel went to Korea to bootcamp. How was that?
It was fun! A lot of good players to play against with different playstyles. Queue times are fast, games end fast, and players play aggressively. Not even for winning the game necessarily — and this goes for scrims as well — but they play aggressively for fun and to improve. Nevertheless, you get to play the game more, I would say. In EU it's more about scaling, even in solo queue.
The only downside was that there was an MSI meta, which was a complete early game meta. Anything that you would pick, especially for me in the mid lane, that is not a roamer with CC, was straight up not a viable champion. You could not play Orianna, you could not play Viktor, you could not play Azir. All those champions were not viable. It was all about Lissandra, Ahri, Galio, Twisted Fate, and then maybe Yasuo, Diana, and LeBlanc. But after the patch, it's all changed a lot. So for me, I didn't get many reps in Korea on the new meta, you know? I played a lot of champions that aren't really viable now. I might still play them, but it's definitely not meta now. That's the only problem.
Talking about scrims: I presume you scrimmed against pretty high-caliber teams when you were there.
Yeah, we were lucky because Nelson has connections, and Mikyx also knew some people. We were playing well, which helped out. What the good teams do, is they give you a 'test block' of three games. We did it against T1 and we played fine, they thought, so we kept playing them quite a lot. We played a lot of T1 and RNG, TOP Esports, EDG... we played all the best teams, basically. We were super lucky with that.
No disrespect, but I imagine that in some of those games you get slapped around as well. How is that for the team?
So, I'm the kind of player that stops playing the game a lot when the Split ends. When we got to Korea, I needed a bit to get into shape again. The first week, I would say, I was playing kinda badly. But after that, I think it was fine. You just play against better players. Some games, of course, you lose, and some games you win. It was fine. Some players on specific champions were obviously one level above others, so it was hard to deal with.
"I think we didn't really deal with the problems we had against Vitality. You can't really know if you've dealt with them until the situation hits again"
Don't give Faker his Ahri, for example. [Laughs]
Yeah, Faker was also really good on Twisted Fate. Zeus was good with Jayce; he would stomp the lane in matchups that other people don't even the champ in. There were a bunch of Chinese players that were also really good. I thought that Angel [mid laner of Weibo Gaming] was super good. For me, he was the most difficult opponent.
If you evaluate how the team performed in the Spring Split and compare it to the things you've learned from the bootcamp, what has improved?
I think that the way we played against Vitality was just us not performing. They had some meta reads as well, but I think what went wrong for us is not something that got helped by Korea at all. I think we just played a lot of reps and tried to get better. But I think we didn't really deal with the problems we had against Vitality. You can't really know if you've dealt with them until the situation hits again, right?
Sure, you can't replicate being under the same pressure.
Exactly. You can't say, "We played well in the scrim, so not it's all better." But I think we got a lot of good reps in Korea, so I think it was good. For the playoffs, I'm not sure what it does.
Well, people have at least been saying that you're doing well in scrims here in EU, and you hit the ground running with a dominant win against Misfits. Is the team, heading into the Split, at a position where you had hoped where it would be?
I do think that, if the meta had stayed the same, we would have been crushing. We were actually playing well in scrims against the top teams at MSI. I felt like that meta fit us a lot. At the start, when we came home, people hadn't really adapted yet. Now, we are not crushing that hard anymore because we actually need to learn something. We scrimmed against Astralis and we actually learned some combinations from them that work in the meta, and we could not do anything against them. We're still learning and adapting to the meta.
The team has been very clear about the goal: making Worlds. It's very competitive this year though; how do you feel about it?
I think we definitely have what it takes. I do see that we really need to be really careful with our mindset. [Laughs] We won a lot and we did so well, but now in the new meta we are not as good and people get a bit frustrated. If we keep level-headed and we try to focus on just improving, then I think we can do it.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.