Can you hear it, rumbling in the distance? It comes from the north, a cold chill of anticipation, sweeping down like an avalanche. Yes, it’s the NLC, and it’s back!
Last summer we saw Fnatic Rising and Riddle Esports make history and they battled it out to the bitter end before venturing to the EU Masters (EUM). The inaugural NLC season had everything from thrills, frills, snoozers, doozers and of course an exceptional broadcast team and guests! And guess what? This season promises to be even better!
Before we kick off the 2021 spring season, we spoke to the participating teams and asked what they thought of the upcoming season ahead. Today we hear from the participants from Group A first in a two part article.
BT Excel are in somewhat of an unfortunate position. Despite their many top 2 or 3 finishes as well as previous EUM outings, it tends to be overlooked due to Fnatic Rising’s –Excel’s academy rivals– absolute dominance. They’ve come close to winning the past UKLCs and even placed third last summer, but it’s the final leg of their journey to that coveted first place that continues to elude them.
This spring however, they’re done playing second fiddle. Choosing to build around Hatrixx and Deadly, they’ve assembled what on paper is definitely a title-winning roster. With former MAD Lions toplaner Orome included, if this year they are unable to halt Fnatic Rising’s win streak even once, who knows if anyone ever will?
“It's probably cliche and it's been said numerous times but nothing short of winning the NLC would be satisfactory. I believe the roster that we've assembled has undoubtedly got the most potential out of any currently in the NLC. Our plan is to dramatically improve teamplay week on week and use the NLC games as a way to measure our progress. We're here to win the NLC.” - Swiffer, BT Excel Head Coach
Nordavind, the premier Norwegian organization and the recent kings of the Telialigaen. That being said, their foray into both summer and fall tournaments have been met with mixed results. They achieved 5th/6th in summer despite relatively high expectations, and perhaps came together too late when they fell to Tricked 2-1.
However, they wouldn’t be one of the bigger names if they gave up so easily. Coming into the spring, they’ve shown they’re not afraid of promoting Norweigan talents and have brought in the one and only Kerberos. Regardless of how they finish, Nordavind are sure to excite whenever they load into the Rift.
“2020 was a different and difficult year for most people in many ways, but despite this Nordavind has managed to find ways to grow beyond what we could’ve imagined. 2021 marks a start of a new era for both the organisation, but also our LoL team.
We build this new era upon well known pillars in Touch and Erixen, as well as our own superstar botlaner Chrisberg. We then compliment those three with Norwegian jungler Sharp, and finish it off with some spicy UK vibes in Kerberos, Doruk as Head Coach and Wise Traveller as Analyst.
The last few weeks have been hectic, moving most of them to Oslo in these COVID times, but now we are more than ready for the season to begin. 2021 will be our best year so far, and I have never been more excited for a roster or a season than I am right now!” - Kami, Nordavind Manager
Coming into the NLC with a roster that people knew very little about, Godsent arrived last summer with very little expectations. In fact, many thought they were the prime candidate for relegations. However, as the season drew on, Godsent continued to destroy prediction after prediction, eventually making a heroic run to playoffs.
Godsent is not content with just that pat on the back however. For 2021, they are aiming to go a step further. Giving an opportunity to coach Jon Ellis and veteran marksmen Emtest -who had a very good Fall Open- along with several rookies, Godsent aims to build on their success and who knows, maybe go even further.
“I don't think people will have high expectations of our roster if they haven't heard of or know the names of the players and coach, however what we have built is a group of hardworking, determined and talented individuals with excellent pedigree and potential.
We expect this roster and these individuals to have a highly competitive future and be firing on all cylinders by the time playoffs comes about. Just like the other teams, we have a lot of work to do before then however. I’m excited to show everyone what our cocktail of experience and youth can achieve!"Zvir, Godsent Team Manager
As a returning top 4 team from last summer, Tricked Esport certainly has some big shoes to fill (or, steal, as per their raccoon emblem). They narrowly lost to a surging Riddle in playoffs, and fell to that same roster -in the form of Barrage Esports- in the Fall Open as well. Nevertheless, both their campaigns ended in runs to the playoffs. That alone should command respect from their fellow competitors.
And teams will rightly be wary of their lineup for 2021. Retaining botlaner Achuu, they’ve gotten coach Vandett0 to lead this team. He was the coach behind Godesent’s run to playoffs in summer and Dusty’s top 4 finish at the Fall Open. Will he once against mastermind another run to glory? As Tricked would say, #GETTRICKED“Our 2021 team has set ambitious but reachable goals with Tricked’s new program and infrastructure. The goal for Tricked has been to focus on players both in and out of the game. All the players are full time and are working with staff every day to optimize their play and better their habits and lifestyles.
Tricked has invested in a full person strategy and time will tell if it can bear fruit for spring. We believe it will and we are doing everything we can to make that a reality.Vandett0, Tricked Esport Head Coach
Granit was given the opportunity to promote to the NLC after two spots opened up, as was offered to Telia Masters’ champions KOVA Esports. Granit Gaming were second seed coming out of Telia Sweden, and they made a remarkable run through to the Telia Masters finals. While they did not manage to beat MNM in relegations, they now have a chance to prove they belong.
Other than toplaner Tamoz, Granit’s roster has limited competitive experience. They probably are aiming to develop the team throughout the season, and this might be the element of surprise they need to topple the bigger names in their group.
"We are feeling ready and confident in playing the Spring Season of the NLC 2021. We are very much looking forward to engaging with the community revolving around the league and to be a part of making this a huge event!
We strongly believe in our roster for the upcoming season and we have made sure to take our time into forging a team that will work well both on and off the battlefield. The eight players of ours are based on a professional foundation of staff to give them the advantage they need to focus solely on their tasks as League players. We intend to show the rest of the teams in the NLC that we are one to count on.
We intend to put on a good show and can not wait to kick things off! Thank you for this opportunity and see you all on the Rift!"Ludwig Wegmann, Granit Gaming Co-Owner
The Icelandic outfit returns to the NLC, after a disappointing summer but very rewarding Fall Open which saw them place 3rd/4th. They missed out on playoffs in summer to Barrage through head-to-head in a final week decider, but came back strongly under now Tricked coach Vandett0 in the Fall Open.
Dusty are done with heartbreak. Hoiz and PederseNN joins them, after both performed remarkably during the Fall Open, as well as re-signing their mid-jungle duo from last season. Will this be enough to push for playoffs, or will their chances be like dust bunnies waiting to be hoovered up?one before in the NLC, and I couldn’t be happier about it!
In the middle of December, it looked like we wouldn’t have a single player from Iceland. We were in the final stages of signing an extremely skilled lineup of players but I felt something wasn’t right, so I decided not to go ahead. Some of them had declined offers from other teams to sign with us, for that I’m sorry and would like to publicly apologise to them.
Ultimately, we are an Icelandic organisation built to develop and elevate Icelandic talent. I think it’s good to mix both Icelandic and foreign talents together to help progression, so that’s what we did.
I’m really proud to have Legions and Hoiz on the team, they’ve been with us since the start. Our midlaner Sausi is very talented and has showcased great performances within our academy team. Cheelm is coming back home and is held in high regard within our ranks. Then there are the newcomers in PederseNN and Flaxxish, both have already proved themselves as great players. For coaches we have Demb continuing on with us along with Serenity, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this partnership works out.
I can’t wait to start watching the NLC once more. Iceland too, will be watching us again as well. We’ll be going up against a lot of great teams, most of them with bigger budgets compared to us, but we will approach every game like we can win and go from there.” -Ásbjörn Ásbjörnsson, Dusty CEO and Founder