BT Excel have finally done it. They are now officially the kings of the NLC, after breaking the curse of never having beaten their rivals Fnatic Rising in the finals.
Now that the crown and keys to the Northern throne is theirs, Excel will be looking to shores beyond to continue their conquest, for the European Masters awaits!
BT Excel Head Coach Swiffer took time off to chat with us about Excel’s incredible finals, his thoughts on the NLC and what he expects from the EU Masters.
Swiffer, thank you for accepting this interview and congratulations on winning the NLC 2021 spring season! Tell us how you are feeling after winning the NLC, especially for you since you’ve been trying to defeat Fnatic Rising since the UKLC 2020 spring season.
Swiffer: Thank you, thank you. It feels like a weight has been lifted honestly. After coming in last year and having that undefeated season, and then getting reverse swept in the finals...and then not even making it into the finals the following season, it’s hard not to question your approach and all the other implications that come with that.
I do, however, think that every time you fall short of your expectations you can grow from it. I’m happy that both myself and the team learned from our previous shortcomings, because it’s made this victory so much sweeter.
Your jungler Markoon was awarded MVP of the tournament. I imagine he’s been over the moon about it then?
Swiffer: Yeah he’s playing it cool but everyone on the team knows that he’s absolutely loving it. I’m pretty sure if I check his Twitter profile, he’ll have changed his wallpaper to that photo of him with the MVP status!
He’s a happy camper then! BT Excel took down Fnatic in a close 2-1 series in the Upper Bracket but somehow won 3-0 in the rematch. Were you expecting this result?
Swiffer: I was hoping for 3-1 and realistically thought it would be 3-2 victory, but I am beyond happy that it was 3-0. I think it shows how good this team can be and it gives us even more drive to perform well in the European Masters (EUM).
In terms of drafting, based on what your players have said and the casters as well, it seems like you read Fnatic’s plans exceptionally well. What sort of preparations did you and the team do before the finals?
Swiffer: Honestly, there was a lot of scrawling on whiteboards and watching other regions, and how our first series played out. From my perspective, in the first best-of-3 we played, Fnatic did have a better read on the meta compared to us. But because the games did feel relatively difficult to play, we were able to reassess and come to a different conclusion.
I also think us winning the first best-of-3 series and watching them play Nordavind did give us a sizable advantage going into the finals. We also got to see how they adapted in both series and were able to pinpoint which picks would be contested, as well as how we would be able to trade them favourably.
I’m just super thankful and happy to definitively prove that this group of lads and this organisation have what it takes to win.Swiffer, BT Excel Coach
In Game 3, you guys drafted Ahri for Hatrixx. While he performed very well, it is a pick that often draws polarising opinions. What do you think of Ahri in her current state? Is she only good if she’s ahead and if she builds Everfrost?
Swiffer: I think it honestly took a bit of convincing for our team as well. Since she’s been out of the meta for so long, I can understand the aversion. I believe that the last time Ahri was in a decent position..it was the Glacial Augment and Hextech GLP-800 build that made her relevant. With Everfrost, she functions similarly to that.
On top of that, it seems to me that the mid-lane is in a bit of a weakened state at the moment. This means there’s room for more champions to be viable and we see this in most major regions and European Regional Leagues (ERLs).
Also...Hatrixx is broken, no?
No way to balance him, I agree. You’ve led BT Excel through the UKLC and now the NLC. Tell us what you think of the NLC thus far. Do you think the level of competition has improved a lot since the UKLC days?
Swiffer: I think it has improved, yes. The teams have benefited a lot from the higher level of competition and everyone in the league is forced to improve more as a result of that.
I also think that because of that, there are teams —aside from Fnatic— like Tricked Esport last season, as well as Team Singularity and Nordavind this season that have the potential to challenge the academy teams, and having that drive to stay on top helps us to improve at a faster pace.
Moving on to the most important topic...the European Masters. I think I know your answer to this but I will ask it anyways: What are you and the team’s realistic expectations for this edition of EUM?
Swiffer: I’ve said it since the start of the year: It would obviously be nice to win, but what I think is important is that we try our absolute best.
If we give it everything we have and we fall short of winning, then we’ll all be disappointed but that’s all we ask from each other as a team. Perhaps the only way for our EUM campaign to not be successful for us is if, for whatever reason, we become complacent or get in our own way.
BT Excel wins EUM, confirmed. Unfortunately Fnatic will have to play through the Play-Ins stage, and we know there will be strong teams there. Based on their form, do you expect them to make it to the Main Event without much issue?
Swiffer: It’s always tough to say. Based on their form, I don’t expect them to have issues but anything could change that.
They might have an insanely hard schedule, or even come up against the eventual winners in the Play-In stage, or maybe they have a poor read on the upcoming patch. However, I think if they perform like how they did in the finals, then I am fully expecting them to make it to the Main Event.
Which regions, teams or players are you keeping a very close eye on? In general and for EUM.
Swiffer: I always try to keep up with the major regions, so LPL, LEC, LCK and LCS, especially when a patch change hits so I can see how close our read on it has been and adjust accordingly.
For the ERLs, the LFL is looking like the strongest region so far with so many top tier teams failing to even qualify for EUM. I occasionally check in with the SuperLiga and also I try to keep up with the Prime League, because I feel like their teams are more willing to innovate and to try fringe meta picks.
Since you’ve competed for two seasons in NLC already, based on the level of competition, do you think the NLC should get three representatives at EUM?
Swiffer: This is a tough one. I do think that having three representatives would’ve saved a lot of heartache at the end of the last season where we ended up placing third. However, I believe that had we qualified for EUM then, we might not have been able to rise to the occasion.
It’s my belief that the NLC needs to place better at EUM before being given the opportunity to have a third representative, so here’s hoping that after this split we do.
I’ve said it since the start of the year: It would obviously be nice to win [EUM], but what I think is important is that we try our absolute best.Swiffer, BT Excel Coach
Before we end, I have to ask this question. As one of the biggest names from Oceania in your playing days, do you still keep up with the scene? What are your thoughts on the LoL Circuit Oceania (LCO) at the moment?
Swiffer: You are too kind. I wish that I could say I had the time to follow the scene but unfortunately, the most I’m able to do is watch a couple of games a week to check up on how some of my friends are doing.
I do think however, that the whole transition from OPL to LCO was handled relatively poorly, but I believe some players benefited a lot from it.
I’m hoping that whichever team that does end up making it to MSI from LCO manages to put up an absolute banger of a performance!
Any closing thoughts?
Swiffer: I’m just super thankful and happy to definitively prove that this group of lads and this organisation have what it takes to win. I think there’s something special about this team, and I’m hoping that we make ourselves and the NLC proud in EUM.
The EU Masters Play-Ins starts on March 29th so keep an eye out for Fnatic Rising as they look to qualify for the Main Event.