Excel Esports’ start to the 2021 LEC Spring Split has produced a fairly predictable set of results so far. While dishing out defeats to Schalke 04 and Astralis, the British-based team has found itself bested by three of last split’s strongest teams in G2, Rogue, and MAD Lions. Once again hunting for that elusive spot in the LEC Playoffs, Excel finds itself in need of upping the ante this season.
Anticipating the task ahead, the organisation made some shrewd moves during the offseason. Marc ‘Caedrel’ Lamont’s retirement from pro play was perhaps an initial spanner in the works, though the introduction of Daniel ‘Dan’ Hockley ensures that shotcalling presence remains. Furthermore, the departure of Joran ‘Special’ Scheffer was subsequently met with the signing of midlaner Paweł ‘Czekolad’ Szczepanik from AGO Rogue – a player who already looks right at home in the LEC.
But Dan and Czekolad aren’t the only players on Excel in the fledgling stages of their LEC careers. Having joined from Unicorns of Love Sexy Edition at the beginning of the 2020 Summer Split, Felix ‘Kryze’ Hellström is only now entering his second LEC split. Traditionally known for more carry-oriented picks such as Camille, Ryze, and Vladimir, Kryze has already showcased the true depth of his champion pool this season, piloting more supportive picks such as Ivern and Lulu, while bringing out the Renekton for the first time in his professional career during Excel’s win against Astralis last weekend.
“The Renekton wasn’t my idea,” Kryze admits to The Loadout. “It’s a champion I really disliked, but my team wanted to play it because it’s very broken. So they kind of forced me to practice it and get good at it, which actually worked out.”
Meanwhile, the decisions to pick Ivern and Lulu were far more whimsical in nature. “We basically saw Nick ‘LS’ De Cesare’s tier lists and were like ‘ok we’ll give it a try,’” he says. “We tried Ivern out in scrims which worked out really well, so we played it. But with the Lulu we only played one warm up game and were like ‘okay, let’s pull it out on the main stage.’”
You'll get'em next time. pic.twitter.com/sJKyaqTBaR
— LS (@LSXYZ9) January 22, 2021
All three picks have remarkable synergy with the new items introduced in Season 11. A dive-oriented champion such as Renekton is a major benefactor of Goredrinker’s active effect, which deals damage in a radius and heals for a percentage of missing health for each enemy champion hit.
Ivern and Lulu meanwhile benefit from the ridiculously-strong interaction between Moonstone Renewer and Staff of Flowing Water, which effectively buffs the whole team with bonus AP and movement speed. Both Goredrinker and Staff of Flowing Water have received nerfs on LoL patch 11.3, but it is far too early to judge their efficacy.
League meta rn pic.twitter.com/TISB7oQUDN
— Kryze (@KryzeLoL) January 29, 2021
As Kryze points out, the sheer variety of viable picks across numerous champion types makes top lane a very diverse role right now. “I think almost everything can be played in the top lane, and be made to work, like we saw with Ivern,” he says. “The Lulu worked, and we even saw Orianna top in the LPL last week.” With that said, however, Kryze is hopeful that more players will ride the tides of change, rather than sticking to their comfort zones. “I feel like people are going back to their roots with Renekton and Gragas,” he notes, “which is getting kind of boring. But we’ll see what happens.”
Although familiar picks are currently reigning supreme in the LEC, the league has seen the introduction of some unfamiliar faces. With the likes of Segen ‘Broken Blade’ Çelik signing for Schalke 04, Mathias ‘Szygenda’ Jensen being picked up by Vitality, and Irfan ‘Armut’ Tukek making his way to MAD Lions, Kryze has fresh competition in the top lane this season. However, the lane opponent Kryze has been most impressed by is none other than Misfits Gaming’s Shin ‘HiRit’ Tae-min.
"HiRit could be one of the best toplaners in EU"
“I feel like HiRit is a big surprise to me because he was really good in scrims,” he says, “and he has been performing really well in the LEC. So he could be one of the best toplaners in EU. Maybe in a couple of splits, maybe this split. Who knows? He has been the most outstanding so far.”
Though the hype surrounding this season’s batch of rookies has continually been stoked, with it comes pressure to perform. Reflecting on his own maiden split as an LEC player, Kryze deems it “kind of a failure,” stating that he couldn’t really live up to his own hype. “I don’t know why that was,” he says. “I think we were not good enough, and I did not perform when I needed to.”
However, Kryze also asserts that he has developed a lot during the offseason. “Hopefully I can show the fans what I can do this split,” he says.
Between diving deeper into his champion pool on stage, as well as putting in stand-out performances so far against the likes of G2 and Astralis, it is clear that Kryze is doing everything he can to ensure Excel finally reaches the Playoffs spot that has previously eluded it.