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Nukeduck: “I want to be a leader who is positive, who my team can rely on”

Tom Matthiesen

Excel Esports is having a difficult start to the LEC Summer Split. In their hunt for the first-ever appearance in the Playoffs, the team sits at a 2-5 score after three weeks of play. Though the team’s performance has left much to be desired, one player has had a standout performance on the roster so far: Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm.


Though Excel Esports is struggling in the LEC so far, Nukeduck's performance has received praise. Image courtesy of Michal Konkol / Riot Games.

We sat down with Nukeduck after his team’s loss against SK Gaming at the end of the third week. He spoke at length about his return to the LEC stage after taking a break earlier this year for personal reasons. Nukeduck also offered an extensive perspective on his performances in recent LEC Splits, which led many to question whether or not he should still be given the chance to compete in the league.

Hotspawn: Welcome, Nukeduck. Unfortunately for you, you just lost against SK Gaming, who picked up their first win of the Split. What went wrong in the game?

Nukeduck: I think they got ahead in the game very soon. They were just getting plays, they got advantages over us in the sidelanes—this game it was in the top lane, in the Rogue game [in week one] it was the bot lane. Their jungler got ahead from that as well. We were not able to find any openings for ourselves, so it was a one-sided game in the end. We tried some shit around mid that weren’t the best plays.

Against Misfits, we kinda hoped that we could get the fight around mid, where we could go for a 3v3 or something, where their Gwen wouldn’t be involved. But they didn’t let us take even-numbered fights, they played smart. So we were not really able to impact the game.

Hotspawn: It felt weird to see you guys play so passively, to not take any action as the game slipped away. Can you explain how you got into that position, and why you didn’t do much?

Nukeduck: We didn’t have the strength to fight for the objectives and the enemies were just playing safe on the weak side, so they were just playing around the two lanes where they wanted to take the objective. So we weren’t able to take something on the other side of the map. You can take a tier one tower, right? But it doesn’t really do anything, to be honest. It just allows the guy that would be on weak side for the enemies to get more farm. So, taking the tier one tower or leaving it up is kind of the same. Long story short: we were not able to find any trades because they were just taking all the objectives.

We made our stand at the fourth drake and we were gonna accept the fight if they were trying to engage. We got a decent fight, it had an ok start, but Gwen was too powerful so we were not able to win it.

There are two mid laners that are not like the others in the LEC, which are Humanoid and Caps.

Hotspawn: I mainly want to talk about your return to the LEC stage, after you took a break in the Spring Split. Now you’re back on a team, with Youngbuck as your coach who is someone you get along with well: how does it feel?

Nukeduck: Well, there is a little bit of narrative going on that me and Youngbuck are good friends. We do know each other, but we’re not keeping in touch outside of the game.

Hotspawn: Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that you were brought on the team because of cronyism, or something.

Nukeduck: No no, I’m not saying that you did. I’m just saying that it’s something I’m hearing quite a bit. But yeah, I know him because we’ve both been in the scene for a long time. He’s a nice dude. The one that I’m friends with from before is Excel’s sports psychologist [Fabian Broich]. I’m derailing from the question, but anyway, I knew Youngbuck, but we didn’t really talk outside of the game.

Hotspawn: Alright so back to the question then, how is it to be back in the league?

Nukeduck: Oh, it’s fine man, it’s fine. It’s fun to play. I do feel like I have reached a good level of play myself, and that feels good. I’m very confident playing the games now, against any mid laner. There are two mid laners that are not like the others in the LEC, which are Humanoid and Caps. Those two I still look up to a bit to try to learn how to play as well as them. They can play every champion. Whenever I think about a champ that’s really hard to play, I always think that Humanoid and Caps are the best on those.

For the other mid laners, I don’t feel that anyone has an edge on me right now. That feels pretty good. It just feels good to compete as well. Obviously, I would like for us to do better or to really compete for the top spots like I have been doing back in the day. It’s a bit more exciting. All in all, I’m liking it to be back and trying to get better and compete.

Hotspawn: Since you mention narratives: before you performed well in this Summer Split, people were very skeptical about your return to the LEC, pointing out that you had been underperforming for a while. I’ll be honest, I also had my doubts. How do you look at that narrative?

Nukeduck: Well, I think in Spring 2020 I was actually very good. I was leading the team because Origen was a team consisting of four players that were highly specialized at optimizing their own gameplay. Upset, Alphari, Xerxe, and Destiny were all really good at what they did, but they were not the type of people that take charge of the team or shotcall. Players like Upset and Alphari also utilize jungle pressure very well and they want to be played around because they’re good. So, I was playing more like the tank for the team.

But what you could not see is that, when I was playing the tank in Origen, I was still pretty much shotcalling the whole game. I was telling people which lane to go to, where to face-check, which fights we are and aren’t taking. All that stuff. At that point, I was playing very well. I don’t think many people could do what I did.

Our playstyle fell apart in the Playoffs. I was playing more to roam and tank for the team, we were playing for sidelane advantages, but Fnatic wouldn’t let us get those advantages. In that series, I got outperformed because I wasn’t able to do my thing. But in the series against G2, I played pretty well. The team told me they wanted me to play more of a carry style because it just didn’t work to play our other style when the enemies were as good as G2, so I ended up switching up within the week.

Hotspawn: So 2020 Spring still went well, but then in the Summer Split, Origen kind of fell apart as a team.

Nukeduck: In the offseason, I started getting my sleep problems. Summer 2020, looking back at it, I was not myself. I was the one that was supposed to lead the team and I was not leading the team anymore. I was also extremely negative. I didn’t even realize at the time that I had the problem, but I was not present. I was not leading the team, I was not positive, and I was not playing well myself on top of that. For me, my Summer 2020 was a complete disaster. I was not thinking about the holistic picture. I was just like: ok, next game.

It takes more effort for me now to make sure that I’m rested and relaxed.

Hotspawn: You were caught in a tunnel.

Nukeduck: Yeah, exactly. I did not have a good perspective on things. I didn’t realize I was having problems. I was just like: keep going. Tired? Chug more coffee and pills and keep going. But as you said, the people didn’t like that performance and I totally agree. I didn’t like it as well. That’s not how I want to be or how I want to play, or how I want to act towards my teammates. I want to be a leader who is positive, who is present, who my team can rely on. I was not that person in that season.

Hotspawn: Are you that person now, on Excel?

Nukeduck: I could be better, but I am more of that person now, yeah. To be honest, I’m kind of in a position where I feel like I have to win. I feel like I have to win every game. When we make some stupid mistakes that I think are very basic, for example, I can get upset. I feel like I have to win but then it’s like “Oh shit is going wrong”. So, after we lost two days in a row, went 0-5 in scrims, I’m not the happiest man. With that being said, I am shotcalling in the games and I am performing steadily, trying to figure out solutions for the team. I’m not dragging team morale down or losing myself, anything like that.

Hotspawn: So it’s improving for you.

Nukeduck: Definitely. I’m much better now, but I’m not as good as I was before this yet. In playing I’m better because, you know, you get better over time. But my state in real life is not as optimal as I would like it. It takes more effort for me now to make sure that I’m rested and relaxed. I have people that help me very well with this, though, so it’s not really a problem. I just have to be mindful of it.

Excel play their next game in the LEC against G2 Esports on Friday, July 2nd, at 10 PM CEST.  You can watch the game live on the official LoL Esports website.