Excel’s Patrik has his sights set on his ‘big goal’: an LEC title
“Hello, this is Patrik!” League of Legends European Championships Caster Medic yelled, astounded at the spectacle before him.
Then Origen bot laner Patrik “Patrik” Jírů hopped over the wall near Gromp into three members of G2 Esports as Ezreal, casually unloaded his combo onto then MSI champion mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Borregaard Winther. Then Patrik calmly flashed back over, surviving the ballsy maneuver with a kill to boot.
That moment, a match that happened more than two years ago, was representative of his burgeoning talent within the European circuit.
He’s experienced it all in the LEC’s often turbulent ride; from his beginnings on H2k-Gaming, to reaching the summit on Origen in Rotterdam, Netherlands, to eventually finding himself a new home with British upstarts Excel Esports — where he’s been a mainstay for close to four seasons.
Patrik has seen many teammates come and go in those four seasons. Now, he’s the only player that remains from the LEC 2020 spring roster. No matter what setbacks Excel have faced, Patrik’s many noteworthy performances blazes a renewed chapter in his career and a path forward for his team. Currently, he said he is more determined than ever to take Excel to the playoffs.
Dissecting the new Excel
Throughout his time on Excel, 2021 is arguably the year that put Patrik and his team squarely in the gaze of the public, and not for all the right reasons. From replacing promising mid laner Paweł “Czekolad” Szczepanik with Erlend “nukeduck” Våtevik Holm, to not properly communicating their off-season plans of promoting Mark “Markoon” van Woensel and Henk “Advienne” Reijenga, to ending up 2-5 after the first three weeks of summer, it looked like Excel were just trying to make waves instead of the playoffs.
But, in Week 4, Excel made a bold decision to promote the promising duo of Markoon and Advienne from academy roster BT Excel, their academy roster. Coach Joey “YoungBuck” Steltenpool clearly communicated the team’s intent after learning from their fumblings in the offseason. Since then, win or lose, Excel have looked reborn for summer. Even in their losses, their games have been much closer than they were at the start. But what made this possible?
Announcement regarding our #LEC roster heading into week 4.@MarkoonLoL & @Advienne1 will join the LEC team ahead of this week's matches with Dan & Denyk moving to the BTXL roster.#ThePowerOfBetter #XLWIN pic.twitter.com/sMWzDhym1i
— EXCEL (@EXCEL) June 28, 2021
According to Patrik, the previous iteration of Excel was not always on the same page. Specifically, they had difficulties in agreeing on proper directions during matches. But, with the introduction of Markoon and Advienne, their proactive playstyle and confidence outside Summoner’s Rift gave the team a new lease of life.
“You can say I’m a veteran and they are rookies, but the atmosphere in the team doesn’t feel like that,” Patrik said. “It feels like we are all veterans and I don’t get the rookie vibe from them. They are both really good players.”
While Patrik admitted that this feeling hasn’t translated to perfect play, the team does at least operate in harmony.
Regardless, perhaps the most discussed point of this roster is their mid laner, Nukeduck. The Norwegian mid laner is veteran of many European campaigns and his presence is almost synonymous with the highest rungs of European League of Legends. However, his arrival has been extraordinarily polarizing. Fans on social media often cite Nukeduck as past his prime, ever since Origen finished dead last during the summer of 2020.
Patrik sees it differently. As someone who played with Nukeduck on Origen, Patrik said he believes his teammate brings more than just strong gameplay and a “champion ocean” to the team. Despite Excel’s current record, Patrik also said he thinks Excel are a better team now than seasons past. For example, Nukeduck has worked well with Markoon to better their mid-jungle synergy.
“I enjoy playing with Nukeduck because he brings a different passion for the game,” Patrik said. “I think he has very good knowledge of matchups and a wide champion pool because he takes a great time to learn champions in detail. Nukeduck has a good view of the game and shares his opinion with the team, making sure the team understands what he means.”
Patrik’s LEC journey, so far
It hasn’t been an easy road to Excel for Patrik, especially with the shadow of his time on Origen looming over him. As a native of the Czech Republic, Patrik — known then as “Sheriff”— joined H2k-Gaming and made his debut in the EU LCS in 2018. There, Patrik said the smaller budget and low expectations created a laid back environment which contrasted with his first shift to Origen.
“Compared to Excel and Origen, H2k wasn’t that serious. But it was a lot of fun, I guess,” Patrik said. “In Origen, we had a really good team and winner’s mentality. We went into games thinking you are always the better team. I enjoyed my time there, too.”
Aside from being Patrik’s first year, 2018 was also the last year before the EU LCS rebranded to the LEC in 2019. For that first spring, the LEC held its inaugural semifinals and finals in Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena. Amid the deafening roar and cheers of the fans, Origen took down Fnatic 3-1 to advance to the final. There, they were soundly defeated by G2 Esports, 3-0. Despite the loss, it’s still an experience Patrik looks back on fondly.
“I don’t have too many highlights in my career, but making finals in 2019 spring…that is definitely the highlight,” Patrik said. “Being on the big stage with so many fans was a once in a lifetime experience. It was insane.”
— LoL Esports (@lolesports) April 14, 2019
While the experience was extraordinary, Patrik said that he definitely doesn’t miss the constant commute from Copenhagen to Berlin while on Origen.
Patrik moved onto Excel to help the team reach new heights after Origen decided to rebuild for 2020. Even if the end results have not been ideal, Patrik has continued to develop from his days on H2k and Origen. He said he has changed as a player and continues to improve as time goes by.
“I understand my position a bit better and I would say I play even more champions at a higher level than before,” he said. “At times, I feel like I’m not as good mechanically as I used to be. But, I think overall, my knowledge is getting better every year.”
On Excel, Patrik said he still enjoys being the focal point of the team, similar to his H2k days. However, Patrik has developed into a more flexible player; one that pressures his opponent with picks like Kalista and Draven. No more farming all game until it’s time to teamfight.
“Nowadays, I just try to take a different approach and be a part of the game from early levels,” he said. “I think I’m flexible in both play styles, but I prefer to have some agency in the early levels.”
Patrik chases his dreams in the LEC
In the BBC documentary “Fight for First: Excel Esports,” the team’s Head of Performance Fabian Broich spoke about how much Patrik grew as a person. He’ oversaw Patrik’s performances from their time together in Origen. Broich and Youngbuck’s arrival at Excel were Patrik’s motivation to join them in the first place. Since the start of their time together, Patrik said he has transitioned from a shy and insecure person into someone more mature.
“I think I just grew up and became more open to conflict and started talking more to my teammates,” Patrik said. “I just enjoyed sharing more. These days, I can speak, share and do a little bit better of a job as a teammate.”
As the old adage goes, hope springs eternal. Excel have not made playoffs since their addition into the LEC, and they remain the only team in the league to do so. At this point, that’s almost an expected outcome.
Patrik said he recognizes this and believes if his team doesn’t improve, it reflects on his legacy.
“I’m the only one remaining from 2020 spring and I’ve been part of this team for four seasons,” Patrik said. “I just think that if we don’t make playoffs, now that we’re actually a good team, then I’m just an average player. I had a lot of time to work and get good but I still haven’t really achieved anything.”
It’s been two years since Patrik put his badge down and tipped his hat to the name Sheriff. Much has happened since then, but the job remains the same. Grow, play hard and achieve something worth remembering in the LEC.