Back in March, UK organisation Excel Esports entered the Valorant esports scene, and after failing to reach the VCT Stage 2 Masters LAN in Iceland, changes were made with Excel bringing in former Fnatic player Muhammad ‘Moe40’ Hariff and Ruben ‘Rubino‘ Villarroel Brødreskift from Team Heretics, as well as moving Vincent ‘Happy’ Cervoni Schopenhauer to be the in-game leader.
The roster bootcamped in Malta for the VCT Stage 3 Challengers 1 tournament but did not manage to qualify for the event. Nevertheless, they are looking forward to Challengers 2. UK player Moe40 (pictured left) and Norwegian Rubino (right) explain to Megalodontus how Excel’s new team is getting along and what their expectations are.
Thank you for accepting this interview. The VCT has returned and Excel, unfortunately, did not make it past the round of 64 in Challengers 1. But since this is a new team, what are your takeaways from your first three series so far?
Moe40: One of the main things I took away from these games was that due to us being a new team, our communication needed some work. It’s something we are working on at the moment, as it’s important for any team to have the best communication possible. I also took away that losing only makes you better. You only really learn from your mistakes when losing in official games, which means next time we will be more prepared for things to happen.
Rubino: My takeaways are that I feel we have the potential to be great, but there is a lot of hard work to get there. We have different players with a different sets of experiences and how we as a team react to certain situations. After those games, I could clearly feel that.
In a way, it is also sometimes good to lose to see the bigger picture. Hopefully, we will improve from this loss and be more ready for the next VCT qualifiers on Tuesday.
What made you decide that Excel Esports was the right organisation to join to reach your goals? Was it the other players on the roster or other factors?
Moe40: Excel was a great opportunity for me as it also came at a really good time. Of course, people know about my situation from being benched and released from Fnatic. I’ve always believed I could be one of the best if I continued to grind.
When I tried with Excel, I saw potential straight away and the environment felt really good and friendly. I felt like I could fit in well with the team and ultimately bring home some trophies.
Rubino: I think it was just the fact that it was something more ‘new’. My first team in Valorant was Team Heretics after a few trials here and there. My experience in Valorant was close to non-existent, as I had only been grinding a lot of ranked play. I was missing a lot of details which I learned at Heretics – and some of these things have had to be learned the hard way.
I think going to Excel was the right choice, as I truly believe I can already contribute more in terms of knowledge and the like to get this team to where I know we can be.
How is the team atmosphere at the moment – what kind of pressure do you feel? And how has the team been dealing with that?
Moe40: We started this line-up off with a bootcamp so we instantly met everyone, spending time together and building a bond. The environment was really friendly and positive within the team, and with time I believe we can be a top team.
As for pressure, there is always going to be pressure but it depends on how it’s handled. Sometimes, it’s higher than other times but you have to face it and not fight it. In the past, I felt as if I handled the pressure really well, but the main goal is to have everyone feeling comfortable.
Rubino: We began this new team with a bootcamp in Malta, which made our chemistry good from the start. Spending lots of time together in that sort of environment is really beneficial in building those relationships. I feel everyone has set their goals and is doing everything to achieve them. That’s basically how it is: you set goals, and if you believe and achieve them, anything is possible.
What are your personal expectations of this team and how far do you think Excel can go in Challengers 2? Is Berlin the ultimate goal at the moment?
Moe40: The ultimate goal will always be to qualify for Berlin. Having said that, we are a really new team and there are things we need to work on. I believe we can put up a good fight against the top teams.
Rubino: My personal expectation is always to win or fight to be at the top. However, we also have to be realistic and see where we are right now, but our focus is definitely qualifying for Berlin and achieving what we set out to do in the future.
What are your thoughts on the strength of European Valorant teams and the region’s talent pool?
Moe40: EU is no doubt the best region in terms of how many good players and teams there are. It’s honestly the hardest region to play in, as there are so many different styles of play. I think the EU scene has a good balance of structure but also playing on-the-fly. For example, you see teams like Acend [who recently won Valorant VCT Europe Stage 3 Challengers 1] that have some sort of structure, but can play on-the-fly at the same time due to how much individual skill they have.
Rubino: I feel it’s hard of course, but that’s what elite competition is like. When teams are pushing each other to become the best of themselves, you see the best games and a lot of different teams winning. As you can already see, the teams that were in Iceland last time didn’t have the easiest time to qualify this time, so you can see improvement just a few months after. I think that is really reflective of the talented teams in EU and makes for really good viewing.
If you had to pick six teams to make the EMEA Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs at this point of time, which teams will be going from EU (other than the already qualified teams)?
Moe40: Acend, Guild Esports, G2 Esports and FunPlus Phoenix have already qualified, the last two I’d say would be Fnatic and Team BDS. Having said that, we have to back ourselves and believe we have a chance in every match we play.
Rubino: I want to say Excel is at the top of that list! I think G2 Esports, Acend, Gambit, Guild Esports and FunPlus Phoenix all have really strong teams at the moment too.
Speaking of Challengers, your teammate Happy did an interview with Dot Esports and he gave some thoughts on the VCT’s format. What are your thoughts on the current format, double elimination or otherwise?
Moe40: The format is so much better than before, especially for the EU region. The competition is at such a high level right now, whereas before, if you lost one game it meant you were out. Inviting teams and having a double elimination process makes it more consistent to see who’s on top, which takes out the randomness of who truly is the better team.
Rubino: I feel this format is much better than the previous one. As some high ranked well-performing teams at that time were invited, the combination of that and double elimination, best-of-ones were really random. With how Valorant works, you can easily drop a map to a lower-ranked team, so the value of best-of-threes is a huge improvement, which makes it better for the better team – and ultimately the better team comes out on top most of the time.
Happy also spoke to Dexerto on the new agent KAY/O and thinks it’ll be a niche agent. What are your impressions on KAY/O and do you think he’ll be a staple of competitive Valorant in the near future?
Moe40: Regarding KAY/O, I’m not really sure what to think since it’s still really early days. I think that on some maps it’s really strong, for example on Haven you just throw his E ability in the garage and you have full information on what’s going on there. But, on other maps, I’m not sure if he’s really that strong.
Another annoying part about KAY/O is his ultimate. It’s really annoying and pretty much a win in my eyes because you can just disable all the abilities placed and, even if you die, you can get revived. I think people will be using this agent in the upcoming Challengers series as it’s new and people won’t know how to properly counter it.
Rubino: My impression about KAY/O is that his ultimate is really strong. I’m not quite sure if it is too overpowered yet or not, but the range of his ultimate is totally insane. I feel like it requires you to be a smart player and know when to use your toolkit at the right moment, but regardless of that, I don’t feel KAY/O will totally change the meta as Astra did. I felt when Astra was released, the whole meta changed to basically everyone needing to play more slowly. I still think KAY/O is good, but not as game-changing as Astra.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or shoutouts you’d like to give?
Moe40: Thanks to everyone who supported me and also big thanks to Excel for this opportunity!
Rubino: I want to thank Excel for giving me this opportunity, and thanks to all the fans for supporting us.
The 2021 VCT Europe Stage 3 Challengers 2 Open Qualifiers begin on July 20th.
Megalodontus is a miraculous survivor from the mass extinction and somehow learnt how to use his stubby fins to operate complicated mechanical equipment and drink tea. Worryingly for cryptozoologists, he’s been writing League of Legends articles too.
A self-taught writer who’s had the privilege to work with good editors who aren’t terrified of his pearly whites, Megalodontus is often seen writing either independently or for various websites such as this one. When not writing, he usually runs it down mid in real life and is fascinated with watching paint dry.