The NLC 2022 summer champions Dusty’s first outing into the Amazon European Masters has been relatively decent. The Icelandic team finds themselves in second place with a 2-1 record in Group D. If they finish top 2 in this group, they are certain to qualify for the Knockout stages where the best eight teams will compete. There’s still one more day of competition to decide that.
Bot laner Nikolaj "DenVoksne" Meilby took time off and spoke to BLIX.GG during the EU Masters break. He talks about Dusty’s time in the EU Masters so far, the relative strength of the other ERL representatives, and his thoughts on the current bot lane meta.
Megalodontus, BLIX.GG: Your last game of the first round robin was against the LFL team GameWard. It definitely didn’t meet your expectations; how was the game from your perspective?
Nikolaj "DenVoksne" Meilby: Yeah, the game against GameWard didn’t go so well, and we didn't play the best. I think we had a couple of winning game states that we could have easily won the game from, but we threw it from some bad team calls. After we got the Baron and how we opened up the map, we thought we had more tempo than we actually did, and we ended up wasting the Baron buff.
We just made some very bad mistakes for no reason. That’s the worst part of it all: It wasn't like we were playing well and we got outplayed, but it felt like we were playing badly, and that's the reason why we got outplayed.
BLIX: You still have another three matches to go, and you guys are currently at 2-1. How would you evaluate Dusty’s performance in your three games?
DenVoksne: Our performances so far have been okay, I think. Honestly, everyone says that when it's going fine, you know? I just think, in general, we should have played better, done more, or just played cleaner overall.
Our game against Macko Esports was pretty chill, and I don't know why they ended up picking Heimerdinger and Shaco. And then we had the FC Schalke 04 Esports game where I personally felt like I made some very uncharacteristic mistakes. I was not respecting tempo, playing on tempo, recalling good timings, and so forth. But we won anyway, sadly due to their situation.
And then the GameWard game, yeah, I don't even know what to say. We made so many bad mistakes that could have been so easily prevented in terms of how we opened the map, which ways to contest, and how we played the game.
BLIX: This is your third time at the EU Masters, and you were here with Tricked Esport last year after also winning the NLC. This might be a bit broad to ask, but what's different for you this time coming into this EU Masters with Dusty so far?
DenVoksne: Obviously, I was not in the Main Event with Vipers Inc. But with Tricked…it was last year, and it was the same scenario: We reverse swept our opponents in the NLC finals and qualified for the Main Event. I think the difference is that we are just better, you know?
It's weird to say this, but every season you play, you learn so much, and you realize how bad you were before. Kind of. You realize some of the small things you can change in order to be better, and I feel that's happened for me, at least. So now I’m with Dusty a full year later, and I feel like I'm so much smarter about the game. I think that's the main difference and not necessarily my mechanics getting better or anything; I think I was always pretty good on that front.
But yeah, I think I'm just a better player, and I think we're a better team than we were before.
BLIX: That's fair. I know you've been asked this before, but coming into this tournament, you mentioned that you think that the NLC teams might be a little bit underestimated going into EU Masters. What do you think of the regional strength compared to the NLC teams at EU Masters so far?
DenVoksne: The LFL is the strongest ERL; there's no doubt about that. They often always have the best players and the best coaching staff in general, and they're by far consistently the best teams. But with that being said, and I think this is true for almost every EU Masters, each big ERL sends one or two pretty good teams that are not necessarily better, but not that much worse than the LFL teams. It's not like LFL have like a huge advantage where it's incomprehensible that they can lose. It's very, very doable.
Unicorns of Love Sexy Edition beat Vitality. Bee and I saw X7 Esports taking down LDLC OL. Obviously, it's the first round robin, and it's a best-of-one, but I think you just have to look at every team kind of the same way. Every team that is a first or second seed and maybe all the LFL teams are kind of the same to me in terms of the amount of preparation needed. The LFL teams punish you a bit harder, and they play a bit better, but it's not a crazy difference, at least in my opinion.
But I haven't played them in officials that much. I've only played against GameWard, and we lost, so who am I to say [laughs]?
“We're 2-1 right now, and X7 are 3-0 in the first round… At least from what I've seen so far, both us and X7 can make it out of groups.” - DenVoksne.
BLIX: Outside of the four LFL teams, which other teams are you looking at to potentially meet?
DenVoksne: I think there's a lot of teams that will be interesting to play against. I think playing UOL or maybe SK Prime, depending on who makes it out, could be interesting. Then there’s Team Heretics and Giants from the LVP SuperLiga, or any of the other top teams of the other ERLs for that matter is always interesting, and I think it's like its own challenge. I want to beat the best to prove I am the best.
BLIX: I like the confidence. Other than yourself, who do you think are the best bot laners in the EU Masters currently, and who do you potentially want to meet?
DenVoksne: In terms of bot lane…Honestly, I don't think I've played that well at EU Masters at the moment. But from what I've seen so far, I think Thomas "Exakick" Foucou could be fun to play against from LDLC OL.
Others would be Artjoms "Shiganari" Pervušins from UOL, Jakob "Jackspektra" Gullvag Kepple from Heretics, Jesper "Jeskla" Klarin Strömberg from Vitality.Bee, but overall I think most bot laners at EU Masters currently are pretty good, and I think you can learn a lot from them. I really do think that the bot laner pool, in general, is very stacked, and every matchup is going to be a banger if we make it to Knockouts.
Even in our group, there’s Nihat "Innaxe" Aliev, of course, and I think Belan "TakeSet" Ahour is pretty good. He played very well the first time we met, so hopefully, I can get revenge in the rematch.
BLIX: Following on that topic, the topic of marksmen champions on the current patch have been somewhat contentious, especially Zeri. What do you make of the bot lane-focused meta at the moment?
DenVoksne: Honestly, I think it's really nice in general. I think hyper carries may be a bit too strong, but while most of the hyper-carriers are strong, I don’t think they’re meta-defining in a sense. For example, you still see Draven, Lucian/Nami, and you still see Kalista being picked, so it's not like a necessary component like in spring where you had to have Aphelios or Jinx, or it wasn't that playable.
Now hyper carries are strong and often a tad bit too strong, but at the same time, it's not so strong that there aren't other strategies available. In general, the more things that are playable, the better. If you're playing the same matchup like Jinx vs. Aphelios every game, it doesn't necessarily get boring, but it gets predictable, and it gets very formulaic. So I like the current patch a lot right now. I think there's a lot of diversity, specifically in the marksmen pool.
BLIX: Well, you’ve been playing a lot of Aphelios recently, so…
DenVoksne: [laughs] Yes, that is true.
BLIX: A question on Zeri, then, has recently generated much discussion. What do you think of Zeri? Do you think she’s fine right now?
DenVoksne: I think Zeri is fine. Honestly, I think the problems have nothing to do with the marksmen but with the Enchanters, they are being paired with. The unfun gameplay is not from Sivir or Zeri; it's with Lulu and Yuumi. Yuumi/Zeri or Yuumi/Sivir, the Yuumi part of it is the problem, not the hyper carry, in my opinion.
Take Lulu as well; it makes it very boring because suddenly the whole game is about this one champion which is the hyper carry in this case, and your opponent’s whole draft revolves around keeping them alive, having a front line with tons of crowd control and stuff like this. It's just not fun to play, and it's not fun to play against. It's so stupid. So to sum it up, I think Zeri is completely fine, and the problems are with Yuumi and Lulu.
BLIX: Interesting take. Moving on, this question is a little bit more personal. I heard an interview where you talked a little bit about your time on MAD Lions Madrid, where I believe you mentioned you had personal issues. What was your experience like being on a LEC Academy team, and what were your main takeaways from there?
DenVoksne: There's a lot of things that we could have done differently from all parts of the lineup. You don't have a bad season just because only one guy is not doing so well. It's a complex issue, and it wasn’t just one thing that brought everything down.
For me, personally, my faults in the team were in terms of personal practice. As a player, you have this feeling when you know the meta; you know what you like to play or what you're good on. I didn't have that feeling going into the season with MAD Lions Madrid because I wasn't playing enough solo queue. It was right over Christmas and the holidays, so I hadn't been playing as much as I should have been doing.
In general, I also learned a lot about how to communicate with my teammates in an effective way because I was way too focused on talking about a specific issue. For example, let's say we were reviewing something; I would maybe be too adamant about one issue when in the greater scheme of things, you can just mention it once and move on after that. I like to talk, right? So that's probably one of the main things I've realized, and I feel like I've toned that down a bit.
When everything is going downhill and people are in a bad mood, it's harder to lift the team’s mood up. I had to learn how to deal with that, sit with that and accept it, and still be productive while attending scrims to learn, improve, and give it my best. It's rough, but I haven't had such a bad season as that one, and it teaches you a lot. You have to go through it to learn about who you are as a person, what makes you successful, and what makes you fail.
“Every team that is a first or second seed and maybe all the LFL teams are kind of the same to me in terms of the amount of preparation needed. The LFL teams punish you a bit harder, and they play a bit better, but it's not a crazy difference, at least in my opinion.” - DenVoksne.
BLIX: I appreciate the long answer to that; thank you. So for the second round of robin, is there any hope you can give to the NLC fans?
DenVoksne: We're 2-1 right now, and X7 are 3-0 in the first round. If all goes well and we go 2-1 again and make it out. Well, hopefully, 3-0, really, because I think we can do that, so I wouldn't be too scared. At least from what I've seen so far, both us and X7 can make it out of groups.
Once you get to best-of-fives, it's one best-of-five. Anything can happen. I think with a week of prep for any one team, it's going to be a lot closer, especially at our level, than maybe broadcasts and other people might say. Sit tight, wait and see what actually happens instead of what people think is gonna happen!
BLIX: Sit tight, wait and see what actually happens; I like that! We've come to the end of the interview. Is there anything else you'd like to add or any shoutouts you'd like to give?
DenVoksne: I guess #DreamDusty is the only thing!
Thank you, DenVoksne, and best of luck. The EU Masters resumes today, catch it on the EU Masters Twitch channel.