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Each week, Upcomer highlights one player in the League of Legends European Championship for their outstanding performance in the weekend prior and crowns them Player of the Week. Bending early game deficits into dominant leads by picking up crucial kills with Aphelios, the LEC player of the spring split’s Week 5 is EXCEL Esports bot laner Patrik “Patrik” Jírů.

Versus Team Vitality

In a weekend of must-win battles to compete for a spot in the 2022 LEC spring split playoffs, Team Vitality were EXCEL’s first hurdle. Although Vitality’s “superteam” had come off a 2-0 weekend in Week 4, the team had looked vulnerable. It was up to Patrik and his teammates to exploit those weak spots.

The first strike was delivered by EXCEL in the draft phase. They locked in Zeri as their first pick, implying that it would be Patrik navigating the champion. But, alas, when Vitality chose Vayne as an answer to EXCEL’s implied strategy, EXCEL flexed Zeri to the mid lane and put Patrik on Aphelios.

Despite the switcheroo, Patrik was put on his back foot early. Two ganks from Vitality caught the Czech off guard and saw him die twice. Not only did Patrik miss out on a bunch of early cs due to the untimely deaths, but both kills also went to his direct opponent: Vitality bot laner Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság. For a few minutes, Patrik had to play with extreme care. But, when Vitality tried to take him down a third time, Patrik kept his head cool and struck back.

EXCEL quickly found stability and Patrik sought to accelerate the game even further. Just two minutes later, jungler Mark “Markoon” van Woensel roamed to the bot lane and helped put two more kills in Patrik’s back pocket. The tables had turned completely. What seemed to be a doomed game after just four minutes was now in EXCEL’s control.

With the stability found through the bot lane, EXCEL applied pressure across the map. They picked up a few more kills on the top side of the map, extending their lead. Meanwhile, Patrik diligently farmed minions and turret plates to work towards Alphelios’ powerful items. Once he acquired his Galeforce and Bloodthirster, Patrik sniped Vitality jungler Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek.

It was a crucial kill for Patrik to pick up. With Selfmade down, EXCEL could start attacking Baron Nashor, which forced Vitality to contest the objective. When Vitality got close enough to the Baron pit, EXCEL turned around and unleashed hell on their enemies, wiping them off Summoner’s Rift. Patrik and his team took down Baron straight after, and pushed up all the way to Vitality’s base.

EXCEL had full control over the game and were heading to a victory. But Patrik wasn’t done yet. When Vitality tried to seize back control over the game and jumped on EXCEL in the mid lane, Patrik secured a triple kill. Patrik’s play didn’t end up giving EXCEL any extra advantages on the map, but it did keep them in control of the important advantages they had. Moments later, Vitality went for another hail mary play by fighting the Baron. And, once again, it was Patrik who blew up his enemies.

Every time Vitality tried to climb back into the game, Patrik shoved them back and sent them falling off a cliff. With a second Baron buff empowering the team, EXCEL marched forward and, off the back of another triple kill for Patrik, picked up their first win of the weekend.

Versus Team BDS

Although BDS weren’t as feared of opponents as Vitality, the game mattered just as much to EXCEL.

“We’re in a race with Vitality, Misfits and MAD Lions for the playoffs spot,” head coach Joey “YoungBuck” Steltenpool said ahead of the game on Saturday. “All four of us have to beat the teams like BDS, Astralis, SK. If we drop games there, then later on we have to beat the likes of Fnatic and Rogue.”

Once the game started, however, EXCEL were in a difficult position yet again. Top laner Finn “Finn” Wiestål died twice in four minutes and gave BDS’ Jayce — a crucial cog in their composition to contest for objectives — a head start.

Thankfully for EXCEL, the team managed to slow the pace of the game down drastically. Patrik picked up a kill in the bot lane with his Aphelios and, even though BDS tried to dive him a few times, he kept slipping away great awareness and help from his team. The stable state allowed EXCEL to even out the gold score and secure the first two drakes. When BDS sought to break the calm game state, Patrik put them in their place.

Once again, Patrik had turned around a rough early game for his team and bent a deficit into a lead. EXCEL raked up three consecutive drakes and was in a position to obtain an early dragon soul. However, BDS didn’t back down easily. They forced a fight in the mid lane at 25 minutes and killed both Finn and Patrik, alleviating some of the pressure EXCEL were applying.

BDS’ offense came before any major objective had spawned, but another successful fight two minutes later swung the game back in BDS’ favor. It was a scrappy game from both teams. They focused on the mid lane, trying to get priority before the next drake would spawn. Once the infernal drake spawned, EXCEL waited for BDS to overstep. That’s when Patrik pulled the trigger, and obliterated the opposition.

It was the killing blow. While EXCEL’s initial effort to end the game was deflected by BDS, Patrik and his peers simply picked up the Baron buff, pushed in the bot lane and ended the game. EXCEL had completed their first 2-0 week of the split.

“It’s very good to see that we’re on the up,” Markoon said in a post-game interview on the LEC broadcast. “It’s getting better week by week. I’m excited to see where it’s going.”

EXCEL’s first playoffs appearance is within reach

As outlined by YoungBuck, the wins against Vitality and BDS were crucial for EXCEL. The organization has the undesirable honor of being the only team in the history of the LEC to never have made a playoffs appearance. In these vital games, Patrik stepped up and bent fate to his will as he turned early deficits into victories for his team.

Patrik’s performance in Week 5 wasn’t just an important point in the season for EXCEL. For Patrik, who had had a relatively quiet split so far, it marked a comeback to his superstar role. In previous years, when EXCEL so notoriously failed, Patrik had often been the sole shining light on the squad. A panel of experts even selected him as the best bot laner in the 2020 LEC summer split, despite EXCEL finishing in seventh place.

After a period of adapting to his new lane partner Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle, who replaced Henk “Advienne” Reijenga in Week 3, Patrik has found his shape again. With the best lineup he’s had by his side in years, 2022 could finally be the year Patrik finds the success he has deserved for so long.

Honorable mentions

Selecting the LEC Player of the Week was tough this weekend. Two days filled to the brim with upsets saw many players step up. Two others in particular, though, deserve a shout-out.

Some will argue that Misfits Gaming’s bot laner Matúš “Neon” Jakubčík deserved to be the LEC Player of the Week in Week 5 and, honestly, he just as well could have been. His performance on Jinx was simply stellar in both games.

Much like Patrik, Neon and his team were put with their backs against the wall early by BDS. However, the bot laner did not flinch. Once he hit his power spike, Neon went berserk and bombed BDS to bits. Against the No. 1 team in the LEC, Rogue Esports, Neon waited patiently for his moment to shine. In teamfights around the fourth drake and the dragon soul, he positioned perfectly and tore Rogue apart. But if any highlight of Neon stands out, it has to be his long-distance kill of Emil “Larssen” Larsson.

The second player who deserves time in the spotlight, based on his performance in Week 5, is G2 Esports support Raphaël “Targamas” Crabbé. For those who don’t watch the LEC regularly, Targamas has, so far, played a different champion in all of his LEC games this year. The depth of his champion pool is simply astounding and we probably haven’t seen the bottom of it yet, since he hasn’t even played popular meta picks such as Leona and Thresh.

Targamas roams a lot to help out his teammates and, against MAD Lions, this was once again the Belgian’s modus operandi. On Sett, he zoned away enemies, threatening them with his ultimate. This led to his highlight play of the weekend, when he Hex-flashed into the dragon pit, picked up Javier “Elyoya” Prades with his Showstopper, and slammed MAD Lions to death. Against Astralis, Targamas played the far less flashy Braum, but he was still a reliable factor in his team’s 2-0 weekend.

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