With Team Heretics set to become the newest member of the LEC after buying out the slot from North American org Misfits Gaming, we spoke to co-owner Arnau Vidal to discuss the team’s meteoric rise through the ranks of European League of Legends, and how they’re planning to bring some new-school Spanish flavor to the LEC.
Arnau Vidal could hardly believe it when he found out his organization would be joining the LEC.
He’d just watched Heretics lose to KOI in the opening week of the Superliga Summer split when the news was broken to him. Despite the loss, he couldn’t keep the incredulous smile off his face as a member of the Heretics staff informed him that the Misfits deal was all but done.
This was a deal that had been months in the making — and for an organization that had only just gotten back into League of Legends at the start of that year. After a brief, unsuccessful stint in the Superliga back in 2017, the team left the league and focused on building their brand in other esports, like Call of Duty and Valorant.
But League of Legends never left Heretics’ mind. In 2022, they bought out Cream Real Betis’ spot in the Superliga, returning to their League roots after a five-year absence.
It would be wonderful to think that this return was a triumphant one — a Cinderella story/anime training arc hybrid of an organization that left the league to stretch its muscles elsewhere and return to dominate.
Unfortunately, this was not that anime arc, and Heretics ended the 2022 Spring split in eighth place, with only eight wins to their name. But a top laner and a coaching change got them to second place in Summer, and a 3-0 sweep of Giants on August 8 saw them lock a spot in the Superliga finals for the first time.
Getting to the LEC
But how does an organization go from having no teams in League of Legends to having two in the European circuit, one at its highest level, all within a single year?
Well, according to Vidal, it’s been an arduous process — but not a particularly lengthy one.
“These specific negotiations only began a few months ago, so it’s all been pretty fast,” he tells Dexerto. “That’s been one of the main challenges too — we’ve had to do a lot of things against the clock, and it’s been really intense.”
And securing the spot is only the beginning of what Heretics and Vidal fully accept will be a difficult few years. Entering the LEC presents a whole new set of challenges for Heretics, not just financial and organizational, but also logistical. A Madrid-based company, Heretics will now have to support a team that will be competing in a tournament that takes place in Berlin.
We’ve seen multiple approaches to the challenge of the LEC’s Berlin location by international organizations. At the beginning of their tenure in the league, British-based organization Excel Esports would commute weekly from their headquarters in Twickenham, London, before moving to an office in Berlin.
Astralis, who are based in Copenhagen, still commute their players via plane every week to compete in their LEC matches — a system that has backfired on them more than once after travel complications forced them to play matches remotely.
Team Heretics won’t be commuting. They’re opening up a Berlin office, where Vidal says the plan is to “start small, and over time grow our staff and infrastructure there.”
“We have a strong infrastructure here in Madrid, but obviously we need to be able to provide what the players and the org need to operate at the highest level,” he explains. “And that includes team performance and team needs, but it also means everything we need to do to bring value to the league — the ability to create content and get good coverage of the team. And to do that, we felt like we needed to have an office in Berlin.”
The roster building philosophy
Now that the spot is secured, the work can really begin for Heretics. And that means building a roster that can compete with some of the best in Europe.
The org will retain their Superliga spot going forward, with that team becoming their academy roster. But Vidal explains that while they’ll be open to movement between the two teams, there are no plans to run the kind of ten-man cross-league roster that Misfits Gaming had back in Summer 2019.
“Our initial idea is to have the two teams working together pretty closely — we’re strong believers in both European and Spanish talent, and we want to do our best to empower that,” Vidal says.
“We’re not going to have a ten-man roster, the teams will work separately, but it’s at the forefront of our minds to have the teams working together and even have some potential promotions to the LEC when the time is right and when it makes sense.”
But how are they going to be putting that roster together? Despite a few rumors (and memes) that have recently circulated regarding potential additions to the roster, including FlyQuest jungler Brandon ‘Josedeodo’ Villegas, Vidal asserts that the first priority for their LEC team isn’t finding players.
“The first thing we’re doing is hiring a general manager/director of League operations,” Vidal notes. “They’ll be the person responsible for streamlining all the decisions around League within the organization.”
That general manager won’t be responsible for the LEC team only. They’ll take the Superliga roster under their wing as well, deciding on the structure and cooperation of both rosters to maximize Heretics’ ability to churn out results.
And when it comes to finding players, Vidal is focusing on realism above all else. He explains that first and foremost, he wants to build an identity for this team and create a solid long-term project that can set Heretics off on the right foot for their first few years in the LEC.
“Obviously, we want to have the best team possible, but we want to do that sensibly,” he says. “And at the same time, giving opportunities to the Spanish scene is something that we’d really love to do, and something that’s definitely in our minds.”
“It’s our plan to do that, but obviously the talent in the scene is limited, so that decision’s not entirely in our hands.”
Identity in the LEC
Heretics are a Spanish organization through and through. Their fanbase is Spanish, they compete in a Spanish league, and they work with some of the biggest influencers in the Spanish gaming world.
So how will they reconcile that Spanish identity with a presence in a multinational league, where they’ll no longer be representing Spain but Europe as a whole? It’s something that Vidal says the organization have given a great deal of thought to, and they’re looking to strike a balance between regional pride and international relatability.
“We’re really connected to the Spanish community, and that’s something we’re committed to maintaining because we truly believe that a Spanish organization can be one of the biggest organizations in the world,“ Vidal says.
It’s a hard balance to strike, and not one that teams have necessarily always gotten right in the past. MAD Lions in particular have come under fire in the past for a hesitance to cater to international fans alongside their core Spanish audience.
With Heretics currently undergoing what Vidal calls an “internationalization process”, they’re more than well aware of how important it is to expand their audience outside of their pre-existing limits. But they’re not forgetting their Spanish roots completely, by any means, and Vidal asserts that giving opportunities to Spanish talent and interacting with the Spanish fanbase will always be at the core of their philosophy in the LEC.
Heretics and Vidal are under no illusions as to how difficult entering the LEC is going to be. League of Legends is a highly competitive esport, and they know they’ll need to be quick off the mark if they want to make an impact in Europe.
But Vidal is hopeful.
“We’ve always had this kind of cool, fun, fresh identity,“ he says. “We know that we can’t compete with some orgs in the league right now in terms of budget, but what we can do and what we want to do is to build a team that makes people dream, and makes them passionate.“