There And Back Again: Inside ELLIVOTE’s Return In 2021
For the uninitiated in competitive Overwatch history, Swedish national Elliot "ELLIVOTE" Vaneryd was simply a bright spot on the 2020 Washington Justice before being sidelined due to visa issues brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. However, just under the surface, sits a resume that reaches back to the start of 2017. Predating modern rules, battling alongside teams like Vivi’s Adventure and the first iteration of Angry Titans, and finding success through it all, ELLIVOTE is a member of a dwindling class of veterans still competing to this day.
Trusted for the years he’s given to the game and equally storied because of it, ELLIVOTE’s candid retelling of his tumultuous journey and regaining a presence in the Overwatch League is a pure, crystalised marriage of hard work and hope. Like a comet, he burns steadfast. Through adversity and hurdles, he blazes his own path—and while his light may wane, it has always had a stubborn will to press on. And, with his second orbit through the Overwatch League, he aims to truly make a lasting impact.
However, it all started with an invitation. A supernova of his dreams becoming reality and putting future pieces in motion.
Supernova With Justice
ELLIVOTE’s journey with the Washington Justice began towards the tail end of the 2019 Overwatch League regular season. All thought he wouldn’t see stage time until 2020 due to visa issues, that didn’t stop the rush of relief a journeyman feels after putting in countless hours of work.
“Even just getting the opportunity to trial for an Overwatch League team back then was such an incredible feeling,” ELLIVOTE said. “To know that all your hard work had finally shown good results. Especially when I got to do it with [Lukas "LullSiSH" Wiklund] because they wanted us a duo package—[that] was really cool to us.” While the tale between ELLIVOTE and LullSiSH goes farther than their respective roots in Overwatch, it provides a base of character for the current Paris Eternal tank.
Friends since childhood, the pair started on the football pitch and have braved the sheer cliffs of Overwatch for roughly four years together. That kind of bond undoubtedly assisted them tangibly throughout their career, however, in more ways than one. Speaking honestly, ELLIVOTE was clear; he wasn’t sure if he would have joined the Washington Justice in 2019 if both he and LullSiSH were signed as a deal.
“We were doing really, really well with Team Envy and that team, with those specific players, we were such a big family together, and we were doing so well in officials and matches that if I wasn’t signed with LullSiSH to Justice, I don’t think I would have signed yet. I think I would have played out the entire season and The Gauntlet with Team Envy.”
“But that’s for an alternate universe,” he said with an earnest smile.
“I mean, we were sitting right next to each other in the basement through the tryouts and scrims and everything like that. That was really cool, and then actually being signed, we had two or four hours of trails time with them, and we did very, very well with the team even though they were struggling at the time.” That amount of confidence and reassurance, knowing that you can battle with some of the best in the world, is the fuel for many professionals in the space, but knowing that that rush of endorphins is earned by a veteran that has sunk years of their lives into a craft?
That’s the real treasure.
An unspoken message sent throughout the Overwatch cosmos, and something that ELLIVOTE not only has unearthed himself but something he seems to live by. However, ELLIVOTE and the Justice needed to fill out their team.
Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination.
Speaking candidly, ELLIVOTE shared his thoughts on how the Justice roster coalesced.
“When we were signed at the start of 2020, it was LullSiSH, me, [Corey "Corey" Nigra], and [Ethan "Stratus" Yankel]. Those were the four pieces signed when we knew it.” However, when it came to some of the remaining pieces, he felt uneasy with how they were acquired.
“And the rest of the team was kind of weird, in my opinion, in how they signed it because they didn’t trial most of the players they just picked up,” he said.
He wasn’t going to point any fingers but seemed to draw issue with how things happened rather than questioning the players themselves. “I think it’s just weird to pick up players, or pieces, that are mixed nationalities without even seeing how they work together. That was a big standout for me, which I found very odd.”
Past that point, the critique of the former Justice roster ended. In its wake only remained wholesome and fond memories.
“The first trip we took as a team, which was in Melbourne, Australia, was one of the best experiences in my life. It was so cool to go and meet my new teammates and go to a completely different part of the world, experience the fans there and showing how good Justice took care of us back then.” On top of that, ELLIVOTE glowed, recounting how fun it was to meet the team and just enjoy things together at the Melbourne Esports Open.
2020 was slated to be the year the Overwatch League took flight; however, things never materialised. Obviously, ELLIVOTE was impacted nearly immediately, but he did get a taste—as did many hopefuls in the league—of what the year could have been.
“First of all, it wasn’t very fun to have my best friend not make it to the US,” ELLIVOTE said. “It wasn’t that much of a big deal, we’ve been on different teams before, we’ve had our own careers, [but] it was still fun to get to NA and experience one of the first home crowds in Philadelphia. Just the entire experience, going there by train with the team, going to all the media obligations, doing all the fan meet and greets—everything was super surreal to me. Especially doing it the second time when we were doing it at our own home stadium and everything in Washington—that was super cool.”
He further explained his side of the story through the lens of that night train ride to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“I really enjoy buses and car rides and sitting looking out the window and thinking to myself. I was thinking about everything that could happen in the next week or however long it was. I was looking through playing against Philly and how that was going to be, what I anticipated the crowd to be like, what the venue was going to look like, everything like that. It was so cool to see how far I’ve come from where I started.”
“From sitting in my kitchen playing and dreaming of how things would be if I ever made it up to the league.”
His experience there was unforgettable. It lived up to all of his expectations and then some.
Even the format difference compared to other leagues made the experience that much more distinct and unbelievable. While cities played host to a weekend tournament or a finals match here and there, the Overwatch League gave its players the opportunity to travel each individual game day. Although the stint was short-lived, ELLIVOTE truly cherished the opportunity.
“Then COVID hit, and everything drastically fell apart from there.”
Dark Side Of The Moon
On June 4 of 2020, ELLIVOTE and the Washington Justice would agree on a mutual split.
“I felt like last year was an unfortunate circumstance that could not have been controlled any other way, and I know I have it in me to be in the league.”
He chalked up 2020 to a learning experience, one that took him across the globe, put him face to face with players from all walks of life, drove him out of his comfort zone. Growth was the one thing he was determined to take away from such a dismal year.
Just as quick as the constellations seemed within reach, he was planted firmly back in Overwatch Contenders. Familiar with the space, ELLIVOTE was undeterred though he reflected on just how he got back to his feet.
“I think I started off playing a little bit too soon because of all the mental stress that I had to endure,” he said. “We had a lot of troubles with Justice when COVID hit, and the team wasn’t working well—it wasn’t very ‘sunshine-y’ over there. So there was a lot of mental battles that I had to go through.”
Entering the amateur space again, he aligned himself with Team Doge after support star and friend Fabio "AFoxx" Veigas contacted him. ELLIVOTE’s original plan was to lay low for a few months and just take a much-needed break, but when opportunity knocked, ELLIVOTE answered.
“I think I jumped in too soon.”
“I don’t think I fully recovered from that.”
Coming into the season I really feel we have the capability of beating almost any team.
—Elliot "ELLIVOTE" Vaneryd
What drove him back to the frontier? The same thing that brought him this far in the first place: the fiery determination of a true competitor. In his mind, the excursion back in Overwatch Contenders would always go well anyways. He got to have fun with a good friend and still was able to do the thing he loved; competing in Overwatch.
ELLIVOTE’s return to Contenders with Team Doge initially found promising results, placing third in Overwatch Contenders Season 2 July. However, Team Doge had a rocky end of the year before ELLIVOTE left for greener pastures that October. Returning home to Overwatch Contenders Europe alongside New Kings, things were set to be different; however, like a haunting echo, the results never materialised.
Nevertheless, something was waiting in the wings.
The 2020 Overwatch League season was coming to a close, and with that, positions began to open as team’s rebuilt and retooled their rosters. After a busy offseason of trialling for numerous teams, ELLIVOTE took his talents to France alongside the Paris Eternal for 2021.
Persistent in his ways, ELLIVOTE always knew he’d go there and back again. He only caught brief glimpses of what the league had in store for him, and he was dead set on returning for another bid. That kind of patience and perseverance is the mark of a true competitor, no matter the discipline.
He always knew he’d be back.
As for the 2021 Paris Eternal itself, ELLIVOTE described the trial process as unusual due to how late they were into their offseason shuffle. However, he mostly deferred recounting of the trial format and process to Eternal’s general manager, Kim "AVALLA" Kyoung Ey.
“I think we had four weeks,” she pondered.
“Funny story, we didn't have any coaching staff coming into the tryouts. I was still trialling out coaches. From my experiences, I’ve learned that just choosing a coach based on interviewing them is really bad. I wanted to see how they actually coached players and how the players felt about that coaching because I feel like a lot of failed teams come from coaching staff issues where the players did not have any trust in the coaches.”
Interestingly enough, AVALLA was rather open with the unique process she crafted to build a team with such a short deadline in mind.
“What I did throughout this process was [building] these teams and assigning coaches to these teams to see how the coaches were able to develop it,” she explained. Throughout the tryouts, AVALLA implemented a system as close to official matches as she could. Makeshift rosters were created, hero bans were put in place, and regular coaching sessions took place with each pick-up team and their assigned coach.
“Putting [players] in random teams doesn’t give you a good idea because you don’t really know what kind of values they have in the team environment,” she said. “So allowing them to compete in the same teams for an extended period of time was to see how they work together as a team and lead discussions and how they could bring up more ideas on how to improve the team.”
Towards the end of the trial process, AVALLA and the Eternal still were not set on a head coach. However, former coach for Third Impact, Zouheir "GetAmazed" Baba, stuck out as prominent. Together the both of them decided on the finalised roster. One of the most integral parts for her was listening to the players and weighing that in the decision for the head coaching position. Trust had to be firmly placed in the leadership—and generally, that aligned with what the players thought as well.
For ELLIVOTE, the roster that was constructed left him feeling confident.
“I’ve had experiences with almost all of our players because we’re from Europe, so we kind of bump into each other in ranked,” he said. “I’ve been friends with [Stefan "Onigod" Fiskerstrand], and we’ve been teammates before on Angry Titans for about two years or so. So we have a long history together. Also, I played with [Nikolai "Naga" Dereli] on Team Doge; he joined after a little while. So I’ve had two previous experiences with my teammates, and I also really like Paris as an organisation because it’s EU pride, you know?”
“I really want to represent Europe well. So that’s also a big selling point.”
ELLIVOTE’s return to the league was a weight lifted off his shoulders. Finally, hearing back from an organisation and knowing that his dreams wouldn’t just be deferred due to visas and a global pandemic was the ultimate relief.
“I thought ‘this is my year to prove what I’m worth again’ because last year was such a [issue] with COVID and having to play online and everything just being messed up,” he said.
As for the Eternal locker room itself, things seemed lighthearted but serious.
“In this team, we have a lot of trolly players; I would say there is a lot of banter with each other,” ELLIVOTE smiled. “It is just a fun dynamic being all from the same place, and so we don’t have a mixture of different playstyles and how we approach scrims.”
Whether it was bonding over goofy videos and memes or just a shared experience coming up adjacent to one another, the players seemed to have a camaraderie that was special. This balance of respect, trust, and togetherness emerged as the core of this stellar nursery. Being able to trust your team to perform as well as enjoy their company seemed to be the key to it all.
“I also think you play way, way better when you have fun with your teammates instead of just playing to win.” That didn’t mean they were taking this season lightly. On the contrary, ELLIVOTE and the Eternal want to flip the Overwatch world and their power rankings around.
“I really love being at the bottom of the power rankings so that you can prove everyone wrong because that’s also a big weight lifted off your shoulders,” he said. “You don’t have any expectations. So when we start getting wins against ‘better teams’, it is going to be even better, and even the media and [the fans] will regard you as even better than before because they had such low expectations for you.”
ELLIVOTE wasn’t about to speak for other teams, but he enjoyed being an underdog. Swimming in an empty pool removed from any pressure and expectations, the Eternal were free to craft their own story, one they hoped to be of success and glory.
“Coming into the season, I really feel we have the capability of beating almost any team. Obviously, we have a few hindrances playing from home, so we automatically have disadvantages, but it doesn’t take away that we can all play the game at a really high level.”
Confidence both in and outside the server was apartment through their readiness to prove the experts wrong but also within the initial metagame the 2021 Overwatch League season would start on.
“Rush is strong in Europe,” ELLIVOTE explained. “Even getting to scrim Overwatch Contenders teams in Europe gives a lot to us, just because the EU teams are so good at rush in general compared to the Korean teams, and I think that is the main reason why we’re so confident because the start is very important for the rest of the season and how it is going to play out. If you start well, even if it isn’t your best meta coming up, you have confidence playing in the beginning. So I think the start of the season is really important for us. Not having any hero bans at the start of the season is really going to be a benefit. It is going to give us a lot of confidence.”
Not even the bi-monthly hero ban system was something ELLIVOTE was worried about. He cited assistant coach and former player Choi "JMAC" Dae-han as very smart. ELLIVOTE was fully confident in his abilities to craft compositions for them, even in metagames that don’t suit them inherently. It’s that patience, that assurance in himself and those around him that speaks volumes to ELLIVOTE’s character.
Tying it together into one steady stellar symphony of studiousness, ELLIVOTE reflected on the tools and lessons he learned from the start of his career on Vivi’s Adventure in 2017 to his time spent with the Washington Justice to now arriving in Paris, France.
“I think it is just ‘trial and error’ and experience,” he explained.
“I feel like I’ve played for so long that I know what works and what doesn’t work. I know what’s missing in my gameplay, and I know how to fix that. I know how to look at VODs better now. I know how to try out different things. Before, it was just a shot in the dark. Now I have the blueprint of what does work and what doesn’t, and I think that is the biggest difference.”
Leaving a time capsule of advice and proverbs for the next generation pursuing any craft, ELLIVOTE stressed the importance of having a rigorous work ethic but also taking time to rest. In his mind, it was about working smarter than harder and managing practice wisely. Further in thought, he remembered his teams and felt blessed that he always had a good team since the beginning of his career and was able to grow into his role within those teams as he wasn’t moving from team to team.
It was the competition that fueled him throughout the years, but what kept him sailing forward, constantly striving for more, was keeping a positive but measured attitude and the simple virtue of patience. Speaking metaphorically to his younger self or a fledgeling rookie, he admitted that is the best practice if they were trying to become a professional player.
“Always have a positive attitude, so you don’t get emotional in scrims or in matches, and you can just focus on what you want to improve on. Instead of acting out of your emotions, you act out of actual actions and having goals in mind. That’s one of the most important things—and also have patience.”
“You won’t go from Open Division to Overwatch Contenders winners in a week. It is going to take a long time.”
And, for those prepared, that tedious stretch of time can take you across the world. Seeing sites, you’ve always dreamed of, meeting countless fans and peers that impact you as much as you to them.
He gave this advice, not as a flowery send off to the players of tomorrow, but as tangible lessons; he not only learned himself throughout his storied career but things he lived by.
The Krusher99 dream isn’t dead, and it has always been about how you get back on the horse. That is what brought him here the first time, and that is exactly what is still at the core of ELLIVOTE’s triumphant return to the Overwatch League.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment