Although MAD Lions weren’t the team that most European League of Legends fans expected to see represent the region at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, they made some great strides on the Rift during the 2021 LEC Spring Split.
At the beginning of the year, if you asked any LEC fan, caster, player, or analyst, it would’ve been hard to find someone who’d tell you a revamped MAD Lions team with new young talent would be the European representatives at the first international League event of the year. But a few months later, MAD punched their ticket to Iceland after a spectacular playoff run where they beat G2 Esports for the second time in the organization’s history and reverse swept Rogue in the LEC finals.
This isn’t the first time MAD Lions have stepped onto the international stage, though. The nucleus of the current roster—Carzzy, Kaiser, and Humanoid—was already in Shanghai last year for the World Championship. The squad produced a forgettable performance at Worlds 2020, however, failing to move on from the play-in stage and losing to Turkish representative Supermassive, the former team of the new MAD Lions top laner, Armut.
But everything indicates that this second international experience will have little or nothing to do with the organization’s disastrous first appearance on the global stage. There are a few variables that have changed on the MAD Lions team, starting with its roster.
A renewed roster to forget the ghosts of the past
During the past offseason, Elyoya and Armut replaced Shad0w and Orome, two of the MAD players who struggled the most at Worlds 2020. While Orome received harsh criticism for his performance last season, Shad0w’s replacement was something few people could predict. But the two players that the organization brought in for this year immediately exceeded many expectations.
Elyoya and Armut were the top two players on MAD’s roster for much of the 2021 spring season, when the bot lane and mid lane struggled a bit. Elyoya had an impressive 73.6-percent kill participation rate in the LEC Spring Split, according to League stats site gol.gg. And Armut was one of the best top laners in the split with the highest average gold per minute of the entire top laner pool and the second-best top laner in the average kills stat (3.2), just 0.1 behind Bwipo (3.3).
Despite having these rookies in the lineup, MAD’s performance during the LEC playoffs indicated that they could be a great representative for Europe at MSI. In addition to being a strong team and feeling more comfortable playing in an offline format (something that’s certainly rare for rookies), according to several of MAD’s players, their read of the metagame and the playoff patch was clearly superior to the rest of the squads in the postseason. Whether it was the Volibear in the jungle or placing a high priority on Jinx, a champ that helped Carzzy overcome his poor performance during the regular season with some brilliant games during MAD’s playoff run, the team seemed to be a step ahead of their competition in terms of their understanding of the current meta.
Something that could be a positive for MAD Lions at MSI is their aggressive playstyle, which is quite similar to the iconic style seen in the LPL with an emphasis on strong teamfighting. MAD Lions got first blood in 61 percent of their games and averaged almost 16 kills per game during the Spring Split with a positive-195 average gold difference at 15 minutes, according to gol.gg.
MAD Lions are in Group B at MSI 2021. To advance to the next phase, they’ll need to beat the TCL’s İstanbul Wildcats, the CBLOL’s iconic Pain Gaming, and the PCS’ PSG Talon, one of the most impressive wildcard teams from Worlds 2020 that even managed to place ahead of LEC team Rogue in the tournament’s group stage.
On paper, these teams shouldn’t be much of a problem for MAD Lions. If the European representatives move on to the next stage of MSI, they’d likely face some of the best teams in the world, like DWG KIA or RNG.
Elyoya on how to beat DWG KIA and what MAD Lions need to do to bring the MSI title back to Europe
Dot Esports talked with MAD’s new jungler Elyoya about some key factors heading into this tournament. The rookie jungler believes the early game is the biggest question mark surrounding MAD Lions and the most important thing they need to improve on if they want to win the whole tournament.
“We are in the process to improve our early game,” Elyoya told Dot Esports. “I’m not sure if we already fixed it, I don’t think so. Right now we are playing games focusing a lot on the early game, seeing what we can improve on it. We are giving it a lot of attention.”
Reigning world champions DWG KIA are the clear favorites to take the title of MSI champions. But Elyoya believes they’re not invincible. The Spaniard thinks they’re not as dominant of a team as they were during 2020.
“I would say that DAMWON scared me a lot more last year than this year,” Elyoya said.
The Spanish player is confident in his team and he believes that the European representative definitely have a decent chance to beat the LCK champion in a potential best-of-five. “I would say that if we have an early game, and we manage to have advantage, we can close the games,” Elyoya said. “It depends a lot on the teamfights—they are really good at teamfighting.”
Elyoya also had something to say to those who doubt the performance and level of MAD Lions at MSI: “For those who are saying that we are a weak representative for Europe, I’m not going to say yes or no, I am simply going to tell you that we have beaten those who you think are your favorite representatives, or those who have been your representatives for so long, so we’re not that bad.”
The full interview with Elyoya is available on our YouTube channel. MSI 2021 begins on Thursday, May 6.
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