MAD Lions is back in action. After a very disappointing performance in the 2022 LEC Spring Split – missing out on the playoffs from back-to-back championships last year – MAD is back with a vengeance this summer. They are the overall best team in Europe and look like they may have the West’s best chance at this year’s World Championships.
Many of the reasons for their return to form were the addition of Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer – a mid laner who undoubtedly contributed to the team’s success. However, the hard work and ingenious understanding of the meta by the rest of the team shouldn’t be ignored. Inven Global spoke to MAD Coach James “Mac” MacCormack to discuss the team’s rise, early play in the EU and the teams highlighting him in the LEC.
Congratulations on your recent success, Mac! The team looks great – one of the biggest changes was how much the team differs stylistically. Rather than winning mid-game, MAD’s success largely hinges on early-game dominance. Why do you think this is? Was it from adding Nisqy or are there other factors?
Nisqy is obviously a big part of that, but if you even look back at Spring, it’s a style we’ve done quite a bit. We didn’t do that well, but we had pretty strong early games in the spring. We just lost a lot of games with big leads because we weren’t doing that well at the time.
More so than Nisqy (although he’s an important factor), it’s Elyoya’s vision of how to play the game that’s very mid-jungle and early-game biased. He’s a super aggressive player and likes to play aggressive jungle matchups so I’d say it’s mostly coming from him.
Do you think that was a natural shift from last year? How did that happen?
Yes. After Humanoid left, Elyoya assumed most responsibility and position within the team. And so, naturally, you play towards the person with the strongest voice and your identity is heavily formed around them. Obviously last year maybe it was a bit more even – our early game was a bit weaker. Because we’ve learned a ton of new stuff over the year and Elyoya has improved insanely, insanely, insanely. And playing that style didn’t always fit Humanoid’s style.
So last year we did both styles – sometimes playing very heavily on scaling in teamfights and sometimes playing roaming mids and playing early on Snowball (we played a lot of Ryze for example). But obviously with the departure of Humanoid, that voice is less present – the voice that wants to go for the scaling blueprint and slowly play out the games. We’re more geared towards that playstyle.
MAD Lions have always been praised for having one of the strongest coaching teams in the West. After the playoffs failed, did the coaching staff change their approach or stick with what worked previously?
We changed our approach a bit – one of the problems we had in the last split was that we weren’t always on the same page in terms of how we played. We had very conflicting ideas about staff and players. And we haven’t exactly settled on a really solid philosophy. That’s a difference that I think we managed really well in the off-season and early in this split.
Players also deserve credit for how hard they’ve worked. Obviously our players all struggled a lot this spring when things weren’t going well and the sting of defeat gave us a lot of motivation. Aside from Nisqy coming in and being nice and wonderful, the attitude our players took to improve was fantastic. They play a lot, are really proactive when it comes to how we improve as a team and are very open to discussing and giving each other feedback when there are issues. That’s a pretty big improvement over the last split. So, to be honest, there’s a lot going on – it’s a big snowball effect with a lot of factors.
MAD Lions have a very strong understanding of the early game compared to most LECs – many teams don’t seem to be struggling. Do you see this as a general EU problem?
If you go internationally, yes, there will be a problem. If you look back at the Finals they played in 2018 and 2019, many of those issues were fully visible in those series. I don’t think European teams are that used to playing against a very tough early style of play.
And also based on our experience in international events, I always felt that the eastern teams had a huge advantage over us and actually just the whole team that understands how the early game works and everyone is on the same side of it. I felt like their understanding of how this early game worked in general – how the tracks interact with the jungle, how the vision interacts with the waves and all that stuff – was up a level. So it’s something we’ve studied a lot.
Why do you think this is a problem for other teams? Are you blind to it?
I’m not sure. From my point of view and my understanding it can only be two things. It can be a lack of understanding where, as you said, people are blind to it and don’t see it. Or it may be due to a lack of ability to execute – you get it, but you don’t have the coordination or consistency to do it on stage. Or you don’t have the communication to take advantage of all the early opportunities you have when you play an early snowballing draft.
I can’t tell you what it is to be honest. But in general, in League of Legends, it’s often difficult to come across new knowledge without someone showing it. And that’s always a big stumbling block when trying to learn about League. It takes a lot longer for you to go out and grind up VODs and watch twenty games from whatever team – to figure out why their early game is really good – than just someone explaining it to you. And I think that’s a big obstacle to the West catching up with the East.
Tell me about the evolution of MAD communications specifically. I’ve heard that Nisqy is now not only part of shotcalling, but also intervenes in poverty. What are your impressions of MAD in that sense?
Overall, I think the team has a lot of faith in Elyoya. And in general, we tend to just follow what he’s doing. He tends to have the loudest voice – not literally, but the person with the strongest ideas. So we tend to follow him a lot, especially when it comes to planning.
Really great in team fights and in individual moments, Nisqy gets everyone on the same page. And as you mentioned, poverty has also increased a lot lately. The bot lane is something they are also working on. This is one of the things we highlighted a lot in Spring when we felt like Elyoya was under too much pressure while shot calling.
So it’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time working on with all the individual players between then and now. As with anything else, you can improve it if you invest time and develop a system for it. Of course we have a system for that, but it’s pretty loose. I don’t like very detailed League of Legends specific flowchart systems. I’m more of a fundamentalist.
It’s very early days but if MAD made it to the LEC Finals, who do you think would be your Finals opponent?
I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves because we’re still in the regular season and a lot can change. We have to adapt well enough to the next patches, we still have to win our games, we still have to adapt to the playoffs patch. And we have to win best-of-five to get to the finals, which is a long way and we don’t have that many championship points.
If I had to say who I think is the best team outside of us, my guess would be Rogue. They’re really solid – their early game is really good. Their game is one of the few early games that rivals ours. In some ways they are better than us, in some ways they are worse. I don’t feel that we’re better than them directly: we have our strengths and they have their strengths. And they are just different. It’s like a really, really different playstyle. But I think they’re really good in the early game, so they might be.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for brevity.