By Colm Creaner
The League of Legends World Championship kicked off in Reykjavik this week with millions tuning in to see their favourite eSports team compete in the annual conclusion of the gaming season. Of the ten teams competing at the Laugardalshöll indoor sporting arena, one to watch are MAD Lions, here’s why:
MAD Lions are a Spanish eSports organisation based in Madrid; their League of Legends team are based in Berlin to be closer to the top league in European League of Legends, the LEC.
MAD Lions are following on from an extremely unexpected season, winning both the Spring and Summer competitions in the LEC after finishing third and fourth in last year’s Spring and Summer seasons.
MAD Lions have been able to produce these incredible results through clever coaching by head coach, James ‘Mac’ MacCormack, and their deadly top, middle, and jungle synergy.
MacCormack, their coach, is the first major key to the puzzle. His role in the team could be seen to be similar to that of Gareth Southgate with the 2018 England football squad. Like Southgate, Mac is very young at 27 years old and has some extremely new and innovative ideas about how to win games when it seems like the team are at a disadvantage from the beginning.
Instead of looking at shorter term goals, he does this by looking at the game as a whole. By doing this, and focusing on the late game, he ensures that the team are ahead at this stage before the other team has even thought about it.
The way he prepares his players is also completely different to anyone else in the LEC. He focuses on getting his players comfortable in traditionally bad situations so they can adapt and thrive under pressure.
This is similar to how, when training for the World Cup, Gareth Southgate practiced specific set pieces so that in gameplay the players could perform them as muscle memory.
This mental training that Mac puts his players under was seen most evidently in game two of the ‘Best of 5 Series’ against Fnatic in the Summer Finals. At the start, the composition of Fnatic’s team was much better than that of MAD Lions. This instantly put them at a disadvantage, meaning that MAD Lions had to take agency of the game from the get-go, as opposed to waiting to see how it played out.
The result of this was that MAD Lions were able to come from behind to make the game competitive before Fnatic narrowly won the game.
This philosophy is best summarised when he described it to interviewers after winning in the semi-finals. He said, “the reason we are so good is because all my guys are the best in the league at playing like psychos and pressing advantages”.
The second major aspect of MAD Lions that makes them so dangerous at this year’s World Championship is their top, middle, jungle synergy.
The reason that this is such a powerful combination is due to how MAD Lions move as a team. In football parlance, this is the linkup between the striker, the central midfielder, and the winger.
The first aspect of this top, middle, jungle synergy is the Top player İrfan ‘Armut’ Tükek, the main striker of the trio. Before playing for MAD Lions, Armut was considered one of the best top players the Turkish League of Legends had ever produced. Now that he has transitioned to the wider European stage, he has become a phenomenon on the scene.
Even though Armut gets criticised by the general community for playing relatively few champions, and thus not being able to adapt well to different situations, he is one of the best top players in Europe.
He has a clutch factor that allows him to win any matchup in important games, drawing significant opposition pressure to him and allowing the rest of his team to control the game.
The second part of MAD Lions’ deadly trio is their mid player Marek ‘Humanoid’ Brázda, the central midfielder of the group. Humanoid is the rock of the entire team. He keeps everything together even when it is going badly and provides MAD Lions with slight advantages that put them in situations to win in the late stages of every game.
He does this by leaving his position to try to get other players in better situations. It is this selflessness specifically that makes him so dangerous – he can be anywhere on the map and not necessarily where a player in his role would be.
The final aspect of this top, middle, jungle synergy is the role of MAD Lions’ jungler, Javier ‘Elyoya’ Prades, the winger of the group. Elyoya was a rookie this year and has been brought up through the MAD Lions academy system since he started playing.
Whilst most people take time to acclimatise to the stage of the LEC, Elyoya has fit in perfectly to the MAD Lions system and become a menace across the map. He has a unique and aggressive style of playing that fits with the whole team and gives his opponents a sense of paranoia of where he could be due to the fog of war aspect of the game.
Ultimately you can enjoy MAD Lions for their unique coaching philosophy, their top, middle, jungle synergy and their constant focus on the late game. You can even enjoy them for the beauty with which they play the game. One thing is for certain: MAD Lions have a formula that is like lightning in a bottle, like England in the 2018 World Cup.
Pure excitement and hype are all that exist around their fanbase. It will be a once in a lifetime experience to see them play in the World Championship this year in Reykjavik.
Image: LoL Esports Photos via flickr