MAD Lions may have stunned the League of Legends community after the LEC youngsters failed to escape the Worlds 2020 Play-In Stage, but it wasn’t a huge shock for coach James ‘Mac’ MacCormack: issues had been brewing behind the scenes for a while ahead of crunch time in Shanghai.
The surprise pack in Europe this year was MAD Lions, a young LEC team built around Marek “Humanoid” Brázda. The team, who had rebranded from Splyce ahead of the 2020 season, made the rest of Europe sit up and take notice.
First, they ousted giants G2 Esports in the Spring finals upper bracket, before going on a tear through the Summer regular season. Unfortunately, their run ran out of steam at the playoffs hurdle, and they barely scraped into Worlds as Europe’s fourth seed.
Once in Shanghai, however, LEC fans felt MAD Lions had a second chance.
Instead, in one final twist of cruel fate for the LEC stars, they were handed the ignominious title of the first-ever EU team to be eliminated in Play-Ins. It was just the second time ever a major region team had failed to advance to Worlds groups.
The result, Mac told Dexerto after their SuperMassive loss, was “embarrassing.”
“Obviously we’re extremely disappointed. We’re all a bit embarrassed, to be honest… we’re the first European team to drop out in Play-Ins. It sucks,” he said.
“Frankly though, my initial thought is that we didn’t deserve to win. We were not the better team, and we haven’t been the better team for most of Play-Ins. We haven’t been the same MAD Lions everyone saw in Summer for a while now either.”
The issue, Mac explained, was two-fold. The team’s scrims had “ironically, been really good” in the build-up. That led to them collecting “a lot of bad information,” and having to re-adapt on the fly as the Worlds qualifying stage played out.
Add to that, the young MAD Lions roster hadn’t played a stage game since late Spring Split, and the nerves rolled in “hard.” The squad was nearly consumed by it, Mac said, and it showed in their games.
“I don’t want to use any of that as an excuse, but yeah there were definitely a lot of nerves as we came into the Play-In stage,” he said.
“We had a lot of problems that should have been solved earlier too. We had to re-adapt… a lot of the stuff we’d practiced fell apart. That’s a failure from me, and the coaching staff; we couldn’t adapt quick enough, and it cost us in the end.”
MAD Lions’ short Shanghai journey was not a complete failure by any means, however. Mac admitted the team had already learned “so, so much” just from scrimming other international teams, and warned the LEC, “we’re bringing back what we learned.”
“I think these events, Worlds and the like, they’re so valuable for teams. You can get caught in your own little bubble, like us in Europe, and you don’t know where you stand with the meta and talent and everything like that,” the English coach said.
“Every region is different, right? You never get punished for your best aspects. When we scrimmed good international teams here we got punished a lot. That was a real, good thing for us, and that’s what we’re all looking to take away.”
There was also a shining light from the roster itself; Mac believes Humanoid was given a chance to “show the world just how good he can be,” and did just that, despite MAD’s struggles at the championship.
“There was, what, fifteen, maybe twenty mid lane bans against him? To be able to come out of that and have good performances, that’s something really quite special… Marek has definitely proven himself this Worlds.”
Worlds continues with groups on Saturday, Oct. 3. Chinese champs Top Esports will open the main event against Group D rivals FlyQuest at 4pm local time (GMT+8).