"If you’re at the bottom of a mountain and you look at its top, you think “Geez, that’s a long bloody way”. But the only way to get to the top is by taking one step at a time."
MAD Lions has started the 2020 League of Legends European Championship Summer Split on the right foot. The team scored a 2-1 during the opening “super weekend”, upsetting SK Gaming and Excel Esports, but being brought down by their contenders, G2 Esports.
Head Coach James "Mac" MacCormack talked to Inven Global about player progression throughout the Spring Split, and where the team is headed to next.
During Spring, MAD Lions seemed to be unshaken by the online format. After interviewing several members of your team, I was made aware that for rookies, playing online is less stressful, which allows them to focus just on the game.
Now that every team has had the chance to play half a split online, do you think things will get more competitive?
This situation we have now benefited the players that experience stage anxiety. It’s not the case of certain teams starting to play worse when we went online, but others being able to perform better. It is fair to say that going into a best of five, rookies will go to the stage and be more worked up than veterans.
Do you think that if the league was played entirely online, we would see more competitive matches?
It’s really hard to say, but I don’t think so. From the viewer perspective, they want two things: either both teams look like geniuses, or a battle of wits, in which each team is constantly outsmarting each other, with a very fast pace and cerebral moves, or they want lots and lots of kills.
Online playing generally favors towards the second option, so it really depends on what you like. I don’t think either style is necessarily better than the other, realistically, in the last couple of years, data suggests that lots of kills is “better league of legends” because those seem to be the teams that are winning the World Championships, right?
How did MAD Lions prepare for Summer during the off-Season?
Step number one was to rest and make sure that people are okay to come back into the season. We made sure that we sent home as many people as we could, and that they made it back safely. It’s important that every person takes their feedback to the break and reflects on it, to make sure they have the goals set for themselves so they can improve for the next Split.
As a coach, I identify which goals they have and help them work on what they need to improve for the upcoming Split. In our case, we aim to be a more adaptable, a more varied team. So we can’t get shut down by a specific playstyle.
Today MAD faced G2, and clearly struggled to maintain a good performance. Where do you think the struggle came from?
The last two games we played against G2 Esports were one side in favor of them, and one in favor of us, and this match happened to be in favor of them. It’s hard to say because we were not playing a best of five. I can’t say there is an overarching reason because I don’t have access to comms, I don’t know what my players are sounding like, I don’t know what they are planning, talking about or not talking about.
I can point to a few mistakes we made as a team that were macro decisions, but without that information, it is really hard to say.
Since you mentioned not having access to comms during the game, is Riot Games providing you with this material later on?
It was available during playoffs, but right now I am not sure what the plan around it is right now.
How does not having this information affect the way you do your job?
It’s difficult to review the game and guess what is going on. I can’t assume what is happening in their heads at specific times, so the reviews end up being led by the players because I have to rely on the information that they give me.
Aside from that, we get a lot less insight into the mental state of our players which is one of the most important parts of the job. This is not a challenge you can adapt to very easily, so we have to talk to them a lot after a match ends. Our players participate a lot in review and they are very good at taking responsibility for their own mistakes.
Looking at the roster changes in other teams, who do you think will be the most competitive to play against?
The teams that we have struggled with in the past have been Fnatic and Origen, but off the new teams, seeing Kobbe go to Misfits is interesting, as he is an incredibly talented ADC. Schalke didn’t change anyone, did they?
They promoted Nukes from the Prime League.
I have no idea if that will be a good change or not, but I can say that at the end of the last Split, they were a lot better than what most people or score lines gave them credit for.
I think the team with the biggest potential for improvement is Vitality. Labrov and Comp are very good together, and they finally get to play with Milica. Now for the highest-ranked team, I’d say Misfits will be the most competitive.
Now, let’s talk about your players. You have gotten to see the rookies progress through the first split. Which player has had the most surprising performance in your opinion?
They have all grown in quite astounding ways. Perhaps the most impactful on the team dynamic as a whole has been Carzzy. He is one of the rare examples of players that have really good instincts but are also able to understand the game very well to an intellectual level and has the personality to apply it.
Carzzy’s ability to grasp the game, even including concepts that are not directly related to him, like when we give feedback to solo laners, and ask them to play on the side lane, Carzzy soaks that in and tries it on scrims. He has a very good mind for the game that translates into shot-calling, and right now, he is one of the biggest voices in the team, much bigger than he was at the beginning of spring.
And last time we talked, you mentioned that Humanoid was being trained to be the leader of the team. How is that working out?
We have more of a balance now. At the beginning of Spring, Marek was very conscious he need to kind of guide the other players along, but he definitely still has a very decisive voice in the team. When he speaks up, people listen.
Marek is also taking an authoritative voice in our reviews as well, so he very often catches mistakes or things that I missed. He does a lot outside of the game.
This year, one more LEC team will get to go to Worlds. Who do you think we will be seeing at the championship?
Looking at the strengths of the top four teams, compared to the weaknesses of the teams in the lower standings, there is quite a large gap. MAD Lions, G2, Fnatic, and Origen, are the most predictable ones in my opinion.
Very often, in Summer, teams that make it to the end are the ones that can stand the stress without imploding. Without knowing what is going on behind the scenes, it is hard to know what is going to be.
Let’s close off with your expectations for the Lions?
I don’t like to talk about expectations because they put a lot of pressure on us, but I think we should be aiming to be in the top two, realistically. This is definitely within our potential, we have the mechanical ability, we have the right personalities, strong shot-calling, and a lot of other good factors, with some extra experience like taking proper care of ourselves, we should likely make it.
I know I mentioned we’d be closing off with the previous question but you mentioned not liking to talk about expectations… What does it bring you?
It doesn’t because I don’t pay attention to it. There is a psychological factor that happens the more you talk about actually winning, there is this ethereal end goal, rather than having actionable steps to follow towards winning.
If you’re at the bottom of a mountain and you look at its top, you think “Geez, that’s a long bloody way”, because it takes a while to get there, it looks hard! *laughs* But the only way to the top is by taking one step at a time. So don’t look up, just keep going forward.
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