MAD Lions’ start to the 2022 LEC Spring Split has been shaky. At times, the team has shown glimpses of what the lineup could be if everything clicked: well-coordinated teamfights and unbridled bravery to climb out of the bleakest situations. However, the squad often doesn’t seem in sync yet. Five weeks into the season, MAD Lions sits in the middle of the pack with a 5-6 score.
One of the highlights of the team, though, has been their new bot laner William "UNF0RGIVEN" Nieminen. The rookie has widely praised for his debut in the LEC, with his strong laning phase standing out. He joined Inven Global for an interview to talk about his team’s struggles and his own performance so far.
Welcome, UNF0RGIVEN. It was an unfortunate loss against SK Gaming, but you personally had a pretty good early game overall. How are you walking away from this game?
It's just sad losing this game. We were so ahead and we just messed up. It seemed like we just don't know how to play the map correctly, sometimes. But at least we had a strong early game, so that's something.
MAD Lions has been quite inconsistent overall in the Spring Split. Where do you think the issues lie?
I think our inconsistencies come from after the early game. I think in the early game, we're often one of the strongest teams. But after that, we always end up throwing somehow.
"It would be nice if we could play duo queue in Challenger. But we can't do that. It's a bad thing, I think."
Is something going wrong in the communication?
Hm, I don't feel like it's necessarily a communication error. We can communicate things better, for sure, but I think it's mainly that we're at the wrong places on the map.
You've been praised for your individual performance so far in the Spring Split. Are you as positive about it?
No. I think I'm playing really bad right now. In the last two weeks, maybe I've been playing fine, but for me it feels like I've been playing really, really bad. I want to play way better. I'm not satisfied at all. Maybe to the outside it looks like I'm playing good, but I don't see it that way. I feel like I'm messing up too much stuff. I'm just not playing good. It's disappointing for me.
Historically, MAD Lions' coaching staff has been able to improve the team throughout the year. How is the team currently tackling the issues?
For me, this week, I worked more on how to play the lane. Just focussing on the game laning-phase-wise. I felt like I've learned a lot from this week. Next week, we're gonna try learn how to not throw games that should be a free win. I think the staff is doing good. I feel like we're learning a lot.
They just want us to do as good as possible and just keep having fun. It's important. If you're having fun, then most of the time you play good.
Since you're so critical of your own performance: do you think it could have anything to do with nerves, given that you're a rookie?
No, I don't think so. I don't necessarily feel that nervous when I play. I think I was nervous a bit before playing my first LEC game, but I didn't feel anything during the game. It was the same on the stage. I didn't feel nervous at all.
Has the team atmosphere helped you with that?
I think we have a pretty good team atmosphere. Of course, after losses, people might be a bit upset that we lost a game. But usually, there's only a good atmosphere in the team.
You've been working with Kaiser, one of the most prominent supports in the LEC. How is finding synergy going?
I think it's good. This guy really good, I think. It's nice to play with him. But working on synergy... We're playing scrims together, and that's nice to play, but it would be nice if we could play duo queue in Challenger. But we can't do that. It's a bad thing, I think. Bring back duo queue. It would be way better if we could play duo queue in ranked.
"I'm starting to feel a bit pressured that I need to perform. I don't want to disappoint the people that think I'm good."
Let's step away from current performances. I want to talk about what your personal goals were by joining MAD Lions, aside from the obvious "winning LEC" and "going to Worlds."
I don't set a goal for myself, I think. The goals are just that reaching playoffs, maybe even winning it, going to Worlds. What I want to do is just: play as good as I can. Every single time. And just keep improving, just getting better.
Given MAD Lions' back-to-back wins last year, people are expecting the current iteration to at least contest for the title. While you say you don't feel nervous for games: do you feel the pressure to live up to those expectations?
At first, I didn't feel that pressured to perform in the LEC. But after two weeks, it feels like people found me really good with the start I had. So, before I didn't feel pressure at all, but now I'm starting to feel a bit pressured that I need to perform. I don't want to disappoint the people that think I'm good. I just want to keep playing good. I feel like, in the last two weeks, I haven't been playing that good. It just feels really bad to disappoint them.
Well, as you said, you've been getting a lot of support from the fans. Is there something you'd like to say to them to round up the interview?
I'm actually surprised. I've only gotten positive messages. I'm so surprised. I don't think I've gotten a single negative message towards me. Not a single one. I feel like I kind of deserve one after playing so bad. [Laughs] But I'm really glad with the fans. They're very nice and supportive. They're even nice after losing. It would feel way better winning the games, but losing doesn't feel as bad when the fans still believe in you. I'm very thankful for their support.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.