Many people have forgotten the might of MAD Lions. The back-to-back LEC Champions of 2021 had a rough Spring Split this year, but veteran Lion Norman "Kaiser" Kaiser is confident they can turn it back around. The EU All-Pro support has been working with rookie William "UNF0RGIVEN" Nieminen to become one of the most feared bot lane combinations in the league, and is confident his team is on the right track with their roster changes. Inven Global had the opportunity to speak with Kaiser about his thoughts on the team, and why their previous mid laner didn’t work out, and more.
What is your assessment of MAD Lions at the moment? It seems the team has had some promising victories but also lost some games they probably shouldn’t have.
We have a really good meta-read right now. Maybe this game against Excel we inted draft a bit — we kind of gave them their strongest picks, and we didn't really play comfort ourselves...I mean, we did play comfort, but we gave them too much. But in the other four games, we had really good drafts because we had a really good read on the meta.
And we also played them well, because we were really comfortable on the champions and what we wanted to do. And in general, we're just way more structured in-game, because Nisqy talks a lot — Elyoya as well. So yeah, that's a big improvement from spring, is that we have more voices and more structure in the team.
Now that you've had more time to assess the problems — what did you see as the biggest factor for MAD Lions' drop-off last split? Was it Reeker not being as good as Humanoid, the change in metas, or something else?
It definitely was a factor losing Humanoid — we lost our mid game shotcaller, and Elyoya had to fit into that role. But because of that, we suffered sometimes. For example, we had a lot of mid game Baron calls that were just not right. Because our early games were always pretty good, because Elyoya and I were moving around the map like we used to.
But when it came to mid game and late game shotcalling — which Humanoid was mostly responsible for — we kind of lost our voice, and then we had to relearn how to do it again. And in a lot of games, our last resort was to start Nashor, and we lost a lot of games in those Baron forces. After some time, we figured out what to do, and then we also got better. But at that point, it was already too late, and we couldn't make playoffs anymore.
So yeah, just the mid game shotcalling. And because we had Elyoya calling almost everything — because we didn't have any other big voices in the team — it was a bit too much for Elyoya. And it took too long for other people to realize that we had to help him out, and then we just lost too many games beforehand.
How does Nisqy change that? Do you think his skillset helps MAD Lions return to their style of 2021, or are you still finding a new identity?
It's not the same, that's for sure. Because Nisqy is not as demanding as Humanoid. Humanoid was always like, "If you give me this amount of farm, or if you just play around me, you're gonna win the game." We can play around Nisqy, but what we're doing right now is we're playing for Dragon mostly. And I think we're really adaptable in a way because of that — we can play wherever we want kind of, because Nisqy is a huge facilitator.
He's like a hybrid of a secondary support for the team. Because he likes to roam, he likes to move a lot, and that's what's different from old MAD Lions. Humanoid was also roaming sometimes, but he was also a really big carry player. So we're not the same MAD Lions as we used to be, but I think we can be as good or even better than the old MAD Lions — if we flesh out our identity more and just perfect that with Nisqy.
What gives you the confidence that this roster could be better?
I think a lot of people underestimate how good we are, maybe. Because they just see the big names — Humanoid, and Carzzy even — and that they left. Of course, it's going to damage our image, because people will think, "Oh, these star players left the team, so they must be worse." That can be true, but I star rosters rarely even perform to their full potential.
It's mostly teams that assemble from good teamwork, mentality, and team environment. Also good players, of course. You have to have good players, but there's more important things than just big names. We can probably show that this year with Nisqy. He is a big name, but I think we will be underestimated.
It's been very interesting seeing you help UNF0RGIVEN become one of the most promising young players in the league. Tell me about the process of working with him and helping him adjust to the LEC.
It's been pretty good, because he learns things really fast. For example, at the start of the season, he was really quiet because he was a rookie. It's normal. And now he's more demanding — we just told him he has to be more demanding with what he needs and what he wants from us in teamfights and stuff. And he does that really well now.
And for example, we worked on our laning phase this year, and we've gotten a lot better at wave control and stuff like this. I'm just really happy with our improvement. There is, of course, always things to learn and to improve on, but I think UNF0RGIVEN and me have a really good relationship. And we always talk about the game — what we could have done better. Just like me, he likes to learn, so it's been really easy to improve. And I think we can have a really high ceiling as a bot lane, we'll just have to see how other bot lanes play as well. But I'm really confident, because he's really good.
Now that you've had more opportunities to work with him, how would you compare his style to that of Carzzy?
Carzzy was crazier. In-game, he was always going for the insane outlays and jumping into five people — which can be a bad and good thing. But Carzzy was also more talkative. He was calling for more stuff in teamfights, and also shotcalling outside of laning phase and stuff. So it's more I have to maybe take a bit more responsibility in that aspect as a botlane. But it made me improve more as a player. And UNF0RGIVEN has more of a sense of danger — he's not as flippy as Carzzy. He knows when he's in danger and tries to get out. But not to say he's a KDA player or anything. He knows his limits just really well. So yeah, that's the main difference: Carzzy's more a crazy player, and UNF0RGIVEN's more calculated and more a just good ADC.
You had such strong success with Carzzy — everyone hyped you both up as one of the best bot lanes in the west. Is it at all surprising to you that he's had such a poor showing recently? What do you think has happened?
I can't tell you it was surprising or not surprising, because if you change to a completely different roster, every player will look different. Even if you have super good players, and a star roster, they can still look like a really bad player because that team just doesn't fit together. Or the team environment is bad. There are so many factors when you join a new team, that you can't just say, Carzzy's playing badly because he's bad or something.
He's a really good player. But, it's really hard for an outsider to know what's going wrong. I think Vitality has a lot of problems. Maybe bot lane was one of them, but for example, the same was the problem with us. You can say we inted a lot at the start of the split as a bot lane, or in general as a team. But is it really the fault of one individual player because he messed up there or something? I don't think so.
Most teams — they're more than the sum of their parts. If you don't have a shotcaller, for example, then an individual player maybe has to take more responsibility. So maybe Carzzy had to step up more in that regard, and then he performs worse individually. There's so many factors that I can't really have a good judgment on why he looked worse. Of course, they were not winning that much with Vitality and we were winning a lot with MAD Lions. So he looks worse in that regard as well — same happened to me. Yeah, I think he's still an insane player.
Would you say that's what happened with Reeker then? It was so odd how the under-the-radar UNF0RGIVEN performed so much better than the star prospect Reeker. Why do you think he didn't work well for you guys? Do you think he has a promising future in the LEC?
For sure. Reeker as a player is really good. He just didn't fit well into our team. Because, as I said, we just needed more of a voice in the mid lane. And I think Reeker as a rookie, it's understandable that he might be intimidated by the LEC, and he doesn't want to take all the shotcalling instantly. He's there with Elyoya, Armut, and even me. He wants to maybe sit back a bit more. So there was a bit of a problem that we just didn't have as much of a voice as with Humanoid. That made us as a whole look a bit worse.
If he was in a team with a big shotcaller or one with more of a team identity he would look, for sure, much better as a player. Because he could focus more on himself. So I think as a player he was really good. He carried a lot of our games in scrims as well. But yeah, in official games, we just need more of a voice. He didn't really provide that, and I think he tried to work on it. It was just Nisqy was already available, and we knew that he was going to be a good fit for our team.
How good would you expect him to be if given a team like that? Could he be middle-of-the-table or even above that if he had a decent team with the tools you mentioned?
Maybe not right now, because the top five in EU is like Humanoid, Caps, Vetheo, Nisqy, and maybe Larssen or Nukeduck. So I don't think he would be like top five, because the top five right now are really insane in Europe, right now. So it would be kinda hard to break into that top five for any rookie. But given a few years, he could be a really good player.
It sure is gonna be an interesting split! So many teams that could potentially kill it. If you had to predict who would be top three by the end of the split, who would it be?
Right now, I'd say Excel, G2, and us. It's hard to say, though, because there's gonna be a lot of patch changes. And I feel right now the team who had the best meta reads won a lot of games. A lot of teams just didn't really have the greatest reads, or maybe underestimated some champions. For example, Yuumi has like almost 100% win rate in LEC. So a lot of teams are getting a lot free wins with that champion.
The drafting in LEC is half the battle, already. Of course, there's a lot of things you can do in-game with even a bad draft. But I think the team's who have the best meta read right now are on top. The thing is, that can change. If next week is going to be new patch, and if we have a bad meta read, we might even lose two games against Astralis and BDS. So because teams are so close together in skill level, drafting and meta reads will be even more important. We will just have to see who's gonna be the most adaptable team, because those teams will be at the top at the end.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.