MAD Lions Mac on most EU teams' early game: "When you go international, yes, it will be a problem"

Source: MAD Lions

MAD Lions is back in action. After a very disappointing performance in the 2022 LEC Spring Split — failing to make playoffs after back-to-back championships the previous year — MAD is back with a vengeance in summer. They are the consensus best team in Europe, and look to be perhaps the west's best chance at this year's Worlds.


A lot of the reasoning for their return to form has been the addition of Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer — a mid laner who has no doubt contributed to the team's success. However, the hard work and genius understanding of the meta by the rest of the team is something that should not be ignored. Inven Global spoke with MAD's coach James "Mac" MacCormack to discuss the team's rise, early game in EU, and what teams stand out to him in the LEC. 


Congrats on your recent success, Mac! The team looks great — one of the biggest changes has been how much different the team looks stylistically. Rather than win through the mid-game, most of MAD's success hinges on early game dominance. Why do you think that is? Was it from adding Nisqy, or are there other factors?


Nisqy is obviously a big part of that, but if you look back even at Spring, that's a style that we were doing quite a lot. We weren't doing it as successfully, but we had pretty strong early games in the Spring. We just lost a lot of games with big leads, because we weren't doing it that well at that point. 


More than Nisqy (although he's a big factor), it's Elyoya's vision of how to play the game, which is very mid-jungle and early-game oriented. He's a super aggressive player, and he likes to play aggressive jungle matchups, so I would say it's mostly from him.

Source: LoL Esports

Do you think that was a natural shift from last year? How did that come to be?


Yeah. After Humanoid left, Elyoya took over the biggest shotcalling responsibility and position inside the team. And so naturally, you play towards the person with the strongest voice and your identity becomes shaped a lot around them. Obviously, last year it was maybe a bit more balanced — our early game was a bit weaker. Because we learned a bunch of new stuff over the course of the year and Elyoya improved an insane, insane, insane amount. And playing this style right now didn't always fit with Humanoid's style.

So we did both styles last year — where sometimes we would play very heavily for scaling in teamfights, and sometimes we would play roaming mids and play to snowball early (we played a lot of Ryze, for example). But obviously, with Humanoid leaving, that voice is less present — the voice that wants to go for the scaling draft and wants to play the games out slowly. We're more heavily indexed in towards that playstyle.


MAD Lions has always been praised for having one of the strongest coaching staffs in the west. After you guys failed to make the playoffs, did the coaching staff change how they approached things at all or was it sticking to what worked previously?


We changed our approach a bit — one of the issues we had the last Split is that we weren't always on the same page in terms of how we wanted to play the game. We had very conflicting ideas across both staff and players. And we didn't exactly settle on having one really firm philosophy. That's a difference that I think we resolved really well during the offseason and the beginning of this Split. 


Also, credit goes to the players for how hard they've worked. Obviously, our players all struggled a lot this Spring when things weren't going well, and the sting of defeat gave us a lot of motivation. So aside from Nisqy coming in and being lovely and wonderful, the attitude that our players have taken towards improvement has been fantastic. They're playing a lot, being really proactive with how we improve as a team, and being really open about having discussions and giving each other feedback when there are problems. Which is something that's quite a big improvement from last Split. So there's a lot going on, to be honest — it's a big snowball effect with a lot of factors.


MAD Lions has a very strong grasp of the early game compared to most of the LEC — a lot of teams don't seem to fight. Do you see that as a problem with EU in general?


When you go international, yes, it will be a problem. If you look back at the Finals they played in 2018 and 2019, a lot of those issues were on full display in those series. I don't think the European teams are that well-practiced at playing against a very hard early-game style.


And from our experience at international events as well, it's always been something that I felt that the Eastern teams had a big edge over us, and actually just the whole team understanding of how the early game worked, and being all on the same page with it. I felt like their understanding of the way that early game worked in general — how the lanes interact with the jungle, how the vision interacts with the waves, and all of this stuff — was a level above. So it's something that we've studied a lot.


Why do you think that's a problem with other teams? Are they blind to it?


I'm not sure. From my perspective and understanding, it can only be two things. It can be a lack of understanding where people, as you said, are blind to it and don't see it. Or it can be lack of ability to execute — you understand it, but you don't quite have the coordination or the consistency to do it on stage. Or you don't have the communication that allows you to actually take advantage of all the early opportunities that you have when you play an early snowballing draft.


I couldn't tell you which it is, to be honest. But in general, with League of Legends, it's often difficult to come across new knowledge without someone showing you. And that's always a big stumbling block when you're trying to learn anything about League. It takes a lot longer of you going and grinding VODs and going and watching twenty games of whatever team it happens to be — to figure out why their early game is really good — than it does if someone just explains it to you. And I think that's a big barrier to the west catching up with the east.


Tell me a bit about the development of MAD's communication specifically. I've heard that not only is Nisqy now a part of shotcalling, but Armut steps in as well. What are your impressions of MAD in that sense?


Overall, I think the team puts a lot of trust in Elyoya. And generally speaking, we tend to just follow up on what he does. He tends to have the loudest voice — not literally, but the person with the strongest ideas. So we tend to follow him a lot, especially when it comes to planning. 

Source: LoL Esports

Nisqy is really great in teamfights, and in individual moments and putting everyone on the same page. And as you mentioned, Armut's been stepping up a lot recently, as well. The bot lane is something they're also working on. It's one of the things that we highlighted a lot in Spring, where we felt there was too much pressure on Elyoya in shotcalling. 


So it's something that we've spent a lot of time working on with all of the individual players between then and now. Like anything else, you can improve on it if you put time into it, and develop a system for it. Of course, we have a system for it, but it's fairly loose. I don't like very in-depth specific flowchart-type systems for League of Legends. I'm much more of a fundamentals kind of guy.


It's still very early, but if MAD were to make it to the LEC Finals, who would you guess would be your finals opponent?


I don't want to get too ahead of myself, because we're still regular season and lots can change. We have to adapt well enough to the next patches, we still have to win our games, we have to still adapt to the playoffs patch. And we have to win best-of-fives to get to the Finals, which is a long road and we don't have so many championship points. 


If I were to say who I think the best team outside of us is right now, my guess would be Rogue. They're really solid — their early game is really good. Theirs is one of the only early games that rivals ours. In some ways, they're better than us, in some ways they're worse. I don't feel like we're straight up better than them: we have our strengths, and they have their strengths. And they're just different. It's like a really, really different play style. But I think they're really good in the early game, so it'd possibly be them.


Editor's note: This interview was edited for brevity.



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