Against seemingly insurmountable odds, MAD Lions has qualified for the knockout stage of the 2021 League of Legends World Championship. The #1 League of Legends European Championship representative came into the second round-robin of Group D with a 1-2 record, but after losing its first match of the day to Gen.G, won its games against Team Liquid and LNG Esports to force what would become the first four-way tiebreaker in Worlds group stage history.
MAD Lions won its tiebreaker with LNG Esports to qualify for the knockout stage, but a second loss of the day to Gen.G in the final tiebreaker match of Group D resulted in MAD Lions settling for the 2nd seed. In the first round of the knockout stage, MAD Lions will face off against DWG KIA, the 1st seed from group A and the only team left undefeated at Worlds 2021.
Following the conclusion of the Worlds 2021 group stage, MAD Lions mid laner Marek "Humanoid" Brázda spoke to Inven Global about the insane conclusion of Group D, what MAD improved on before its second round-robin, and why he wants to face off against T1 mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok in the knockout stage.
What an absolutely crazy end to this group for MAD Lions. How are you feeling after such a long, grueling, but rewarding day?
Yeah, playing five games across this whole day was really exhausting, for sure. However, it was pretty fun since we were winning most of them, and we advanced, so I'd say it was a fun day.
Viktor's viability in the current meta has come under scrutiny, but after a rough early game against Gen.G in this tiebreaker, you ended up being the main force keeping yur team in the game for as long as you did. Can you talk about this Viktor pick and the champion's place in the Worlds 2021 meta?
Yeah. I think Viktor is pretty good into Syndra and into Yone as well because Viktor has a lot of damage and Yone is usually looking for sustained fights. Viktor is really good against that, and he also has a pretty good matchup into Syndra after level 5. He outscales her pretty hard, so that's why I thought he was a pretty good pick here.
In your first game of the day, it was immediately clear that despite an eventual loss, MAD had shored up a lot of the issues shown in the first-round robin in Group D. What did your team try to work on in the break between your two round-robins and how well do you think you fixed those problems based on your performance today?
In the first week, I think we just played really badly. We didn't play even close to how we were playing in the LEC, so after those three games, we had a big talk.
After that, we managed to basically fix almost everything that we were doing wrong before, and now, we are basically on the same level as the one we were at when playing in the LEC. It kind of showed today as well in that we were winning most of the games, but it was a bit hard against Gen.G. However, I think we showed we were better than the other teams we played against today.
Did you expect Group D to end in a four-way tie? If so, was that something in your heads today?
After we lost the first game today, we talked about how it was possible for the group to have a four-way tiebreaker. We thought that it would be kind of funny, but we didn't really expect it...and then it happened. Because of that, we had to play two more games instead of just one, but at least we had the chance to try and qualify for the 1st seed from the group. That was the good part of it, though there was also a bad part of it. Overall, I think four-way tiebreakers are fun.
Did the elimination of Rogue and Fnatic last week put any pressure on MAD Lions to be the great European hope?
I think we felt a lot of pressure following our first three games because everyone knew that we had played pretty badly. That's not what we wanted to show, and we felt that even if we dropped out of the group, as long as we played well, it would be fine.
If we kept playing poorly and got eliminated, everyone would obviously have been pretty disappointed, so there was a lot of pressure on everyone after the first two days. However, that pressure was lifted when we qualified for the knockout stage today.
Oftentimes, MAD starts to win games by winning a pivotal teamfight despite usually exiting the earlier stages of the game with a gold deficit. Is your team's penchant for game-turning teamfights despite a gold disadvantage due to the individual teamfight prowess of you and your teammates, unparalleled decisiveness, or innate synergy?
It's for sure that we are pretty good at teamfighting, I think it's our best skill. The other part of it, though, is that we often outscale the enemy, so if you outscale, you are able to win even if you are behind in gold. That's where a lot of our comebacks come from.
You've been praised for your performance in the 2021 LEC Season and the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational. How well would you say you are currently playing in context of the entirety of your career?
I think that I played really badly in our first three games of Worlds 2021...that was not good. Today, I think I played pretty fine aside from the first game where I kind of inted. Still, the rest of the day, I think I did well. When compared to my best play, I'm at about 80% right now. I think I was at my best during the LEC Summer Playoffs a few months ago, and now, I'm not as good, but I'm getting there again.
How did Team Liquid and LNG Esports compare to your expectations of them as opponents?
I mean, I think they're both pretty good teams. However, I think LNG, especially today, kind of choked. They weren't playing the same as they were in the first week. We had really close games with Team Liquid and ended up 1-1 in the group, so they are pretty good as well and could have 2-0'd us today, too. They didn't, but both of our games were pretty close.
I would say both teams are pretty above average. They're good teams, but LNG didn't play how they should be playing today.
LPL representatives went 0-8 against LCS and LEC teams in week 2 of the group stage. Is this just a coincidence?
I mean, I'm not sure why, but at most World Championships, European teams just play badly in the first week and then pick it up in the second week. We could see that here as well — even though Rogue and Fnatic didn't make it out, I think they played way better in their second round-robins than they did in their first ones. I have no idea why it is like that; maybe if you lose in the first week, you have more motivation going forward to not drop out of the group. Who knows?
Your next matchup is against DWG KIA, who you took to five games at MSI 2021 before narrowly losing 3-2. What are your thoughts on your upcoming quarterfinals matchup?
I think DWG KIA is looking really strong at this tournament. They're looking way better than they did at MSI and have won all of their games so far, but I think we had a pretty decent matchup against them last time. We could have won that series, and I think we are better now than we were at MSI, too. It could go either way, but this will be our hardest opponent at the tournament, for sure.
If you end up beating DK, you will face either T1 or Hanwha Life Esports next. Any preference on which team's mid laner you'd want to face?
I kind of want to play against both of them because T1 has Faker, who is the most famous player in League, but HLE has Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon, who is the most hyped mid laner at this tournament. It would be fun to play both. If I had to choose, I would probably want to play against Faker. Eight years ago I used to watch all the games Faker played. Faker is who I learned the game from, so I'd prefer to play him.
On the other side of the bracket is Royal Never Give Up, EDward Gaming, Cloud9, and Gen.G. Who would you like to play most in the finals if MAD was to make it to the end of the bracket?
I think I would expect EDG. I think they're the best team on that side of the bracket, but it could also be RNG. I'm not sure about Gen.G; they could also make it, but I would pick EDG as the favorite, for sure.
Thanks for your time, Humanoid, and congratulations on escaping the group stage at Worlds 2021. Is there anything you want to say to the European fans?
[laughs] I'm happy that we could at least make it out. It would have been kind of a shame if no EU teams made it out of groups, so I guess we're here to be the last hope of EU. Hopefully, if we manage to beat DWG KIA, I think we have a good chance at winning the entire tournament, so support us in the next best-of-five and it should be free.