While MAD Lions entered the 2020 League of Legends World Championship as the #4 seed from the LEC, and one of the on-paper favorites to make it out of play-ins, the team was eliminated at the hands of TCL champion Papara SuperMassive in a back and forth 3-2 series.
MAD Lions stayed in first place for the majority of the 2020 LEC Summer Split, and despite fading in the post-season, the team was considered almost a shoe-in to qualify for the main event at Worlds 2020. However, the weaknesses the team showed in Group A of the play-ins persisted in the best-of-5 series against SuperMassive, culminating in an upset elimination for the LEC side.
It is clear that MAD Lions did not play its best League of Legends coming into Worlds 2020 and certain trends became clearly exacerbated problems throughout the play-in. This autopsy of an article aims to diagnose what exactly led to MAD’s demise at the biggest event of the year.
Shad0w struggles outside Lee Sin comfort zone
One of the reasons MAD Lions came into Worlds 2020 with plenty of hype was the All-Pro LEC Summer Split performance of jungler Zhiqiang "Shad0w" Zhao.
Shad0w had showcased world-class form on Lee Sin, but whether he could match that level on other champions was going to be crucial in MAD's success in the play-in. Unfortunately for MAD Lions, Lee Sin fell even further out of the meta than in previous patches, and Shad0w left plenty to be desired on the meta picks of Patch 10.19.
Shad0w not only failed to secure a win on Sett or Hecarim at Worlds 2020, with his Lilia and Graves were also unconvincing, but he looked particularly lost on Evelynn, despite going 1-1 on the pick. Although it was banned only once against him, Shad0w didn't play a single game of Lee Sin, and while the Worlds 2020 meta doesn't favor The Blind Monk whatsoever, MAD Lions might have been better off putting their jungler on his signature pick regardless of relative strength in Patch 10.19.
MAD Lions top laner Andrei "Orome" Popa made most of his money playing weak side for an otherwise aggressive squad, and in MAD's prime, he even showcased a good understanding of how to control side waves on champions like Camille. However, Orome was exposed on the international stage by his opposing top laners and was the stand-out weakest link in MAD's performance in their Worlds campaign.
The Worlds 2020 top lane meta, which features primarily bruisers and fighters, was not kind to Orome. MAD Lions' two wins against SuperMassive featured Orome on the only dominant tank in the meta, Ornn, while MAD went 2-6 with him on any other champion. In his best games, Orome's performance was satisfactory at best. In his worst, he was the primary reason for MAD's struggles at Worlds 2020.
Poor drafting and execution on bot side
While Shad0w underperformed individually and Orome was dwarfed by his top lane peers like Team Liquid's Jeong "Impact" Eon-young, Legacy Esports' Kim "Topoon" Ji-hoon, and Papara SuperMassive's İrfan "Armut" Tükek, MAD Lions' largest disadvantage was an inability to put effective duos in the bot lane in the draft phase. And even when they drafted the appropriate picks, they failed to execute them properly.
Ashe is indisputably the strongest marksman in the current meta, and yet MAD Lions only played the champion once in a loss against Team Liquid. After failing to follow the Worlds 2020 meta to success, MAD fell back on a bread and butter duo of fasting Senna for Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság and Wukong for LEC All-Pro support Norman "Kaiser" Kaiser, but even that failed to produce results.
MAD Lions lost both games on fasting Senna/Wukong and although they won a game on standard Senna, they chose to retreat to the fasting comfort to a fault and eventually found themselves eliminated from Worlds 2020.
While MAD's struggles at Worlds 2020 were not solely to blame on the bot lane — as the article already established — the duos drafted highlight a misread on the meta by the squad. The only worse explanation is that MAD knew it was unable to perform on premiere meta picks and instead was forced to retreat to comfort, but regardless of reason, the result saw MAD Lions' Worlds run ending before the main event.
While MAD Lions' performance at the 2020 World Championship cannot be called anything but a disappointment, one also has to account for the young age and inexperience of the team. The rebrand from Splyce to MAD Lions in the 2019 post-season created a roster of four rookies plus Marek "Humanoid" Brázda — the only member of MAD with any international experience.
MAD Lions might've given first blood for the LEC but the young roster has shown plenty of prowess already this year and the future has to be bright ahead of it, should the players stick around heading into 2021. For now, though, MAD will have to watch Worlds 2020 from the sidelines.
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