The new face of Europe: Are MAD Lions a real contender to win MSI?

Although MAD Lions weren’t the team that most European League of Legends fans expected to see represent the region at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, they made some great strides on the Rift during the 2021 LEC Spring Split.

At the beginning of the year, if you asked any LEC fan, caster, player, or analyst, it would’ve been hard to find someone who’d tell you a revamped MAD Lions team with new young talent would be the European representatives at the first international League event of the year. But a few months later, MAD punched their ticket to Iceland after a spectacular playoff run where they beat G2 Esports for the second time in the organization’s history and reverse swept Rogue in the LEC finals.

This isn’t the first time MAD Lions have stepped onto the international stage, though. The nucleus of the current roster—Carzzy, Kaiser, and Humanoid—was already in Shanghai last year for the World Championship. The squad produced a forgettable performance at Worlds 2020, however, failing to move on from the play-in stage and losing to Turkish representative Supermassive, the former team of the new MAD Lions top laner, Armut.

But everything indicates that this second international experience will have little or nothing to do with the organization’s disastrous first appearance on the global stage. There are a few variables that have changed on the MAD Lions team, starting with its roster.

A renewed roster to forget the ghosts of the past

During the past offseason, Elyoya and Armut replaced Shad0w and Orome, two of the MAD players who struggled the most at Worlds 2020. While Orome received harsh criticism for his performance last season, Shad0w’s replacement was something few people could predict. But the two players that the organization brought in for this year immediately exceeded many expectations.

Elyoya and Armut were the top two players on MAD’s roster for much of the 2021 spring season, when the bot lane and mid lane struggled a bit. Elyoya had an impressive 73.6-percent kill participation rate in the LEC Spring Split, according to League stats site And Armut was one of the best top laners in the split with the highest average gold per minute of the entire top laner pool and the second-best top laner in the average kills stat (3.2), just 0.1 behind Bwipo (3.3).

Despite having these rookies in the lineup, MAD’s performance during the LEC playoffs indicated that they could be a great representative for Europe at MSI. In addition to being a strong team and feeling more comfortable playing in an offline format (something that’s certainly rare for rookies), according to several of MAD’s players, their read of the metagame and the playoff patch was clearly superior to the rest of the squads in the postseason. Whether it was the Volibear in the jungle or placing a high priority on Jinx, a champ that…

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