After three weeks in the LEC, MAD Lions sit at a comfortable 4-2 record. A third of the split is over and the team of four rookies and one second year player is on track to make playoffs. Where does this early high lead MAD? Can MAD add another chapter to the long book of successful EU rookie teams? And what exactly are they trying to play for in this first split?
Europe´s Pool of Teams
The second season of the LEC started with a lot of change for almost every team in the league. Even the best team opted to swap positions and therefore does not entirely field the same team although the roster still consists of the same names.
Taking a look at what transpired after all the changes took place it is relatively easy to put the teams into two categories: Established teams with veterans and new teams with rookies and ERL stars. Teams in the first category are G2, FNC, OG, S04, SK and XL. New teams who build around upcoming rookies are MAD, VIT and MSF. The only team that does not really fit into either category is Rogue, as some of their players are still relatively young and new to the scene. Others like Oskar “Vander” Bogdan and even Steven “Hans Sama” Liv are well established veteran players and even the younger players on Rogue are entering their second season in the highest competition Europe has to offer.
The Best of the “New Blood”
This conclusion leaves three teams in the “new blood” tier. Even though 3/10 does not sound very impressive in most contexts, if one considers that between these three teams’ ten true rookies are entering the scene, it does become quite impressive. Compared to the other teams that can be classified as “new blood”, MAD doesn´t even have one long-standing player. The most veteran voice and most experienced player in Europe´s highest competition is their midlaner Marek “Humanoid” Brázda – and he barely has one year of experience under his belt.
What Exactly is the Goal?
Now why should MAD´s goal be to be the best of the newer teams? Why not try to go all the way and be the best of the whole league? There certainly have been some impressive rookie teams before. Vitality 2018 made it to worlds as Europe´s second seed. Misfits 2017 comes to mind. Even Splyce one year before Misfits took the stage got to worlds on their first attempt.
None of these teams were ultimately able to win the league, nor are any of those rosters still intact. They still left a lot of memories that even after a international title and back-to-back world finals for the region are often cited. The organizations, as well as some of the best players of these rosters, still profit from those legendary runs.
But only the best rookie team leaves a strong impression. Furthermore, the stocks of the best rookies in the best rookie team tend to rise more. MAD´s most important goal this Split – maybe even this season – is to become the best of the new teams.
The Playoff Discussion
Reaching playoffs is a famous goal for many teams in western League of Legends. Not only are the playoffs the only opportunity to play best-of-fives on stage, a playoff team is remembered as one of the better teams in the league. The championship points are a nice bonus that can become very important in some cases.
There has been a little bit of a paradigm shift especially in the European scene though. When SK made playoffs in the first split of 2019, they received a lot of praise.
After Splyce easily defeated them in the following series, the negative tone far outweighed the positive. Even though SK made playoffs against all odds, the players felt like reaching playoffs alone does not cut it anymore. Teams that make playoffs but can´t compete with their opponents in the ensuing series sometimes leave a sourer taste than the 7th placed team that barely missed the playoffs.
The Current Reality
Looking at the current LEC standings, Playoffs should be the minimum goal for MAD. Playoffs in the first split played would certainly be something to write home about for the four rookie players on paper. But with some of the competition faltering, only barely making it to sixth place might not be a satisfying end to the Spring Split anymore. The ultimate goal for MAD – purely looking at it through the standing and numerical lens – should be to win one series in playoffs.
Defining a team´s goal for a split or an entire season can be difficult. The start to the season looks very promising for the MAD Lions. This team is full of potential. Everything seems to be in place for another break out season for a rookie team in Europe. The early questions to ask about this very first split are: Can they establish themselves as the strongest of the “new blood”? Can they become a real force to be reckoned with? And finally: Will they be able to upset one of the projected Top four teams in a best-of-five?
All pictures are courtesy of LoL Esports.