Mac: “ long as I'm here, MAD Lions are going to take risks on people.”

category_image League of Legends
Modified  26 May, 19:15
Reading time  ~14  mins

Despite the MAD Lions going 3-0 in the LEC 2022 spring’s superweek in Week 8, it wasn’t enough for the defending champions to make it into the playoffs. The crown will now be passed on to another team for 2022 spring.

It has been a season of ups and downs for the MAD. To reflect on the Spring Season, MAD Lions head coach James "Mac" MacCormack spoke to BLIX.GG and shared his thoughts on the team’s journey.

It's not been an easy week for you guys. Rather than just talk about the games, what’s the mood of the team coming into the final week of the LEC regular season and how are you guys managing?

Mac: I mean, it's difficult. It's a bit of a mixed bag because on one hand, we were kind of happy with some of the progress we were making and we had some good practice. On the other hand, we knew it was going to be really difficult. It was a bit of a roller coaster as well because after seeing vitality go 0-2, we had a lot of hope. Unfortunately, it didn't go to plan for us.

Speaking of Vitality going 0-2, let’s talk a little bit about MAD Lions’ superweek. because you guys went 3-0. Compared to previous weeks, it's a big turnaround. What changed within the team?

Mac: We focused a lot more on teamfighting and we drafted much more to fit our own strengths. Whereas before, we had had a lot of drafts that were very different, we experimented a lot and we played some drafts that were a bit harder to execute. We kind of went back to basics and fundamentals.

That being said, we also played against weaker teams, right? There's no hiding from that. And I think we were pretty significantly behind in two of the games so it's not like we had an insane week where we stopped everyone, you know? We had to fight our way back into two of those games. But I think definitely the big difference in terms of us winning versus losing was our teamfighting.

Elyoya calling the shots

On MAD’s season as a whole, speaking to Elyoya last month, he mentioned that he was the team’s sole shotcaller this season. Do you think that has put a lot of added pressure on him to need to perform, which in turn affects the team as well?

Mac: Absolutely. I mean, it's a big role to take on and it can be a lonely road sometimes if you feel like the team depends on you a lot for that particular quality, right? It's something which requires a lot of energy. It's also something which requires you to be very self critical and requires you to take a lot of responsibility, because by necessity, you will make a lot of mistakes. If every single call is yours, then that means that all of the mistakes are also in some way linked to you. That's often difficult to get to grips with so that's definitely been a big challenge for Elyoya.

Were the coaching staff working with him to improve shotcalling or perhaps trying to develop a secondary shotcaller?

Mac: I would say towards the end of spring, we certainly had conversations about that with the team and the other players have stepped up more towards the end of the season. They’ve tried to occupy individual niches so that they can take some of those responsibilities away from Elyoya.

Aside from our teamfighting, our communication was one of the other big things that we worked on a lot and it got a lot better. Reeker has been doing a fantastic job in comms and Armut stepped up a lot as well. Honestly, I think everyone stepped up.

In the last week of practice, UNF0RGIVEN and Kaiser also put a huge emphasis on trying to make sure that when they were ahead, they could direct the game a bit more and tell the team what they needed and kind of micromanage their teammates a bit. That's kind of on the person who is the most ahead in the game to be able to do and I think to be a great player, you just have to be able to do that and say, “come and dive these guys on this wave and I will carry this game”. So that's definitely something that we've worked on a lot.

With regards to Elyoya specifically, he has been working with Reignover all spring as his specific position coach, and Reignover has done a truly fantastic job on that.

Rookie expectations

MAD Lions have endured a difficult spring and will be looking to bounce back for summer (Photo by Wojciech Wandzel/Riot Games) MAD Lions have endured a difficult spring and will be looking to bounce back for summer (Photo by Wojciech Wandzel/Riot Games)

When you mentioned Reeker, there has been a lot of expectations because MAD Lions are the defending champions. Do you think perhaps, the community expectations were a bit too high for the two rookies and it added a lot of unnecessary pressure for their first season?

Mac: Yeah, I would say so. Obviously, our fans want a lot from us, right? And that's fair, seeing as we won two championships last year. However, I think when you look at the historical records of the rookies we brought in in their first year: Humanoid in 2019 who went to Worlds in his first year. Carzzy, Orome, Shad0w and Kaiser in 2020, went to Worlds in their first year. Elyoya in 2021, same story. Won two championships and went to Worlds in his first year. These are abnormal and to expect that of a new player is…well, it's probably not a reasonable expectation to set, right?

I think that because we've been so unbelievably successful with rookies, that has set a very, very high bar for Reeker and UNF0RGIVEN this year. But their development has more or less been in line with what you expect from rookies on other teams in many cases, frankly speaking. No one is looking at Sertuss and Dajor and constantly saying, “these guys are terrible, they need to be kicked from the team”. At least, I haven't seen that. Maybe I just haven't been paying too much attention to SK Gaming and Astralis.

There is certainly a historical precedent there and frankly, I don't really want us to be considered in the same league as SK and Astralis…although right now, we are. So maybe it's also fair for us to have higher expectations. But for me, personally, I think this season just highlights how insane the record of excellence our rookies have had in the last three years. It actually puts it into perspective.

What would you say to the people who have these sky high expectations and ask for the rookies to be kicked?

Mac: I strongly believe that becoming great is a process, and it's a process which requires failure and struggle, and it's something that you live every day. The only person or the only people who are apt to be able to judge if a player needs to be removed from our team are the ones on the inside, because they're the ones that see what goes into practice everyday. They're the ones that see what goes into a player's mindset, hear the communication and understand what niche that person is filling inside that team.

To that end, I have and will continue to, in the future, choose the players that I think will fit best into the MAD Lions system and with our culture and with our existing players. That's not going to change. So if that's going to upset you, as a fan, then perhaps you want a different team because as long as I'm here, MAD Lions are going to take risks on people.

We are going to keep working with promising young rookies, that is who I am as a coach and that's how I believe that I operate best. That's kind of my speciality. Those decisions are on me so if you're a fan, you can be angry at me if you want, that's fine. But it's not fair to put that at the feet of a rookie player.

Speaking of rookie players, two of your former players made the LEC playoffs in Carzzy and Humanoid. Is it a bittersweet feeling for you? How do you feel about it?

Mac: I wouldn't say it's bittersweet. I'm just happy for both of them and I hope that they're both happy in the new teams. Obviously, I speak to them occasionally but perhaps not as much as I would like to [laughs]. It's difficult when you're on different teams, because time just goes so quickly.

I wish them both all the success and happiness in the world. I think if we can't win it, then I want one of them to win the LEC.

To that end, I have and will continue to, in the future, choose the players that I think will fit best into the MAD Lions system and with our culture and with our existing players. That's not going to change. So if that's going to upset you, as a fan, then perhaps you want a different team because as long as I'm here, MAD Lions are going to take risks on people.

James "Mac" MacCormack

Playoffs potential

On the topic of playoffs, what do you think of the playoffs teams currently and which one are you keeping your eye on to potentially win MSI?

Mac: Well, I don't really think that the level in Europe is that great right now. I think there's a lot of back and forth games and a lot of mistakes being made but that's usually the case for spring. I also don't think that many teams were very good last spring, it’s probably just a Spring Season thing.

Usually teams get their act together a bit more in summer when the pressure is on. I think people are more willing to be…I wouldn't say complacent, but more relaxed in spring. It's very easy to take a loss and be like, “Ah well, we'll fix it next week. It’s only Spring Season”. So in general, I think the level is fairly low right now.

Frankly, I think that the only team that I've seen play really good League of Legends that I really like, and this is my own personal bias as well, is Fnatic. If you look at the players on Fnatic, a lot of them are players who historically have had huge playoffs up swings. Humanoid as well, this guy's kind of a monster in playoffs. And the same applies to Carzzy too. We've never had a playoff run where Carzzy wasn't really, really damn good.

So I expect those two to do very well but I would say that Fnatic is kind of a big favourite for me and with Team Vitality, you never know. They kind of have some big playoffs players as well, I would say.

Since they have your former players and they're both amazing in playoffs situations, if Fnatic faced Team Vitality in the LEC 2022 spring finals, who do you favour?

Mac: My current bet would be on Fnatic. Playing against Fnatic and Vitality feels very, very different. I think Fnatic are a bit more versatile and they have overall a better mid to late game understanding, which is incredibly important right now with the way the bot lane meta is. Every game has Jinx, Aphelios and sometimes there's Xayah or an Ezreal, maybe. Because of the skill that I know that those players have, especially Humanoid in the mid to late game, I think Fnatic will probably clutch it out.

When you mentioned the skill level in Europe not being very good right now, MAD Lions made it to the top four in MSI 2021 and almost beat DWG KIA. Have you been keeping up with the LPL and LCK? What do you think of their level so far in comparison to Europe this year?

Mac: Yeah, I mostly just learn from watching the LPL. I like watching T1 as well but generally speaking, I'm a ‘fast League of Legends enjoyer’ [laughs]. I really enjoy games that are very bloody so the LPL is much more for me. I've watched a lot of games from Royal Never Give Up, LNG Esports, Weibo Gaming, less Edward Gaming although I watched all of their Worlds games, obviously.

I would say that right now in the LPL, there are like six or seven teams that are really, really good when you compare them to top European teams. I can't speak so much for the LCK because I haven't seen so many teams. I've only really watched a lot of T1 who are very good. But I think that if you look at China and Korea right now, they certainly look a lot better.

I will also say that last year at MSI, by the time we got to Worlds we were kind of expecting the same DWG KIA as we faced against MSI, and they felt like a completely different team. They really outscaled us in that regard last year. In spring, they were better than us for sure but I think the gap wasn't huge. Whereas at Worlds, I felt like we were really outclassed. So that's also something that a lot of the Asian teams have really tended to succeed at, I think they have a really insane work ethic. I have a feeling that having so many matches to play in the year is also a benefit competitively.

Is there anything else you'd like to say or any shoutouts you'd like to give?

Mac: Mostly, I would like to thank all of our staff members for all of the work they've put in. I think that despite the results being ultimately disappointing and having regrets of my own, I still feel that because of the people that I work with, I'm very fulfilled and very happy in my job. I know now that even when we are losing, we can still stand by the things that we really believe in and I'm very proud of that.

To all of our staff members, I'd like to say a big thank you, because they’ve done a wonderful job at supporting me and the whole team in the face of adversity. Our mindset towards the whole situation has been very good, so I'm very proud of that.

To our fans, I'm not sure there's that much I can say. To the ones who are really, really angry, and who are calling for players' heads and things like that, I'm not sure if there's anything that I can say that will change your mind. So I will just thank the fans who have supported us no matter what, and who believed in us no matter what. I’ve had a lot of messages, and our players have as well from the fans telling us that they believe in us and that they're still cheering for us no matter what.

To those fans, those true fans, I would like to express my deepest gratitude.

Thank you Mac, best of luck in summer. You can catch the LEC playoffs on March 25 at 6pm CET on the LEC’s Twitch channel.