MAD Lions have done it. They’ve won their first best-of-five series in 2022 by taking down the Vietnamese Championship Series’ second seed Saigon Buffalo 3-1 in the Worlds 2022 Play-ins Elimination Round. They now advance to face Evil Genuises to determine which team will be going to the Main Event in New York, America.
Assistant coach Patrick "Pad" Suckow-Breum has been at Worlds before with MAD and now oversees another campaign here. We spoke to Pad after their series win against Saigon Buffalo, he talks about MAD’s series against them, their journey so far at Worlds 2022 and what they’ve been working on.
Megalodontus, BLIX.GG: First and foremost, thank you for joining me on this interview. Congratulations on your first best-of-five win this year! I know it’s a meme so we’ll start with that, how do you feel right now?
Patrick "Pad" Suckow-Breum: [laughs] I mean, to be honest, it would have been more fun to complete the meme and just go first in our group and go straight to New York without winning a single best-of-five! That would have been ideal. But if we have to play best-of-fives, obviously it's really nice winning one. And now we get to send Evil Geniuses home, which is lovely!
The win over Saigon Buffalo
BLIX: I'll touch on EG a little bit later. So on the series with Saigon Buffalo, you guys won 3-1 and it looked overall pretty good for you guys, maybe the last game looked a little shaky. What are your takeaways from this series?
Pad: I think we had a really good read on how they wanted to play the game and what we should do in order to counter that playstyle. I think it showed really well in Game 1 and 3, and for the most part in Game 4 as well.
Game 2 might have been the worst game we've had all season and games like that happen, and we’d rather get all the int out of the system early in the series or early in the tournament, I guess, than then later on. So having a game like that obviously sucks but I think that the way we bounced back for Game 3 and 4 was exactly what we were looking for.
BLIX: A fun question on Game 4, what was Armut’s reaction when he saw Gnar getting banned?
Pad: We were all laughing! We were talking about all of the potential bans they could do to swap or change up the draft, like how they could approach it, and Gnar was not one of the things we expected them to ban.
BLIX: In Games 3 and 4, you guys pulled out the Bel’Veth and Vex combo as the composition’s core once again. As far as I understand, no one else has played this combo yet in Play-ins and I think Elyoya is the only player to play it at this stage at the moment. What do you think makes it so strong and how are you guys making it work?
Pad: The champion pairing of Bel’veth and Vex just really suits the way that we like to play the game. It gives you a lot of mid-game agency, it gives you an incredibly strong 2v2 and Elyoya thrives when he has agency on the map. So by giving him Bel’Veth, a champion that has a lot of playmaking ability on its own, and you pair that with like one or two prio lanes, it will always look good. So like I think it's a champion that is like kind of made for him.
BLIX: Do you expect from Bel’Veth to rise in priority once we reach the Main Stage? Why do you think no one else is picking it?
Pad: Hmmm…I'm not sure. It's a bit of a weird champion. When it came out initially, we didn't really like it and it seems like a lot of teams still don't like it. I do think that it requires a lot of like games to understand exactly which conditions it needs to be good. Not gonna tell you those! I think that Main Stage teams, if they haven't been scrimming it already, it might be too late to pick it up at like a really high level.
BLIX: Of course you're not going to tell me those conditions because the next question is on EG (they might be reading this). Now, Kaiser kind of trashed talked them and Elyoya as well on broadcast in the post-game interview segment. What are your thoughts facing them next and how do you expect the series to go?
Pad: I think they're living up to the brand, right? They've had like a lot of, like, really cocky tweets from jojopyun and the latest from Kaori claiming to be the best Turkish player in the tournament. But obviously we have Armut and Nisqy, so he couldn't be more wrong! I think it’s good, nice banter, but obviously like we are sending them to the nearest airport ASAP. So, I'm just looking forward to that.
BLIX: So MAD is about to beat EG through ‘Turkish diff’? This is going to be an interesting
Pad: Oh yeah. Best Turkish players and quick airports!
BLIX: I want to ask a little bit about MAD’s campaign at Worlds so far. Fnatic have been very vocal about their difficulties finding scrims and of course there’s the COVID situation. How has Worlds been like for MAD so far?
Pad: Yeah, we have been cycling three different sicknesses between us. We've taken turns being sick and I don't think we have had a full day of well rested, healthy people yet. By the looks of it, we might not have it until the Main Stage [if we qualify]. I will say it has been good, we've enjoyed each other's company and we've enjoyed Worlds so far, but it's been less than ideal in terms of practice due to sickness and schedule.
BLIX: It’s not COVID, right?
Pad: No COVD-19. We had the air conditioners…screw over some people. We've had some food issues but no COVID.
BLIX: Could be worse, I suppose. How have MAD Lions been dealing with these issues? With so many people getting sick.
Pad: Luckily, we have Tim, our manager, and Jake, our performance coach and our player handler from Riot, those three have honestly just been doing an insane job of making sure that we have like all of the nutrients, vitamins or medicine that we've been needing to stay healthy. They have been running over mountains to make sure that we have everything we need in order to get healthy or back to being healthy as quickly as possible. Those three are complete MVPs for Worlds so far.
Reflecting on the LEC
BLIX: That's very lovely to hear. Going back a little bit in time to your LEC season. The way it ended for you guys was not ideal, so I want to ask you what you think has changed from MAD in summer playoffs to now. What were the most immediate issues you guys worked on coming into Worlds?
Pad: So for Elyoya, it’s been a big year of growing as a leader and the primary shotcaller of the team, right? Particularly in summer, being the primary voice especially in officials. So I think for Elyoya it's been a really good but also a really tough journey of growing as a leader both inside and outside of the game. I think that, particularly, the way that he reflected on our Spring Season together and how he handled X and Y situations, meant that his development this season has been insane. As a leader, he's grown so, so much. It’s always lovely, it’s like watching your kids grow up and smurf it, which he has.
Also we are playing a very different game of League of Legends now than we did with Humanoid, so it's both about coaches and players learning to play that game together. I think that we are finding our footing, and we are finding the style that we like to play and the champions that go with it. So I would say that's been the difficulties, making sure we learn how to play the game in a different way because that's a process, but also understanding the communication roles within the team have changed a lot with Humanoid leaving.
BLIX: I spoke to you several times on this and I’d like to know, how has burnout management been this year for you guys?
Pad: A lot better. We dodged multiple rounds of COVID [laughs] so we've been able to balance scrim blocks and activities outside of scrims, like we did our summer ice cream trips again.
I think in general, everyone took [a] big lesson away from burning out last year, in particular, myself. I burned myself on both ends last year by trying to work harder and harder and harder, and not finding ways to do it smarter. For me, this year has been about managing my workload in smart and efficient ways. That means that when we get to Worlds, where it matters the most, I'm not burned out. And I'm not burned out!
BLIX: I'm very happy to hear that. Now we come back to Worlds again, you've been here with MAD last year and made top 8. What are MAD’s goals for this Worlds?
Pad: For now, it’s sending EG home, and then if we do we’ll obviously be seeded into a tough group in Group B. I think we have a fine matchup versus G2 Esports, we can kinda just remove Senna and then I think the matchup is completely fine for us. DWG KIA obviously still have Canyon and Showmaker, who we should always respect. We also have a bit of a history with them. This lineup however, is different and probably from our scouting so far, will leave more room for us to punish. I think that they are beatable.
And then obviously you have the colossus, the giant, in JD Gaming, which to be fair, they are fucking good. They are really, really good. If we have a good game, we can take a game off of them, but hopefully it can be [a] super duper learning experience in the first game against them. We can then use that on the second round to actually like make a proper dent.
BLIX: What do you think of the LEC’s chances this year, because as far as I understand, Rogue and G2 have travelled to the US quite late. What do you think?
Pad: I mean, I think it honestly sounds really bad. The fact that G2 and Rogue haven’t been able to travel this close to group stages, like, unfortunate? Unlucky? Poorly managed? I don't know which word to use. I think they should have for sure been in New York earlier, or have been allowed to be in New York earlier, so they could scrim the Asian teams and get their asses kicked and improve.
That's usually what we take away, like when we went to MSI and Worlds 2021. We went in, got our asses kicked by the Asian teams and we learned from that. That learning period or learning curve will take some time, so hopefully, they will have enough time to go in, get their asses kicked and bounce back, and be really strong for the Main Event. If they do that, I think EU can have a good showing. But…China is looking pretty decent this year [laughs].
BLIX: That's just about like…every year then, in recent times [laughs].
Pad: It's almost like they get better and better every year. I'm not quite sure how they do it!
BLIX: On the topic of Play-ins, because you mentioned that it'd be nice to go straight to New York, do you think the MAD Lions needed to go through this Play-ins to rectify your issues? Or will you just prefer to go straight to the Main Event?
Pad: If we had went straight to Main Event, we would have won a best-of-five in Europe [laughs]! So in that case, I think we would have been fine to go to Main Stage. The fact that we didn't win any best-of-fives probably means that we need more practice or more games together.
The meta change or patch changes from LEC playoffs to Worlds were also great for us. I would say that the fact that we didn't win a best-of-five and auto qualify probably means that yes, we should go through Play-ins first and it's been good for us so far.
BLIX: We’ve come to the end of the interview. Is there anything else you'd like to say or any shoutouts you'd like to give?
Pad: Thank you to everyone who's not perma shitting on MAD Lions every time we lose a game. This roster has a lot of rookies and it's our first season together with these five people, right? So just trust in the process.
The meta is there for us, we can create the clown fiesta games, the heart-stopping games that all of you love to watch. We’ve found ourselves so if we qualify to groups, expect us to make a dent!
Thank you, Pad and best of luck at Worlds 2022. The World Championship continues today with the Play-ins Qualification Matches and you can catch it on Riot Games’ channel.