G2 Esports Losing to MAD Lions Is a Reminder That This Is a Young Man’s Game
Seeing G2 Esports fail and fumble against a surging MAD Lions wasn’t exactly a sight many expected. It’s not exactly the biggest upset in LEC history, but it’s not far off either. On the one hand, MAD Lions were always supposed to be a tricky challenger, one that’s far more flexible and dangerous than most people gave them credit for. Anyone who predicted a clean 3-0 in favor of the defending champions probably didn’t watch much of the 2020 Spring Split. On the other hand, this is G2 Esports we’re talking about. Their narrative and sheer dominance are unparalleled.
In which reality could they drop a Best of 5 — a format in which they haven’t lost in years (not counting the World Championship finals) — to a team with just one experienced veteran? Even that feels like a stretch seeing how the name Marek “Humanoid” Brázda doesn’t automatically pop up in anyone’s head when talking about the most seasoned and experienced LEC mid laners.
But against all odds, these confident rookies accomplished what many thought was impossible. They fought their hearts out, they stood their ground against an opponent everyone deemed unassailable and found a way to win three times out of five. It was a historic triumph earned in sweat and blood.
Inexperienced teams and rookies who never played in a Best of 5 setting often aren’t prepared for such a test of endurance. Best of 5s are amazing, but they’re also grueling marathons that are exhausting beyond belief. They force you to dig deep and most players don’t have that ability — they lack depth and resilience to trade heavy blows for five games in a row. It also forces a team to prepare a wide range of entirely different strategies and team comps. It favors the team with the widest champion pools; players who thrive under pressure and can improvise on the spot, and teams that can rally and make the right decision during chaos.
It’s quite a tall order.
It’s no coincidence that we’ve seen only two long-term kings in the LEC — G2 Esports and Fnatic (not counting that one-off Alliance win way back when). These organizations always had the most talented line-ups and the best coaching staff. In a way, they were best equipped for the monumental task at hand: going the distance in a Best of 5.
Experience also plays a key role. You just can’t emulate a Best of 5 before actually playing in one. It’s unlike anything else, stage play and scrims included.
So, how the heck did a team with four rookies do so darn well in a clash that will long be remembered, a Best of 5 for the ages?
The answer is simple but also layered.
First of all, MAD Lions are a fearless bunch. They play like veterans even though they aren’t ones. They truly are the next breed of LEC talent. They don’t care whom they’re up against and that’s evident in their play as well. Fearless, bold, commanding, and willing to engage from the moment they spawn on the Rift.
In a way, the fact that they’re inexperienced gives them strength. They’re unburdened by any age-old notion of how the game should be played. They’re much younger than their opponents and to them, League of Legends is a different kind of game. They didn’t have to adapt to a bevy of different metas in the past and are vastly different from the battle-hardened, grizzled veterans of the LEC. They’re also hungry for the spotlight and are unafraid of making a proactive play if it has a chance of getting them towards the LEC throne.
This tendency doesn’t always pan out particularly well, but the odds rarely stop them from trying.
There’s also this ancient concept of champion pools and flexibility. For some reason, professional players who have a grasp of just a handful of champions often get a pass from the community. This makes no sense whatsoever. They’re playing just a single game for up to sixteen hours a day — not being able to dig deep and pull out a pocket pick is simply unacceptable at the highest levels of play.
Of course, no one’s going to be equally as proficient and skillful on vastly different champions, but being able to utilize flex picks and adapt in the draft is of the utmost importance in the current meta. MAD Lions excel at this. Most of their players have shown exceptional play on a wide range of champions which allows them to maneuver the pick and ban phase with relative ease. They’re far from perfect, but when you possess such flexibility, you can always adapt and get a winning match-up somewhere on the map.
When you combine all of their strengths and virtues, they kind of look like the G2 Esports of 2019. Now sure, this is a slight overreaction, but it doesn’t make it any less true. They’re aggressive, unrelenting, highly flexible, and deceptively dangerous. They’re not as talented or experienced as G2, but what they lack in experience they more than make up in bravado and confidence.
Obviously, they lack refinement, but for a brand-new team to play at such a high level just a couple of months into the season is simply mind-blowing. Who knows how good they’ll become in a couple of months? This historic upset will give them ample confidence, and they deserve every bit of it.
The G2 Conundrum
This most recent result was a two-fold surprise. G2 Esports fail to beat MAD Lions. That’s the more surprising outcome. And it wasn’t a throw either — they legitimately faced a team that was better across the board on that given day. They were beaten on all fronts. On the one hand, that’s a huge surprise. On the other — and this isn’t hindsight 20/20 — this is a weakened G2 Esports, one that isn’t capitalizing from Luka “Perkz” Perković’s flexibility in the bottom lane, nor from Rasmus “Caps” Winther’s reality-bending outplays in mid. By swapping them around, they’ve gained a more stable mid laner and a far less consistent AD carry. They’ve pigeonholed one of the best and most talented Western mid laners in history into a role that doesn’t fit his playstyle nor does it allow him to flex and show off his immense talents.
No matter how you spin it, they’ve lost a fair bit of their power. They no longer have threats in all three lanes and their bottom side of the map is now more vulnerable than ever. With Caps as their AD carry, they’re just not as good as they were in the past.
As a result, they’ve just dropped a Best of 5 against MAD Lions. As a result, they would’ve probably lost a Best of 5 against Fnatic (which could still happen in a matter of days). Putting Caps in the bottom lane did not result in any kind of positive resurgence, nor did it unlock a level of G2 Esports that was previously unknown. Instead, it was a step backward. Now, not all is grim for the defending champions even if they do end up losing their throne. They’re still the most frightening and capable team Europe ever fostered and they’re bound to improve and return with a vengeance come Summer Split.
Still, their inconsistent play and their seemingly weakened roster jumpstarted many exciting new narratives. Is MAD Lions as good as they look? Will this allow Fnatic to strike, capitalize and reclaim their long-lost throne?
There are so many questions, and fortunately most of them will be answered over the next two weeks. In short, it’s an exciting time to be a LEC fan.
Tune in this Saturday at 5 PM CEST to watch MAD Lions clash against Fnatic — a team many expect to hoist the 2020 LEC Spring Split trophy. Almost everyone is taking Fnatic’s side, but if MAD Lions come out the gates swinging (much like they did against G2 Esports), who knows what could happen!
In any case, entertainment and top-tier League of Legends will not be absent.