This Friday, MAD Lions produced one of the biggest upset wins in the history of League of Legends European Championship (LEC) when they took down the reigning kings of Europe G2, and with that guaranteed themselves a top-three finish in the 2020 LEC Spring Split.
MAD Lions defeating G2 in round one of LEC Spring Split playoffs was something no one expected to see, yet a result we had to accept, as it was not the reigning LEC champions and 2019 World Championship runners up who claimed the spoils on that day, but a young and talented rookie roster that is moving into the semi-finals.
The question everyone has is what caused G2 to lose their first-even domestic best-of-five (Bo5) match? In all fairness, it was a combination of MAD Lions’ exceptional performance and G2's mistakes, which we are not used to seeing, especially in fixtures of such importance. To put it simply, G2 were not themselves on Friday, as they made a few too many positional errors and at times looked very disorganised, especially in teamfights. Overly-aggressive approach and overextending were two major flaws in G2's performance and two key factors that led to their doom.
Much of MAD Lions' success was due to a phenomenal performance from their rookies, namely jungler Zhiqiang “Shadow” Zhao and their bottom lane tandem in Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság and Norman "Kauser" Kaiser, who proved they can go toe-to-toe with the best team Europe has to offer. Although all three put up a great performance, it was Carzzy who shone bright on Kalista in game one, while Shad0w took over the game three and five, proving even he can play Lee Sin at the top level.
Both teams had their moments of greatness throughout the series and while MAD Lions looked slightly stronger overall, it was G2's experience that allowed them to stay in the game and force game five.
Game five was just as chaotic and interesting as you would expect from the final match of the series. The game went back and forth and although MAD Lions got slightly outdrafted, they still managed to put up an impressive fight and kept G2 guessing what they will do next. The player of the night, however, was no other than MAD Lions' jungler Shad0w, who pulled off a performance of the season on Olaf and played a pivotal role in his team's success.
Although G2 seemed like they were outmatched in teamfights, their impressive macro play allowed the reigning LEC champion to set themselves for success, after Martin "Wunder" Nordahl Hansen caused some serious damage in MAD Lions' bottom lane, where he tore down the inhibitor and Nexus turrets during a split push, effectively giving G2 a road to victory should MAD Lions overextend or make a mistake.
At 32nd minute, when MAD Lions travelled to the Baron Pit, Rasmus “Caps” Winther and Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle took their shot and backdoored MAD Lion's Nexus in what turned to the most exciting couple of seconds in the series and possibly of the season. While G2's duo were hitting the Nexus, MAD Lions recalled and killed both, leaving their Nexus with a slither of health. Cap's mistake of not auto-attacking the Nexus in what seemed like a too early celebration ended up costing G2 the win, and basically handing MAD Lions a ticket for the LEC Spring Split semis.
What went wrong for G2 and how did MAD Lions win?
There are a few factors that helped MAD Lions secure an upset win and while it's hard to answer what exactly was the main factor, there were a few things that could have played a part.
G2 just didn't care
The first thing that jumps to the mind of any G2 fan and perhaps any LoL fan is that maybe G2 simply didn't care enough to try. This might sound like a very bad excuse, but it's no secret that G2 are looking for challenges, as they are rarely challenged in LEC, which can get very boring and tedious, so perhaps they're taking advantage of the double-elimination format, just to test their power and take the long road to the finals.
Although it may be hard to believe G2 “let” MAD Lions to win, at the same time, this was also G2’s first-ever domestic Bo5 defeat, which conveniently enough happened in the first-ever double-elimination LEC playoffs. Coincidence?
MAD Lions are just that good
On the other side of the spectrum is an argument that MAD Lions are simply that strong. Perhaps they are not as strong as G2 on the paper, and they might not be able to repeat this feat even if they re-played the match 10-times, but one thing is for sure - MAD Lions are an incredibly talented team and on Friday, they were the better performing team.
What makes MAD Lions' feat even more impressive is the fact that they are assembled of four rookies, who have little to no experience playing in LEC. For that reason, many saw MAD Lions as a team that will struggle to make it into the playoffs, but now, that exact team is guaranteed at least a top-three finish.
If there is one thing we can be sure of is that Shad0w was the best-performing player of the night and without a doubt the key player in MAD Lion's triumph. What makes his incredible performance even more remarkable is that he was facing off against Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski, who is undeniably one of the top-three junglers in the world and not only did Shad0w manage to go toe-to-toe with the Polish jungler, he matched his pace and his presence on the map. Shad0w also won the Player of the Game award, which only proves how impactful his performance was.
Caps' iffy moment at the enemy Nexus
It was an online match
Perhaps more of an excuse than a solid factor that changed the course of the game, but there is no denying that playing from home/team's headquarters compared to playing at the LEC arena, in front of hundreds of screaming fans and under the flashing lights are two completely different experiences.
That may not seem like a "big deal", however, being able to perform in high-pressure situations is what differentiates great players from the best players. While both G2 and MAD Lions played under the same conditions this Friday, it is still safe to say G2 would enjoy a slight advantage had this match been played in a LAN format, given that MAD Lions' rookies are not used to playing under high pressure, while for G2, it's almost an annual duty to do so.
Still, you have to play under the circumstances you're given and if you can't win online, can you really be considered as the best teams in Europe, and further one of the best in the world?
There can be many more factors that went into the outcome of this match, that we could touch, but there is no need to, as there is no use in crying over spilt milk. The fact of the matter is that MAD Lions defeated G2 and are now entering the semi-finals, where they are slated to meet the winner of Fnatic vs Origen bout, who are scheduled to duke it out today, on Saturday, April 4, at 17:00 CET, while the semi-finals match is scheduled for Saturday, April 11.