LEC 2023 Winter Split Playoffs: MAD Lions vs SK Gaming Recap

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LEC 2023 Winter Split Playoffs: MAD Lions vs SK Gaming Recap

MAD Lions and SK shook the LEC stage with the strongest bo5 series yet.


The second match-up in the playoffs was fought in a tense bo5 series that decided which team got knocked out of the competition.

Preceding the games were news about the upcoming Spring Split. The finalized tournament start date and the official ticket prices were revealed, along with the March dates for the Group Stage, Playoffs and lastly, Spring Finals. The official LEC account posted the full update on the League of Legends esports website. For the whole article, click here.

With the 2023 Winter Split finals within reach, MAD and SK fought like hell for a spot on Match 3. View the current standing amongst the top 4 qualifiers below.

MAD Lions vs SK Gaming (Game 1)

A crazy aggressive early game snowballed into a win for MAD Lions. The heavy focus on Irrelevant was apparent as MAD wanted to delay the toplaner's power spike. While some smart trades were seen in the early game, it took 3 champions to isolate SK's Gnar fully. From there, Chasy's K'Sante and his team's mid laner was able to exercise control over their lanes. After that, effective roams down botlane meant that Exakick's Varus couldn't do anything but play under their turrets.

Being comfortable enough to take Nashor gave the blue team an impressive 2k lead in 13 minutes. Coming into the midgame with 2 dragons under their belt, MAD stayed on the offensive while SK focused on damage control. A third dragon allowed MAD Lions to continue their assault into the midlane, but SK's ability to punish their opponent's mistakes constantly threatened to turn the situation around.

Very soon, the raw strength on MAD's side grew too big. The late game swung around after the Lions successfully peeled for Baron. Taking advantage of SK Gaming's passive macroplay, they turned around to obliterate the German team with a well-timed flank from Chasy. Powerful crowd control from Zoe's sleep bubble and Elyoya's Elise made it extremely difficult for SK to contest for any of the objectives. After getting soul point, Hylissang's team bolstered themselves with an insurmountable advantage to slowly end the game with brute force.

  • Teams: MAD 1 – 0 SK
  • Time: 32:09
  • Kills: 13 – 6
  • Turrets: 9 – 3
  • Gold: 59.8k – 50.4k
  • Dragons: 4 – 0
  • Barons: 1 – 0

MAD Lions vs SK Gaming (Game 2)

All of Markoon's past Sejuani games have resulted in victories, and this was no exception. After their Gnar scored the first kill of the game, bottom side was able to crash the wave despite being up against Carzzy's Lucian/Nami. Even without her ult, Sertuss' Akali was able to zone a triple roam in bot lane so that Markoon could escape the gank. All the while, despite having an even scoreboard, MAD earned an uncontested first drake while the enemy Sejuani roamed for better lane control. both teams entered the midgame tit-for-tat with no real score gap.

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Each midgame skirmish resulted in stalemates until SK scored a big kill lead in a turnaround teamfight down mid. MAD Lions answered with a Herald crash on the top lane tier two turret while SK simultaneously got their first Dragon. Better jungle control by Markoon gave SK enough vision to avoid any surprises. Irrelevant kited for his life while escaping a risky 2v1 before SK Gaming worked on contesting the Baron. With Nashor's buff in their pocket, Sertuss' Akali scaled tremendously and had no problem strategically picking off any champ. From that point, an 11k gold lead was enough to overwhelm their opponents and to close the second game. MVP for Sertuss' Akali!

  • Teams: SK 1 – 1 MAD
  • Time: 32:36
  • Kills: 20 – 7
  • Turrets: 9 – 3
  • Gold: 62.8k – 53.1k
  • Dragons: 2 – 2
  • Barons: 1 – 0

MAD Lions vs SK Gaming (Game 3)

So much potential from both sides. With Nisqy's Gragas mid and SK's Lucian/Nami, good plays early game could earn them the whole game. With Chasy eluding any kind of playmaking from SK Gaming's Ornn, Carzzy worked on completely controlling his lane with Elyoya's help. from there, MAD Lions followed up with more and more picks to get a confident 5k gold lead in the midgame.

Hylissang's aggressive Nautilus hooks set so many successful skirmishes for his team, and with members out of position, SK Gaming's inner tower in midlane was already down 16 minutes in. After MAD Lions bagged the first Baron, SK just didn't have enough damage to turn things around in the late game. As a consequence, MAD Lions won game 3 in a devastating snowball thanks to an early jungler advantage.

  • Teams: MAD 2 – 1 SK
  • Time: 24:30
  • Kills: 27 – 7
  • Turrets: 10 – 1
  • Gold: 54.5k – 38.7k
  • Dragons: 2 – 1
  • Barons: 1 – 0

MAD Lions vs SK Gaming (Game 4)

With disparate scaling between team compositions , SK's chances of winning the fourth game were shaky. Nevertheless, both groups stood their ground well. Early game saw MAD take the lead by pure force. Making the most out of the momentum, they dove towers for picks while Markoon took the first Herald to score some plates in bottom lane. All in all, multiple ganks and faltering gold leads made for an excruciatingly close laning phase.

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With an expert turn, SK was able to intelligently pull MAD Lions away from Dragon side when they faked Baron. When MAD pulled back to chase, SK Gaming shot straight across midlane to make a beeline for the Infernal drake first. After a committed 5v5 led by Exakick and Irrelevant's Sion, they were able to find a gigantic advantage with both drake AND Baron. With both top lane champs scaled up, SK kept a challenging 3k gold lead after some very close teamfights. After fighting tooth and nail, SK forced a Game 5 against MAD which was an impressive feat for such a young team.

  • Teams: SK 2 – 2 MAD
  • Time: 33:28
  • Kills: 20 – 12
  • Turrets: 10 – 4
  • Gold: 64.6k – 57.2k
  • Dragons: 3 – 2
  • Barons: 1 – 0

MAD Lions vs SK Gaming (Game 5)

The stakes skyrocketed as SK came the closest they've ever been to split finals, with the last time being back in 2015. Going up against an Elise jungler as well as the blue side advantage, Game 5 was definitely going to be an uphill battle for the rising stars of the LEC. Choosing a revenge comp with Hylissang's Rell and bottom lane Tristana made Game 5 an impactful series ender worthy of playoffs.

Choosing a Lucian/Nami combo paid off in the early game when Exakick got First Blood. Both sides recognized how volatile botlane was, however, so Elyoya focused on ganking for the early game lead. As a consequence, they got a 3 kill lead which was absolutely huge considering that they were only 4 minutes in. From there, MAD Lions consistently applied forward pressure as they took control of the jungle at the 10-minute mark. However, regardless of their immense disadvantage, SK Gaming continued punishing their opponents for every misstep and gained some picks.

As the game went on, SK Gaming started to claw their way out of the killscore deficit, but after a Baron side skirmish, they were completely outmatched. With 3 drakes and a Baron, MAD aggressively continued their siege down mid lane to close the series and eliminate SK Gaming from the top 4.

  • Teams: MAD 3 – 2 SK
  • Time: 28:10
  • Kills: 16 – 8
  • Turrets: 9 – 2
  • Gold: 55.1k – 43.7k
  • Dragons: 3 – 1
  • Barons: 1 – 0

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LEC 2023 Winter Split Playoffs: MAD Lions vs SK Gaming Recap
Paul Goño
Paul started writing for ESTNN in 2022, the same year he beat his first Souls game. An avid fan of RPGs, his all-time favorites include Baldur's Gate 3, Assassin’s Creed and Kingdom Hearts 2. Besides being a professional nerd, he still struggles to get over the broken PS2 memory card that stored years of his save files.