While Excel Esports mainly got upgrades, the kings of the 2021 LEC jungle, MAD Lions, have entered 2023 with somewhat of a mixed bag of a roster.
Wednesday marks the start of the 2023 League of Legends Ranked Season, as well as the Kickoff of the LEC! Team Dynasty and Team Legacy will duke it out in an epic showmatch to give the proper start to the new League of Legends year! However, we still have some time before the LEC Winter Split kicks off on January 21st, so let’s take a look at one of the squads that seeks to return to their former glory, MAD Lions!
Toplane – Kim “Chasy” Dong-hyeon
The Lions first made changes in the northernmost part of Summoner’s Rift, as they said goodbye to long-time toplane player Irfan “Armut” Berk Tükek, and welcomed Chasy into their team. The young Korean talent has started out as a midlaner for Awe Star, then played for Spear Gaming in the CK, where they finished second back in the 2020 Spring Playoffs. He then switched to toplane, and after winning CK 2020 Summer with a renamed Spear Gaming, joined DK Challengers.
The DWG KIA Academy squad sadly didn’t work out, so Chasy took some time off during the first half of 2022. After spring, he resurfaced with X7 Esports, and with his teammates finished second during the Summer NLC Playoffs last year. They played in the Summer EU Masters as well, making it to playoffs, but got knocked out by GameWard after an 0-3 defeat. Chasy should fit right into the MAD Lions, as his most played Champion in 2022 was Gnar, followed by Aatrox and Gangplank – but it would be nice if his performances weren’t skin dependent.
Jungle – Javier “Elyoya” Prades Batalla
MAD, of course, kept arguably their best player in Elyoya, as the Spaniard carried his team through most of the year. Elyoya joined MAD back at the end of the 2020 season, after the newly joined team’s first lineup failed to live up to the expectations. Since then, the 22-year-old has won Rookie of the Split in Spring 2021, became a 2-time EU 3rd All Pro Team member in Spring 2021 and 2022, then stepped it up last Summer Split, where he made the 1st EU All Pro Team. He also helped MAD Lions dethrone G2 Esports back in 2021, where the team won the Spring and Summer Playoffs, becoming the first European Champions outside of G2 and Fnatic since 2014 Summer, where Alliance defeated Fnatic.
In 2022, he became the captain of his squad, leading his teammates to victory a number of times. MAD made Worlds after coming in 4th in the 2022 Summer Playoffs, but they didn’t manage to get out of Play-Ins. However, when they did win, it was mostly thanks to Elyoya’s Hecarim, which was truly an Onslaught of Shadows – and we can expect the jungler to keep his form during this year as well.
Midlane – Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer
The Spanish organization also kept Belgian-Turkish midlaner Nisqy, who joined the team before the 2022 LEC Summer Split, and stabilized the squad single-handedly. The 24-year-old veteran has played for names such as Team-LDLC, EnVyUs, Splyce, Cloud9 and Fnatic. He won the 2020 LCS Spring Regular Season and Playoffs as well with C9, then came in second with Fnatic back in 2021 Summer, losing to MAD 1-3 in the finals. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them – and make them better.
After the 2022 Spring blowout, Nisqy came like a savior for the Lions, and boosted them from 7th place and missing Playoffs to the silver medal of the 2022 Summer Split – which could’ve been first, had MAD tried a bit harder in the last two weeks of the regular season. While the Summer Playoffs and Worlds didn’t work out as planned for the team, Nisqy became the foundation on which the Lions could stand, so it’s no wonder that management kept him, as the Belgian will provide the new team with the same reliability like he did in 2022. Watch out for his Taliyah and Swain, as they are forces to be reckoned with!
Botlane – Matyáš "Carzzy” Orság
Carzzy will be returning to the team after a not-so-successful stint with Team Vitality, otherwise known as the “LEC Superteam”. However, the so-called strongest team in the league has failed to deliver time and time again, which meant that Carzzy and most of Vitality had been let go. Carzzy joined MAD Lions after the Spanish team bought Splyce back in 2019. Winning the German ESLM 2019 Winter Playoofs with BIG, he proved to be a great addition of the Lions, helping them finish 3rd in 2020 Spring and 4th in Summer Playoffs. They made Worlds, and even though they didn’t get far, they showed themselves to the community. In 2021, everything changed after the arrival of Armut and Elyoya, with Carzzy and Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser stepping up to be one of the strongest botlane duos of the LEC. MAD became two-time Champions that year, but Carzzy decided to leave the team.
The decision ultimately proved to be a wrong one, as Team Vitality barely made playoffs last Spring, then finished 5th, and in the Summer Split, they got 7th place – even though at the start of the season every member was confident in a great Worlds run. Also, Carzzy couldn’t play on the same level without Kaiser, and even though he had great performances with picks like Sivir and Ezreal, he proved to be lacklustre akin to Vitality. Time for a redemption arc?
Support – Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov
Rounding out the 2023 MAD Lions team is none other than former Unicorns of Love and Fnatic player Hylissang, who had to leave Fnatic to give way to the young Portugese, Rúben “Rhuckz” Barbossa, who had a stellar performance at Worlds 2022. However, the “Inter King” was there when Fnatic won it all back in 2018, and helped the European squad make Worlds Finals that same year. Last year, he helped Fnatic finish third during Spring Regular Season, then almost made it to the Finals in Summer. At Worlds, Fnatic started out strong, even managing to beat Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok in Group A, but got knocked out before the last part of the World Championship. The Bulgarian’s name has almost fused with Fnatic in the same way as Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s, but all things come to an end.
Hylissang now begins a new chapter in his career, and MAD Lions could be just the right home for him. Even though Hyli is remembered for his inting playstyle, he’s a great playmaker and had a KDA of 2.8 last year, showing masterclass performances with picks like Renata Glasc, and playing Thresh 8 times even though the Chain Warden was out of the meta all together. Hopefully, he can regain form, because Fnatic did look better with Rhuckz during Worlds – but that just gives Hylissang more reason to bounce back.
The revamped MAD Lions lineup has a strong foundation in Elyoya and Nisqy, but could have shaky walls. Carzzy’s performance last year left many things to be desired, and Hylissang is not known to be a Support who just sits in lane buffing his ADC. The new botlane duo could either go 0-20 or 20-0, and it’s hard to see a middle ground, so a lot will be depending on them. Chasy is also very dependent on his team, as he wasn’t considered a top player in the LCK CL, but in the NLC and EU Masters, he was one of the best toplaners.
While this MAD Lions doesn’t seem as strong as the 2021, two-time Champion squad, they have the potential to be better than this year’s iteration. It will be interesting to see them in action, and if they have more in them than 6th place.