Kaiser Talks Growth of Mad Lions, the Strength of Rell
Things are looking up for MAD Lions. After they kicked off the LEC Spring Split with a new roster struggling to find their style, they’ve now guaranteed their spot in the Playoffs. With a different playstyle from last year, the team is now more versatile and aims to be more well-rounded by the time the year ends.
MAD Lions support player Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser sat down with us after last weekend’s first game. He spoke about the learning process he and his team have gone through with the adjustments they made, and how far along that process they are. Kaiser also weighed in on the strength of Rell, who has been the most-played support champion in the LEC this Split.
Hotspawn: Welcome Kaiser, and congrats on the victory against Schalke 04! These final games add a lot of pressure for many teams because the window to make it to the Playoffs is closing. What was your preparation like this week?
Kaiser: We didn’t really change anything, to be honest. Every game matters no matter where you are in the standings or where you are in the Split. The first game counts the same as the last game. That’s what our philosophy is: We always look for the maximum in each week. We scout our opponents, we look at their level one strategies, what they do with their waves, stuff like this. We also look at how much priority they give to the Herald, or Dragons; we scout drafts… So our preparation didn’t really have any difference in comparison to other weeks.
Hotspawn: In Week 6 you went 1-1, and the loss against SK Gaming was a pretty rough one. What were the overall takeaways from that weekend?
Kaiser: In the SK game, I think we were playing really well. Especially in the early game, we had a pretty insane lead. I think we had a 5k gold lead at 20 minutes or something. I think we should have won that game as well. I think Elyoya and I just got caught in the river with our flashes, and that was kind of what turned the game around for SK. In the review, we just said that we shouldn’t have made that mistake and that we otherwise probably would’ve won the game. We played the early game well. It wasn’t that disappointing of a game, because we were happy with our early game.
There wasn’t much to be said about it. We’re already pretty high in the standings, we’re most likely going to make the Playoffs if we keep playing like this. Of course, every loss still hurts for sure. Especially if you’re so far ahead, but it wasn’t that we played super badly.
Hotspawn: Let’s talk about the development of MAD Lions’ bot lane this Split. You guys have gone through a transition as a team, not focussing on playing through the bot lane as much anymore. However, it seems like it took you guys some time to adjust to this. How do you look at this development?
Kaiser: I think it’s really important for a player to be versatile. Last season, we were not that versatile. We kind of only played one style—Rogue did kind of the same. We tried to diversify a bit, but I think we did it a bit too late. Then we didn’t really learn the style perfectly and we got exposed at worlds for that. We just didn’t really understand how to play other styles. We talked about it, and with two new players coming in—Armut is a really good strong side player—we decided to put us more on the weak side. For example: Senna/Tahm Kench, something like that, or Elyoya pathing into the top side more. I think it’s a conscious decision. Of course, we haven’t really mastered it yet, we still play too aggressively sometimes. [Laughs] Especially in the first few weeks, where you saw that we got a few 2v2 kills but we also got 2v2 killed a lot.
We have toned down our aggression now. I think we are still in the process of learning it, but we’re getting a lot better now. We’re not dying that much and we’re respecting the enemies a lot. Of course, last game against Schalke 04 we died a bit, but I think that was because of a few miscalculations. We’re not perfect.
Hotspawn: Is it at all frustrating to see that, after you had such a well-oiled bot lane last year, you now have to start rebuilding because you choose to play differently?
Kaiser: I don’t think it’s that depressing; for me at least it isn’t. Learning is really fun, and getting good at things is fun as well. If you notice the progress you’ve made, you don’t die to every gank anymore, you don’t die to every dive, you can actually feel that you are getting better. I think that that’s really important for a player to develop and not stagnant. For example, last Split, when we were at the top of our game and we played against G2, we kind of stagnated.
I feel like we thought of ourselves as really good, but if you think like that, then you’re not going to improve. You have to always improve. If the others are also improving because they have a different mindset—maybe they lost against you, or something—then they’re going to work really hard. Being in this position of “you have to learn, you have to improve”, is actually really good for us. I think we’ll just get better so much faster than other teams.
Hotspawn: So it’s just some trouble to get the engine going, but in the Summer Split you’ll be on top of your game again?
Kaiser: Yeah, I think so.
Hotspawn: One of the champions that has worked out really well for you, and actually for many supports everywhere, is Rell. What’s your perspective on Rell at the moment?
Kaiser: She’s really, really fun to play in my opinion. I feel like she just fits my playstyle perfectly. She wants to go in every time she has her W up, every time she has her ultimate up, every time she has her Flash up. I really like those kinds of champions that just have to look for engages.
She is pretty broken right now. Her engage is too reliable, I would say. Her laning is really strong as well. Against champions that you can just run down with your W, where you just can jump in, and you have a Kai’Sa or Tristana that can jump with you; she’s really broken. A lot of the junglers also synergize with her. The Olafs, Skarners, Udyrs… just people that run in with you who you can put your bind on and then just stun afterward, they’re really strong with Rell. I think this champion is just really unbalanced right now. She kind of reminds me of pre-nerf Rakan. Riot nerfed his engage in a way that it’s much more telegraphed and right now with Rell you can just Flash in and there is not really any counterplay.
Hotspawn: You’re not just playing her, you also have to play against her. From that perspective, do you then enjoy the fact that there is such a strong support champion in the meta? What weighs heavier, being able to play a strong champion, or having to account for playing against one?
Kaiser: I kind of like having her in the meta. I feel like it’s really fun to play Alistar, for example. I think it’s a skill matchup against Rell, in a way. Rell can use her stun to deny his combo, but Alistar can knock her back with his Q. I like those skill matchups. Whoever finds the best engages usually just wins, I guess. Those kinds of champions are much better than just playing for counter picks or have unwinnable matchups. That’s kind of boring. I feel like the skill matchups are always more fun. If they tone down Rell a bit—on the live patch she is a bit weaker right now—she still will be in a fine spot. She’s not going to be that broken anymore, but I really like to have her in the meta for sure.
Hotspawn: To round up, is there anything you’d like to say to the MAD Lions fans?
Kaiser: Obviously, I’m always really grateful. I’m getting so many messages. Even after Worlds, for example, when we were really down because we lost in the Play-Ins, the fans kept us alive. They made us resilient against the flame and whatever. They really helped me personally, and right now, we’re still getting a lot of messages. Especially if we int, which sometimes happens. [Laughs] But they always keep me happy in a way. So thank you so much for that.