Reeker: “I’m happy about the process, but not about the results”
MAD Lions have had a tough time in the 2022 LEC Spring Split. The team, who won the European title back-to-back last year, is almost certainly locked out of the playoffs. For rookie mid-laner Steven “Reeker” Chen, who joined MAD Lions this year, it’s been a bag of mixed feelings.
After MAD Lions’ loss against EXCEL Esports, Reeker joined for an interview to talk about his Split. He discussed the progress he witnessed internally and the growth he has experienced as a player. Reeker also spoke about the high expectations that were set for him by the Leauge of Legends community, and the backlash he has faced for not living up to them.
Hotspawn: Welcome, Reeker. An unfortunate loss against EXCEL, and a pretty convincing one at that too. I saw some criticism flying around that the MAD Lions draft wasn’t good—do you think that’s what lost you the game?
Reeker: No, I wouldn’t say so. We have experience with this draft, we had a week of practice. This has some thought behind it. But it is kind of new that we are playing a comp with Pyke. We practiced Pyke in different comps and we thought “Ok, this is a fitting spot.” But I wouldn’t blame the draft. We just messed up in the early game. Our comp is really good when we’re not behind.
Hotspawn: So it was the execution of the composition that went wrong?
Reeker: I would say so, yeah. To be honest, I would be happy to play this draft again.
Hotspawn: Alright, then maybe we’ll see it again in the super week! I don’t want to talk too much about this game specifically, but more about the Spring Split as a whole. It’s been tough for MAD Lions. How has it been for you this season?
Reeker: I think the experience so far with MAD Lions—when it comes to staff and teammates—has been positive so far. Of course, since we are not winning that much, it gets a bit to people’s heads and then everything might get a bit less positive than it should be, but it’s not very negative. It could be more bright, but it’s a natural process, I think.
Competing with MAD Lions, I have good experiences. I mean, I don’t know. There is not so much going bad when it comes to the experiences. It’s just that losing always feels shit, right? It sounds stupid because we lost five games in a row, but every week we always have a plan for what we’re working on and trying to be on the same page. So, I think when it comes to focusing on the process, we are really good at it.
Hotspawn: Internally, what progress have you seen in the team compared to when you first joined the lineup?
Reeker: For me, especially at the start I felt I needed to find my voice when joining a couple of veterans. The more I get to play scrims against good mid laners like caPs, Humanoid et cetera, you get to realize that there is not that huge of a difference there. You can stand up to them. The more you realize this, the more you find your own voice and the more you find your place in the LEC.
That was mostly missing at the start. Sometimes I might have felt that I could lean back and let the others shotcall and they can carry reliably. But the longer I get to play the game, I feel that I’m getting a stronger voice. I really like that.
Hotspawn: Can you expand a bit more on that? What are you doing differently now, with the confidence you’ve gained?
Reeker: I’m just giving a lot more calls, you know? I’m also at a state where I think I can say what to do instead of just asking questions like “Can you do this?”, only saying passive stuff. I wasn’t really giving a direction in the game. That is a big thing, I think.
Hotspawn: It’s a good segway into the next topic. When you joined the lineup, you stepped in the shoes of Humanoid, who was a big shotcaller on the team. As a result, the expectations for you were high. What expectations did you have for yourself?
Reeker: To be honest, when I joined here, I felt like MAD Lions was perfect. It’s just a rookie mindset right. [Laughs] You think nothing is wrong and that they’re all insane players. But then you play together and you realize that it’s still just a team game and there are holes in this championship-winning team as well. Then you need to try to cover those holes as well as you can.
Of course, I’m not Humanoid-level yet. I didn’t think I would be, at the start, because I knew that this guy was really good. But I personally believe in the process as well. I still believe that I’m getting better every day. So, I’m happy about the process, but not about the results yet.
Hotspawn: Have you felt the pressure of needing to step up to Humanoid’s level?
Reeker: Yeah, of course dude! [Laughs] After we went 0-4 in the last weeks, and even before that, I feel like I’m getting the blame a lot for not making this team a championship team. I shouldn’t read into it, but after the games I always go on Reddit and see what’s up. Of course, there is not always nice things being said there
I get a lot of supportive messages too, which I really appreciate. But the human brain is somehow connected that the negative things are more stuck in your head. Sometimes I do believe that I’m getting shit on too hard for stuff that is not only my fault. It’s still five people and there is still many more things going on than just one player.
At the start, it was a lot harder to read those messages. I don’t read them so much anymore. And you also get kinda used to it, you know?
Hotspawn: To round up: It’s looking tough for MAD Lions to make the LEC playoffs from this point. What expectations do you have for yourself in the final games, and what do you want to get out of them?
Reeker: For me, it’s hard to expect anything right now, to be honest. We lost all of our recent games so then you’re not really going into the next games thinking “Ok we’re still gonna make playoffs.” Of course, you’re still doing your best and see what’s in there. If it’s playoffs, then you can be happy about that. If it’s not, then at least you have had the right mindset.
Personally, I would really like to play playoffs. I think, as I said, it is so much time to develop. I do believe that I’m getting better. Playoffs are an experience that I don’t want to miss out on because you can get so much better with the experience. You prepare for a single opponent, the meta changes… It would be very nice to have the experience. But also—I’m not sure if it’s too fast to say—I’m looking forward to the Summer Split as well. I believe in us.
MAD Lions plays its next LEC match on Friday, March 4th, at 8 PM CET against Team Vitality. You can watch the game live on the official LoL Esports site.