The MAD Lions have officially released jungler Zhiqiang “Shad0w” Zhao from their League of Legends roster, the team announced on Friday. Despite there being offseason whispers of Shad0w’s departure, the move still comes as a surprise to League of Legends fans.
As nearly a full rookie team, the 2020 MAD Lions defied all expectations with two strong splits where they finished third and fourth in the spring and summer, respectively. However, after a rocky ending to its summer split, the European squad suffered an incredibly disappointing exit in the Worlds 2020 Play-In Stage, losing to Team Liquid, SuperMassive and Legacy Esports.
Shad0w himself had a very promising start to 2020, breaking out as one of the league’s premier rising stars. In a meta that favored some of Shad0w’s signature picks such as Lee Sin and Gragas, the 19-year-old had a dominant stretch, even picking up an award as the First-Team All-Pro jungler.
But as the season progressed and the meta shifted, Shad0w found himself struggling. Champion pool issues and a negative meta shift both contributed to the jungler’s poor play, and eventually culminated in an incredibly disappointing performance at Worlds 2020.
Shad0w will be replaced by Javier “Elyoya” Prades, a rookie jungler out of Spain who recently played for Movistar Riders in the Spanish Superliga, as well as European Masters. MAD Lions also recently parted ways with top laner Andrei “Orome” Popa, who was replaced by Turkish star İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek.
The 2021 MAD Lions roster now consists of:
Top: İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek
Jungle: Javier “Elyoya” Prades
Mid: Marek “Humanoid” Brázda
Bot: Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság
Support: Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser
The team will look to compete with the likes of G2 Esports, Fnatic and Rogue in the 2021 League of Legends European Championship.