Surprisingly, NRG and G2 both go two and out
The Rocket League World Championships are three days long, and the middle day is the one that feels most eminently unfair. On Sunday, someone will be crowned champion. On Friday, the worst possible result in this double elimination tournament is taking a single loss. Saturday is the grueling day. Saturday is when dreams start shattering.
The RLCS bracket splinters to separate those who have lost a matchup from those who have not. Everyone wants to be in the top. As long as you’re in the upper half, you always have an extra life. Crazy things always happen in Rocket League and several world champions have come through the lower bracket to eventually win. But down there, it’s always do or die. Up top, there’s room for error.
Day 1 was the quintessential example of “crazy things always happen in Rocket League.” (Check out our first day recap for a full rundown.) Every North American squad was on the wrong end of the results. They forced themselves into a bloodbath of a bracket, and Saturday was just as brutal as expected. It had to be. The bracket shows no mercy, even if it feels way too early for some of these top names to exit the tournament.
The most high-profile match of the day was played under these exact circumstances. Cloud9 and NRG, the probably-consensus two best in North America, were faced with a tense elimination match. NRG made it to last season’s Grand Finals, meaning it was almost inconceivable that they’d go winless this time. But, Cloud9’s incredible too — the sort of squad that’s absolutely championship caliber.
In a thrilling five-game best-of-five series, Cloud9 eked past NRG with an overtime goal in the fifth game. It was a neutral ball that just kind of rolled across the goal line. That’s how close these two are. The winner came from just the slightest extra bit of momentum on Cloud9’s behalf. Cloud9 soldiers on as a very viable candidate to represent the lower bracket in the Grand Finals. NRG is left wondering how differently things could’ve gone if they hadn’t been upset by an Oceanic team on the first day.
.@Cloud9 TAKES THE WIN!
NRG is eliminated. #LANVegas
— Rocket League Esports (@RLEsports) November 10, 2018
The other very notable exit comes courtesy of G2. In our pre-RLCS preview, we wondered which G2 squad would show up in Las Vegas. This is a feast or famine squad. This weekend has been nothing but famine for G2.
After dropping a five-game set to FlipSid3 Tactics on Friday (that honestly could’ve gone either way), it followed suit by dropping a five-gamer to Paris Saint-Germain. In an interview Friday morning, G2 disputed the widespread opinion that they’re “inconsistent.” Kronovi pointed to the fact that they’ve gone 18-3 in league play over the past three seasons — a sterling record to be sure. JKnaps said he hopes people “retire that word” when talking about G2 because RLCS Season 5’s disappointing finish was kind of the result of having one bad day while playing abroad in London.
Now, people will just start using that word more often. Everyone expects better of G2 at this point. G2 won the inaugural ELeague Cup in December of 2017. They likely won’t be able to defend it again this year because the invitational tournament will likely send bids to the top eight finishers at RLCS. G2 finished tied for 9th/10th. G2’s roster is a fan favorite but this result leaves people wondering if a shakeup is necessary heading into Season 7.
It hasn’t been all unexpected drama this weekend. Team Dignitas, the back-to-back champions who have stayed undefeated all season, are right back in the upper bracket finals. Everyone begrudgingly assumed this would happen. One of the best cheers of the weekend came when the camera focused on a fan holding a sign that said “Literally anyone but Dignitas.”
But no one has proven they’re capable of knocking off Dignitas. Everyone talked about it and all the reporters asked about it. Other teams nearly unanimously agree that Dignitas isn’t the most mechanically-gifted of players. And they all say the key to victory is to challenge balls early and take away the passing plays. But no one has been able to implement that strategy in a very long time. Dignitas are tactical masters and that’s proving to be what consistently separates them from lesser teams. As everyone gets closer and closer to the skill ceiling, it’s the smartest players who will flourish.
Heading into Championship Sunday, everyone’s looking toward the upper bracket finals between Team Dignitas and We Dem Girlz. The winner goes to the Grand Finals, the loser goes to the finals of the lower bracket. The crowd is behind Chiefs Esports, the only remaining Oceania team. Cloud9 is North America’s best chance at winning a title since Season 1 (when the game looked extremely different than it looks today).
But Dignitas looks every bit the unstoppable force everyone knows they are. There’s an air in the arena like the whole crowd is well aware that we’re trudging toward the foregone conclusion everyone expected. Dignitas is Rocket League‘s villain right now, playing up the whole “yeah, we know we’re good and there’s nothing anyone can do about it” angle. That’s the thing about every good villain. They keep winning until finally some super heroic effort unseats them. It might happen Sunday, but, even though we’re in Las Vegas, I wouldn’t put money on it.
(For everyone with their eyes on Sunday, here’s a tournament bracket with tomorrow’s matchups.)