Viva Las Vegas, viva Rocket League
It’s time for the biggest spectacle in Rocket League again. Rocket League esports has fallen into a pattern of squeezing two RLCS seasons into every calendar year; this game that’s only three years old is already heading into the finale of its sixth RLCS. As all the best professional players flock to Las Vegas for the LAN, it’s nearly time to crown a new champion (or re-crown an old champion).
Last season’s Grand Finals ended on such a dramatic note that it’s almost inconceivable something similarly incredible will cap this RLCS. But that’s why they play the games. Every squad is going to scratch and claw to stay afloat in this double elimination tournament. These pros can do some preposterously cool stuff while under the brightest spotlights on the game’s biggest stage.
That being said, here’s what’s worth paying attention to at the RLCS Season 6 LAN in Las Vegas.
Which G2 squad is going to show up?
G2 has been a feast or famine team over the past year or so. Kronovi, Rizzo, and JKnaps are capable of showing up and dominating on any given day. They’re also susceptible to stinking up the joint. G2’s highs are very high and their lows are very low.
G2 came into its own during RLCS Season 4 when it had an impressive run en route to a fourth-place finish. A month later, G2 shocked everyone when it knocked off Gale Force Esports to win the first ELeague Cup. That success continued with a second place finish at Dreamhack Leipzig earlier this year. G2 definitely wasn’t an underdog anymore.
During RLCS Season 5, G2 did what no one else had done before. It beat out NRG to claim the championship in the North American regional finals. It immediately followed that performance with an embarrassingly bad showing at the Season 5 LAN, losing two straight matches for a quick elimination.
G2 finished Season 6 as the second-best squad in North America — both in regular season play and the regional championships. Everyone has high expectations for G2 in Las Vegas. They’ve earned it at this point. But, G2 has a history of both exceeding expectations and falling well below them. We’ll see which version of G2 shows up this time.
FlipSid3 Tactics’ and Kuxir97’s feel-good return to prominence
FlipSid3 Tactics used to be among the most fearsome teams in the world. Kuxir97 has been a long-time candidate for best Rocket League player ever. Everyone who pays attention to Rocket League knows how influential Kuxir has been as Rocket League has evolved, and they know to expect to see him in the Batmobile he never leaves.
Kuxir is one of the few players who has stuck around since the game’s early days and manages be just as relevant now. He won the RLCS Season 2 championship with Markydooda and Greazymeister on his squad, and that’s the highlight of his career thus far. They underperformed at the Season 3 LAN and then there was a roster shakeup (as Europe likes to do). FlipSid3 didn’t qualify for the World Championships in Seasons 4 or 5. Kuxir and FlipSid3 kind of fell from prominence.
Until this year. Unexpectedly, FlipSid3 finished the regular season as one of the top two squads in Europe, meaning it received an automatic bid for the LAN in Las Vegas. The roster looks different than it used to, as Yukeo and Miztik round out Kuxir’s team. (Also, Yukeo is the only major pro to play mouse and keyboard rather than a standard gamepad, and that’s incredible in its own right. [Correction: PSG’s Fruity and Chiefs Esports’ Torsos also play mouse and keyboard.]) No one thought they’d get here this fast, but they have. It’s probably the most feel-good story of RLCS Season 6. If you have any doubts, check out their reaction to the buzzer-beating goal that secured FlipSid3’s spot in the Grand Finals. It’s pure elation.
Has NRG finally gotten its groove back?
NRG has seemed hungover for most of Season 6. After the ecstasy from that incredible zero-second Game 7 Grand Finals equalizer (and the subsequent letdown of giving up the overtime winner 20 seconds later), NRG hasn’t seemed like itself for most of the current season.
Ousting Jacob for Jstn revitalized this team before Season 5; you wouldn’t know it by the way it sleepwalked through most of the regular season play. Undoubtedly one of the most talented trios in the world, NRG couldn’t get going through its seven regular season matches. NRG won four of those matches and dropped three of them. They never really looked dominant and usually looked quite beatable.
That is, until the North American regional finals. GarrettG, Jstn, and Fireburner finally jelled in the way we know they’re capable of. They fought through the six-team tournament to reclaim their throne as best on the continent. NRG came into the season as one of North America’s two most promising teams. It took longer than expected, but they finally look the part.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. Throughout RLCS’ first five seasons, a predominant storyline has been that NRG can’t come through when it matters most. For years, it couldn’t best European squads. Last season, NRG rolled through three European teams on its way to the Grand Finals. Then, through a bracket reset, it lost two consecutive best of seven series to Team Dignitas. It was heartbreaking in so many ways. Maybe, if the stars align and everything goes just perfectly, this is finally the time NRG comes through in the clutch.
Can Oceania make some real noise?
The Oceanic region has been competing in RLCS since Season 3 but the two squads it sends are usually little more than a bump in the road for the big boys of Europe and North America. But, Oceania has never completely embarrassed itself. In fact, it gets better with each and every tournament.
During Season 3, Alpha Sydney (Jake, Drippay, and Torsos) won its first matchup and sent Denial Esports to the losers bracket. Then, during Season 4, Chiefs Esports (the old Alpha Sydney roster but with an org swap) did the unthinkable and eliminated NRG. Chiefs one-upped itself in Season 5, at least from a quantitative perspective; it won two series there before being sent home.
Tainted Minds and Chiefs Esports will represent Oceania in Las Vegas this weekend. Is this the time one of them makes a deep(ish) run? Honestly, no one ever expects much from Oceania even though its teams are steadily improving. Know this though: If one of these squads catches fire, they will quickly become the favorites of the Las Vegas audience. And they’ll cheer them on loudly.
Man, Cloud9 is so so so good
There might not be a more proficient Rocket League team than Cloud9. Squishy is quite possibly the most mechanically-gifted player in the world. Gimmick is the perfect offensive complement to Squishy. Torment is the reserved defensive force that every squad needs. Someone needs to be the voice of reason.
Cloud9 can win any tournament it enters. They proved that when they took home the Dreamhack Atlanta championship back in the summer of 2017. Squishy, Gimmick, and Torment didn’t even have an organization at the time; they were playing as “The Muffin Men” before the Dreamhack title led to Cloud9 signing them. More recently, Squishy and Gimmick won the NBC Universal Open in August as the best duos team in the world.
Cloud9 played a great regular season before a mild upset in the regional finals at the hands of NRG. It doesn’t matter much. Cloud9 is still one of the few favorites to win the Season 6 LAN. They don’t have many off days, and they’re almost always entertaining — like when Squishy hit the first-ever ceiling shot at an RLCS World Championship Finals. Cloud9 winning an RLCS seems like an inevitability to some extent. They’re just that good. But, is this the RLCS where it happens?
Will Team Dignitas continue its incredible streak of Rocket League dominance?
The most obvious and important storyline gets saved for last. Team Dignitas has won back-to-back World Championships with a roster of Kaydop, ViolentPanda, and Turbopolsa (although the first came under the Gale Force Esports organization). No other player has won two RLCS titles. Turbopolsa has actually won RLCS during the past three seasons, as he played for Northern Gaming back in Season 3.
No one has been able to slay this three-headed behemoth in the 16(ish) months they’ve been playing together. Sure, they’ve lost lesser tournaments, but never an RLCS. That’s all that really matters. No one has been able to beat them on Rocket League‘s biggest stage.
Dignitas has looked every bit as strong as usual in Season 6. They followed up an undefeated regular season with a quick and drama-less regional championship. This trio cakewalked its way through the Season 4 RLCS. No one would be all that surprised if they did that again in Las Vegas.
But, Rocket League is a game that sees more and more parity all the time. The best are great, but the rest keep catching up. And Dignitas will have a humongous target on its back. Everyone wants to kill the king. Will this finally be the tournament where someone else gets to wear the crown?
Whatever happens, we’ll be in Las Vegas this weekend reporting on the most interesting developments at the RLCS Season 6 World Championships.