After season finales in Los Angeles, Amsterdam and well, Los Angeles again, Psyonix and the Rocket League Championship Series is heading east to put some sleepy little town called Washington D.C on the map, hosting the RLCS Season 4 World Championship LAN November 10-12. Ten teams will fight it out for the right to be called champions, and by the end of this weekend we will know who eight of those teams will be.
We will also know who the European and North American champions for season 4 will be. While LAN looms large over the RLCS as the “be all and end all” final destination, the winners of regional league play still take home a healthy paycheck of $17,250 USD and the right to be called champions. The first two games of the day will decide who makes LAN, but there is still a bracket to play out to find a champion.
This week in Rocket Surgery we’ll preview those brackets for both NA and EU, while OCE is a week behind in league play and won’t decide its champions and LAN participants until PAX Australia on October 29. In between we will have the relegation brackets to see if the best of the RLRS can fight their way into RLCS next season.
Those crucial final games will be played on the new 1.38 patch, released today to fix some of the issues with the larger Autumn Update. Big ticket items are the removal of supernovas above DFH and Champions Field replacing them with a less blinding sun, fixing boost pad placement on Urban Central, fixes to season four reward trails, some crash fixes and the big one: “checks to prevent undesired demolish scenarios”. We’ll see what becomes of the demo meta following the patch, but it was still very noticeable in league play worldwide last weekend. Read the full patch notes here.
North America – RLCS league play final week
Almost everything was up in the air coming into the final week of league play in NA, but in the end results went largely as expected. Allegiance did break their duck and give some hope of avoiding relegation with a series win over Flyquest, but were swept by G2. Cloud9 ensured their top two position by sweeping Renegades, Ghost took out a fun five game series against Rogue to make their later clash against G2 a top two play-in, a series that delivered on that promise and then some.
Ghost took out a tight game one, while it took nearly four minutes of overtime for G2 to even the series with a JKnaps instant classic triple touch. Ghost took game three but again JKnaps was the overtime hero in game four, and backed it up with the only goal in the deciding game five, with a big demo assist from Kronovi. No game was decided by more than a single goal, and it came as no surprise to see JKnaps named player of the week for his efforts in putting each of G2’s matchwinners into the net, and this performance cemented his place as MVP of North America season four.
— RLCS (@RLCS) October 8, 2017
The Cloud9 win earlier in the day meant NRG couldn’t make top two and their closing match reflected two teams that were holding cards close to their chests, with some novelty car choices from Cloud9 indicating they were having a bit of fun with things too. I wouldn’t read too much into the Cloud9 victory, even if it did come from a big reverse sweep.
Cloud9 and G2 earn their LAN spots and an automatic semi final berth in the regional championships, while NRG plays Rogue and Ghost meets Flyquest to decide who joins them both in the semi finals and at LAN in November. Let’s take a look at those matchups in closer detail.
NRG v Rogue
Previous result: NRG 3-1 (6-0, 3-2, 0-2, 2-1)
Rogue have been an interesting team in league play, coming in with low expectations after a poor off season they’ve played the top teams tight but ultimately not beaten any of them. They took G2 and Ghost to five games and took one game each off NRG and Cloud9, but haven’t had the consistency to finish the job.
Don’t be fooled by Rogue’s good attacking numbers, they finished second in the league in goals per game but scored 4.17 per game against the two relegation teams and 1.91 in all other series. They are dangerous, yes, but they are a momentum team and the best squads have forced them to work for their goals, and despite Rogue having a solid passing game they struggle to crack the best defences.
As defending champions and the best performing NA squad at the season 3 LAN, NRG have never looked the dominant force we expected this season. Their traditional lockdown defence remains; conceding only 1.6 goals per game, bettered only by G2 with 1.5, but their shooting percentage is middle of the pack and they have scored 3 or more goals only six times in 30 games.
NRG are well balanced, but in the biggest moments their best plays run through Jacob, either his individual brilliance or as the middle link in passing plays. Insolences plays a similar role for Rogue, but doesn’t have the same finishing prowess as Jacob or his teammates, Matt and Sizz, who sit first and fourth in shooting percentage in NA.
Rogue have been solid all season long and are not without a chance in this series, but I expect NRG to take this one down. They have big match experience and the composure that brings with it, and while i favour Cloud9 and G2 against them in the later rounds I see them getting over Rogue.
Ghost v Flyquest
Previous result: Ghost 3-0 (3-1, 4-0, 6-4)
Ghost had a traditional league series, beating everybody below them and losing to the two teams above them, but their numbers in doing so were middle of the road. Fourth best in scoring, fourth best defensively, plus four in goal differential. They pass the eye test, after a slow start Zanejackey has picked up in recent weeks while Lethamyr and Klassux are both class players. For a relatively new squad they show solid chemistry and good game control.
Flyquest feel like an argument for a top five playoff, winning only two series in league play, although one of them was dealing G2 their only defeat of the season. They struggle to score, ahead of only Renegades in goals per game with 1.71, and are similarly sixth in defence conceding 2.5. They have both the worst shooting percentage and the worst save percentage in NA RLCS, and while CorruptedG sits second behind Gimmick in goals per game, Chrome and SadJunior are both bottom five in the same category.
Stating all of that, it is hard to see a Flyquest win. They weren’t competitive in their league series with Ghost and while I can see them taking a game it would surprise me to see them do much more than that. Ghost were a single goal away from a top two finish, they should be too good for Flyquest.
G2 and Cloud9
G2 awaits the winner of Ghost v Flyquest, Cloud9 for NRG or Rogue. G2 have traditionally been considered an inconsistent squad, as capable of breaking rotations and playing as individuals as they are of scintillating teamwork and crisp passing. Their league play loss to Flyquest was a prime example of “bad” G2, but they followed that immediately with a beatdown of Cloud9 and their playoff pressure series against Ghost this week was a world class performance and will strike fear into their potential opposition in both the regional finals and LAN.
G2 haven’t been an attacking force this season, scoring 1.97 goals per game but crucially they have an RLCS best 1.5 scored against them. They are a defensive powerhouse, conceding three goals only five times in 30 games and never more than three. With that level of defensive play and the individual brilliance of every member of the G2 squad they will be a fierce challenger for the regional championship. Ghost proved last week they can match G2, but personally I think G2 get it done again and take down the whole bracket.
That isn’t to take anything away from Cloud9, who came into the season as favourites and lived up to that billing, losing only seven total games and one series, to G2. They led North America in every attacking statistic, scoring 2.65 goals per game, or 10% more than the second best squad in Rogue. Their passing game is unmatched, the speed at which they can clear the ball then get a fast, accurate pass from the roof to the goal mouth is beautiful to watch and impossible to defend against.
Then you have their individual brilliance. Gimmick lapped the field for the golden striker award with 1.12 goals per game, 15% better than his nearest competition. Squishy finished fourth in the same category, and Torment 11th. Further, Gimmick and Squishy tied for the assist trophy, and both have claims to the title of best player in the world right now, Gimmick taking runner up in MVP voting for NA.
Reading all of that back, I feel a bit silly for jumping in on G2 over Cloud9, but I’m a believer in form on the board and G2 rose to the occasion against Cloud9 in league play. Cloud9 did take down G2 at Dreamhack Atlanta in reasonably convincing fashion, on their way to a breakout LAN victory that announced them as favourites for RLCS. Regardless it would be a cracking finale for season four league play.
I certainly think they get there. They toyed with NRG last week and will steamroll them in a rematch. Rogue played them tough in league play but Cloud9 should get it done again if they make it through. I’m tipping a G2 v Cloud9 decider, that goes a full seven games but ultimately falls G2s way.
Europe – RLCS league play final week
It’s hardly a surprise that the final week of European league play provided us some upsets, but in the end the top two and the relegation teams were as expected, with Method joining PSG in the top two and Envy unable to break out of the relegation zone, despite a huge final series performance to ruin PSG’s undefeated season.
Envy’s fate was all but ensured with a 3-0 series loss to Gale Force that is done a horrible injustice by being called a sweep. It included an all zeroes Kaydop goal to win game one and a six minute game two overtime where Deevo set a new single game saves record with 12. Flipside then confirmed Envy’s relegation fight with a sweep of Secret.
— RLCS (@RLCS) October 8, 2017
Mockit took an emphatic game five win to defeat Excel and gain a psychological edge ahead of the regional finals, then put an absolutely merciless beating on Team Secret, racking up 21 goals in four games, Paschy scoring an incredible 14 of them to steal the golden striker award. Excel had an unhappy series against Method, dropping in a sweep and outscored 12-5 with Alot running wild, then Envy denied PSG both an undefeated season and the top seed in league play with a 3-1 series win that flashed their incredible potential far too late.
Envy and Secret will now fight for their RLCS lives and are at risk of relegation, while a pair of mouthwatering matchups await in the first round of the regional finals; Mockit v Excel and Gale Force v Flipside.
Mockit v Excel
Previous result: Mockit 3-2 (1-4, 3-0, 2-1, 1-2, 6-1)
Mockit running up the score on Secret has blown out their attacking numbers, before they piled on more goals than “party time” floats balloons they were scoring at 2.07 goals per game, that would put them third last in the league but closer to first (2.43) than second last (1.67). Post Paschy’s goal party they finished with 2.5 per game. Excel are mid pack in attacking numbers as well, but both squads are at the top of the league in shooting percentage, a stat that largely accounts for Envy’s position in the relegation bracket as they finished dead last. Excel are also a little questionable in defence, second worst in the league letting in 2.33 goals per game. Mockit let in 2.07, fourth worst. Mockit certainly looked better in their series this weekend, but that was driven by another insane run of scoring from Paschy.
Excel’s performance has gone with Nielskoek this season, the European MVP finished top five in goals scored, led Europe in score per game and made the most saves per game for good measure. He has been outstanding, but only occasionally supported by standout individual play from his teammates Pwndx and Zensuz, Pwndx in particular sits bottom of the table in most statistical categories. Mockit are similarly structured with Paschy being the focal point of attack, but Freakii and Fairy Peak are greater contributors than Pwndx and Zensuz and that will be the difference in this series. I predict Mockit to grind this one out over six games.
Gale Force v Flipside Tactics
Previous result: Gale Force 3-2 (1-3, 1-0, 3-1, 2-4, 4-3)
Gale Force started league play slowly, but looking at their efforts as a whole they were not far below the sky high expectations set for them coming into season four. Their only losses were to Method and PSG, both series taken to five games, they finished as the best defensive team in Europe and while they were mid table in attack I doubt anybody is going to be taking this roster of all star players lightly when they are on the offensive.
Flipside had a very similar statistical season to Gale Force, strong defensively, mid table attack, with both teams excellent at denying their opposition shots. The main difference between the two is Gale Force taking more than two extra shots per game than Flipside, an indicator of lacking accuracy considering the relatively slim margin between them in scoring per game.
Yet in league play Gale Force won five series, Flipside only two. Both only beat the teams below them on the ladder, but Flipside did drop three series over the full five games, relinquishing their title as kings of clutch. Gale Force need to improve their shot accuracy, Flipside have been great at denying their opponents opportunities and Gale Force have struggled with shooting percentage, but that battle of Gale Force creating chances versus Flipside denying them will go a long way to decide the series winner. Both squads have loads of individual talent, but Gale Force should get the result here.
Method and PSG
Method will be waiting for Mockit or Excel, PSG for Gale Force or Flipside. Numbers wise neither of these two stands tall above the field, certainly not enough to justify the first clash of five game undefeated squads in RLCS history, but both teams pass the eye test, they look a class above the field this season and their epic series in league play only confirmed that even further. The other four squads have their chances to cause the upset, but I fully expect a rematch in the European regional final.
Method are just so good at absorbing pressure and manipulating the pace of the game. They play fast better than any team in the world, and some of the finishing touches from Alot are frankly ridiculous. They are so efficient, Alot and Mognus are both top five in shooting percentage, and don’t need many chances to break a defence down. PSG tried to drag them out of their comfort zone and it got them what proved to be the crucial win in league play, but Method will be ready this time.
PSG have similar levels of game control, but have dominated league play on the back of some amazing individual performances. Chausette was my pick for European MVP, eventually finishing runner up, he and Ferra both finished top five in goal scoring while Bluey was right up there for assists. The only weakness for PSG right now is Bluey’s shooting, he bottomed out Europe in shooting percentage, converting only 18% of his shots into goals, barely more than half of Chausette’s conversion rate. When a mechanical freak like Bluey is your “weakness”, you’re looking pretty good.
I can’t wait to see these two squads play again, and I hope either regional play or the LAN conspires to ensure it happens. PSG may have taken their first meeting but I think Method can reverse that result in a rematch, but the real winners will be the viewers. Hey, that’s us!
— The Rocket Dailies (@Rocket_Dailies) October 10, 2017
Rivals Series Wrapup
In both Europe and North America we weren’t forced to tiebreakers to split the top two and thus the contenders for RLCS next season, nor were they required to determine the automatic RLRS qualifiers for next season as we also had a clear top four. In North America, Fibeon finished the season undefeated and Out of Style 6-1, just ahead of Hollywood Hammers (5-2) and Ambition (4-3). There were no upsets through the entire RLRS bracket, and Fibeon only dropped four games total over their series, Ambition being the only squad to take a series against them to five games.
In Europe, the biggest news was worldwide mega-org Fnatic stepping into Rocket League by taking on the former Leftovers, who finished the European RLRS undefeated and are a hot chance to make it into RLCS next season. The Juicy Kids will join them in the promotion games, with league losses only to Fnatic and Exray. Endpoint and Exray stepped up above the field to take the final top four spots, both managing a sole win against a team that finished above them on the ladder.
Oceania – Throwdown Week 4, ESL Week 2
Phew, aside from all of that international action we have an intriguing final week of Oceania league play in Throwdown, headlined by a clash between season 3 RLCS representatives and long time rivals JAM Gaming and Chiefs. Seven teams are alive for the four spots at PAX Australia in two weeks, creating an absolute mess of possible scenarios.
Last week’s league play started with a long string of sweeps, ranging from the surprising as Conspiracy took down Avant, to the expected as Noizee Isn’t Toxic couldn’t take a win against either Pale Horse or Avant. Chiefs beat down Conspiracy and Pale Horse cleaned up Legacy, while in the big series of the day JAM Gaming proved too good for Scylla.
— Throwdown Esports (@ThrowdownTV) October 10, 2017
The loss to Conspiracy leaves Avant on life support, unable to get anything going in attack and continuing their inconsistent ways. Their place in the finals now relies upon Noizee Isn’t Toxic getting their first league series win against Scylla, who themselves will be playing for their LAN place. It seems very unlikely.
Of all of the possible scenarios, a Chiefs, Pale Horse, JAM and Scylla final four is the most likely result. Legacy need to beat Avant and JAM to have any shot, and Conspiracy need plenty to go right alongside a win over Pale Horse. It’ll be a nightmare to keep track of throughout the day, and after Avant’s crazy comeback to make the Mockit finals anything is possible.
If that wasn’t enough, this week will see the double round of ESL games on Monday night, after a relatively chalk week two that was capped with a fun five game series between Chiefs and Pale Horse that Chiefs only just got away with in game five overtime, Pale Horse paying for a couple of crucial mistakes.
The double round delivers us a pile of awesome matches, starting with a second JAM v Chiefs series in two days, continuing with Pale Horse v JAM and Chiefs v Scylla (which unfortunately will happen off stream), as will the “bubble battle” between Lynx and Square One. You can find a full draw and results for ESL Season 3 here.
Finally we have the Vapour Nordic finals set for October 22, Extricity continuing their strong run with now eight consecutive league play victories. That still was not enough to dislodge Lynx from the first overall seed, while poor old Guardian Aero couldn’t finish the season with a single game win. Lynx, Extricity, Feint and the former Clarity squad will now play off for the inaugural VN title.
— Vapour Esports (@VapourEsports) October 11, 2017
Dates and Times
All NA and EU RLCS streams are archived on Twitch and (eventually) Youtube.
Series of the week: G2 v Ghost