Life is about the journey, not the destination, and it certainly felt like we took the scenic route to getting the result everybody expected coming into season four of RLCS: Cloud9 and Gale Force winning their respective regions. Cloud9 were as dominant as we expected, but Gale Force, well, they did things the hard way.
Taking a step back from the final results, we also saw our LAN finalists for both regions confirmed, with Rogue and Flyquest the unlucky squads to miss out in North America, while Flipside Tactics and Excel couldn’t get through the European gauntlet. That saw the aforementioned Gale Force joined by Mockit in Europe, while NRG and Ghost made it through in NA.
Perhaps most surprising were the fourth placed finishers, aka the two teams the Oceania qualifiers will play in the first round of the LAN finals. The first was G2, who did little to shake their inconsistency tag by dropping back to back high pressure playoff series. The second was an even more surprising PSG, going down to a red hot Gale Force then being reverse swept by Mockit, who proved their offensive breakout last week was no flash in the pan. The path to the world championship was always going to be tough for OCE, what with the regional champions waiting for them should they win their first round games, to have to play two of the hottest teams in league play for the rights to face Cloud9 and Gale Force is just cruel.
Which two lucky OCE teams get to meet G2 and PSG will be decided in just over a week, as Throwdown Season 4 has concluded and our PAX finalists have been decided. I’ll be there to cover all the action on Sunday 29 October at the Throwdown Arena, and if you are going to PAX I highly recommend checking it out (especially if Schnitz is sponsoring PAX Esports again).
Outside of Rocket League Esports, the Haunted Hallows Halloween event has begun, running until November 6. It brings a new type of crate, containing plenty of spooky new toppers, decals and goal explosions, including the much maligned dabbing reaper. Crates and some items can also be unlocked with candy corn, earned after every match and occasionally as a post game drop.
More interestingly, Haunted Hallows is being used as a test bed for the new decryptor item, which can be bought using candy corn and acts the same as a key in unlocking item crates, previously only accessible via microtransactions. The catch? You can’t trade any items you get from crates opened with decryptors. I’m all for Psyonix offering a non-financial way to access crate items, removing some of the exploitative stink of loot crates, and trade restrictions seem like a decent way to balance the exotic/import item economy but it hasn’t been warmly received by some parts of the community. I’m very curious to see what becomes of decryptors following the Halloween event, and I expect to see them as standard item drops sooner rather than later.
North American Regional Finals
There was little drama in the LAN qualifying matches for North America, as both NRG and Ghost progressed in sweeps over Rogue and Flyquest. Both winners presented stern defensive challenges for the lower ranked squads, NRG showing some of their best form of the season, led by Fireburner with 9 goals. Ghost used a physical, demo based style to hold out Flyquest in a series that saw an all zeroes goal to decide game one and a four minute overtime in game two before Ghost pulled away.
With our LAN participants decided eyes turned to who would become the North American champions. After a warm-up series last week NRG and Cloud9 clashed once more, and much like last week NRG took game one in dominant style, 5-1. The dominance didn’t last long, Cloud9 racked up their own big 4-0 win in game two, reversing the boost control and shot pressure that NRG used to take the first game.
The @Cloud9 Special!
— RLCS (@RLCS) October 14, 2017
An entertaining, back and forth game three was taken in overtime by Cloud9, but further went to highlight the new “smash meta” as both squads played a very physical brand of soccar. NRG took control again with a 4-0 game four win, then the final two games showed the more defensive, low scoring games we expected, in the end both taken by Cloud9 to seal the series and a place in the finals and both by the scoreline 2-1. Game five was decided by opportunities, NRG missed an open net chance then Squishy replied with a beautiful Deevo to seal the win, while swift changes of possession decided game six, with Cloud9 benefiting just a touch more than their opponents. Cloud9 would progress to the final, while NRG would for the first time not be crowned North American champions, ending an impressive streak.
Ghost and G2 was another rematch from last week, but with so much on the line in the final week of league play both squads left it all on the pitch in that one and needed some new tricks here. Both squads picked up where they left off, immediately taking overtime to decide game one in Ghost’s favour, Lethamyr splitting three defenders with a smart flick for the matchwinner. G2 put on an attacking efficiency display in game two, hammering Ghost 6-2, but it was as close as the series would get for G2.
While the three remaining games were close, all went Ghost’s way as the iron curtain regular season defense of G2 leaked three goals per game, hardly a defensive collapse but double their regular season average and enough to give Ghost the wins required for a grand final appearance. JKnaps tried to take G2 on his back in this series, but too much individual play and some defensive miscommunication cost G2 dearly.
— The Rocket Dailies (@Rocket_Dailies) October 17, 2017
The third place series was taken by NRG over G2 4-1, with NRG taking each of their four wins by a single goal, continuing their own strong defensive displays and the attacking struggles of G2. The result ensured G2 would be the fourth placed North American team, and will have to play the first placed Oceania squad in the first round of the World Championships.
That left us with our final, Cloud9 against Ghost. Cloud9 swept their regular season match, but Ghost’s Lethamyr missed that series with internet issues, so it couldn’t be used as a reliable form guide. In the end Cloud9 continued their dominance of close games, taking the series 4-1 and winning three of the four games that were decided by a single goal. The Cloud9 defense proved nigh on impregnable, somewhat a surprise considering their league season reputation was built around attacking brilliance.
— RLCS (@RLCS) October 15, 2017
Cloud9 are certainly worthy North American champions, dominant in the regular season and a class above in this regional playoff. Only G2 managed to best them in regular season play and they dominated the season accolades as Gimmick took golden striker and a share of playmaker with teammate Squishy, who was also player of the week in the regional finals with a huge all round performance. Their passing game is the best in the world, their individual skill levels right up there with the best as well, and all eyes will be on them to bring some long awaited success to North America in the World Championships.
European Regional Finals
Much like North America, Europe lacked for drama when it came to deciding the LAN finalists, but the battle to decide a regional champion and seeding for the World Championships was an entertaining one. Surprise league leaders Method and PSG had the regular season form, but preseason favourites Gale Force, season 2 World Champions Flipside Tactics and season 3 European champions Mockit were going to make it as tough as possible for them in a stacked bracket.
The odd team out were Excel, though European MVP Nielskoek and his squad could not be discounted entirely. They kept it tight against Mockit in the first qualifier, dropping to an all zeroes tiebreaker goal in game one before a quick overtime win in game two. In the end Excel just didn’t have enough attacking firepower, dropping the series 4-1 to Mockit, a heartbreaking, fourth minute overtime loss in a tight game three proving very difficult for Excel to recover from. Mockit wasn’t the offensive powerhouse they were in the final week of league play, but found the net consistently enough in this series to take it down.
Gale Force v Flipside Tactics we expected as a possible regional finals battle, not an elimination clash to decide who makes LAN. Flipside didn’t have a happy league play, winning only two series but dropping several in five games, they weren’t as far away as the numbers indicated. Unfortunately for Flipside, their results here mirrored their regular season. Despite a big 4-0 win in game one, Gale Force racked up 15 goals over the next four games on their way to a 4-1 series win, shutting out Flipside three separate times.
— The Rocket Dailies (@Rocket_Dailies) October 16, 2017
Mockit then played Method for a spot in the regional final, an unusual series where the losing side outscored the winners over the six games. Game one took seven minutes to provide a goal, eventually delivered with a smash and shoot from Method to take a 1-0 win in a defensive masterclass from both squads. Game two also required a near record breaking overtime; 7 minutes, 10 seconds were required before Metsanauris scored a floating, length of the pitch clearance goal to break the long deadlock. Again there were plenty of beautiful defensive plays, though both squads were afraid of over-committing and repeated attacking raids were uncommon.
After taking over 20 minutes to settle two games with only 4 goals scored, Mockit exploded in game three with a 6-1 hiding, then evened the series with a mercifully short 30 second overtime game four win. Method tightened up their defence once more in a game five win, then shut the series down with yet another overtime, Metsanauris sneaking a corner shot through the defense to secure a spot in the final.
It was truly an epic series, a real marathon despite going only six games and featuring some amazing defensive plays. Mockit will be right up there among the contenders for LAN based on the last two weeks, but Method continued to pull out clutch plays in crucial moments.
— RLCS (@RLCS) October 15, 2017
The first semi final left a lot for PSG and Gale Force to live up to, and sadly only one of those squads delivered. Gale Force put on a defensive clinic in a 4-1 series win, blunting the dynamic PSG attack and holding them to six goals over five games. PSG took their only victory in the first game, scoring the only goal with a tight Bluey redirect with 20 seconds on the clock. From there it was a steady progression of pressure from Gale Force, taking game two in overtime via a ViolentPanda ‘Deevo’, then taking a four goal lead in game three before conceding a couple of late scores. The fourth and fifth games were clinical, taking three then two goal leads and holding on in both to find their way to the final.
It was the long way around for the preseason favourites Gale Force, and a disappointing end to a record breaking campaign from PSG. Perhaps it was nerves from the PSG squad, maybe the opposition are figuring out their play, and certainly the slick play of Gale Force and their suffocating defense contributed to PSG’s demise.
PSG backed up in the third place game against Mockit, and immediately found their attacking prowess in breaking out to a 3-0 series lead and outscoring Mockit 14-6 over those games including 6-1 in game two. Mockit held out the sweep with a Fairy Peak overtime goal to take game four, then a 5-2 drubbing in game five put the reverse sweep into play. Mockit forced a decider with another overtime win, this time breaking a scoreless deadlock.
Then we had game seven. PSG looked to finally have put Mockit away, holding a two goal lead with 30 seconds remaining. Mockit drew that back to one on an unfortunate defensive mistake, then forced overtime as PSG triple committed on a defensive clear at all zeroes leaving an easy finish for Paschy after two touches from Fairy Peak. PSG had their chances in overtime, but once again Mockit stood up, putting a wicked shot in off the roof to seal third place and ensuring the second placed Oceania team would meet PSG in the first round of the World Championship.
— RLCS (@RLCS) October 15, 2017
PSG didn’t look themselves on the day, especially Chausette who was unusually quiet. Mockit dug into their experience and won the biggest moments, completing a marathon day of overtime games and long series, but rewarded with a seat in the stands for the first round of play in games at LAN.
That series left a lot for the grand final to live up to, but this time around the big game delivered. Method and Gale Force both held their fair share of individual brilliance, the fastest team in Europe in Method and the most coordinated and defensively sound in Gale Force.
Both teams split the first two games, Method with a tight 3-2 win in game one, Gale Force a lockdown 2-0 shutout in game two, Method only able to take three shots. Method scored the lone goal of game three, showing off their own shutdown defense once a lead was established, a pattern they repeated to get within one game of the regional championship with a 3-0 game four win.
By game five, Gale Force had figured Method out. Their defense tightened up and a relentless pressure started to turn into goals. First it was 2-0 win, ViolentPanda establishing the final margin with a beautiful individual touch. Then it was a 5-2 throttling in game six, forcing a decider and establishing momentum firmly on the side of Gale Force, Kaydop scoring four goals in a game that Method actually out-shot Gale Force 11-10 but the Gale Force defense proved too strong.
After an epic game seven in the third place series, expectations were high in the championship decider. Method started strong, scoring the opening goal, but once again Glae Force took the game by the scruff of the neck. Kaydop showed his 1v1 skills to beat Metsanauris for the equaliser, ViolentPanda took the lead, then a beautiful team goal gave us the final margin of 3-1, a fitting way for Gale Force to secure the European championship.
— RLCS (@RLCS) October 15, 2017
Method may need a few more tricks in their bag to take out LAN, but they won’t be the only team that can’t break the defense of Gale Force should they continue to play as they did in the playoff bracket. Gale Force had an interesting league play, always being considered somewhat of a disappointment, largely because of series losses to PSG and Method to start the season. They are now on an six series win streak, have beaten all of their fellow European teams and most importantly, can call themselves European Champions for season 4.
Oceania: Throwdown final week
The final week of Throwdown didn’t disappoint for drama, with every game having some impact on the final standings and who makes the LAN. The stakes were as high as they can be, and in the end it all came down to the final series.
Legacy and Avant kicked off with Avant needing a win and a miracle to find a LAN spot while Legacy could also sneak into LAN with two wins on the day. The captains of both teams have plenty of PAX history, Cyrix and Abyss falling to Soma and Legacy in a reverse sweep at last year’s PAX tournament, but only the winner here would have any hope of a return visit.
Avant looked good in taking the first two games, but the reverse sweep was in play after Legacy took games three and four. Unfortunately for Legacy it wasn’t to be, their LAN chances going up in smoke as Avant were clinical in a 4-1 game five victory led by sub Requiem. It was a disappointing end to Legacy’s campaign where they showed such potential in taking down Chiefs but showed a worrying lack of consistency week to week. Avant will lament their sweep loss to Conspiracy, having done the hard work of beating fellow “fourth spot” contenders Scylla and Legacy.
— Throwdown Esports (@ThrowdownTV) October 18, 2017
With little to play for in their final series, Legacy fell in a close sweep to JAM Gaming, dropping each game by a single goal. Express notched his 100th Throwdown goal by finishing a beautiful team play in game three overtime to seal the series. The win ensured JAM a top four finish, but the next match would decide the final seeding.
That match would be against long time rivals and fellow RLCS alumni Chiefs, and would decide not only the likely top seed but also the golden striker award and perhaps season MVP with JAM’s Shadey and Chiefs’ Torsos both in the running. The defensive nous of both squads went missing in the early games, Chiefs showing off a new “smash and shoot” strategy focused around bumps and demos in the goal mouth while JAM were experimenting with the new DLC car, the Skyline GT-R. In the end Chiefs took a commanding 3-0 sweep, a good psychological boost before PAX but you can’t help but feel both squads kept cards close to their chest in anticipation of a future matchup.
Chiefs could then assure themselves of top seed with a series win over Scylla, who needed only to beat one of Chiefs or Noizee Isn’t Toxic to qualify for LAN. The squid squad wanted that LAN position secured, taking the first game and defending tough against Chiefs, forcing six minutes of overtime in game two before a freak pinch goal from Torsos tied the series. Just take a look.
The defensive battle continued in game three, with Chiefs claiming the lone goal to take series point, but Scylla again weren’t done, shutting Chiefs out in game four then forcing overtime for the third time in the series in game five, sealing the upset with an open net goal off the kickoff.
Team passing plays don't get much better than this! ??? pic.twitter.com/lExdfsWAYD
— Just a Minute Gaming (@JAMGamingAU) October 16, 2017
That result had massive implications across the ladder, as Chiefs and JAM both finished league play 5-2. Chiefs held the head to head tiebreaker with JAM, but JAM held the best game win percentage and thus win any three way tiebreaker situation, a likely scenario should Scylla beat Noizee Isn’t Toxic in the next series. Indeed, Scylla knocked over Noizee and co. 3-0, though it took overtime in game three to secure the sweep and the cellar dwellers did show a stronger defense than in weeks gone by.
Those results ensured that the 4-2 Pale Horse and 3-3 Conspiracy would be playing off for the fourth and final LAN position, as Conspiracy would take the head to head tiebreaker if they beat Pale Horse and matched their record. Despite the massive improvement from Conspiracy this season it would have been an injustice to see Pale Horse miss out on a LAN spot, and indeed they rose to the occasion, taking game one with a kickoff goal in overtime, dominating game two then stealing game three via a goal with 12 seconds remaining.
The end result was four teams finishing with five wins and two losses, JAM Gaming, Chiefs, Pale Horse and Scylla, seeded in that order by game winning percentage for the PAX LAN Sunday 29 October. We’ll have an epic preview of that event, the most important in OCE Rocket League history thus far, next week. For the individual awards, Torsos took out golden striker from Express of JAM and Kamii from Pale Horse, Conspiracy’s Walcott nabbed the Saviour award and Torsos took down league MVP, beating Kamii and Shadey.
Outside of Throwdown, in the double round of ESL we saw Chiefs continue their good recent run of form against JAM Gaming and earn the double victory week, though it took a game five bump and shoot with 12 seconds remaining to seal the series. Legacy got a crucial win against Avant in a game five overtime reverse sweep, taking some of the sting out of their Throwdown loss. Chiefs got revenge on Scylla for their own Throwdown loss and Lynx took down the bubble battle against Square One. In non-televised games Avant beat Lynx, Scylla beat Square One, Pale Horse beat Legacy and in the big one, Pale Horse gave JAM their third league play loss from four games to continue their own recent dominance of that rivalry.
Chiefs now sit undefeated after four games, while Pale Horse and Scylla are just behind the defending champions on three wins. Legacy and Avant are in a tight battle for the final top four spot, while JAM need to sweep through Legacy, Scylla and Lynx to even have a chance at making the LAN finals. That begins next week with JAM v Legacy, the loser will say goodbye to their finals chances, while Scylla v Pale Horse should be a cracking series.
The Vapour Nordic finals also take place on Sunday, with the regular season barely able to split Lynx, Dedset (former Clarity), Extricity and Feint. Fittingly, all four teams largely split their results in league play, but for me the favourite is Lynx thanks to their strong recent efforts against top line competition in ESL, just ahead of Extricity whose second half league win streak cannot be denied. Feint haven’t been in great recent form but are also a class squad, and Dedset had league wins over both Lynx and Extricity.
RLCS takes a week off this weekend, coming back next week to decide the Oceania representatives at LAN and see which teams will return to RLCS in Europe and North America in the promotion/relegation series.