Rocket Surgery -- covering all things in competitive car soccer from Oceania and around the world.
It is that time again, as Rocket League heads to #LANdon to decide who will become the fifth world champions of car soccer. Will North America (or Oceania) break the long dominance of Europe? Can anybody stop Dignitas (oh yeah, since the last column the defending world champions Gale Force were signed by Dignitas)? Will we get a finals match played on the Salty Shores? Probably not to that last one, but this is shaping up as an incredibly even competition, even the OCE champions Chiefs have some expectations on them following an undefeated run through league play and the regional finals. This is the big event, so sink your teeth into the Rocket Surgery season five LAN preview.
— Rocket League Esports (@RLEsports) May 6, 2018
Rocket League Championship Series – Season Five World Championship Preview
Expectations are high for the Oceanic champions, a strange thing to say considering how lightly the OCE representatives have been regarded in previous World Championships despite their long dominance of the local scene. Beating NRG, Ghost and taking Cloud9 and G2 to the limit will do that for you, and the first undefeated season in RLCS history doesn’t hurt either.
That local success will all count for nothing if Chiefs can’t perform on the big stage. For them that means at least a top six finish, progressing one step further than their previous appearances and possibly, hopefully, finally getting a victory over a European squad. They will probably enter their first round clash with Evil Geniuses as favourites, but that position shouldn’t be unusual for them and it may only be LAN nerves that holds them back against Chrome and co.
Torsos in particular has admitted to being nervous on the biggest stage, but now with three major LAN appearances and countless local LANs, if the Chiefs can’t handle the pressure here they may never get on top of it. Talent-wise they are certainly good enough to compete with everybody here, it might take an especially good day for them to beat Dignitas but they have previously taken it to Cloud9 and G2, and they’ve only improved since then. They certainly don’t lack for confidence, but words don’t always translate into actions.
— Throwdown Esports (@ThrowdownTV) April 30, 2018
For me, it all rides on how well their unbreakable OCE defence translates to the big stage. All three members have shown incredible individual skill and with two years playing together their passing game and rotations are smooth as silk. If the Chiefs can maintain their composure, avoid double commits and hold under the intense pressure of the big stage against the best squads, top six is certainly within their reach and going even further is a distinct possibility. I’m not going to be that brave, but I think they finally crack that “better than 7th/8th” finish this season.
Tainted Minds have learned plenty from their last LAN, where good scrimmage results did not translate into performance on the big stage as they failed to secure a single game against PSG or Mock-It, with the latter really doing a number on them. This time around Tainted Minds have left early, scrimmed plenty and most importantly, have the experience under their belt to not let the occasion overwhelm. Now they are one of the world elite, not just spending time with them.
While there was a roster change from their time as Pale Horse, with former sub Julz replacing Kia, that didn’t seem to be the reason for Tainted Minds up and down performance in league play. A change in style took Kamii in particular some time to adjust to, and he never reached his near MVP levels of season four. CJCJ did progress into an elite striker, and his efforts in both the qualifying bracket and the finals were very impressive.
Indeed, Tainted Minds have demonstrated time and again they are a clutch squad, their comebacks to qualify for both the season four and five LANs are the stuff of legends, though unfortunately they were both followed up with wallopings by the Chiefs. I think they can carry some of that belief into RLCS this time around, and a stronger mental fortitude might even see them take a series, particularly if Complexity can’t find their groove after a rough post-regular season stretch. I don’t think we can hope for much better than a 7th/8th finish, and in this tough bracket I can’t even predict that, but I do think Tainted Minds will make a much better showing than last season.
One poor touch that left a gently floating ball right in front of the net is all that stopped NRG from registering the first undefeated season in RLCS history, and denied them a regional title their regular season form richly deserved. Alas, they have to settle for second NA seed, but make no mistake: NRG are right up there with the best this season.
A tough 9th/10th finish last season was the final straw for the long dominating North American powerhouse, fan favourite Jacob being sent packing for electric RLRS rookie Jstn. The move has paid off handsomely, unlocking GarrettG to the tune of a season MVP award and igniting an attack that floundered in season four. Their defensive might has remained with the roster change, and the results have been very impressive.
NRG haven’t had happy times on the RLCS stage, but they do have LAN success under their belt and the only concern may be how Jstn handles playing under the bright lights of LAN. Judging by his finals performances under pressure thus far, he’ll be fine. If that is the case, NRG are a great shot at taking the World Championship title.
It is hard to split G2 and NRG for who is more likely to be the best performing North American team, but G2 has the advantage of results on the board against European competitors, including Dignitas. A potential second round clash with Dignitas is all that makes me think G2 will be favourites over NRG, but both are top four quality squads and it will come down to performances on the day. On that, I think NRG will take fourth place, but a grand final run would not surprise me.
G2 are the top North American seed, though NRG’s undefeated regular season seems to be overshadowing that somewhat. That is fitting, as G2 has quietly gone about shifting from an inconsistent, showy roster into a finely tuned machine that has form on the board against European, North American and Oceanic competition.
JKnaps remains on the short list for any “best in the world” discussion, even if GarrettG edged him for MVP this season. Part of his excellence is how his team play into his skills, Kronovi has evolved from solo superstar of the early days of Rocket League to a distributing, team first player that enables JKnaps to do what he does.
— The Rocket Dailies (@Rocket_Dailies) May 2, 2018
G2 are also one of the rare teams to have big stage success against Dignitas, knocking over the former Gale Force to take ELeague late last year. That experience will prove huge for G2 as they step onto European soil and into a hostile environment, especially if the European crowd takes their status as the “North American poster boys” to heart and lets them know how they feel.
That home field advantage tips me to supporting the European champions over G2 this time around, but anything outside a top four finish will be disappointing for G2. I think they make the final and make a game of it, but ultimately finish runners up in season five.
No longer the invincible, indomitable force of NA, Cloud9’s reign at the top was short. Ultimately their third place finish last season was disappointing, but their loss to CLG in the regular season showed that this was a merely mortal squad these days, while NRG and G2 also found success against them.
That isn’t to say Cloud9 are cooked, it’s just the gap between their freakish individual skill and team synergy, and that of other squads has shrunk significantly. That’s the problem with creating the meta, everybody practices it and becomes you, and Cloud9 haven’t seemed to adjust to that just yet.
Both NRG and G2 have had confidence boosting recent success against Cloud9, while European teams have proven better equipped than North America to deal with their passing game. Even more worrying is the success lower ranked teams have found against what used to be a brutally efficient machine, Splyce and Counter Logic both swept Cloud9 in recent tournaments.
Cloud9 made a big lower bracket run last season and did the same in NARLI qualifiers, so they have proven that pressure doesn’t get to them. Unfortunately this season they are just another good team, not “Cloud9: America’s Great Hope”. Form and results suggest they are the third best team in North America, and I think that is how it pans out, with a 5th/6th place finish on the cards.
The fourth seed in North America traditionally hasn’t found much support, and Evil Geniuses are continuing that trend. In their regular season they beat the teams that finished below them and took games off each of the squads finishing above them, but watching them you always felt there was a significant gap to the top three, with EG the best of the rest.
That thought hasn’t changed based on their performances since the end of the season, with losses to RLRS teams racking up in the NARLI qualifiers and other tournaments. There is some hope that may change on the big stage, EG has plenty of experience on the roster and Klassux alone is a force that can drive them to beat anybody who underestimates them through sheer will, but it says alot about how EG are regarded that Chiefs will likely start favourites over them in the first matchup.
Even if EG can get through the Chiefs, and they have a solid shot at that, it is unlikely they can get much further in the bracket than that 7th/8th place. They would be big underdogs to any European team, and when it has come down to the crunch don’t have the top gear other squads have to take the biggest moments. I’m backing Chiefs to beat them early and EG finishing 9th/10th.
The former Gale Force may have changed orgs, but little has changed about their dominance of the Rocket League scene. While Complexity and Vitality stood up and challenged in the regular season, come the biggest stage it was once again the Gale Force show, their crisp teamwork, ruthless defence and sheer consistency taking them to another regional title.
You have to go way back to find a team other than Flipside Tactics that have beaten Dignitas on a major stage, and lucky for Dignitas, Flipside didn’t make LAN. G2 knocked them off in ELeague last year, Vitality in Dreamhack Leipzig in January, and that is really about it. They are scary good right now, and especially seem to have Complexity’s number since their epic winners final in RLCS season four.
You’re getting good odds to tip against Dignitas, but I am not that brave. It is back-to-back world championships or bust for Turbopolsa, Kaydop and ViolentPanda, and form suggests they will not only do just that, but make it look easy. Plenty of teams could challenge them, sure, but it will take a monumental effort to deny this squad a second (or third in Turbos case) world championship.
Complexity are one of my favourite teams to watch in Rocket League, with Al0t playing such a unique role in the game as almost a pure striker/cherry-picker, able to do so because of the synergy shared by his teammates. Unfortunately Complexity haven’t had a great run of things lately, with only one win against a fellow LAN team since the start of season five, that being Envyus, who were also the team to bundle them out of the regional finals.
— Rocket League Esports (@RLEsports) April 22, 2018
It is hard to say what has gone wrong with Complexity, and to be fair many were saying the same thing about them coming into the season four LAN where they finished runners up. This time has a different feel about it, like they themselves are struggling and it is not just that teams have figured them out. They fumbled through the NARLI qualifiers before bowing out against Excel, they dropped their final three series in league and regional finals play, and few give them a chance of repeating their season four success.
I hold out some hope, but there are others in far better form that I have to tip here. I don’t think Complexity bow out early, but a 5th/6th finish feels likely for them. If Tainted Minds can get over them, it might just be time up for Complexity, but I think there is some big stage magic left in this squad.
The former MockIt roster had a strong league season, ultimately their inability to beat Dignitas was their only obstacle. Luckily this time around the earliest they can meet Dignitas is the winners final, barring some kind of strange lower bracket situation.
Fairy Peak has quietly entered the conversation for best in the world, ultimately a lack of consistent excellence is the only thing stopping him from taking a hard stab at that crown. This is hardly a one man show however, the entire Vitality roster are in good touch, even if their NARLI qualifier results weren’t great.
Vitality have evolved over the last season, moving on from a frontrunning bully that racked up results against weaker opposition to a squad that stood toe to toe with the best in Europe. They’ve got the wood on Complexity, a potential second round opponent, but Cloud9 present an interesting challenge to them first up, and it might take a big lower bracket run for Vitality to earn a top four finish.
It is something I still think they will achieve. They have been there or abouts for a long time, and I see them remaining there for the season five finals, taking third place but the fatigue of a big lower bracket run eventually wearing them down.
Remember when Envyus was the best team in the world? It wasn’t even a year ago, but it may as well be a lifetime after a rough season four where they barely avoided relegation, then coming from nowhere to take third seed in the region when many predicted they wouldn’t even get a LAN spot.
New recruit EyeIgnite has added some spark to the Envyus roster but this still feels like a team getting by on reputation. They have precious few wins against fellow top competition, though they did find some success against Dignitas in some minor competitions earlier this year. You can’t take them lightly, but it is very hard to see them as World Champions, even if Remkoe and Deevo have been to the top before.
I’m going to predict a 7th/8th finish, but bowing out in two games would not surprise me. A return to the glory days of, what, was it really only June last year, might be on the cards, but with so many top teams in good form it is hard to stick with the old dogs.
Other Goings On
If that wasn’t enough for you, we have had qualifiers for the second Northern Arena Rocket League Invitational since the last Rocket Surgery, where the newly promoted NA RLCS squad Flyquest were the surprise qualifiers along with the “big three” of NA; NRG, G2 and Cloud9. In Europe we saw only one of the four RLCS LAN qualifiers make it through, that being world champions Dignitas, while Flipside Tactics, PSG and Excel will be joining them. The LAN finals will take place in Canada July 14-15.
Gfinity also made its grand Australian debut last weekend, with a high quality production and a television deal for broadcast on One HD. As predicted, several franchises picked up Rocket League squads from rival organisations, with Perth Ground Zero represented by Legacy and Melbourne Order signing up Dark Sided, though both deals are only for the Gfinity series. The two Gfinity-controlled franchises ran with their draft squad pickups, the Brisbane Deceptors starting Cruzza, SlurpeeMonster and Le Mon, The Sydney Roar going with Justice Robo, Change and Ghost. With their main roster over in London for RLCS, the Sydney Chiefs went with their top class reserve squad of Tulendeena, Lim and CJM.
The Roar gave the Chiefs a brief scare of a reverse sweep before the Chiefs took it home in game five, while Melbourne Order were running with Enigma in place of Dumbo but got it done 3-1 against the Deceptors. In the “new Legacy v old Legacy but neither playing under Legacy” battle it was all one way traffic to the new, representing Ground Zero strongly with a 3-0 sweep of Avant that wasn’t even as close as that sounds.
Rocket League itself also saw some changes, with the Summer Update mercifully not really breaking anything while providing a new season of ranked play and a new (very bright) beachside arena. In even more exciting news, a collaboration with Jurassic World was announced, bringing the classic Jurassic Jeep into the game and even better, a roaring T-Rex goal celebration.
Finally, Beach Blast begins on June 11, the latest seasonal event with all the usual trimmings; new items, new crates and the chance to unlock Decryptors. You can find more information here.
WATCH THE RLCS Season Five World Championship on Twitch, starting 11PM AEST Friday June 8 with Chiefs v Evil Geniuses.