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RLCS Season 6 World Championship Preview

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The sixth Rocket League Championship Series concludes this weekend with the World Championship in LAN Vegas, though you could be forgiven for thinking the result was decided months ago. Two time defending champions Team Dignitas ran the table in Europe with the most dominant regular season performance in RLCS history, and are unbackable favourites to claim a third straight crown. They won’t have it all their own way, but can anybody really challenge the undisputed best team in the world? Let’s take a look in our massive Rocket Surgery RLCS World Championships preview!

Europe

It is far from coincidence that the top two finishers in European league play were the only rosters not to make a personnel change in the off-season; Dignitas and former world champions Flipside Tactics. High profile moves didn’t work out for the two big name contenders from season 5 in Complexity (who will be fighting to even stay in the RLCS next weekend in the relegation tournament) and Vitality (who ruined a bunch of Psyonix marketing materials when they failed to qualify despite the addition of soccar wunderkind Scrub Killa), and the gap between the best and the rest has never been larger in the once “anybody can beat anybody” region of Europe.

We Dem Girlz are the official second seed following the regional championship, the former Envyus roster added Complexity discard Metsanauris and passed the eye test as the second best team in Europe, but could only take one win from Dignitas in eight games played over league and regional play. Flipside had a mini-revival after some poor seasons, finding their attacking spark thanks to the strong form of regional MVP Kuxir. WDG appear to have their number, but luckily they sit on the opposite side of the draw and instead only have to get through Dignitas to make a return to the finals.

PSG round out the European contenders, coming off a disappointing season after replacing Bluey with Fruity, the Dane having a strong debut RLCS season for an otherwise unremarkable squad that barely qualified for the regional playoffs and pulled the big upset off against Vitality to earn a return to the world stage. It feels like an eternity since PSG took down Dreamhack back in January, and while they can never be written off it would be a bold stance to expect a top four run from the fourth seed. Chiefs will like their chances in the opening round.

 

The great unknown in Europe is how much of the gap between first and the rest is the strength of Dignitas, and how much is a decline in the quality of play in the region. A lot of people are going to favour the North American “big three” over the non-Dignitas European squads, but day one could well prove that continued European dominance of Rocket League extends beyond the world champs.

North America

League play was expected to be hotly contested between the big three squads of NRG, Cloud9 and G2 in North America, and while Evil Geniuses did their best to throw a spanner in the works that is largely how it played out. NRG were the odd team out in league play, losing to both G2 and Cloud9 as well as dropping to EG, so naturally they blitzed through the regional finals, reversing their results against G2 and Cloud9 to take down the top seed. NRG aren’t as dominant as last season, GarrettG was merely excellent instead of otherworldly, but under pressure this is still the best team in North America and the team that came so, so close to taking down the season 5 championship. Fate would be a cruel mistress to deny us an NRG v Dignitas rematch in these world championships.

Cloud9 bounced back after a rough season 5 by their high standards, dominating league play on both sides of the ball and were only a baffling series loss to Flyquest away from an undefeated regular season. Unfortunately they saved some of their worst for the regional finals, going down to NRG before taking care of business against EG to secure the third seed. Despite that slip, many will see Cloud9 as the best chance of a North American championship this weekend, especially as the dominant, creative attacking game has returned. One key stat is their shooting accuracy, a 32% shot percentage dominated regional play and is eerily similar to the numbers Dignitas put up in Europe. Similarity to the world champs is never a bad thing.

It feels strange to say a G2 team with a 6-1 league play record that made the regional finals slipped a bit this season, but much like GarrettG, the slide of JKnaps back from best in the world to one of the best in the world had to work a lot harder than their record suggests. Their reward for a two seed finish is a crack at Dignitas in the semi finals should they beat Flipside first up, so they’ll be doing things the hard way. G2 will have heavy crowd support, something that drove them to their last LAN title at ELeague last year, but they are slipping under the radar somewhat this season.

Then we have the “other” squad, Evil Geniuses. Scrappy is the best way to describe EG, they often defend better than their numbers suggest and hang around in games, and they’ll punish anybody who let’s them stick in the game. They are a middling statistical squad that will beat teams that falter in the moment, but they weren’t competitive at all against Cloud9 in the regional third place game and have a ceiling at the world championships of “causing a few upsets”.

Oceania

The OCE Shuffle once again struck this off season, but for the first time in two years Chiefs felt the sting of roster moves as stalwart captain of the squad, Jake, retired from competitive play. On paper his replacement Kamii was a sideways move at worst, and for most of league play it looked like the Chiefs had not skipped a beat. Yet they were just a little shakier defensively than previous seasons, and Tainted Minds caused the big upset in the final week to steal away their back-to-back undefeated seasons, but couldn’t capitalise with a shock loss to Order that ensured Chiefs entered regional play as the top seed.

Then we had the regional finals, where Tainted Minds beat Chiefs not once but twice, including an unheard of 7-1 demolition in the grand final game five. After more than two years of dominance, we had a new regional king as CJCJ joined with the long standing former Dark Sided combo of Shadey and Express, consolidating the best talent in OCE at the top and delivering the strongest pair of contenders OCE has delivered to the world stage in four seasons.

Tainted Minds has built a style of play designed for international success. TM were an offensive juggernaut in league play, showing supreme confidence in their ability to clear off the back wall and turn defence into attack, happy to concede some opportunities to take their own. It remains to be seen if they can apply this style to the biggest stage with the same success, but it managed to knock the Chiefs over and despite some rough moments over the last few world championships and regional qualifiers, TM looks to have a strong mental resolve. They will need it against EG, a team that could frustrate them into mistakes and capitalise on mental errors.

Chiefs are slipping under the radar somewhat following their second seed position, but Drippay and Torsos remain among the best mechanical players and strikers in the world and even without the steadying influence of Jake they are creating and converting plenty of opportunities. Kamii has been a great distributor for them and is a strong player in his own right, if not yet shining on the world stage like he has in league play. The jury is still out as to whether the Chiefs are better with Kamii, but they are certainly still world class and will fancy their chances against PSG.

One thing to watch will be how OCE teams adapt to the physicality of international play. While both teams were better prepared for this last season than before, demos and bumps have played a major role in NA and EU league play this year, while OCE was light on aggressive, physical play and it may catch both squads by surprise. EG are especially known as a rough and tumble team.

Predictions

Let’s get it out of the way, you’d be crazy not to go with Dignitas and I am not crazy. I think they’ll be pushed at least once through the bracket, but the best chance for anybody to beat them will be early on in the best of five series. G2 is probably the best shot at that, and once in the lower bracket anything can happen. The path to back-to-back championships for Dignitas was anything but boring, producing a couple of the best series’ in Rocket League history in the finals against Method and NRG, and we can only hope they deliver that level of entertainment again on the way to a third title.

Cloud9 are the team I think will meet them there in the final, though NRG will have plenty to say about that along the way. Both are shots at causing the big Dignitas upset, but I like how Cloud9 have been playing this season and it would be nice to see them in a lights out world championships after coming into season 4 as hot favourites and faltering. Dignitas, Cloud9 and NRG are my top three finishers.

Outside of that, I’d only be guessing. I think OCE has a great shot of seeing both teams take at least one series, but both teams face daunting opponents should they succeed in the first round. TM will like their chances against EG, but I think Chiefs against PSG is just as strong a chance of a win. In the lower bracket I think they are both decent shots against Flipside or WDG, and luck of the draw might take them all the way to a top four finish, but a 7th-8th for both teams is probably the safest pick. It will certainly be the most competitive both OCE teams have ever been.

The wildcard for me is G2, who could finish anywhere in the bracket from first to last. We’ll know early if they are switched on, but a vocal crowd and big game experience is a dangerous combination if they can play close to their best. A poor display might see the end of this long time roster.

No matter what, it is going to be a fun, action packed weekend of Rocket League. I can’t wait, and I hope you are all tuning in on Twitch from 5AM AEST Saturday, Sunday and Monday.