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Rocket Launching Week 6: Scrub’s Snub and RLCS Predictions

Rocket Launching Week 6

Welcome to Rocket Launching, a midweek RLCS column that discusses the happenings from the past week’s Rocket League action. Here are some of my favorite observations from the sixth week of the RLCS Season 7.

Alpha54 Wins MVP Despite Scrub Being Better at Everything

When Brody “Liefx” Moore announced Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois won the European MVP award I thought something must have been wrong with the teleprompter. Alpha had a fun rookie season and definitely was one of the best in his region, but come on. Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson was clearly the best player in EU this season.

Now, I know awards don’t matter but it’s fun to argue about these things. Scrub averaged more goals, assists and saves per game than Alpha while leading his team to regular season domination. It’s always tricky when discussing what “most valuable” means, but if we’re talking about who was the BEST player in EU this season, it was absolutely Scrub Killa. Or maybe Kaydop.

Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant also had an amazing season for Vitality, and he also may be the reason Scrub didn’t win MVP. It’s the same reason Steph Curry will never win another MVP if Kevin Durant is on his team. Scrub and Kaydop probably split the vote, but that’s not the only reason Scrub lost out. By that same logic Justin “JSTN” Morales shouldn’t have been the NA MVP because Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon was so spectacular this season.

Are we discussing “value” in terms of value to the team, value to the esport or just how good a player performed? If we’re discussing performance JSTN makes sense as the NA MVP, but if we’re discussing value to the team, then maybe he wasn’t deserving. NRG would have been just fine this season if JSTN didn’t play at an elite level, and there are plenty of arguments for other players based on the value  they contributed to their teams.

Cameron “Kronovi” Bills was crucial to Rogue making the playoffs and his defensive consistency kept Rogue out of the relegation zone. Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin scored like a madman for a surprising Spacestation team that finished top four, but neither of them finished in the top three for NA MVP. So obviously the definition of value is based on a player’s performance and their team’s success, so what on Earth happened with Scrub?

I have no idea and it’s a weird, unnecessary blemish on this season. There isn’t much transparency on who votes in these matters beyond the casters and other people at Psyonix. That can lead to bias, which is why major sports leagues don’t vote for their own MVPs and let media members have a hand in that. It was so obvious to me that JSTN was the NA MVP and equally obvious that Scrub performed the best in EU, but he didn’t get the nod and I think it’s wrong. I could be off my rocker here, but Scrub got snubbed either way.

There’s also very little recognition handed out to top performers in the leagues. You have the MVP, Golden Striker, Clutch Playmaker and Savior of the Season (which in and of itself proves that Psyonix cares about stats, further supporting Scrub’s case), but that’s it. There’s room in the esport for All-RLCS teams or even just region specific All-Star teams. Don’t let it all ride on one evidently aimless MVP award.

Rogue Broke the Page Playoff System

Rogue had the same record as mousesports did in Season 6 and somehow they’re headed to New Jersey. No 2-5 team has ever qualified for LAN, and if Psyonix used the old Regional Championship format, they probably wouldn’t have made it this season either. Rogue would have faced Cloud9 in the first round of the playoffs and would have been handled easily.

Evidently Psyonix were afraid of this kind of miracle run happening and redesigned the format to make it harder for lower seeds to make LAN, but here we are. Rogue are also in a group with INTZ eSports, so they’ll probably make it to the knock out stage as well. They completely gamed the system and took advantage of a mediocre Ghost Gaming team and a shell-shocked Spacestation squad. Rogue were objectively bad in the regular season, and are really only going to LAN because there has to be a fourth team from NA in New Jersey. They snuck in through the window while everyone was sleeping.

That isn’t a bad thing.

Rogue play a really fun high flying style with Kronovi locking down the back and Alex “AyyJayy” Aebi and Nicholas “Wonder” Blackerby  playing H.O.R.S.E. on offense. AyyJayy goes for flip-resets like Twitch streamers go for Twitch prime subs. They’re fun, fast and have plenty of star power to boot. Kronovi struggled at Season 6’s LAN but has a chance at redemption.

Rocket Launching Week 6
Image courtesy of Psyonix

Ghost swept Rogue in week four, but Rogue played better in the bigger moment. They stood their ground against the fourth-spot-favorite SSG and deserved to advance.

The big picture lesson to me in this scenario is that the Page Playoff format worked, but not in the way we expected it to. The best four teams qualified, and if we used the old format we’d be watching that slow, defensive Ghost team build a fort in front of their net against INTZ or a rattled Spacestation squad get clobbered by Vitality. This Rogue team is the reason Psyonix has a Regional Championship. This is why the top four from League Play don’t auto-qualify. Psyonix left room for a surprise team to prove their worth, and that’s exactly what Rogue did.

I’d also like to pour one out for Ronin “PrimeThunder” D’Auria who led Rogue/FlyQuest to a better regular season record in Season 6 than Kronovi did in Season 7, and only missed out on LAN because they finished fifth and had to face NRG in the first round of the Regional Championship. If the RLCS used this same system in Season 6 I wonder if he would have led FlyQuest to a LAN bid. Either way, I hope you’re scoring some bangers from the opponent’s corner boost in ranked somewhere. Cheers, buddy.

It’s written in the wind and on the tropical sea
from south of the equator it keeps callin’ to me

That’s a line from the beautiful/creepy yacht rock jam “South America” by my dad’s favorite artist Brian Wilson. The Beach Boys founder and self-proclaimed inventor of California nailed it on the head when he said, “it rolls off my tongue like a magical phrase, a simple translation this message conveys:
Gimme that, gimme that South American girl” because nothing rolls off the tongue like South America in the RLCS featuring Lowkey and INTZ eSports.

Before the first season of the Grand Series everyone just sort of assumed that Erodium and Lotus would qualify for LAN since they were dominating the scene before official RLCS recognition. Lowkey and INTZ threw that out the window. INTZ eliminated Lotus 4-1 then beat Erodium 4-2 to reach LAN.

I’ll admit, I had no idea who any of these teams’ players were before the season started, but I’m really excited to watch them against top competition in New Jersey. This double tap by Lowkey’s Gabriel “Caard” Vieira is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering it was game seven with the LAN bid on the line.

As the commentators said in free-styling Spanish, whenever Caard is needed, he’ll be there.

Lowkey and INTZ have a lot to prove in the Prudential Center. South America’s first international showing at WSOE 4 was disappointing amidst visa issues and other complications. Oceania took a couple of seasons to get up to speed, and SAM might be paddling in the same boat, but at least they have a spot at the table. Lowkey’s group may be the toughest in the tournament (Group D holds Cloud9 and PSG), but INTZ just need a win against Rogue to move on.

RLCS Worlds Tier List

This RLCS has two heavy favorites and then a small bushel of solid teams that could make a run at the Grand Finals. If RLCS betting were a thing (which very well might be, since sports gambling is legal in NJ), NRG and Vitality would be heavy favorites. Since tier lists seem to be everywhere lately, here’s a tier list of the 12 teams participating in the Season 7 World Championships:

Tier 1 (World champ favorites): NRG, Renault Vitality

Anything less than the Grand Finals would be a massive disappointment for either of these teams. Both dominated league play, both scored the most goals and allowed the least goals in their region, and they both have MVP quality star players along with elite support. I pray desperately that they meet in the Grand Finals.

Tier 2 (Some decent contenders): Cloud9, FC Barcelona, PSG

It’s pretty crazy to put the defending champs in tier two, but it’s also crazy that second and third place finishers from Season 6’s World Championsip (Dignitas and TSM) missed out on the playoffs entirely. All three of these teams are really solid and have what Isaac “Turtle” App calls “pop-off potential.” C9 have shown they’re not afraid of the big stage and PSG and Barcelona can play with anybody. These teams should have semi-finals on their minds, and with a bit of luck a World Championship.

Tier 3 (Frisky Cinderella stories who will advance out of their groups, but get destroyed in the knock out rounds): G2, Triple Trouble, ICON Esports

These teams have decent odds of getting out of their group (unless ICON end up in G2’s group, one has to go), but they probably aren’t much of a long term threat. G2 should feel slightly disrespected here since PSG got a decent contender nod, but it would be a massive upset if any of these teams reached the Grand Finals. I wouldn’t rule out a semi-final appearance though. Seeding will be crucial, so every game matters in the group stage.

Tier 4 (We’re just happy to be here): Renegades, Lowkey, Rogue, INTZ

Obviously the OCE season hasn’t wrapped up yet, and Renegades just recently destroyed ICON in league play, but they haven’t brought this group to international play with any success yet. I think the team that finishes second in OCE actually has a better shot of advancing because they could eek out a win against Triple Trouble. The OCE victor will have to play G2 and FC Barcelona. Oof.

Rogue, Lowkey and INTZ are all cool stories, but are seemingly over-matched, especially when considering the talent at this tournament. One of either INTZ or Rogue has to advance from Group B, but they have no chance of winning it all, barring some kind of miracle.

JKnaps Is Awkward

G2 Esports made this video compilation of their comms from the week five win against Cloud9. It’s mostly Jacob “JKnaps” Knapman saying that he or another player are in an awkward position and Dillon “Rizzo” Rizzo saying bad words when they get scored on.

I really like this video, but I’d really like to see their comms from when Cloud9 bodied them in the Regional Championship. It would probably just be Rizzo being mad about C9 scoring so many goals. Maybe they were completely indifferent since they already made LAN.

Come to think of it, I’d like to be a fly on the wall for a lot of RLCS discord calls. I imagine Cloud9’s comms being eerily silent and filled with cyborg-like noises coldly saying “I got it.” and “Excellent pass, comrade. Continue to apply the pressure.” I was around NRG at WSOE and their comms were just GarrettG calling which opponent was up for an aerial, yelling “Let’s [bleeping] go!” and fist bumping people when they scored.

I’d also love to hear Kaydop and Fairy Peak celebrating cool plays in French while Scrub Killa yells incoherently in whatever language they speak in Scotland. What do you think goes on in Ghost’s comms? Is it just Lethamyr claiming every ball while Allushin and Memory try to guess what he’s going to do. Dignitas would be fun too. Turbo has mad jokes.

Mouz’s comms are probably just really sad. Splyce’s too. Evil Geniuses is probably Drippay desperately begging his teammates to play defense and rotate instead of going for demos. I would pay good money to listen on a Drippay monologue about why he should’ve stayed in Australia to drink Foster’s. (I’m kidding, I know they only drink Foster’s in New Zealand.)

 

Feature image courtesy of Psyonix.

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