In the blink of an eye, the eighth season of the Rocket League Championship Series has all but wrapped up. Only one more day remains, and Rocket League always saves its best for last.
The six teams destined for Day 3 have punched their tickets. NRG Esports, Dignitas, Spacestation Gaming, Renault Vitality, Pittsburgh Knights and Veloce Esports are the six best Rocket League teams in the world and will face off in the playoffs.
Tomorrow three Rocket League players will lift the trophy, surrounded by blue and orange confetti while the crowd in Madrid chants their names. What a magnificent moment.
Before it all comes to a close here are a few takeaways from the group stage of the Rocket League Championship Series Season 8 World Championship.
Woah, Dignitas Looks Really Good
There is one 3-0 team at this tournament, and it’s none other than Dignitas. For much of League Play, Dignitas looked like they were closer to the relegation zone than the top of the region, but they’re gaining momentum at the right time.
They made quick work of The Three Sins, backed up the smack talk against Pittsburgh Knights and then swept Spacestation Gaming to lock in their spot in the semi-final.
Everything is clicking for them right now. Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs looks like he did in Season 6 since he switched to the Dominus. Maello “AztraL” Ernst has been making plays without trying to do too much. Maurice “Yukeo” Weihs is getting involved offensively.
They only need two more series wins to be crowned the champions, but the road will be very tough. They’ll get the winner of Pittsburgh Knights and Vitality in the semi-final, and NRG seem likely to make the Grand Final as well.
Dignitas has scored two or more goals in each of their last seven games. Their defense has looked solid all season long, so they don’t really need to pop-off to win games. They just need to continue to create good chances through passing and consistently hit the target.
The prize money they’ve already locked in is pretty nice ($40,000 according to Liquipedia), and they might not even be done yet.
Season 9 is Just Over a Month Away
At the top of the broadcast on Monday, Brody “Liefx” Moore announced the ninth season of the Rocket League Championship Series. There are a few big points to cover in the announcement.
First is that there will be an automatic promotion for the first place Rival Series team, which means the last place RLCS team will drop automatically. Next season both NA and EU will expand to 10 teams, so finishing dead last could bring dire consequences.
It’s also worth mentioning that the top six teams from NA/EU still earn a Regional Championship spot. Eighth and ninth place teams will play in the Promotion Playoff.
Second is that the first open qualifier starts January 18, which is a little over a month away. The Rival Series Play-In will take place February 1, which is also going to be the first week of RLCS League Play. That’s a lot of Rocket League for one weekend.
Third is that League Play will last eight weeks instead of five, but will continue to follow the round-robin format.
Psyonix will announce more info for South America, Oceania, the next World Championship and the like in the future, but with the Promotion Tournament set for April 11, the date will likely be in late April or early June.
Team Reciprocity: Unlucky or in Trouble?
The number one team from EU bowed out on Day 1 on home soil, and they faced two tough matchups. They lost 3-1 to a Spacestation Gaming team that was playing the best Rocket League of their lives.
That sent them to the lower bracket, where they had to face Pittsburgh Knights? Wow, that’s a tough lower bracket matchup. They got swept, and it sucks to see a team that truly could have challenged NRG have to head home before ever facing them.
No disrespect to Veloce Esports, but it’s sad that Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak won’t get a chance to flex on Day 3 and Veloce will get another chance after they beat eUnited and Renegades in their lower bracket. He struggled to make plays in both of the series he did play in, but the bracket broke poorly and they’re out.
The quick turn around before Season 9 will prove favorable to them because they can run it back and hope Chausette pops off at the next World Championship.
On the other hand, complacency has been Cloud9, G2, TSM and Complexity’s worst enemy. They’ll have to take a long look in the mirror after this weekend.
Psyonix Really Needs to Invest More in SAM and OCE
Coming into this tournament, it seemed obvious that Canberra Havoc and The Three Sins weren’t going to last long. They looked overmatched and won one individual game between them in four series played.
The divide between the regions is widening. Lowkey Esports looked poised for a Day 3 run after their win vs. Veloce, but fell to NRG and then Renegades on their way out of the tournament.
Renegades then pooped the bed in Game 4, own-goaling after a nine-minute overtime. Once again, an above-average European team will play on Day 3 instead of the best from SAM or OCE.
Oceania has been participating at World Championships since Season 3, but as a region they’ve only made one deep run at LAN. South America can have a pass since it’s only their second official season and Lowkey did look pretty solid, but OCE needs to be better.
While the player base is smaller in South America and Oceania, it’s still shocking that North America and Europe can see complete turnover at the top season to season, but no one from OCE can truly contend with average to above-average main region competition.
So, how can Psyonix and Epic Games just continue to wipe their hands clean of those regions? There are hard-working people that give the scenes their structure, but they lack the manpower to create the tournaments that can cultivate a stronger talent pool.
Think of how much the Rival Series has pushed Rocket League forward in NA and EU. There aren’t enough opportunities for organized play, and until Psyonix steps in to ensure that will be more, South America and Oceania will struggle at LAN.
Obviously, there’s a lot more that goes into why it’s difficult to win at the World Championship, but as of now Psyonix and Epic aren’t offering enough help to make the next step.
NRG vs. Vitality in Group A was One for the Ages
The Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver vs. Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant matchup was incredible. The winningest players in Rocket League on the same stage, but on opposite sides.
Turbo laced in a dunk on Kaydop to kick off the series. Vitality responded with two goals. Then he played a perfect pass to Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon to quell the Vitality comeback and force overtime. It didn’t matter though, Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson dunked a Justin “JSTN” Morales clear into the net to take Game 1.
Game 2 was an absolute rollercoaster. GarrettG pulled momentum back with a goal in Game 2. Kaydop responded with an open shot a few seconds later. NRG hammered Vitality with pressure and scored again. Vitality refused to roll over and Kaydop scored a tough backboard bounce to pull even again. Turbo scored again. All of this happened in the first two minutes of the game.
JSTN broke Rule #1, an unwritten rule within the game’s community where if you’re locked head-on with an opponent’s car, you’re both supposed to keep accelerating, deadlocked until a goal is scored. People booed.
The joke is that if you break Rule #1, you’re cursed to lose the game, but that didn’t happen for JSTN. He scored again on another perfect pass from Turbo to go up two a minute and a half later. Vitality couldn’t respond. They outshot Vitality 15-7, and Game 2 went to NRG. JSTN broke the Rule #1 curse.
The action continued, and the series felt more and more like a Grand Final as it wore on. Game 3 remained scoreless into overtime. JSTN made a great low pass off the back wall that wrong-footed Vitality, and GarrettG won. Kaydop had zero shots in the game.
Game 4 looked a lot like Game 3. No one was able to score in regulation, and Kaydop pulled a nasty fake on JSTN on the goal line to push the series to Game 5.
Both teams were playing excellent defense, and every game was decided on a stellar goal. Both teams had a lot to play for with Pittsburgh Knights waiting for them in the quarterfinal.
Kaydop took his time on a dribble and laid a perfect pass to Scrub Killa who blasted it past GarrettG for the first goal of Game 5. Turbo crushed a shot at the three-minute mark, but Kaydop knocked it away. 30 seconds later GarrettG punished an overcommit to tie the game.
JSTN led a nice counterattack downfield, and GarrettG got his second on a well-placed shot. Every clear was contested. Every attack felt dangerous. The live crowd’s roars and moans could be heard on the broadcast. Vitality applied pressure, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
It was a fantastic series, the kind that live audiences can really bring to life.
NRG won Group A, but had to go through a team that can absolutely go punch for punch with them mechanically. If that series goes seven games, Vitality may have taken it.
Now Vitality face Pittsburgh in the quarter-final, the team that knocked out Reciprocity in Group B. If anyone can figure the young guns out, it’s Day 3 Kaydop, but it won’t come easy.
Spacestation Gaming will take on Veloce Esports, and NRG will await the winner of that series. Of the six teams in the Day 3 bracket, four have won a LAN in the last year. Three of them (Dig, Vitality, PK) are on one side of the bracket.
NRG seem like they could waltz to the Grand Final, but will Vitality be there to meet them? They’ll have to get through Pittsburgh and Dignitas to do it, but the fanbase would probably be happy to see NRG vs. Vitality for seven games in the Grand Final.
Featured image courtesy of Psyonix.
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