Since announcing his arrival on the scene at Rocket League Summit 1, Maello “AztraL” Ernst has shown that mechanical mastery is the coolest.
Yeah, rotating is important and communication can mean everything for a team, but flip-resets and weird flicks are electrifying. AztraL electrified the pitch at RLS1, and no one has been able to look away since.
Even in his first appearance, he showed off surreal precision in his movement, uncanny understanding of recovery and a corner pinch that most fans didn’t even know was possible. AztraL was an enticing product with a lot to prove, but how would he handle the marginal plays that set the world’s best teams apart from the rest?
During Dignitas’ 3-0 sweep of Team SoloMid he proved he could handle it, and now Team SoloMid have to play in the promotion playoff.
AztraL could do no wrong. TSM were run off the field by him, and they may have been run out of the league by him. He arrived first on nearly every challenge, hit just about every ball cleanly and was constantly in dangerous positions. It was a one-man domination fairly uncommon at the professional level.
He kept Dignitas well clear of the relegation zone, and they still have a chance at making the World Championship. If they’re going to make it, they’ll need another world-class performance from AztraL.
Let’s dissect this performance a little more. AztraL did a lot of his work on split-second movements, so let’s slow down and dive into his performance.
(P.S. obviously North American Rocket League is imploding, and the rubble is so insane it merits another day or two to contemplate on it. Don’t worry, we’ll have a funeral for Cloud9 and G2 soon.)
Brilliant Moment #1: Unreal Sequence in Game 2.
This goal inspired this entire piece. It should be mentioned that Remco “Remkoe” den Boer disconnected during this sequence, but still, AztraL completely unpacks TSM here, and it starts defensively.
He makes a comfortable save and pushes the ball to midfield. He demolishes Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois and then Otto “Metsanauris” Kaipiainen. He has zero boost when he spots Metsa and takes a perfect line to destroy his car.
Now he knows he’s got acres of room to operate in, so he flips over to TSM’s corner for boost. Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs plays the pass his way before he’s even landed after the flip. AztraL turns and places a pixel-perfect pass in Panda’s path and he scores a banger.
Remkoe not being involved makes the pass easier, but AztraL demoed two-thirds of the team anyway, and he got their corner boost. This is some truly heads up Rocket League.
Brilliant Moment #2: The Delayed 50/50.
This play is as simple as it is effective, but it illustrates how AztraL uses every fraction of a second to put himself in the best situation to succeed.
It starts with a very confident back pass from Maurice “Yukeo” Weihs over to AztraL. He uses all of his boost to touch the ball towards the wall and sends Alpha54 careening past. He has 18 boost when he hops down from the wall.
AztraL doesn’t give up on this challenge and boosts upward at the last moment to get a bit closer to Metsanauris who is in a tough spot.
Metsa bumped Yukeo, so he should have a free clear away, right? Nope. AztraL holds handbrake as he hits the ground, and the change of trajectory from the 18 boost puts him in a position to get a 50/50 with Metsa.
It bounces down perfectly from the ceiling and Panda seals Game 2. AztraL has Metsa on his heels, but he’s the one that put Metsa in that tough spot to begin with. His ability to beat two players on seemingly unspectacular plays sets him apart.
Brilliant Moment #3: Efficient Redirect
This redirect off kickoff takes perfect flight to get the Octane hitbox high enough to beat Alpha54. James “Jamesbot” Villar’s reaction sums it up nicely:
Alpha54 secures his own corner boost, so AztraL is left to whatever nuggets of boost he’s collected in the eleven seconds since kickoff. It’s impossible to tell how much he has, but it can’t be more than 33 boost realistically. That’s all he needed to beat the reigning European MVP who had full boost and was charging forward.
Then the shot placement is unnecessarily good. AztraL is always aiming for the corners or the underside of the crossbar. He could recreate that shot and go at it for the rest of eternity and he wouldn’t be able to get to that ball any faster. Panda probably knows AztraL’s low on boost, too, but he still sends the pass his way. This team has built impressive chemistry.
A few seconds later AztraL scores again, this time after securing the mid boost and demoing Remkoe off kickoff. He does all the little things.
Brilliant Moment #4: I Need Speed, More Speed
AztraL is like Lisa Simpson in the Simspon’s Road Rage game from 2001. He lives for speed.
Once again he makes something out of nothing with a crafty double touch off an errant hit into the sidewall. Alpha54 is already halfway up the wall and has to turn around to get back, but he has no chance at it. Panda pounds it into the corner, Alpha pops it over to Remkoe, and Yukeo gets a 50/50 on the clear.
The ball launches onto the backboard. Metsanauris and Alpha54 both immediately jump for it, but AztraL is already up. He gets up so quickly that he can boost over the ball and play it back into the middle. He doesn’t just slam the ball back into the middle, he plays a perfect pass inside the little box that Yukeo somehow beans into the post.
Panda picks him up and they score, but the kicker in this clip is how scared Metsa and Alpha were. They knew he was there. They knew they had to get up and challenge him, and they didn’t even take the time to call it. It didn’t matter. AztraL was too fast for them.
Brilliant Moment #5: Combining with Yukeo
AztraL finds himself deep in his own corner with Remkoe and Metsanauris bearing down on him. He deftly keeps the ball close enough to hit again, and positions his car perfectly to pinch the ball away from goal. It’s clearly intentional, watch how AztraL boosts into the challenge.
It’s hard to tell, but he might have somehow landed a wave dash on his way down. With six boost and a dream he maintains supersonic speed, catches the ball on the bounce and buries it into the top corner just as Yukeo demoes Alpha54. There’s that chemistry again.
Yukeo is a very different player from AztraL, but their skill sets complement each other well. Yukeo and ViolentPanda are prime examples of how exploiting space is even more important than mechanical speed. There was a good example of that on the go-ahead goal from Game 1.
Yukeo just pokes it into the space Metsanauris can’t cover and Panda returns the favor. Yukeo gets a bit fortunate that the ball deflects in off of Remkoe, but his initial touch into the corner cracked TSM’s defense like a walnut.
AztraL puts a lot of pressure on defenses, and Yukeo/Panda take Dignitas to another level when they’re capitalizing on the space he creates.
Brilliant Moment #6: Even AztraL’s Mistakes Are Exciting
No one can play a completely perfect series, and this is the closest thing to a mistake that AztraL made all series:
This might actually be his most brilliant moment yet, he just barely missed the double-tap at the end. AztraL perfectly times a save and plays the ball into space. He gives himself enough time to grab the corner boost and then goes to work off the sidewall.
He double jumps into the ceiling, holds powerslide upon landing there to get his flip back, then flips under the ball to put it onto the backboard. He boosts to his left and is just barely too low to knock the ball into the net off the rebound. Even when he misses it’s breathtaking.
Just for good measure, AztraL steals the corner boost on his way out.
AztraL had an unreal performance against TSM, and it carried it through to their game against Vitality, who they beat in five games. Dignitas’ offense can get a bit stagnant when he’s not on, but when’s beating two players at a time on wall plays, they’re nearly impossible to stop.
This was the moment of reckoning for the Belgian star. AztraL is not an exciting mechanical prospect anymore. He’s a fully-fledged game-changer that still has room to get better. What a find by Dignitas.
Featured image courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for Beyond the Summit.
Follow me on Twitter: @connorssanders.
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