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Rocket Launching: Three Storylines to Follow at the World Championship

Rocket League World Championship

Rocket League Esports has a funny way of playing with the progression of time. Season 7’s World Championship feels like it was played eons ago, but Renault Vitality raised the cup less than six months ago.

It feels strange because so much has changed. At the start of last season’s World Championship Tshaka “Arsenal” Taylor played for The Peeps, Triple Trouble looked like a potential powerhouse in EU and Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver was living in Sweden.

None of those things are true anymore. I find it hard to even understand what the most shocking thing to happen since Season 7’s conclusion in Newark.

Matthew “Drippay” Den-Kaat went back to OCE and didn’t make worlds. Slater “retals” Thomas stood on a table after winning DreamHack: Montreal. Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez retired. Cloud9 and G2 nearly got relegated. TSM signed Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois and nearly dropped to the Rival Series. Birds got signed by a spunky new org and made the World Championship as eUnited despite being predicted to finish last in the region. Veloce Esports got promoted from the Rival Series because Triple Trouble imploded and they made worlds.

Now, with one weekend, all the loose ends that have sprouted up in this six-month storm of roster upheaval and culture change will all be tied off in Madrid. This time next week we’ll be praising our champion, the next group of three players writing their names on Champion’s Field.

There are determined newcomers, rejuvenated veterans and a whole bunch of players who have been working for years for this chance.

It’s the best week of the year for a Rocket League fan. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will close another chapter in our young esports’ history. Let’s get excited about some old faces coming home, and then discuss three key storylines to follow this weekend.

Johnnyboi_i and Shogun on an RLCS Broadcast

The last time Callum “Shogun” Keir appeared on an official RLCS broadcast was when he called the most iconic goal in Rocket League history:

The Britishisms. The excitement. The feel for the moment. It’s all coming back.

Shogun is accompanied by fellow European hero John “Johnnyboi_i” Macdonald, who is listed as a sideline reporter for the event.

Rocket League World championship
Courtesy of Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren for DreamHack

I’d really like to have Johnny in the booth, but Psyonix is bringing eight Spanish language broadcasters and eleven English speaking ones to the event, so it makes sense that he’d be put on the sideline, even if I think he’s best suited for calling live action.

It’s good to have Shogun back and to have Johnny wear the fabled RLCS lapel pin for the first time. I hope that they can be more involved as the esport grows, and if Psyonix were ever to install a European studio, these two would be the stars. I’m glad we’ll get to shine, even if it’s only for the weekend.

Rookies vs. Veterans

There are 18 players making their World Championship debut this weekend. There are 18 players who are returning to the World Championship after reaching the finals in previous seasons.

It’s uncanny. There are two different generations of Rocket League talents clashing at this tournament, and the banter coming from both sides is incredible:

The new generation is rowdy. They aren’t afraid to flex into the camera or jump up on tables. The older, more professional generation is too focused on winning for any of that.

I think Group B’s second-round matchups will be the earliest clashes between old and new. Spacestation would face Team Reciprocity if they beat Canberra Havoc, and Dignitas would face Pittsburgh Knights if they beat The Three Sins.

Who will win out? Will the demo-heavy style of the youngsters continue to fluster the old dogs, or will the old vets block out the crowd noise and force the newcomers into crumbling under pressure?

We’re at such an interesting impasse in RL’s progression, and I can’t wait to see how much longer the veterans can fend off the feisty new guys.

Is this the one for NRG?

For me, NRG won this World Championship the day they signed Turbopolsa. They’re definitely human (see an odd 3-1 loss to Rogue in Week 5), but in terms of skill, I think they’re unmatched.

Renault Vitality and Reciprocity are also unreal, but I think the blend of mechanics, experience and desire between Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon, Justin “JSTN” Morales and Turbo is nearly unstoppable.

GarrettG is still the best player without a World Championship. JSTN hasn’t turned his MVP play into winning at the most difficult stage and still has something to prove. Turbo doesn’t want to be one-upped by Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant and is out to show that he wasn’t just a cog in the Dignitas Dynasty machine.

I think they’re the clear favorite, and the oddsmakers at betbrain.com agree, and have them as a 3.7 favorite to win it all.

RLCS WEEK 4Every season there are few teams at LAN who are just happy to be there. They might make a run to the top four, but it doesn’t ever truly feel like they’re going to win it all. Rogue in Season 7, Chiefs in Season 6, etc. I see a lot of teams who fit that description heading into this weekend.

The only teams I truly feel like have the guts to do it are NRG, Reciprocity and Vitality. I think Pittsburgh is the team with the best chance of being crowned the champ outside of those three, but I would be shocked if they won it all.

I’d be even more floored if one of the SAM/OCE challengers, eUnited, Veloce, Dignitas or Spacestation even made the Grand Final. Anything can happen, but I just don’t see it.

There’s something different about the World Championship. The pressure and intensity is different. Players can barely communicate because of the crowd noise. It’s intimidating to think about.

That’s why I think NRG will win it. They’ve been through the wringer. They know what the crowds will be like, and the closest they came to winning it was in London, and the only person that stopped them then is on their team now. How can you not believe in them?

Can Kaydop Keep His Grand Final Streak Alive?

Kaydop has won three of the last four World Championships. He’s made the Grand Final of five of the seven World Championships in the game’s history, in consecutive seasons since Season 3. While the world has been flipped on its head, he’s continued to win at the highest level no matter the circumstance.

He has to falter eventually though, right?

Rocket League World Championship
Courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for DreamHack

The Regional Championship saw Kaydop fall short for the first time since Season 2, and if there’s any evidence of him slowing down, I think that might be the slightest inkling he’s shown. I think he’s still one of the best in the world, but no one can do it forever.

I still think his squad will make the Grand Final unless the bracket shakes out poorly and they have to play NRG before then. Reciprocity has had Vitality’s number of late, but I just can’t bet against Kaydop until he finally struggles.

That doesn’t mean he won’t eventually drop off a bit, I think it’s just a matter of when. If the new guard starts to pass the old group, then Kaydop might finally land on the outside of the Grand Final looking in. I never thought I’d say that.

The Rocket League Championship Series World Championship begins Friday, Dec. 13 at 1 p.m. EST on twitch.tv/rocketleague.

 

Featured image courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for Beyond the Summit.

Follow me on Twitter: @connorssanders.

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