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Rocket Launching: What to Watch for at DreamHack Valencia

DreamHack: Valencia

Welcome to Rocket Launching, a midweek RLCS column that discusses the wonderful world of Rocket League esports. DreamHack: Valencia is giving off major DreamHack Leipzig vibes, only with a lot more River Rats involved.

Once again there is a massive collection of Rocket League talent assembling for a major LAN, and the World Championship was just two weeks ago. Rocket League moves fast. So will this DreamHack. Here are five story-lines to watch for at DreamHack: Valencia.

Are Randy Gibbons’ River Rats More than Just a Meme?

I just wrote about Drippay’s move to NA yesterday, but somehow this team will be even more fun without him. Matthew “Drippay” Den-Kaat has moved on from the Evil Geniuses squad that made top four in Dallas, and in his stead stands Rocket League god Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver.

Six months ago many were positioning Turbo as the best Rocket League player of all time. Rightfully so. Turbo is a three time world champion, a charismatic meme lord and a legend in the scene. Now he’s LFT after Dignitas dropped his octane the day before the World Championship.

DreamHack: Valencia
Randy Gibbons’ River Rats official logo by @swatercolour on Twitter

So we’ve got Turbopolsa, Klassux and Gabriel “CorruptedG” Vallozzi on a team called Randy Gibbons’ River Rats. Do I need to keep going?

Watercolour’s logo for the team is absolutely glorious. They had something special going in Dallas (in large part due to Drippay), and they could make some noise once again. Turbo and Drippay share similar enough playstyles, and given Randy’s group, the guys might have an outside shot at making day three again.

The issue is that the talent pool in Valencia is much deeper than Dallas’. We’ve got 15 RLCS teams, OCE’s best three teams and a few Rival Series teams to boot.

None of that matters. Randy Gibbons’ River Rats is the most fun team to cheer for this weekend.

P.S. I really really really really hope these guys show up on the A stream so Randy “Gibbs” Gibbons has to predict that the Randy Gibbons’ River Rats will win the series. 

Is AztraL the Right Fit for Dignitas?

Turbopolsa is no longer a member of Dignitas. Let that sink in. Dignitas KICKED Turbopolsa. What a world. Rocket League moves fast, huh?

Maello “Aztral” Ernst is playing with Dignitas for a very Speed-joins-Flipsid3-for-WSOE kind of tryout in Valencia. This Belgian waffle is relatively unknown in the world of competitive carball, but from what I’ve seen on streams, he looks pretty good.

He’s enormously skilled mechanically and has a good base for a career with a solid team. Dignitas is a solid team that needs some fresh blood. Aztral could have the same impact that Hrant “Flakes” Yakoub had with Complexity or Maurice “Yukeo” Weihs had with Flipsid3 back in the day.

This potential signing would be strikingly similar to Yukeo signing with F3. Yukeo was an under the radar player who hadn’t even played in the Rival Series that Francesco “Kuxir97” Cinquemani and David “miztik” Lawrie stumbled onto. Yukeo was regarded as a highly skilled mechanical player, but had a lot to learn when it came to game sense and rotation. Sound familiar?

It’s certainly poetic that Aztral is following in Yukeo’s shoes with Yukeo as his teammate. Dignitas believed in him so much that they bought him out of his Flipsid3 contract to replace Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant. That definitely wasn’t cheap.

That move didn’t exactly work out in Season 7, but maybe Turbo was the weak link. Aztral can either come out this weekend and secure his spot, or it could be that he plays so poorly that they decide he’s not the right fit. A mediocre performance keeps Dignitas in limbo.

Hopefully he comes out and rocks it. Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs is a world class LAN player, so Dignitas are a threat to win every LAN they play in. Aztral needs to just support the team and play his game. A deep run here means a salaried position at a top flight Rocket League org. No pressure, though.

Can Oceania Prove Themselves on the International Stage?

For the first time ever there will be three teams from the Oceania region at a major LAN. GroundZero Gaming, Renegades (formerly Chiefs) and Chiefs (formerly ICON Esports and Tainted Minds, it gets complicated in OCE) all have something to prove in Valencia this weekend.

The World Championship didn’t pan out well for Oceania. GroundZero went 2-6 in Newark, and Renegades were an abysmal 1-6. Renegades were the trendy pick coming out of Group C, then Rogue destroyed them with a ferocity I’ve never seen before.

DreamHack: Valencia
GroundZero – courtesy of Rocket League Championship Series

Flatly, OCE looked completely overmatched at the World Championship, and part of the reason why is that they don’t get enough practice against international opponents. DreamHack: Valencia is the perfect chance for OCE to try and get up to speed and prove that they can survive without Matt “Drippay” Den-Kaat.

It’s funny that Drippay’s teammates will be there and three teams from his former region will be there but he won’t. Rocket League moves fast, man. 

Anyway, the seeding didn’t break down too favorably for GroundZero and Renegades. The two OCE World Championship participants are in groups with four other legitimate RLCS teams, and only four teams can make Day 2 from each group.

OCE was absent  from Day 3 at DreamHack: Dallas and DreamHack: Leipzig. They’ve got three chances to break the curse and make Sunday’s playoff. If they don’t, the questions surrounding the region will continue to swirl. It’s time to shut up the haters and get a result.

Will There Be a Team Echo Zulu Part Two(-lu)?

DreamHack: Dallas was light on Cinderella stories, and I hope we won’t see a repeat in Valencia. Team Echo Zulu will forever be a part of Rocket League lore because they made top eight at DreamHack Leipzig.

We didn’t even have one non-RLRS team make Day 2 in Dallas. The bubble teams in Dallas were pretty weak, but Valencia’s group is a bit stronger. Here are three candidates for a deep DreamHack run from the bubble pool.

Candidate #1: Fill. This team of former RLCS/RLRS players is wily and capable. Kasper “Pwndx” Nielsen, Gian “Calix” Luca Bruder and Marten “Oscillon” van Zee are all experienced players that won’t be intimidated by the likes of Dignitas, Rogue or whoever else they run into.

Candidate #2: MOUT GANG. They have Alexandre “Mout” Moutarde on their team. Need I say more?

Sidenote: I’m glad that Mout is playing at this tournament, but the fact he actually named his team MOUT GANG is absolutely hilarious. It rivals Randy Gibbons’ River Rats in quality. Alex “Extra” Paoli was solid for Baguette Squad in the RLRS and Amine “Itachi'” Benayachi may be the best player from a non-RLCS region. They could surprise some teams.

Candidate #3: RCD Espanyol. I love the big time soccer clubs’ involvement with Rocket League. We’ve got FC Barcelona, PSG, AS Monaco and now RCD Espanyol, a team I’m sure you’ve gotten an offer from during your FIFA 19 pro career.

Espanyol aren’t a big time fútbol club, and they’re not a big time Rocket League squad either. They are playing on home turf in front of a Spanish crowd, though, and they just finished well at the Dreamcup Finals. Their group is also probably the weakest in Valencia. NRG are definitely through, but they’re the only sure thing in Group D.

Dignitas could have a meltdown with Aztral. Randy Gibbons’ River Rats are a cute story, but could really struggle without Drippay. Chiefs (formerly ICON) have never made a big impact at an international tournament. Rogue haven’t really shown out at DreamHacks past. That leaves the door open for Espanyol or Fill to take a chance at a deep run.

Can Fireburner End His Career with a LAN Victory?

Let’s throw objectivity out the window and cheer for Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez in Valencia this weekend. Fireburner has been present at every World Championship LAN. It’s a tired statistic, but it goes to show the presence he’s had in the scene.

He announced his retirement last week, and DreamHack: Valencia will be his last tournament. He’s come so close so many times, but his lone major win came at the X Games in 2017. Can he put a bow on his career with a major LAN win?

DreamHack: Valencia
Fireburner – courtesy of Rocket League Championship Series

I’d sure hope so. Fireburner is a pillar of the scene in the same way Kuxir97 and Cameron “Kronovi” Bills are. He deserves a storybook ending, but NRG have struggled in recent LAN appearances. Can they finally break the two year course?

Definitely. NRG is an incredible team. They’ve dominated NA since Season 5, and now they have something extra to play for. Win it for Fireburner. Renault Vitality and Cloud9 will have something to say about that, but if there was ever a time to find an extra gear, this would be it.

Even if they don’t win it all, it’s worth cherishing Fireburner’s last competitive games and to reflect on his career. The 50/50 God won’t be destroying opponents on loose balls for much longer. Enjoy it.


Featured image courtesy of DreamHack.

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