It’s going to be strange watching Ghost Gaming play Rocket League without Treyven “Lethamyr” Robitaille.
All good things must come to an end, and Ghost didn’t really have that great of a thing going with Lethamyr. Their three season long pursuit to break out of the middle of the table now rests on Massimo “Atomic” Franceschi.
The counterargument is that Lethamyr was the only thing keeping Ghost out of relegation. His solo plays and defensive prowess will be missed.
This is Best Case/Worst Case, a Game Haus preview series profiling each Rocket League Championship Series team. With the season just weeks away, now is the perfect time to project each team’s ceiling and floor looking ahead to Season 8.
Either way it’s cut, the move was a positive one. Lethamyr seemed tired of the grind and glare of stardom and moved on to coaching Mousesports. Ghost were sorely in need of a change in identity, and hopefully Atomic can provide that.
Season 7 Results: 5th place in NA (3-4, 12-15). Lost to Rogue in Regional Championship.
Off-season Movement: Lethamyr (0.48 GPG, 0.56 SPG, 1.52 SAPG) essentially retired, and Atomic replaced him.
Off-season Performance: Lost on Day 2 to The Peeps at DreamHack: Montreal, 4th DreamHack: Montreal Closed Qualifier, 13th-16th DreamHack: Valencia, 3rd DreamHack: Valencia Closed Qualifier
Team Stats: 1.70 GPG (7th), 1.30 APG (7th), 4.96 SAPG (3rd), 1.70 GAPG (3rd)
Team MVP: Michael “Memory” Moss
Realistic Team Goal: Make LAN
Background and Team History
Memory, Lethamyr and Braxton “Allushin” Lagarec got off to a slow start in Season 7. The start was so slow in fact that many wondered if Allushin was good enough to play in the RLCS.
He responded and went on a tear in his last three weeks. After scoring one goal through his first 13 games, Allushin scored nine goals in his last 11 games and finished the season strong. After week three the consensus from fans was to kick him, but he outlasted Lethamyr.
Considering how little this team scored in general (Ghost scored 18 goals in that 11 game span where Allushin had nine), Allushin’s production is encouraging and will be worth keeping note of in Season 8.
Leth scored six goals during that span, and the team played better as Leth gave way to his teammates more. The first half of their schedule was brutal (NRG, Splyce, Cloud9, G2), but they still started out 0-4. There were signs of improvement and flashes of upside but the team couldn’t make LAN.
That was, in large part, because they struggled to score. Their season-long goal differential was zero. They allowed as many goals as they scored, but they had the region’s second best defense. A few more goals and Ghost would have finished fourth in League Play.
The biggest thing that Lethamyr takes with him is his individual ability. He created countless chances off of dribbles, flicks and fakes. He would regularly touch the ball three or four times before scoring.
When the going gets rough, they won’t be able to hand the reins over to Lethamyr. Atomic doesn’t have to play like Leth though. They can completely revolutionize their style and change their team identity. If they want to. Maybe they shouldn’t.
The iron curtain defensive strategy may continue to work against lower level opponents, but the Big Three always picks them apart. G2, NRG and Cloud9 scored a combined 27 goals against Ghost in just 10 games. No team can win allowing 2.7 GPG.
Atomic gives this team versatility, the quality the team most lacked last season. Defending the net at all costs is a mostly solid strategy, but against teams who feast on space like lions they get stomped. With Atomic they can play fast, pin their opponents in and go for transition plays.
That isn’t to say Lethamyr is a bad player or that he was incapable of playing different styles. It’s just to say that the team derived its identity from its captain’s preferred style.
Lethamyr approached 3v3 like the 1v1 god that he is. In solo duel, over-committing is suicide and the most risk averse play is usually the right one. So Ghost followed his lead. They stated conservative on offense, tried to capitalize on space when it was available and played a lot of defense.
It’s actually a viable strategy when a defensive anchor like Memory is in the back. If they take early leads or face over-aggressive opponents then they should absorb pressure and try to counterattack. The point is with Atomic, they don’t have to do that against everyone.
That could bode really well. Atomic’s path to the RLCS was bumpy. He played under another person’s profile before turning 15 in RLRS qualifying and was suspended for one year by Psyonix. He was RLRS ready before he was eligible. Ghost’s hope is that he’s even better a year later.
Memory is the key to this team, though. He’s very gifted despite not pulling a lot of the spotlight his way. There aren’t Memory montages on YouTube, but he’s not afraid to dunk on unsuspecting backboard clears or slam home a double tap.
Last season Memory led the team in GPG, and if they so choose he could do it again. Allushin is a comfortable defender (spent most time in slow speed and most time as last defender last season), and Atomic is mechanically skilled enough to create chances.
The team has options though. Memory can stay back while Atomic plays attacker with Allushin as the usual second option. Perhaps Memory in an attacking pairing with Atomic. They can try a lot of new things.
All they have to do is maintain a similar defensive prowess and score the ball more. They don’t have to lead the league in goals. If they finish fifth in GPG with the league’s best defense then they can claim the fourth NA LAN spot. Now they just need to figure out how.
There’s an argument to be made that Lethamyr threw off Ghost’s rhythm and fell into ball chasing too often, but somebody had to do it. He didn’t intentionally slow the game down so he could show off his skills. He did it because that’s what his team needed to do to score.
Leth probably wanted to zip the ball around and flip reset on everybody, but his team may have not been capable of that style. Perhaps Lethamyr’s style was out of necessity and not preference.
Ghost’s worst case scenario can split into two different timelines.
Number one: Ghost try to change up their style and overextend themselves. They didn’t look timid against FC Barcelona, Cloud9 and The Peeps in Montreal, but nearly every time they gave up two goals or more they lost.
Against Cloud9, Ghost scored 10 goals in five games. Two goals a game is pretty solid. C9 scored 12, but scored at least two in each game. Ghost couldn’t match their consistency and only scored more than one goal in the games they won.
It’s easy to say that a team can change their style and try something new, but it can be incredibly difficult in practice. New styles require different skills, and every player has weaknesses. Can Allushin and Memory live on offense?
The danger is that Ghost may get clobbered trying to beat their opponents at their own game. Playing faster seems nice but may be detrimental to their success.
Scenario two is that Atomic tries to be Lethamyr 2.0 and Ghost play defense for three hours in Season 8. Atomic has to embrace his own playstyle and use it to influence how his team plays.
If Ghost wanted to only play defense then they would have kept Lethamyr. They clearly want to score more often and feel that Atomic’s offensive upside outweighs Leth’s defensive prowess. Forcing him to play in a defense-only style would be a waste of his skills.
They key for Ghost is balance. There could be a series where they start Game 1 ultra-defensively, but then in Game 2 they swarm the ball like maniacs. It’s not worth trying to hammer a specific style into a shape it’ll never fit.
TL;DR: Atomic should not try and be Lethamyr. His versatility and the opportunities it creates for the rest of the team will prove to be the key of the season for Ghost Gaming. Spacestation and Rogue will be difficult obstacles though.
Featured image courtesy of Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren for DreamHack.
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