Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez has been a pillar of Rocket League esports’ since its genesis. When Psyonix created the Rocket League garden, they asked Fireburner to look after it.
Thursday morning he announced his retirement, and it sent the RL world tumbling into a spiraling mix of sadness and gratitude.
Fireburner and his teammate Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon are the only players to make every Rocket League Championship Series World Championship thus far. When they teamed up in Season 3, they established one of the most dominant duos in the game. They won Regional Championships, reached the World Grand Finals and formed bond that extended far beyond a controller and a monitor.
The 50/50 God has been present in nearly every potent Rocket League memory. He made the challenge that set up Justin “JSTN.” Morales’ wonder-goal. He’s been one of the most professional and accountable players in the game.
His parents weren’t initially supportive of Fireburner’s career, but he trucked on. His skills perfectly complimented his team’s needs; he was great in goal and was a clinical striker in front of net. He traveled the world and made countless friends all because of a car soccer game.
Now it’s all but over.
In Fireburner’s TwitLonger he announced he’ll play at DreamHack Valencia in what will be his swan song. That leaves time for one last Dwayne Wade-esque farewell tour, and enough time for GarrettG and JSTN to hone in on his replacement.
So who should they consider? Here are five options, ranked from most likely to least likely.
Option #1: Wonder
Nicolas “Wonder” Blackerby was the breakout performer of the World Championship. The former Rival Series star had double touches to boot and really seized the opportunity to stand out on the big stage.
That’s exactly the kind of player NRG needs. The team’s struggles at LANs has been well documented, and, while Fireburner never shied away from the moment, he didn’t exactly pounce on it either. Wonder has proved that he’s not afraid of the World Championship stage.
The most intriguing part about Wonder is that he recently graduated college and is focusing on Rocket League full time for the first time ever. That extra time paid dividends even in the few weeks he had before the World Championship.
Fireburner brought maturity to this team, and Wonder is a bit older than his fellow rising stars. He makes good decisions in defense, is an excellent passer and plays with confidence in his spectacular mechanics.
The downside is that Wonder’s only real standout performance came at the World Championship. He struggled at times during League Play and tended to wander out of rotation at times. Is one performance enough to base the future of your team on?
The last time a member of NA’s Big Three made a roster move G2 brought in the best player on a non-Big Three team in Reed “Chicago” Wilen. Chicago had a standout performance at the World Championship for Evil Geniuses. Will NRG select the best player on a non-Big Three team like G2 did? Is Wonder even the best non-Big Three option available?
Option #2: AyyJayy
The last time NRG needed to bring in fresh blood they brought in NA’s best young player in JSTN. This is important to note, because NRG have the luxury of selecting someone who has yet to hit their peak, but has shown the flashes of class to get their foot in the door.
That sounds exactly like Alex “AyyJayy” Aebi. One can argue a lot of the same points in Wonder’s section about AyyJayy. He’s a proven commodity with room to improve even more. He had a breakout performance at the World Championship and he’s extremely capable when it comes to mechanics.
The only difference is that he’s incredibly young. He’s 16 years-old, but that’s the exact same age that JSTN was when he signed. The decision here really comes down to what kind of fit NRG are after. Do they want a solid player like Fireburner, or one that’s a little more flashy but erratic like JSTN?
If more speed and mechanics is what they’re after, AyyJayy is their man. He’s shown he’ll pull a delayed flip reset on one of the best teams in the world and not even bat an eye. AyyJayy is aggressive, mechanically sound and hasn’t even hit his ceiling yet. He’s a good option.
Something to consider is how big the domino effect will reach in this situation. Spacestation can’t make another move this offseason because of the two thirds rule, G2 are probably going to run it back, but beyond that, every single RLCS team could be looking for a replacement for whoever NRG poaches.
If the offer is there for a player, they should take it. As nice as loyalty and integrity seem, when a chance to jump on a world class org like NRG, no player should ever turn down that kind of opportunity.
Option #3: Roll Dizz or Mist
This is a toss up because both players seem to have so much potential. Birds and the Beez dominated the Rival Series, and Raul “Roll Dizz” Diaz and Nick “Mist” Costello were the reasons why. BnB were faster and more precise than every other team. Sure, there were plenty of five game series, but BnB still ran the table.
Roll Dizz led the team in assists, but Mist scored more goals and made more saves. While these players did shine in the Rival Series, they’re still relatively unknown quantities that have yet to prove themselves on the big stage.
That didn’t matter with JSTN though. That was clear and obvious though. JSTN was undoubtedly the player to pick up, but things don’t seem so clear cut this time around. GarrettG and JSTN are elite attackers, but JSTN also led the RLCS in saves. Do they go after the more offensive minded Mist or a more conservative player like Roll Dizz?
Either way, signing one of these players would be a perfect reflection of signing JSTN before Season 5. Like JSTN both players are rising into the RLCS after impressive RLRS campaigns and have their sights set on reaching the highest level of play.
The only issue here is that of professionalism. Roll Dizz and Mist haven’t ever been with an org and considering how Mist and Hockser handled the release of Nathan “Shock” Frommelt, there might be some character issues holding NRG back. GarrettG and JSTN won’t pick anyone they don’t trust as a person and like as a friend. No one knows if Roll Dizz or Mist could fit that bill.
Option #4: Torment
This seems like a long shot, but Kyle “Torment” Storer is the closest thing in style of play to Fireburner out there. Torment and NRG also have history. When JSTN couldn’t make DreamHack Leipzig in 2018 they picked up Torment to play with them.
Torment also knows how to win on the Worlds stage. In Season 6 Torment earned MVP honors for his performance at the World Championship in Las Vegas. He’s a proven champion, a consummate pro and he’s already friends with GarrettG and JSTN.
The obvious issue here is that Torment would have to leave Cloud9, the longest standing roster in the RLCS right now. He’s the captain of one of Rocket League’s three best teams. Why would he leave such a good situation?
NRG would be the only NA team worth leaving to. Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant left a perfectly successful Dignitas team and it got him another World Championship title. Maybe Torment could have the same impact.
Torment would be a fantastic fit and an easy transition to life after Fireburner. NRG should call him first and try and blow him away with an offer. If he doesn’t take it, fine, but he’s the best possible replacement out there.
Option #5: Drippay
Evil Geniuses have been vocal in their desire to keep Matthew “Drippay” Den-Kaat, but it seems that the available suitors might be running dry. Spacestation already found their third, all signs point to The Peeps ending up with Splyce, and unless Ghost Gaming are willing to sell, EG might just have to move on from Rocket League.
If they do, NRG would be a pretty nice landing spot for Drippay. The former OCE king put together a solid season on a failing EG squad. Drippay’s numbers are more comparable to Mariano “Squishy” Arruda’s numbers than his former teammates’.
Drippay is not Squishy. He’s not Fireburner either. He is a very solid player with loads of ambition. Would a player uproot his entire life and move across the world to pursue his dream if he wasn’t serious about it?
That’s exactly what Drippay did, and he’s yet to cash in on that ambition. He’s proven himself on the World Championship level with Chiefs Esports Club, and may only need a chance to show off his skills.
Drippay is an interesting mix of experience and ambition. He’s won Regional Championships and made deep runs at LANs, but it still feels like he has room to improve mechanically and in his decision making. Plus, he knows what it’s like for a roster move to go sour, and he would likely give everything to make his chance with NRG work.
Honorable mentions as potential replacements: Jamie “Karma” Bickford, Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver, If SSG hadn’t kicked Matthew “Satthew” Ackermann, Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin would’ve made loads of sense, Treyven “Lethamyr” Robitaille and really anyone else. The door is wide open.
Featured image courtesy of Rocket League Championship Series.
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