By Joseph Lacy
Photo via NRG on twitter @NRGgg
The weekend has come and gone and that means several RLCS regionals have just concluded. Renegades in the Oceania region claimed a win over Ground Zero Gaming, giving Renegades back to back regional victories. The same situation occurred in the Middle East and North African region with Sandrock Gaming prevailing for a second regional in a row. In the Asia-Pacific South region the Alke Esports organization claimed another regional victory as well. So why highlight The General NRG for their victory the most?
NA Playoff Bracket
This week there was one new team introduced into the playoff round of the second regional. Meaning that a team from the previous event did not make it past the Swiss stage. That team that got left behind was FaZe Clan, the team that won the previous tournament! It is yet to be seen if North America has great depth or if FaZe was having an off day during the Swiss stage on Friday the 29th. All we know is that Ghost Gaming was given a shot at the playoff bracket instead of FaZe this week.
The matchups for the single elimination playoff bracket were G2 Esports versus Ghost Gaming, True Neutral versus XSET, Team Envy versus Version1, and The General NRG versus Spacestation Gaming. The bottom half of the bracket here is definitely the tougher side as it features arguably the top 3 teams from NA from the previous season. The three teams - NRG, Spacestation, and Envy - all won a regional event at some point during RLCS X. G2 Esports was given some seemingly favorable matchups on their side of the bracket. Granted, G2 did go a perfect 9-0 in their 3 series during the Swiss stage earning them the number 1 seed for the playoff bracket. All of the Quarter-Finals went to a 6 game series and the teams that came out on top with a 4-2 series win were; G2, True Neutral, Team Envy, and NRG. All of these results I would say followed the path of what most predicted.
Top 4 Battles
The stage had been set for championship Sunday. The top 4 teams would fight for their chance at NA Regional Two Champions. The first match of the day belonged to Team Envy and The General NRG. A long standing rivalry between NRG and their former player Turbopolsa. Second on the docket was G2 Esports versus True Neutral. G2 has experienced many highs since adding Dreaz to the duo of Chicago and JKnaps but never fully claimed a regional title. Meanwhile, True Neutral are cementing themselves as a real threat to the top teams and seem to be slowly carving out a path to a potential major qualification spot.
Envy and NRG always put on a good show and today would be no different. I highly suggest watching some of these series back even if you happened to miss the broadcast. The emotion that is exuded during this best of 7 is intense. Envy got out to a quick 2 game lead, taking down NRG in game one overtime 2-1 and then 1-0 in game 2. There were not many mistakes being made on the defensive end for either team. Each of these teams always plays unbelievably calculated and each goal would be one to cherish. NRG would manage to take game 3 from Envy and the momentum seemed to shift a bit. Then game 4 happened. A game of Rocket League is typically 5 minutes of play. Overtime in Rocket League is a golden goal so it only takes one goal to win. In game 4 of this series the overtime would span over 8 minutes and 40 seconds. Team Envy would take back the reins on this series and be on match point. On the brink of elimination NRG would not back down. Game 5 ends in a tie and Justin steals the Golden Goal in 7 seconds and starts the comeback for NRG. NRG would explode with 4 goals in game 6 and tie the series back up. Team Envy has been deflated at this point. NRG were exploding with passion and energy. This comradery would propel NRG to a game 7 win and punch their ticket to the Grand Final.
A true test for G2 would commence in the second Semi-Final on the day. They know who their opponent is should they triumph over True Neutral. The True Neutral trio would come out fast and claim game one of the series. This set a blaze under G2. The stifling and defense and clever infield passes that G2 would surmount would be too powerful for the True Neutral roster. G2 would win the next 4 games in brilliant fashion and finish off the South American trio 4-1. With their opponent neutralized, G2 had made a grand final in their second regional. During RLCS X the G2 roster did not make a grand final until the Spring Major.
G2 vs NRG
The original Kings of the North. This battle between NRG and G2 goes all the way back to season 2 of the RLCS. Both organizations have stood the test of time in the realm of Rocket League Esports. Many hard fought series have run its course since 2016, this one would be no different.
NRG would be the favorite to win the series. NRG has been more successful and consistent recently. They also beat G2 in a 7 game series during the first regional, showing that they have what it takes to take down their opposition. The first best of 7 would start off on the wrong foot for NRG. G2 would out score NRG 8 goals to 2 and take a commanding 2 game lead. Game 3 would be somewhat of a stalemate ending in a NRG victory 1-0. After regaining some momentum and some offensive stability, G2 was able to out gun NRG 3-2 in game 4 and put themselves on set point. The trio of GarrettG, Justin, and Squishy would hunker down for games 5 and 6 and somehow take the series to Champions Field for a very pivotal game 7. This was eerily similar to the Semi-Finals that NRG had just won. G2 would not take no for an answer however and they would dominate the pitch and secure the first best of 7 series. 1 down and 1 more to go for G2. They had tasted a series victory over NRG and had their eyes on the prize… NRG did not take kindly to this series loss however.
The second best of 7 was short and sweet. No beating around the bush on this one. NRG absolutely and positively shut down G2. The ball possession was heavily in favor of NRG and they kept forcing G2 to make mistakes that they weren’t making previously. GarrettG, the team captain for NRG, was as passionate as ever during this 4 game sweep of G2. That’s right, you read that right. A 4 game sweep after losing a 7 game series, talk about a bounce back. With the set being tied 1-1 the two teams had to run it back one more time to decide the winner for regional 2.
All the beans were in NRG’s basket. The casters and analysts all believed that NRG would take the crown. There was no hope for G2 from any standpoint and they were one hundred percent correct. Whatever momentum swing that NRG had gathered continued to roll down the tracks like a locomotive. A dominating first 3 games from NRG had all but sealed G2’s fate. One more win and they would be the regional champions. With a fleeting attempt G2 managed to take game 4 but one game is not enough to win a series. G2 had run out of energy and dropped back to back best of 7 series to NRG. NRG had made it to the finals in back to back regionals and took the crown this time around.
International LAN Major Implications
For the fall split the international major is taking place in Stockholm, Sweden on December 8th. There are 16 spots up for grabs. The breakdown is as follows: 5 teams from North America, 5 from Europe, 2 from Oceania, 2 from South America, 1 from Asia, and 1 from the Middle East. The reason this tournament win was so special for NRG, besides winning of course, was that they had earned enough qualifying points from the first two regionals and a guaranteed 40 points if they placed 15th-16th in regional 3 to lock in a spot for the international major! The General NRG had become the first team to qualify for international competition since the season 8 world championships.