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What to watch for in the final week of RLCS S5 league play

April 13, 2018 - 16:53
Rocketeers / RLCS /

Not to belabor the point any further, but the RLCS regular season is very short—and soon after it begins, it feels like it’s just about ready to wrap. That’s true again this season, and believe it or not, we’re on the verge of the final weekend of league play.

As you might expect, there’s a lot at stake in week five: the top two finishers in both North America and Europe get an automatic pass to the World Championship, while the next four teams still have to fight for their LAN spots at next weekend’s online regional championships. Meanwhile, the bottom two teams in each region wind up in the relegation tournament, and are forced to face the two best Rival Series squads to battle for their RLCS spots. And Oceania has an entirely different postseason structure altogether.

Coming into this weekend, there’s still much to be finalized—which means we’re due for some thrilling matchups across the board. Before things get underway tomorrow, here’s a look at what to watch out for as season five league play comes to a close.

North America

In NA, there’s a pretty stark difference between the records of the top teams and the bottom ones—and as a result, the top four teams have already been assured to finish 4th or better. Even so, any of these squads could potentially finish in the top two and secure an automatic ticket to LAN, especially since the top three teams (NRG, Cloud9, and G2) each have two more matches to play on Saturday.

Having three #1-caliber teams in NA this season has been a real treat, and NRG has been the best of the bunch at 5-0 so far. Cloud9 and G2 each have 4-1 records, with Cloud9 taking the edge on games percentage—but G2 beat them last week in arguably the best match we’ve seen all season thus far. On the other hand, NRG smoked G2 with a 3-0 sweep the weekend prior.

We’ll get the last of the matches between those teams tomorrow, with NRG facing Cloud9 to close out league play. Depending on how the day’s earlier matches go, it could be a deciding factor in who secures a LAN spot this weekend and who doesn’t—or perhaps who finishes first and who takes second in league play. And if NRG beats #4 Evil Geniuses earlier on, then that final match could also determine if NRG ends up being the first RLCS team to finish league play undefeated.

“NRG vs. Cloud9 is easily the biggest NA match this weekend”

NRG vs. Cloud9 is easily the biggest NA match this weekend in terms of hype, but all of the other matchups will play a part in how the standings shake out—and who makes playoffs and who falls into the relegation tournament. Currently, Out of Style (0-5) and Counter Logic Gaming (1-4) are in those bottom two slots, but Ghost Gaming (2-5) are also in danger—and they’re not playing any more matches, so all they can do is watch tomorrow and hope that higher-ranked teams punish the weaker ones. At 2-4, #5 Rogue are also in potential danger of dropping in the standings, although they are facing the winless Out of Style.

RLCS analyst Randy “Gibbs” Gibbons did an extensive NA playoff scenarios stream this week (see above), and it breaks down all the potential routes that each team can take to secure a favorable outcome this weekend—or not.

Europe

After last week’s league play upsets, in which FlipSid3 Tactics beat both undefeated teams—Gale Force Esports and Renault Sport Team Vitality—Europe’s most dominant squads look a bit less invincible than we thought. Going into week five, the standings are less defined than NA in some ways, but not others.

We now have three teams sitting at 4-1, with compLexity Gaming leading Gale Force and Vitality in games percentage, while FlipSid3 Tactics sits in 4th with a finalized 4-3 record. Team EnVy and a struggling Paris Saint-Germain are up next in the standings at 2-3 each, while the 1-4 Fnatic sits in seventh. And in 8th is exceL, who finished a paltry 1-6 and have secured a spot in the relegation tournament. The Markydooda move didn’t pan out after all.

There are two huge matches amongst the top three teams this weekend, and both of them involve Gale Force: they’ll battle against compLexity first, in a rematch of the last RLCS World Championship, and then take on Vitality to cap off league play. Depending on how things shake out earlier, that final match could determine who makes top two. And compLexity has the most favorable outcomes in this weekend’s matchups: according to Gibbs’ EU playoff scenarios stream, they could go 0-2 against PSG and Gale Force and still potentially finish in the top two.

“It’ll be up to Fnatic, PSG, and EnVy to fight their way out of the bottom two”

With exceL already claiming one of the bottom two spots, it’ll be up to Fnatic, PSG, and EnVy to fight their way out of the other spot. Fnatic faces both of the other teams this weekend, providing an ideal opportunity to rocket up a couple of spots in the standings, but they’ve struggled all season with a rough 26.3% games percentage to date. EnVy has looked pretty good, meanwhile, despite their 2-3 record, although they’ll have a tough matchup against Vitality. And PSG has to deal with the current #1 in compLexity; when they faced off in the last regular season, they were both undefeated. Not this time, however.

As with NA, Gibbs’ EU playoffs scenarios video (above) is an invaluable resource if you’re looking to dig much deeper into all the potential ways that teams can hang on ’til playoffs—or possibly finish in the top two and punch their ticket for the World Championship.

Oceania

If you haven’t been following Oceania during Throwdown Esports’ RLCS-affiliated league play, now’s the time to do so. Chiefs Esports Club, Oceania’s leading team and two-time RLCS World Championship contender (first under Alpha Sydney), have again been dominant this season, currently sitting at 6-0. They have a 99% chance of finishing first, according to Nathan Allen’s playoff scenarios stat tracker. However, there’s still an incredibly slim possibility that current #2 team Legacy Esports could surpass them.

Oceania has a different kind of format than NA and EU when it comes to the postseason, particularly since only two teams get a ticket to the World Championship in the end. The top two teams in league play get a pass to the Throwdown live finals on May 6, but there’s a round of online playoffs next weekend: the 3rd-6th place teams from league play will battle for those last spots at the Oceania LAN finals. Ultimately, the four best OCE teams will face off on May 6 for those two World Championship places.

Legacy has a strong shot of keeping that #2 spot in the league play standings, but they’ll face off against the next two teams in the current standings: #3 Dark Sided, the ex-JAM Gaming roster that made the season three RLCS World Championship, and #4 Tainted Minds, the ex-Pale Horse roster from the last World Championship. And those teams also each play two matches this weekend, which means we still could see a shake-up in that runner-up spot.

“Chiefs have a chance to go 7-0 for the season”

Chiefs vs. Dark Sided should be one of the most exciting matches this weekend, not only because of how it’ll sway Dark Sided’s chances for top two, but also because Chiefs have a chance to go 7-0 for the season. That said, the final OCE league play matchup between Retirement Home and JAM Gaming could have the biggest impact on the playoff picture, as those currently 5th and 6th-place teams could very well be fighting for a last playoff spot.

Last-place Legs Are Silly have already secured a bottom-two finish and won’t make the playoffs, while Love Decks, JAM Gaming, and Retirement Home all still could fall into the bottom two depending on this weekend’s matchups. We know a lot of NA and EU fans don’t pay attention to OCE until the World Championship—but given the region’s collective skill growth and what’s at stake, Oceania is well worth following this weekend once the NA broadcast concludes.

Andrew Hayward will never be an amazing Rocket League player... so instead, he writes about it. He's been covering the pro scene since RLCS S1 for the likes of Red Bull Esports and Waypoint, and has interviewed dozens of the game's top players and personalities.