Every season of the RLCS so far, there’s been a rookie who has gone above and beyond expectations and blossomed into a star.
Season 5 saw the meteoric rise of NRG’s Justin “JSTN” Morales. Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois won the European MVP on Barca his rookie season. Season 8 is notorious for boasting incredible rookies in both regions; Dignitas’s (now Oxygen esports’) Maello “AztraL” Ernst, and the entire Pittsburgh Knights roster of Jirar “ExplosiveGyro” Papazian, Slater “Retals” Thomas, and Nick “Mist” Costello. You could always count on at least a few newbies to shine every season.
Season X has been no exception. In fact, there’s a case to say that it may be the new rule. While North America may have their share of impressive rookies, Europe is being utterly dominated by new players. Never have so many rookies been at the top of a region, and it’s not too hard to see why.
Let’s talk about Team BDS
BDS are good, aren’t they?
Did you forget that the team as a whole has a combined 1 season of prior RLCS experience, and that said season was the only 0-9 season in RLCS history? I definitely do.
17-year-old Evan “M0nkey M00n” Rogez has been a defensive mastermind and incredible striker all season. Marc “MaRc_By_8” Domingo has also been one of the fastest, most mechanically brilliant, and rotationally perfect players in the world thus far as well. Back in season 9, onlookers agreed that AS Monaco’s winless season was not the fault of mechanical wizard Alex “Extra” Paoli, and his presence on BDS has been nothing short of a perfect fit.
The fact that this team is good shouldn’t come as a surprise. M0nkey M00n was consistently lauded as one of the best players in the RLRS in Season 9 as he led Marc and Alejandro “ClayX” Carbonero to a first-place 8-1 RLRS season.
After removing ClayX from the roster, BDS won their first big tournament with Extra in August: The Europcup 10k. This was BDS’s coming-out party to the rest of the region, as they took down powerhouse after powerhouse in the playoffs to win the whole event.
BDS hasn’t looked back since, absolutely dominating the region for the first two regional events. They went on a 21 match winning streak, starting in Stage 2 of Regional 1 and lasting until they ran into that buzzsaw that was Vitality in the semifinals of Regional 3. Breezing through the first stage of the Fall Major as well, BDS is the first seed and the favorite to win on Saturday. If they do, it would conclude the most dominant run from a team consisting of mostly rookies we’ve ever seen.
It’s not just them, though…
There will be at least one rookie in every single quarterfinals match of the European Major. Of the 24 players left standing in Europe, 9 of them are rookies, and only two teams do not have an RLCS rookie: Vitality and Endpoint.
This can likely be chalked up to the format change of season X. With open qualifiers, new players have been able to compete in the RLCS every two weeks, and it just takes six good performances to make the playoffs of a regional event. It’s much easier to get noticed as a young player in Season X, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re just so good right now. Even an all-rookie team like the Vodafone Giants has outpaced veteran teams left and right to snag two top-four finishes in the regional events.
There are a few top teams with just one rookie, but don’t be fooled into believing they’re getting carried by their veteran teammates. Archie “Archie” Pickthall has been the offensive initiator of consistent top-four finishing team Top Blokes. The owner of several of the flashiest goals of the season thus far, Archie doesn’t even have RLRS experience, yet he has led Top Blokes to the #4 spot in Europe, with potential to take the number one spot with a win in the major.
Amine “Itachi” Benayachi of Barca has meshed incredibly with the offensive and defensive geniuses of Aldin “Ronaky” Hodzic and David “Deevo” Morrow respectively. Joris “Joreuz” Robben of Dignitas has already been nominated for console rookie of the year by the esports awards, although his notoriety has come more from incredible performances in 1v1 tournaments such as the Salt Mine II than from his time with Dignitas in Season X.
Galaxy Racer, formerly known as Monkeys, have also stepped up to the plate in big ways with a top-four finish in Regional 3. Mitchell “Mittaen” Driessen and Dylan “eekso” Pickering faced difficulty getting out of the RLRS in seasons past and Ario “Arju” Berdin is best known for his time as Mousesports’ super-sub from last season, but the trio has put together an impressive resume that includes wins over Vitality and Oxygen so far in the Major. Their QF matchup against Triple Trouble is a must-watch.
The stats back it up, too
Don’t just take my word for it though. The stats show that rookies have been performing at the top in Europe all split.
15 unique players played in the grand finals of a European regional event. Six of them were rookies. In Regional 2, the grand finals was between Team BDS and Vodafone Giants, meaning that five of the six grand finalists were rookies.
Over in North America, 15 year-old Landon “Beastmode” Konerman of the Kansas City Pioneers has been the only rookie to even reach the top 4 of any regional event. While he has been absolutely outstanding, (I’d argue him to be the owner of goal of the season for either region thus far) he has essentially stood alone at the top of the rookie class in North America.
Of the top 10 playoff performances of the split in Europe, half of them came from rookies according to Octane.gg. Rookie performances are in bold.
|Player/Event (Playoffs only)||Octane.gg Rating|
|Fairy Peak, ViolentPanda/Regional 1||1.06|
Only two of the top ten performances in North America belong to rookies—those being Christopher “Majicbear” Acevedo and Oliver “Percy” Kenneth Ortiz of Alpine Esports. On an individual basis, rookies have been playing just as well as seasoned veterans in Europe.
On a team basis, well, rookies have been keeping up with veterans in that regard, too. Three of the top five European teams right now according to the official Liquipedia ratings have two or more rookies with BDS holding the top spot. In contrast, Alpine Esports is the only team with two or more rookies in the top ten of North America.
Almost every metric can show just how impressive rookies have been in Europe thus far. Team BDS had an absurd +74 goal differential through the first two regional events of the split. Rookie-led teams accounted for 10 of the 20 3-0 swiss stage finishes in Europe, as well.
Rookie-led teams are also significantly more likely to have playoff appearances—and strong ones—in Europe than in North America as well. Here is a comparison between the number of individual rookies to finish top 8, top 4, top 2, and first place over the course of the fall split in both major regions:
Not only have rookies been absolutely crushing the opposition in Europe, they’ve also been greatly outshining the North American rookies, too.
How to explain this, I’m not sure. North America has widely been considered the more “top-heavy” of the two primary regions but that doesn’t have to imply that it’s all veterans at the top. However, that is, in fact, the case. While rookies in Europe have been showing up, rookies in North America have been getting shown up.
So, what gives?
There are likely countless explanations as to why rookies are doing so well in Europe, but fewer explanations as to why the discrepancy between NA and EU is so wide. As I said earlier, the format change already allows for the presence of more rookies in the RLCS. We are at an unprecedented amount of teams and, consequently, rookies, so it’s nearly inevitable that some of them will perform at an extremely high level.
The recent ascent of the RLCS rookies could also be the result of the ever-growing popularity of the game, and thus the esport as well. This current wave of rookies are consisting of players who didn’t necessarily get into the game as it launched like many of the veterans we know today. Many of these now-top-tier players got into the game because of guys who are still in the game today like Kuxir97 or Kronovi.
As Rocket League has grown, so has its player base. I think we’ll continue to see more and more incredible rookies as a result. With the game going free to play last month as well, the player base has hit numbers it’s never seen before. It’s possible that by season 14 or 15 we may even see a free-to-play player become a world champion, as now there are more people than ever who are hungry to compete at the highest level. We’re entering a new age of Rocket League—one where it’s more possible than ever for new players to rise to the top.
So, can a team of rookies really hoist the RLCS trophy? If there’s any season where that’s a realistic possibility, it’s this one. The rest of Season X is sure to be full of surprises, and I can’t wait to see how these new players continue to grow and compete.
Make sure to tune into the South American, European, and North American Major Playoffs this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on www.twitch.tv/rocketleague. Lastly, any questions can be directed to @mbs_rl on twitter.
Stats via Octane.gg and Liquipedia