As the fourth goal went in for Team Envy in Game 4 of the bracket reset in NA Regional 2, a strange truth dwelled on me: this was the last game of the RLCS we would see in 2020.
While the rest of the world shut down, esports, and especially Rocket League Esports, were a beacon of high-octane (Get it? Octane?) entertainment, proving that the future of sports is one where we don’t need live audiences and the competitors don’t even have to be in the same country.
The RLCS Season 9 World Championship, as far as I remember, was one of the very first events to be cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns and it seemed Psyonix was far ahead of the curve on that front.
They were also ahead of the curve in finding a way to keep the esport alive, scrapping the RLCS format they had only barely tweaked since Season 2 for a new, exciting, year-long season with way, way, WAY more Rocket League.
Even without a single LAN event, Psyonix managed to not only salvage 2020 for Rocket League Esports, they turned it into the best year the scene has ever seen. This year has given us some of the greatest plays, games, series, and tournaments we have ever seen. It is not an exaggeration to call this the golden age of the esport.
But before looking forward to 2021, let’s look back at the best moments from 2020. In this first installation, we’ll be looking at the 10 best roster moves of the entire calendar year. This includes any move made between Seasons 8 and 9, 9 and X, and in the fall trade window.
Alpha54 to Vitality
Before you go calling for my head for putting the acquisition of arguably the best player in Europe as an honorable mention, I ask you this: what kind of a team was Vitality with Scrub Killa? Well, they were the best team in Europe by a pretty wide margin and the best team in the world for quite a bit. Oh yeah, they also made consecutive Worlds Grand Finals while winning one of them.
But Vitality was already a top two team globally when they still had the Scotsman, and as insane as Alpha has been, has he actually improved their results?
The stats say no. They’ve won one regional out of five including the Fall Major, and their latest big win before then was from the Spring Series. After failing to even make Day 3 of Winter Regional 2 and being swept twice in the process, Vitality is at their lowest point since before Kaydop was even on the roster.
Now, who’s to say their performance wouldn’t have regressed had Scrub stayed? Nobody. Hell, Scrub hasn’t looked much like himself either as he bounced around from Mouz to Guild to Singularity. But the truth of the matter is that there are at least ten roster moves that actually improved a team’s results more than this one.
#10 Allushin to The Peeps
Admit it. You slept on them. We all did. The Peeps were not supposed to be this good in Season X, but here they are.
The Season 9 iteration of the team, consisting of Ayyjayy, Gyro and Retals—still under the PK banner—was not great. Ayyjayy did not seem to be the ideal replacement for mist as the team never really seemed to get their synergy on lock.
After Retals jumped ship shortly after the spring series and rumors started stirring that AyyJayy was looking at other options, I thought they were done for. But as luck would have it, Team Envy needed to make room for a certain four-time world champion, leaving Allushin LFT.
This last-minute pickup proved to be a blessing. The Peeps have looked like serious contenders throughout the entire season. AyyJayy is playing the best Rocket League of his career and Gyro and Allushin provide immensely solid backup, midfield presence, and incredible solo play potential of their own.
Their performance left many questioning how they haven’t been picked up by an organization (this was confirmed to be because Gyro and Ayyjayy were still restricted free agents under the Pittsburgh Knights, which they no longer are), causing #PickUpThePeeps to be one of the most trending terms in the scene lately.
#9: Metsanauris joins Team Endpoint
Second-place Season 8 RLRS finishers Discombobulators didn’t have much of a reputation coming into Season 9. The trio of Relatingwave, Nachitow, and Virtuoso used a demo-heavy playstyle in the RLRS which was somewhat a rarity in Europe at the time and not much else was known about them.
After Season 9, not much had changed besides the fact that they now had an organization to represent: Team Endpoint. Endpoint finished 7th place, good enough to not get sent back into the promo-relegation tournament but not good enough to make the regional playoffs.
So like many up-and-coming teams dissatisfied with their results, they decided to bring in a veteran, kicking Nachitow for Metsanauris of Method, WDG, and TSM fame.
This move was met with cautious optimism. On one hand, a veteran presence could balance out the offensive powerhouses of Relatingwave and Virtuoso. But Metsanauris was coming off of his third straight disappointing season, each worse than the last.
After a top-three finish at the Season 6 World Championship and an ELEAGUE championship with We Dem Girlz, Metsanauris & Co. joined TSM, where they proceeded to finish sixth in Europe, then seventh, then seventh again before being relegated. On top of this, he and Remkoe went through three different third men in that time period—Eyeignite, Alpha54, and Mognus.
The skepticism was put to shame quickly though, as Endpoint shocked Europe with a third-place finish in the Spring Series. Their playstyle was incredibly unique, as Metsanauris’s solid midfield presence and defense allowed Virtuoso to go on a demo spree the likes of which the world had never seen.
Virtuoso’s physicality could not be understated. By the end of the tournament, he had almost three times as many demos as anyone else. While he has toned down the physicality in recent months, almost any European pro, including himself, will tell you that there’s nobody more annoying to play against than Virtuoso.
Endpoint are now a real contender in Europe and are one of only six teams to reach a regional final. They are currently sitting at sixth place in Europe, good enough for World Championship qualification, and while that doesn’t seem like an incredible improvement from the season prior on paper, it shows consistency as the level of competition has risen dramatically in Season X.
#8: The Super sub does it again: Arju joins Galaxy Racer
This roster has been through it all. Since December 2019, they have been under the name Echo Zulu, Awkward Turtles, Notorious Legion, Awkward Turtles again, Monkeys, and now finally Galaxy Racer. Through this time, three roster moves have been completed with Mittaen being the only member from the original TEZ roster still here.
It’s the most recent addition, however, that has unlocked GXR. Subbing in halfway through the season for the second time in a row, Arju of Mousesports fame has brought life to this roster, propelling them into the fifth spot in Europe, and unlike Mouz, GXR decided to keep him.
The synergy on this roster is absolutely unreal. Sometimes Arju and Mittaen sit back and watch Eekso pop off, sometimes Arju and Eekso sit back and watch Mittaen pop off, and sometimes Mittaen and Eekso sit back and watch Arju pop off. Other times, none of them sit back and we watch them all pop off.
It is a perfectly balanced roster of three players who are cracked out of their mind and are my personal favourite European team to watch. They have been one of the only teams to make Team BDS and Vitality look mortal and are the owners of two of the best goals of the entire season. I am extraordinarily hyped to see where Arju can continue to take this roster as he’s already taken them to the upper echelon of the region.
#7: Rogue wins the Firstkiller sweepstakes
When I was looking at the 2020 roster move list, it completely slipped my mind that this happened this year. Rogue has replaced every single member of their roster from the start of 2020, and unlike 2018 where they dropped an entire roster and picked up a new one, this change happened over time. This made the decision for which roster move to pick extremely hard, as every player on Rogue’s current roster is eligible for this list.
Their first (no pun intended) move of the year, however, was their biggest splash. I’d argue that they dropped the wrong player for him, but once Firstkiller was made available after the debacle with Ghost Gaming, Kro and co. jumped on the opportunity.
Simply put, First was crowned “The NA Scrub Killa” for a reason. An out-of-this world mechanical beast from an age much younger than the minimum RLCS age requirement, Firstkiller was king of the NA 1v1 scene before he could compete at the highest 3v3 level. And once he could, he did not disappoint.
Firskiller was immediately the best player on his team despite falling into the promo/relegation tournament, but with the roster around him, growing pains were inevitable. While the team surroundings have shifted around him, Firstkiller has been arguably the most consistent force in North America.
I don’t quite know how to describe his style of play outside of “he’s just faster and better than everyone.” The improvement may have been more immediate with the additions of Turinturo and Taroco, but it was the addition of Firstkiller that laid the groundwork for the incredible potential this team has and is just now starting to realize. Rogue is the first Rocket League roster that I’ve seen successfully complete a rebuild, and it all started with their decision to take a risk in January.
#6: Beastmode breathes life into the Pioneers
No, this isn’t me saying that Beastmode is better than Firstkiller. He has a bit of a ways to go. What this is is me saying that Beastmode caused a bigger turnaround in KCP than First did with Rogue.
In Season 9, Flight was the laughing stock of NA. Nevermind the flack they got for kicking Aeon before the season started, they also went 1-8 and auto-relegated in pathetic manner. Then, sea-bass left before this kid named Beastmode joined. I think I had heard his name once before. But other than that I, knew nothing of him. I expected KCP to be basement dwellers much like Season 9.
I was wrong. Beastmode has given life to KCP, lifting Rapid and Memory to the fifth position in the NA standings. We seem to be getting into an age where there are no longer “mechanical” or “rotational” players—every new player seems to be insanely mechanical with excellent rotation. Beastmode is the culmination of this trend. He rarely makes defensive mistakes, can hit a flip reset with his eyes closed, and can read a backboard bounce from across the entire pitch.
Beastmode is… well… a beast. His reliability in all facets of the game has allowed his teammates to play with confidence we didn’t see last season. Both Memory and Rapid are on my personal list for “most improved player” (the only pair of teammates I have on that list) and it’s largely because of the rookie.
#5: The Big One: Squishy to NRG
In what was easily the biggest blockbuster trade of the year, reigning world champions NRG kicked their Championship MVP and four-time world champion Turbopolsa after an underwhelming Season 9.
Coming off a world championship, NRG were expected to dominate NA, but they ended the regular season in 4th place. They were expected to make up for it by dominating the online regional playoffs. However, they were bounced by G2 in 7 in the semifinals. NRG isn’t really a team known for making roster moves at the first sign of turmoil but that’s primarily because they rarely go through any.
Thankfully for NRG, there was another world champ in the market. Announced in tandem with Cloud9’s departure from Rocket League, NRG made the biggest move of the year, acquiring Season 6 world champion and arguably the most famous player in the world: Squishymuffinz.
The honeymoon period of this team was absurd. As soon as Squishy joined, they won every single off-season tournament besides the Brawl 10k. It’s clear to see on the pitch that these players have history and are used to playing with each other despite never being on the same RLCS team before, partly because Squishy and JSTN are old friends from their pre-RLCS PS4 days.
It goes without saying that everyone on the team has pop-off potential but they are at their best when everyone is carrying their own weight which Squishy has never failed to do, even during C9’s rough patch in Seasons 8 and 9. Now, NRG still often looks like the best team in the world, a boast that was only true of the old NRG if they were at LAN.
NRG were a top-four team with Turbo but seemed to be past their prime as a team together. They are still technically the reigning world champs but that title seemed like it was in jeopardy. With Squishy, however, it’ll be a task and a half ripping the trophy from NRG’s hands.
#4: Archie (and RamS) to Top Blokes
I don’t think a team has seen a greater shift in playstyle than Top Blokes from their time under the Veloce banner. In Seasons 8 and 9, Veloce had a notoriously boring playstyle. They were often described as overly-defensive and rarely created opportunities on offense of their own, opting instead to score most of their goals from opponent’s offensive overcommitments or defensive errors.
While it landed them a top-six spot at worlds, it didn’t last forever as they finished Season 9 at sixth place in Europe. Following the departure of Freakii, coach Mystik, and their organization, FlamE and Kassio found a pair of absolute gems.
Looking back at the European Spring Series, it makes sense why The Clappers, a team without any RLRS experience, made such an impressive run: they had Archie. Top Blokes seemed to notice this as well and snagged him before anyone else could.
The decision was one of the best of the season. Archie has put up MVP numbers in both splits of Season X, all while elevating Kassio and FlamE to the best they’ve ever played.
I say this while also acknowledging they couldn’t have achieved such a dramatic improvement in results without coach RamS, who has proven himself to be one of the best coaches in the world this season. The team’s ability to maintain themselves under pressure—even with a 15-year-old rookie—rivals that of Renault Vitality much thanks to him.
Top Blokes will be entering 2021 as the reigning European regional champions, which is a sentence nobody would’ve imagined saying with the old Veloce roster. There isn’t a team in the world Top Blokes can’t beat right now and the new blood on the team is largely the reason why. Not to take away from the obvious improvement we’ve seen from Kassio and Flame but even they’d admit they wouldn’t be having the same success without Archie.
#3: Spacestation picks up Retals
I sort of had a feeling that SSG and Retals were on a collision course for a while prior to Season X.
First, they had almost the same main adversity; neither could get past NRG. NRG owned both PK and SSG throughout Season 8. When NRG took a step back in Season 9, it was G2 who crushed Spacestation’s hopes as the Knights regressed to seventh place.
It seemed that for SSG there was always going to be someone just a bit better. Retals seemingly tried out for every single team in North America before SSG made the decision to part ways with AxB. At that point though, I knew there was no denying it. Retals was already best friends with Arsenal, not to mention the fact that he publicly lauded Sypical as the best player in the world before even being a free agent.
As it turns out, Retals was the antidote for SSG. They immediately jumped to the first spot in North America after cruising their way through Fall Regional 1. Although they faced some inconsistencies throughout the next two regionals, a dominant performance in the Major saw Spacestation as the best team in NA headed into winter.
Even with a disappointing Regional 1, SSG made up for it with an extremely impressive lower bracket run in Regional 2, forcing a bracket reset against a Team Envy that hasn’t lost in over a month.
SSG are legitimate World Championship contenders with Retals now. On their day, they look like the best team in the world, which is a very few teams can make and it certainly wasn’t one they could’ve made before Retals.
#2: The GOAT finds a home: Turbo to Envy
A general rule of thumb about Rocket League is if you have Turbopolsa on your team, you are a Championship contender. Team Envy is no exception to this rule.
I was strongly debating having both of Team Envy’s moves on this list as mist has proven himself to be a top-five player in North America since his time with Atomic but it’s the addition of the four-time that gets the nod for NA’s best move of the year.
It’s important to note that prior to Turbo, this team had not won anything. They made a roster move at every opportunity available and thus never had an iteration of their team that meshed well. Even the roster that showed the most potential (Allushin, Atomic, and mist), lasted but one season, as Allushin was let go shortly after Season 9.
Envy didn’t seem to let go of Allushin in pursuit of a specific player but rather a general improvement. Boy, did they luck out. The first tournament this team ever won was Turbo’s tryout with the team. They beat NRG in 7 games.
Since the start of Season X, Turbo has transformed this team into the most consistent in North America. They’ve won three regional events (that’s half of them!) And have never placed worse than fourth. Mist and Atomic have been truly unlocked and both have the potential to singlehandedly dominate other top-three teams in the region. Turbo seems to play the same unique role that he always has, which is just being in the perfect spot on the pitch at all times.
It seems that teaming with two mechanical gods has also improved Turbo’s mechanics as well (who would’ve thought?) because he has never seemed faster and more confident to go for impressive solo plays. Envy needed someone to push them over the same edge that SSG had but Turbo went a step further than Retals. SSG got over their bump in the road and Turbo has turned Envy into a wall for everyone else.
#1: The end of European Parity: Extra to Team BDS
In the number 1 spot, we have the move that destroyed the competitiveness that has defined Europe for years. It was an unsuspecting move at the time: a player who was just relegated to a team that had just been promoted isn’t a move that seems like it would doom a region for everyone else.
But Extra’s replacement of ClayX on Team BDS did just that. Like Thanos putting the last infinity stone into the gauntlet, the arrival of Extra launched this up and coming team into the stratosphere. We just didn’t expect it.
M0nkey M00n has unlocked the potential we knew he had from the previous two seasons of RLRS. I’m not quite sure what there is to say about MaRc_By_8 besides the fact that he is literally never in the wrong spot, never misses a shot, and never makes a defensive mistouch. The chemistry on this team is unrivaled throughout the entire globe and it’s mostly thanks to their new arrival. Extra, much like his teammates, is the closest thing we have to a perfect player.
I honestly don’t know how it happened. This team was supposed to be good—maybe a top-four team in Europe—but it wasn’t supposed to be the next dynasty. Whatever magic Extra brought to unlock M0nkey and MaRc is a secret BDS will likely never share but it’s worked to perfection.
A 500-point lead over halfway through the season, three regional championships and a major championship, a 31-2 series record throughout an entire split, what more could a team ask for? BDS has faced a little bump in Winter Regional 2 but they are still the undisputed best team in Europe and overwhelming favorites to enter the World Championships as the European (and likely overall) 1st seed.
The turnaround from “best team in the Rival Series” to “Best team in the world” was about as fast as the passing plays BDS pulls off on a regular basis. While it didn’t fill the region with the same sense of dread as when Kaydop, Turbo, and Violentpanda joined forces on Gale Force, this roster move marked the beginning of a run that has the potential to rival the greatest stretch of dominance of all time.