Nearly two thirds of the way into the season, the European region is at a critical point in its storied history.
As Team BDS looks to secure their second major title, which could potentially guarantee them the first seed from Europe at the World Championship before the Spring Split even begins, the rest of the region has been clawing at each other in what has been an absolutely brutal yet entertaining split.
To say the competition is close in Europe right now is a vast understatement. Although BDS is leading by 875 points, it is still anyone’s race for second. A few teams in the top tweleve will not be competing in the Major due to a lackluster winter split and a few teams having a breakout split will have the opportunity to pass them.
Doubled points and prize money have once again raised the stakes, and compounded with the craziness that has unfolded over the past several months, the European Winter Major is shaping up to be one of the most intense and entertaining tournaments ever.
Let’s meet our competitors:
Team BDS is the overwhelming favorite coming into the major with good reason. They have been dominant all split once again, entering as the first seed with two of the three Winter regional titles under their belt.
Evan “M0nkey M00n” Rogez has reached best player in the world status and is teetering towards adding an “undisputed” to that title. He would likely attain it with a performance akin to his in Regional 3, where BDS became the first team all season to win a bracket reset series from the lower bracket.
Marc “MaRc_By_8” Domingo and Alex “Extra” Paoli, of course, have served as essentially perfect teammates, as top-ten players in the world often do.
Over halfway through the season, BDS has maintained a roster of three players who can all do anything and on any other team would serve as a hard carry. It’s just unfair.
BDS just does everything right. They’re simply faster, less predictable, more in-sync, and individually talented than everyone else. Anything other than a title for BDS would, at this point, be a surprise.
Player to Watch: M0nkey M00n
Best Series from Winter Split: vs. Giants Gaming, Regional 3 Grand Finals
2) Giants Gaming
Somehow, some way, the best roster move of the fall trade window was done by a team that was already top four in the region.
Giants Gaming have stepped up to the plate in a big way in winter and are coming into the major as the second seed after their acquisition of Morrocan superstar Amine “itachi” Benayachi.
After an impressive rookie split with FC Barcelona, itachi has helped turn Giants Gaming into arguably the most feared team besides BDS in the entire region.
Giants have even shown the gusto to take down BDS themselves, a feat which they finally accomplished in the winners finals of Regional 3, in which Samuel “Zamué” Cortés made his name known as an offensive force in European Rocket League.
Meanwhile, Marc “Stake” Bosch has continued to be a brilliant striker as Giants maintained one of the most potent and threatening offenses in the world all split.
Giants seem to be quite the momentum-based team, and currently, momentum is on their side after taking BDS to an unreal 13 game series in the last regional.
They’re currently wearing the ever-changing crown of “best of the rest” and are a good bet to meet BDS in the grand finals for a hopefully just-as-incredible rematch.
Player to Watch: Zamué
Best Series from Winter Split: vs. Team BDS, Regional 3 Winners’ Finals
3) Top Blokes
If any regional felt the most rewarding to watch as a longtime fan, it had to have been Regional 2.
As the first A+ tier tournament win for any of the players, Regional 2 served as Top Blokes’ magnum opus. A victory in a Game 7 OT against BDS in the winners the grand finals, followed by a massive upset in the losers finals saw Top Blokes taking down Team Queso in 6 to snatch their first regional title.
Archie “Archie” Pickthall has somehow improved on his MVP performance from the fall split as he sits at #1 in Octane rating for winter (1.29).
Andy “Kassio” Landais and Jack “FlamE” Pearton have supplemented Archie’s unparalleled mechanics with perfect support, rotation, and striking of their own, leading to a team that, on their day, can be just as dangerous as anyone.
Despite a last-place finish in Regional 3, Top Blokes is the only team to win an event besides BDS all split, and they’re looking for a repeat of their magic from Regional 2 to vault them to the second spot in overall standings.
Player to Watch: Archie
Best Series from Winter Split: vs. Team BDS, Regional 2 Winners’ Finals
4) Team Queso
Raise your hand if you had the ex-magnifico squad as a top-four team for winter after their acquisition of Diego “VK-Sailen” Isla Serrano of 20th ranked S2V esports. Nobody? Makes sense.
Queso’s Cinderella run to the grand finals of Regional 2 was, while utterly shocking, a beauty to behold. Their insanely fast, borderline reckless, disorienting playstyle helped the Spanish trio take down Vitality, Giants (both in 3-0 and 4-0 sweeps respectively), AND Team BDS in a single tournament. They then took Top Blokes to game 7 in the Grand Finals.
Sergio “Atomik” Pérez Cortés and Raúl “DmentZa” Palazuelos have been having a serious breakout season, proving themselves to be some of the most mechanically advanced players in the game today.
While they finished 9-12th in the most recent regional, Queso has proven they have the potential to slay titans in high-pressure situations and should be taken seriously by everyone, even the teams above them.
Player to Watch: Atomik
Best series from Winter Split: vs. Giants Gaming, Regional 2 Losers’ Semifinals
5) Team Vitality
It feels weird having Vitality ranked fifth on any kind of list, much less an official RLCS ranking. But there is no hiding it, the past few months have arguably been the most tumultuous in the org’s history in the game.
Things appeared normal after the first regional of the split, in which they fell to BDS in the Grand Finals. But an early exit in both Regionals 2 and 3 meant that, for the first time in history, Vitality would finish outside the top eight in back-to-back RLCS events.
Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois still hits shots that only he can hit, but has faced struggles on the defensive end. Victor “Fairy Peak!” Locquet has remained historically consistent, but with the ever-expanding skill-ceiling, consistency alone doesn’t seem to be cutting it. And despite his place in history as one of the greatest players of all time, the winter split was the weakest few months for Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant in years.
Vitality’s name simply doesn’t strike the same fear into opponents it did just half a year ago. But that is the nature of the ever-changing environment of Rocket League esports.
Will Vitality salvage a split that was undeniably subpar by their standards, or will they get a slap in the face from reality?
Player to Watch: Kaydop
Best series from Winter Split: vs. Dignitas, The Grid Week 4 Quarterfinals
Back in the fall split, Joris “Joreuz” Robbin entered the RLCS as an incredibly hyped prospect with mechanical prowess the likes of which the world had never seen. While this potential wasn’t fully realized in the fall, winter appears to be a different story.
The acquisition of Joreuz’s old teammate Jack “Apparentlyjack” Benton appeared to be exactly what him and longtime Dignitas staple Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs needed.
The duo of Joreuz and Jack has proven thus far to be one of the most deadly in the world, as their experience and dominance in the 1v1 scene allows them to pull off incredibly flashy goals. ViolentPanda has added even more synergy to the mix with his all-time passing ability and leadership.
The week in which they were perfect sweeping everyone was a sight to behold, and while I feel like I may have overhyped them a bit, there is no denying that this Dignitas is not the same team it was just three months ago.
Dignitas is a dark horse to steal the major if they can just get past BDS. We’ve seen that they can absolutely annihilate anyone else.
Player to Watch: Joreuz
Best series from Winter Split: vs Guild, Grid Week 3 Semifinals
7) Oxygen Esports
While they’re still not where we expected them to be at the beginning of the season, it cannot be overstated how important it is that Oxygen has at least somewhat turned things around.
Maello “AztraL” Ernst joining forces with Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak and Victor “Ferra” Francal was, on paper, an incredible move, which is why their failure to make the playoffs in any of the fall regionals shocked the world.
AztraL has been brilliant the whole season, but the winter split is where Chausette really turned things around and began looking like his old self.
While they still haven’t finished better than third in an event yet, Oxygen has shown newfound resilience when facing adversity and are slowly but surely clawing their way back up to where we expected them. A strong performance in the major could even propel them to a top-six spot, which they’d only need to maintain in the Spring
Player to watch: Chausette45
Best series from Winter Split: vs. Dignitas, Regional 3 losers’ Semifinals
8) Galaxy Racer
Galaxy Racer is sitting at a very interesting spot right now. Following a few abysmal grid performances and a last-place finish in the most recent regional, GXR has almost no momentum going into the winter major.
But they don’t necessarily need it. Dylan “Eekso” Pickering is the epitome of pop-off potential, as at any point he can absolutely decimate a defense with a dazzling solo play. Goals can quickly start snowballing with Galaxy Racer as the synergy between Eekso, Mitchell “Mittaen” Driessen, and Ario “Arju” Berdin has grown to a world-class level in front of our eyes.
Despite slowing down from their blazing hot streak at the end of the Fall Split, GXR is a scary team to face for anyone, even the teams at the very, very top.
Player to Watch: Mittaen
Best series from Winter Split: vs. Vitality, Regional 2 losers’ Round 4
Endpoint is one of the most unique teams in the world in terms of consistency. Often times, as we’ve seen in winter, they can rack up 6, 7, or 8 goals against a top-ten team in the region. Other times they’re nearly swept by teams struggling to make it past the second or third round.
Nelson “Virtuoso” Lasko has continued to tone down the demolitions in favor of a more traditional rotation-based game, allowing his on-ball mechanics to shine more. Lucas “RelatingWave” Rose is still one of the most underrated offensive players in the world, and Otto “Metsanauris” Kaipiainen continues to do what I can only describe as “Metsanauris things.”
They rarely beat the teams they’re supposed to lose to, but they rarely lose to teams they’re supposed to beat. Part of their lower seeding stems from unfortunate draws in the regionals, like when they lost their first match to Vitality only to meet, and lose to, Dignitas in losers’ Round 1.
Regardless, Endpoint remains one of the more entertaining teams to watch in European Rocket League, and they still have the potential to make quite a deep run.
Player to Watch: RelatingWave
Best series from Winter Split: vs. Triple Trouble, Regional 3 losers’ Round 4
10) Guild Esports
Guild’s decision to replace one former world champion in Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson with another in David “Deevo” Morrow quickly proved to be, at the very least, lateral if not an improvement. Later in the split, though, it appears to be more of the former.
In winter, Guild made matches with teams at the very top much more competitive than they were in the fall, but now they’re back to the perpetual 5th-8th finish they were previously known for.
Regardless of recent performance, it’s impossible to deny the mechanical brilliance of both Joseph “noly” Kidd and Thomas “ThO.” Binkhorst. While their pop-offs are rarer than many others, they can certainly still happen.
A top-six finish would be considered a win for Guild. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.
Player to Watch: ThO
Best series from Winter Split: vs. Vitality, Grid Week 1 Quarterfinals
Season X’s iteration of The Leftovers made a big splash very early in the winter split with an excellent run in the first grid in which they had a statement 3-0 group stage. Since then, however, they have not looked like much beyond a top-ten team.
An impressive lower bracket run in Regional 2 saw them taking out Guild and Dignitas back-to-back as Kurtis “Kash” Cannon reminded the world of how world-class his mechanics truly are. Mike “Mikeboy” Verkuijlen and Maarten “Oscillon” Van Zee also frequently pull magic out of their playbooks with miraculous goal-line defense and high speed passing plays.
Expectations are quite low for redemption headed into the major, as they haven’t quite proven themselves to be able to compete with the teams at the top consistently. However, they play with quite the chip on their shoulder which can lead to some dangerous upset potential.
Redemption has very little to lose, which in turn can make them quite dangerous.
Player to Watch: Kash
Best series of Winter Split: vs. Dignitas, Regional 2 losers’ Round 4
12) Team Singularity
Singularity is the first team to be the beneficiaries of the changes to the grid wildcard spot, and I don’t think any team in the major needed it more. Even with the addition of a former world champion in Scrub Killa, Singularity hasn’t made much noise in any of the winter regional events.
Where they did shine, however, was the grid. After being only a goal away from losing their grid spot to SWAG (Kuxir, Flakes, and Rhezzy) in the open qualifiers, they made the most of their second chance.
While Week 1 didn’t go great, Joseph “Hibbs” Jamie Hibbert and George “Breezi” Rusiecki popped off in every sense of the word as Singularity took a grid championship in Week 2. That one day of brilliance along with a top-four finish in Week 4 was really all they needed to snag the grid wildcard spot, as their Week 3 performance was lacklustre as well.
Singularity really are a wildcard in every sense of the word. Clearly, they have the ability to pop off and take over a bracket like they did in the grid. However, we haven’t seen that happen when the stakes are high.
Singularity truly earned their spot in the major, but whether or not they’ll do something with it is a big question mark.
Player to Watch: Hibbs
Best series from Winter Split: vs. Giants Gaming, Grid Week 2 Grand Finals