Hidden in and among the hot NA vs EU debate that has consumed the Rocket League esports community for the better part of Season X, there have been smaller skirmishes between the regions besides just “who’s better.”
Of course, the only way to truly determine which region is better is for them to go head-to-head. But we haven’t had a LAN since December 2019 and with the RLCS X World Championships being cancelled, we don’t know when the next one will be.
I’m not counting the recent showmatch between Retals, Firstkiller, Chicago and Guild esports as it was a pickup team against Europe’s fifth seed—not really a match of the best each region had to offer. Our only means of comparison between the regions at the moment is how they play against themselves. This doesn’t allow for 1-1 comparisons.
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Any argument for BDS being the ‘best team in the world’ is almost always rebutted with “No, they’re the best team in Europe. We don’t know if they can beat the top teams in NA” or something of the sorts.
Unfortunately, it’s a difficult statement to argue with. We can compare consistency, but we’re only comparing the consistency of EU against EU to NA against NA. Other than that, all we have is the eye test, which only goes so far.
I have enjoyed the more specific comparisons, such as the recent conversation about in-game speed favoring Europe over North America (and Middle East over everybody), and the community’s participation in tier lists, but one conversation has stuck out to me the most; the argument of which region has the best player in the world.
Who is the Best?
It began on the first touch podcast when Noly, fresh off Guild’s first regional championship, made some pretty bold claims about Rogue’s Firstkiller in comparison to M0nkey M00n of Team BDS. Not afraid to start a Twitter war, Noly just straight up said on a live broadcast that “M0nkey M00n is 100% better than Firstkiller.” It did, in fact, start a Twitter war.
As expected, most North American pros strongly disagreed. SSG’s Retals disagreed so much that he challenged Guild to a Best of Seven series on EU servers against himself, Firstkiller, and “any good NA east pro” (later determined to be Chicago). European pros, in an equally unsurprising manner, agreed with Noly. Even Firstkiller and M0nkey M00n themselves caught wind of the situation quickly.
The argument interests me specifically because, more so than teams even, it’s incredibly hard to determine who the best player is at the very highest level of Rocket League. At this point, everyone can do almost anything and wins come down to gameplanning and chemistry more than individual talent so long as the talent gap isn’t huge. But some players do stand out as true game changers.
Firstkiller vs M0nkey M00n
The community seems to be in consensus that Firstkiller and M0nkey M00n are two of those players.
I rarely see anyone arguing for someone other than them as the best player of their respective regions anymore, which in itself is a rarity as there are always several players in the conversation. It’s “Who’s better between the two of them?” that has taken the Rocket League world by storm. We haven’t really had a clear-cut cross-regional top two debate since the days of Kuxir and Kronovi.
But can we actually determine who the best player in the world is from an objective stance?
No. Moreso than most esports, Rocket League is a game in which stats do not tell the whole story. Being higher on the scoreboard, contrary to what your Plat 3 teammate will tell you, is not an automatic indicator of who is the better player. We can’t just compare their goals, shots, saves, and assists and say “whoever averages more is better.”
Even advanced stats like boost usage and average speed don’t tell us everything we need to know either because playing on low boost and slowing the ball down are extremely useful skills at every level of Rocket League.
M0nkey M00n and Firstkiller play different playstyles with different teammates and in different regions. Our only measurement of who is truly better on an individual basis is how they look.
If you were to ask me, I would say that each is better at different things. Firstkiller has the edge in offensive creativity and ability to create impossible-to-read shots but I think M0nkey M00n’s goal line defense is the best in the world. Firstkiller’s challenge game is superior in my opinion but M0nkey M00n elevates his teammates to a higher level with his perfect positioning and ability to read the field. Firstkiller plays hard carry. M0nkey M00n creates so much chemistry with his teammates that he doesn’t need to. Firstkiller is a ceiling raiser and M0nkey M00n is a floor raiser.
I could go on about what makes these players world class and who has the edge in arbitrary categories but I hardly find it necessary.
Like with any sport or esport, players’ skills in certain areas of the game are fun to compare. But other sports and esports have the advantage of the best of the best playing each other frequently. M0nkey M00n and Firstkiller do not play each other and they will not for quite some time.
Tightening the Debate
Rocket League is a very unique game in that the skill ceiling is both far from being reached and extraordinarily high, meaning the players at the highest level of competition are extremely close in skill and always trading places.
To pretend that there is a definitive answer to the debate is to fool yourself. Not only are Firstkiller and M0nkey M00n drastically different players in terms of playstyle but it’s very difficult to compare any two players now.
Never has what makes a player better than another been more ambiguous. Everyone at the highest level is still improving at such a high rate that the second we try to declare one person the best player in the world, another shows up to snatch their crown.
The title of “best player in the world” is subjective. No one authority figure is going to be able to definitively crown someone without dissent from multitudes of people who disagree. There may be some aspects of the game that players are better at than most, e.g. AyyJayy and double flip resets, but trying to figure out who is the overall best player at the game is a fruitless task, not just because we have different criteria for what makes a player great, but because we really only have our eyes to compare.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with comparing. It’s inherently fun to make tier lists and debate who we think is the best of the world but I think it’s important to remember that nobody has the ‘right’ opinion on the matter.
How we determine who is the best player in the world is up to each of us on an individual scale. By discussing who we think is the best, we get an insight into how other people judge greatness in Rocket League which could lead us to discoveries about our own games.
That insight could translate directly to one’s RLCS viewing experience, or even to their own replay reviews. The more ideas we have of what makes a good player, the more we can implement those ideas into our own game.
All that being said, it’s Firstkiller.