A year full of memories and intense matchups.
With 2020 coming to a close, it's the perfect time to take a look at the amazing gameplay that Rocket League fans have been treated to over the past year. While there are many matches that could be considered for the "Match of the Year," our writers at GGRecon decided that the recent Grand Finals match between Team Envy and NRG in the first Winter Regional was the best of the year. First, here are some of the other series receiving consideration.
Renault Vitality matched up against Oxygen Esports in the Grand Finals of the Rocket Baguette Summer Grand Prix. Leading into the match, Oxygen already lost to Vitality, but won in the Losers' Bracket to force a rematch. They forced a bracket reset after taking the first series 4-2, but Vitality would rebound and seal their victory in Game 7 overtime. It was an intense series, featuring seven overtimes.
The next match showcased the European force in Team BDS take on the rising challenger, Galaxy Racer. In the semifinals of the European major, BDS and Galaxy Racer took it to Game 7. BDS had already won two out of the three Regionals in the Fall Split and their level of play was virtually unmatched. Galaxy Racer put up a fight though, showing the top team in Europe that they won't stop chasing until they overtake them. The amount of goals scored wasn't extremely high in this series, but perhaps that is part of what made it so exciting. Both teams pose an incredible threat on offence, so it is always impressive when teams can put a chokehold on the other's offensive threats. Galaxy Racer was fast out of the gates as they took a 3-1 series lead, but BDS was able to fight back and shut out Galaxy Racer for the final three games.
Finally, the best match of the year was decided to be the matchup between Team Envy and NRG in Winter Regional. It saw overtime heroics, high scoring games, and high profile names. The intensity of this matchup was built up by the way the tournament had unfolded until that point. NRG had been one of the best in North America, but they were subject to a defeat in their first series of the tournament against Ghost Gaming. They had to go through a lower bracket run from Loser's Round 1 all the way to the Grand Finals. Meanwhile, Team Envy cruised through the upper bracket. Ghost Gaming was the only team who really challenged Team Envy on their way to the championship match. NRG struggled early on as they hoped to make a late run, playing several Game 5's, before finally finding their form by sweeping Ghost Gaming and Pittsburgh Knights, along with a convincing win over Rogue to finally get to the Grand Finals.
The series started out in Envy's favor, and optimism wasn't high for NRG turning the tables. Envy were playing in form, and it showed as they began the series with a 2-0 shutout over NRG's dangerous offence. Despite both teams putting up seven shots, Envy were more clinical, and it gave them the early lead. In the second game, NRG were able to get their offence firing, but Envy were still able to outperform them. All three Envy players scored, with Nick "mist" Costello scoring a brace to take the game 4-3. NRG weren't getting blown out, but with their struggles against mid-tier teams earlier in the tournament and Envy's high level of form, it looked like Envy were well on their way to another trophy.
The fortunes turned in favour of NRG in the third match, once the overtime chaos would come into fruition. The game was tied 1-1 heading into overtime, but it would barely take twenty seconds for Justin "jstn." Morales to give NRG their first game win of the series. It was the first of his overtime heroics in the series, sealing the game with a flip reset that barely squeaked in the near post. Despite this turnaround, Envy would come back the next game after NRG jumped out a 3-0 lead. Envy scored the tying goal to make it 4-4 with only six seconds left. Both teams were forced to make some big goal line saves to keep the game alive, but eventually a double tap from mist would force a save to fall in front of goal for Massimo "Atomic" Franceschi. This put NRG on their last life, with Envy in command of a 3-1 series lead.
Game 5 was another slugfest in the matchup with another overtime. Again, NRG were able to take a 3-0 lead before the game was even halfway over. But it is impossible to rule this Envy roster out. They came back again, and, again, scored the tying goal with less than ten seconds on the clock. With their backs to the wall, jstn. would hit the ball high off the backboard for Garrett "GarretG" to make it a 2-3 series.
Again, these two teams would force another time once Game 6 around. After two high scoring matches, things would settle down as it was 1-1 heading into overtime. NRG were still on their last life, but Mariano "SquishyMuffinz" Arruda had a big performance. He didn't score, but two assists and four saves was just what his team needed as they limited Envy to one goal. Both teams scored their only regulation goals with less than a minute left. NRG put together a well executed passing play that jstn. finished with confidence. All of a sudden, it wasn't NRG with their backs to the wall- it was NRG persevering into a situation where they were only one goal away from completing a wild lower bracket run, showcasing just how great this team can be when playing well.
There was only one thing left- win Game 7. But as Caleb "WavePunk" Simmons said, "NRG has made a mistake. They've taken Turbo to Champion's Field." Jstn.'s heroics would show up again as he scored a hat trick to give his team against an Envy that would eventually tie the game for yet another team with less than a minute left. It was the fifth game in a row that went to overtime. GarretG's clear would be intercepted by Atomic, and who else would it be but Pierre "Turbopolsa" Silfver to pounce and score the overtime finisher.
The series was such a back and forth. There were so many overtimes, so many last minute comebacks, it will truly be a remembered match for a long time. These two teams were evenly matched, showcased by the eye-test as the flashy mechanics and sublime teamplay was on display. Along with this, the numbers were within such a narrow margin. Besides Game 1, every single game was decided by a lone goal. Despite losing with the last play of the game, NRG inspired confidence after an early drop to the loser's bracket. These teams provided some great matchups in 2020, and the future is certain to be full of even more stunning series.
Images via Rocket League Esports | @RLEsports