The promotion/relegation has a very storied history so let us look at the good, bad & ugly from five seasons of drama.
It’s hard to believe the rival series is over five seasons old, and along with providing a clear path to pro for aspiring players, it brought with it one of the most dramatic events of the year; The Promotion Playoffs. The bottom of the Championship Series fends off the top of the Rival series to compete for a spot in the next RLCS. It has a very storied history so let us look at the good, bad & ugly from five seasons of drama.
Good - Careers are born
You may not realise it today, but Jstn burst onto everyone’s radar by dragging Out of Style into the RLCS in the first promotion playoffs. He laid the foundations for many people to follow his trend, and not the same level, but still make a big splash in the RLCS. Season five gave us Flyquest, with AyyJayy & Wonder's promotion, a duo that to this has both players in RLCS and achieved a top-four placing at the season seven world championship. Across the pond, in season six, fan favourites Triple Trouble would promote and go on to defy the odds and make 5th-8th at the world championship. Hell, modern-day superstar Alpha54 won MVP in his rookie season and now is paired with one Rocket League’s greatest duos. Even this past season, aside from NRG, six out of nine NA LAN rookies had only come through the promotion tournament just six months prior, and nowadays, Spacestation Gaming holds a legit claim to being NA #1. Simply put, 75% of players to make the promotion playoffs through RLRS end up in RLCS at some point, so even if success isn’t immediate, there’s a good chance it’s inevitable.
Bad - Choking under pressure
Some players thrive under the spotlight, others collapse, and on a single day four-team double-elimination bracket, it is inevitable that sometimes, the expected side will not make the RLCS. While not exclusive to the promotion tournament, Charlotte Phoenix seemed primed to auto-promote to RLCS last season. However they bottled a 2-0 lead to Afterthought, and a 3-1 lead to RBG, and although they had a second chance in the promotion playoffs, they came dead last. And given the recent game five OT loss to Chaos to deny them auto-promotion again, is history set to repeat itself?
Veloce Esports undefeated run in early 2019 is probably the reason auto-promotion to RLCS exists. 7-0 in league play, multiple high placings in Dreamhack Pro Circuit qualifiers, they seemed RLCS ready, and a return to the RLCS for FreaKii, FlamE & Nielskoek seemed inevitable. However, on that one faithful day, they collapsed, dropping two games to lowly mousesports as they scraped by 4-2, swept 4-0 by a Complexity side whose number they’d had in the regular season, before falling game seven to The Bricks as they failed to promote.
However that does not compare to the tragedy of Team Secret in RLCS season five. With new signing EyeIgnite, they went on a tear in the off-season, mixing it up with the to RLCS sides and even winning the Rocket Baguette Hyper Cup. Despite EyeIgnite getting lured away, with Tigreee replacing him, Tylacto & FlamE seemed poised to return to the RLCS, especially with the RLCS sides being struggling Fnatic & exceL, and unexpected Servette Geneva joining them from Rival Series. In their upper semi-final vs Fnatic, FlamE went nuclear as Team Secret secured a hard-fought 4-2 win over their biggest rivals and expected tougher competition. All that remained between them and RLCS was Servette Geneva. Given Servette had taken the upset win in league play, this was always going to be a closer encounter that Secret would be favoured in. Up 3-2 in the series up a goal in game six, the clock hit zero seconds, however a Tigreee whiff would let Servette tie the game, and they would win in two consecutive overtimes to literally steal an RLCS spot. It wasn’t that Secret lost, it was how they did it, and they could not bounce back in lowers, despite taking the first game 3-2, Fnatic would win the rematch with 9-1, 4-1, 6-1 & 2-1 game wins to keep Secret out of the RLCS.
Ugly - Careers are ended
As of post-season eight, thirty players have relegated from RLCS through the promotion tournament. Twenty-One haven’t made it back. While that isn’t career-ending on its own, only five of those players were playing in RLRS this season, while seven players have hung up the sticks and retired. One of the first major casualties was the former Counter-Logic Gaming roster. One year prior the Selfless squad was taking it to Flipsid3 at the world championship, then before you knew it, Mijo & Timi were retired and Dappur was out of commission until very recently making an inspired return under the Soniqs.
Markydooda, one of the original greats to touch the game, met his ultimate demise in the promotion tournament as well under exceL, and having an unsuccessful run in the following RLRS season. Rogue’s demotion in RLCS season six might be the biggest casualty yet. Upon relegation, Sizz retired as a full-time professional player to transition into coaching while subbing for teams, Joro flat out retired and Jacob wasn’t even in RLRS until this past season, but even that performance was a far cry from his days of winning XGames. Even more recently with Evil Geniuses’ shock relegation from RLCS, despite making playoffs at both Dreamhack Dallas & Valencia, CorruptedG has at best-gotten 4th in RLRS, while Klassux pro RL career has fallen by the wayside in favour of playing poker. And that's not even getting started on Drippay, the OCE import who was sent back home as quickly as he arrived, and while still competing, his new endeavours are yet to yield the domestic dominance of 2017/2018.
Ultimately, the promotion/relegation tournament not only makes careers, but ends them. While this weekend may be the jump start for the careers of teams like Stromboli, RCD Espanyol & Solary, it could also spell the end for legends like Kronovi or remkoe, such is the cut-throat beauty and drama of the promotion/relegation tournament.
Image via ZeeboDesigns.