We chart how Rogue has become an unlikely title contender in NA
This past off-season has seen a lot of roster changes, so many in fact that you can count on one hand the amount of NA/EU RLCS sides that haven’t changed. These moves have resulted in a major shift in the landscape of Rocket League. Some were fully expected - NRG was hardly going to stay bad forever and Envy has always had top-tier potential that they’re finally realising. But a new challenger to NA’s top four has arisen, and to the delight of many, it’s Rogue. We’re here to examine how a roster seemingly destined to flirt with relegation has become a legitimate threat to the top of the NA rankings.
Rising from Rivals
When Rogue acquired the former Flyquest duo of AyyJayy & Wonder in January 2019 and complimented them with Kronovi, expectations were high. Flyquest had become the first RLRS side to make the playoffs. And with a proven veteran in their ranks, they seemed primed to make LAN. And they actually would on their first attempt, but not after the rockiest road possible. Their pre-season saw them struggle to make the top eight domestically in regional qualifiers, with multiple losses to teams below their calibre. Combined with a day one exit from Dreamhack Pro Circuit Leipzig, Rogue seemed to be going backwards. However thanks to an unlikely collapse from Evil Geniuses, Rogue would scrape into the playoffs, and run the gauntlet to make the world championship in New Jersey. They would ride the hot streak all the way to the semi-finals of the world championship, with wins over Renegades, FC Barcelona & Triple Trouble.
Unfortunately, their Summer 2019 run was sandwiched by their aforementioned woes in their first months and further struggles after the fact. At Dreamhack Pro Circuit Montreal they would be the first RLCS side to lose to a South America team on LAN. To start RLCS S8, they’d go 1-4 through their first four weeks, only taking a series off the lowly Birds. With NRG & Cloud9 their final two matches, they seemed destined for demotion, however, a miraculous 2-0 week saw them make another late great escape. Unfortunately, they could not replicate their playoffs heroics of six months prior and missed the world championship in Madrid. Having barely avoided a career-threatening tournament, star player AyyJayy sought greener pastures, leaving an open spot for Rogue to slowly begin rebuilding in 2020.
Tomorrow’s Stars Today
In January 2020, Firstkiller was brought in to join Wonder & Kronovi. Now while Firstkiller had the pedigree and it was no surprise to see him hop straight into the RLCS roster upon turning fifteen, the Championship Series is a massive step up for anyone, especially with zero prior experience even in the second division. Therefore the rough initiation for Firstkiller combined with a void in quality offence left by AyyJayy meant it was little surprise Rogue struggled in season nine of RLCS. But despite finally succumbing to the relation tournament, they were a roster that began to trend upwards very quickly as the season neared its conclusion. Back to back wins vs Pittsburgh Knights & Flight ensured Rogue matches their three-win tally from the previous season, and they would ride their momentum into the off-season. They would qualify for the Astronauts Star Circuit finals, come out of the relegation tournament through the upper bracket and begin to look like a top-six side domestically, especially as Firstkiller got more and more used the tier one level of play.
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Enter Turinturo. His heroic showing for the Charlotte Phoenix despite their failure to promote to the RLCS caught the attention of many sides, and Rogue was quick to lock him down as Wonder made way for him. With another injection of mechanics and youth into Rogue’s ranks, expectations were high. Unfortunately, come the Spring Series qualifiers, Rogue would be on the outside looking in. Thankfully for them, due to the disqualification of a previously qualified side, Rogue would get another chance in a last chance qualifier and would not squander it. They entered the main event as the last seed as a result, and after dropping to G2, make a spectacular run, taking out Pittsburgh Knights & Spacestation Gaming en route to 3rd place. It was a great start for the new look Rogue and would be a sign of things to come.
The Keys to Success
To see what lead to Rogue’s resurgence, let’s examine the pieces at play. The new guy, Turinturo has proven to be a major improvement over Wonder. In a metagame where speed and high mechanical ability are becoming more and more important Turo.exe fit into the RLCS side like a duck to water. There are some kinks to iron out, but with every event, he looks more and more comfortable. However, it would be naive to attribute his arrival as the sole reason for Rogue’s rise. It would be impossible to chart Rogue’s ascent up the ranks without mentioning Kronovi. An iconic name who’s been around since the very beginning, his first few seasons on Rogue saw him elevate his teammates by using his brain to always be well-positioned and smart with decision making over simply outdoing players mechanically. It's fair to assume he’s been teaching his teammates a thing or two as there always seems to be a Rogue player following up each other’s touches. Inversely, recent events have seen Kro elevate his own mechanics, similar to what ViolentPanda has done on Dignitas. The marginal individual improvements have made Rogue truly dangerous on all fronts, Kronovi is just as capable of double taps as his teammates.
However, the main factor in Rogue’s success is Firstkiller. A very quick ascent after early struggles has seen the fifteen-year-old be touted as one of the best players in the region. In something that’s becoming more and more common in pro play, the most talented and star player of the side is the third man in Rogue’s rotation. Firstkiller would know a thing or two about defence, given his status as the best 1v1 player in NA, and he often plays a sweeper-keeper role for Rogue, making saves across the goal and immediately transitioning into a counter-attack. Once in the air, his potential is unmatched and he’s made a habit of scoring spectacularly from a plethora of angles you probably didn’t know were possible. His quick growth is probably in part to having veterans around him. Kronovi needn’t be elaborated on, but Wonder is a player who’s come from the bottom to near the very top. Even during Turo’s recent vacation, CorruptedG stepped in to sub as Rogue was still competitive with top sides, but not at full strength. And now that he’s their coach, he best knows his players’ tendencies from literally playing with them, it has all contributed to a well-oiled machine.
So what has been the end result of Rogue’s changes and efforts to improve? Well, the current Rogue trio of Kronovi, Firstkiller & Turinturo is yet to place lower than third-fourth in any B tier or above event participated in. The aforementioned bronze medal in the Spring Series was right before Turo’s vacation, immediately upon his return they got third again at BeyondTheSummit’s Summer Shuffle. Albeit, this was a disappointment given their loss to Omelette in the lower finals in dramatic fashion. In the recent ESPN Esports Invitational, Rogue would come second, becoming only the second side to beat NRG with SquishyMuffinz with a sweep in the group stage. They were unable to repeat that feat in the Grand Finals but battled to a valiant 4-2 defeat.
If there’s anything Rogue needs to improve on still, closing out the series before Champion’s field would probably help with their fans’ heart rates. Rogue has made quite the habit of going all five or seven games and the results can be mixed. Regardless, it would seem they’ve found the perfect mix of youth and experience, and after many seasons on an emotional rollercoaster, Rogue fans finally have a squad to be proud of on a consistent basis.
Images via ZeeboDesigns