Both Europe and North America provided intense gameplay.
After what seemed like an eternity, RLCS X returned for the Winter Split and reminded everyone why they watch. With no shortage of big matchups and close games, the first Regional in Europe and Week 1 of The Grid for North America came to a close. These five matches were all entertaining and left some big implications for the rest of the Winter Split.
5) Europe Regional Upper Bracket Semifinals - Team BDS vs Oxygen Esports
This matchup would not seem close at a simple glance of the scoreline, BDS 4-1 Oxygen, but a deeper look would show it was one of the most challenging matches Team BDS would face through the entire tournament. Oxygen Esports took BDS to three overtimes in the five-game series, with almost ten minutes of overtime being played in total. Although Oxygen weren't able to keep up with the eventual champions, this was a huge tournament for the team. The Fall Split was a massive disappointment for Thibault "Chausette45" Grzesiak and crew, but if this tournament was anything to go off of, things are looking up.
Before matching up with BDS, Oxygen had only lost one match out of their previous three series. A resurgent Oxygen could make for a much tighter contest in Europe after BDS, and Renault Vitality ran away in the Fall Split. For BDS, they continued to show why they are the best in Europe with exceptional defence and offensive play.
4) North America The Grid Semifinals- Spacestation Gaming vs NRG
This was a matchup between the two best teams in NA from the Fall Split, and the fact that both of these teams are world-class showed. There were a total of 32 goals throughout the series, and four overtimes. The mechanical prowess of the players was on full display, and was essentially a continuous highlight reel.
Game 5 went to overtime with over six minutes with NRG taking it, but SSG were able to respond with a close win in Game 6. NRG would seal the series win though, and that one game difference could mean a lot come the end of the split, given how close these teams are.
3) Europe Regional Lower Bracket Semifinals - Giants Gaming vs Top Blokes
These teams are constantly in the shadow of Europe's powerhouses, BDS and Vitality, so it was great to see these two teams put on such an incredible show as they fought for a spot in the lower bracket finals. In a seven-game set, this series saw Top Blokes score six goals in a single game, Game 3 have almost eight minutes of overtime, and even the final, decisive seventh game going to overtime. Both of these teams are definitely in contention for a top-five spot in Europe, and it is quite possible this matchup will show up again several times throughout the split.
The Giants would take the series but fail to make an impact against Vitality, showing there might still be a large gap between the two powerhouses and the rest of the field. That means this matchup could be decisive in how the rest of the table develops.
2) North America The Grid Finals - G2 Esports vs NRG
How many overtimes does it take to make it through a week of the Grid? Well, in this case for NRG, it was eight throughout the entirety of the playoffs. The finals matchup against G2 saw three overtimes, and G2 claimed victory in all of them. Despite this, NRG came out on top. Not only that, but with the exception of Game 1, every single game was decided by a single goal.
While NRG and Spacestation have been claiming the trophies in North America, G2 has been right on their tails, and the parity among the top three is exciting to watch. G2 dominated the Fall Grid, and they look to keep that trend going with another strong performance this week, despite falling short to NRG.
1) Europe Regional Grand Finals - Team BDS vs Renault Vitality
It would be difficult to say that this matchup surprise fans as these two have constantly been making appearances against each other all season long. Despite the scoreline falling Team BDS 4-1 Renault Vitality, the context behind the matchup kept it exciting and potentially prophetic of further BDS dominance. The first matchup of the day between these teams would be when they met in the Winner's Finals, and BDS completely annihilated Vitality. BDS outscored their rivals 14-3 over four games. Yeah - that's a tough pill to swallow for Vitality. In response, Vitality swept Giants Gaming in the Losers' Finals with their own defensive clinic to force a rematch.
The Grand Finals began with Vitality defeating BDS 2-0, and the following game a close win by BDS in overtime made it feel like the series would be a true matchup between titans. BDS wouldn't allow that as they went on to run the table and win the next three games in a row, scoring at least three goals in all three of the final games. Vitality is a great team, but BDS has been a tier above everybody. Through this entire tournament, BDS lost two games. There are some good teams in Europe, but Team BDS are looking like potential world champions.
Images via @TeamBDS | @RLEsports