This past weekend was the season six Regional Finals for the Rocket League Championship Series, with the top eight teams securing their spots to the World Championships in Las Vegas in early November. There were some surprising and memorable plays, most notably Gimmick’s disgusting ceiling backflip shot in Cloud9’s trouncing of Evil Geniuses for third place, but the rest panned out almost exactly as you’d expect, and that’s because Rocket League esports currently has a Golden State Warriors problem.
For the last two seasons, Europe’s Dignitas has dominated the RLCS. Formerly Gale Force Esports, Kaydop, ViolentPanda, and Turbopolsa are basically unstoppable. The closest they came to losing RLCS last season was dropping a series to NRG early in the tournament. They handily fought their way back from the loser’s bracket to not only secure a bracket reset against NRG in the finals but then win another four games to clinch their second championship in a row.
This season’s European regional playoffs were pretty much the Dignitas show. After a perfect 7-0 season during league play, Dignitas was the number one seed heading into regionals. Dignitas earned a bye the first round and first faced off against PSG Esports in the semi-finals, easily winning the series 4-2, before completely sweeping We Dem Girlz in the finals off the back of the team’s signature passing plays and a nutty Turbopolsa redirect to become the back-to-back-to-back European champions.
The problem is that Europe’s Regional Finals were pretty much decided before the first kickoff. Everyone on the commentator desk knew that Dignitas was far and away the best team playing that day, as evident in the fact that almost no one voted against them when it came time to predict match results. The biggest surprise that day was that PSG defeated Renault Vitality, which really wasn’t that surprising based on Vitality’s weak play throughout the regular season.
The current narrative in the RLCS is that Dignitas is the first true Rocket League dynasty—and for good reason. They’re the only team to win back-to-back world championships and the only team to win three regional championships in a row. Their performance was so dominant this season that it’s hard to imagine them dropping even one series in the upcoming world championships.
Most of the RLCS analysts seemed genuinely excited to talk about Dignitas as a dynasty. The league is currently in its sixth competitive season and it finally has a team to beat. I guess it sort of makes them feel like Rocket League has arrived as a “real” sport: They finally have a 1930s New York Yankees, 1960s Green Bay Packers, or a 1990s Chicago Bulls. These kinds of teams create everlasting narratives for their sports by achieving historical accomplishments that fans remember for decades later.
The problem is that it kind of makes the game not fun to watch. Jordan’s Bulls and Vince Lombardi’s Packers still got shut down by competition that stood a chance. Dignitas, especially this season, is looking more like the Golden State Warriors, by having almost every one of the league’s best players to bring them to the finals again and again and again. The Warriors are a dynasty, sure, but they’re kind of ruining the NBA by making their appearance in the finals a foregone conclusion. Vegas is already giving them a 50 percent chance of making it to the finals before the season’s first tip-off. The last four seasons of Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals pretty much made everything that happened in the season before the finals seem pointless, and that looks like it could happen again, both in the NBA and the RLCS. If Dignitas is just going to win the RLCS World Championship again, why did I even watch the rest of the season?
The North American side of the RLCS got a little bit closer to what a really fun dynasty team looks like this year, when Fireburner, JSTN, and GarrettG from NRG reclaimed their North American title after losing it to G2 Esports last year. NRG came into the playoffs after a somewhat disappointing season but was able to claw their way back to the finals, first by sweeping FlyQuest, a team new to the RLCS after qualifying in the Rival series, and then by beating Cloud9 in a fairly close series. They got their rematch against G2 and won 4-2 in a series that was close until G2 pretty much gave up in the last two games. This felt more like the mid-’90s Bulls and Orlando Magic, with two great teams going back and forth. Sure, NRG, G2, and Cloud9 are consistently the top 3 teams in the region, but it’s at least possible for another team to topple one of them.
I honestly can’t decide if a dynasty like Dignitas is good or bad for the league right now. The one thing that makes them valuable is that whoever can manage to upset them, hopefully in the finals, will at least create a new story for RLCS, and that’s good for everyone. But if they manage to win yet again, and keep winning, RLCS runs the risk of getting stale.