Rainbow Six Pro League Season 9 Sees Competitive Growth
Rainbow Six: Siege’s regular season for Pro League Season 9 has come to an end. Europe, North America, Brazil, and Asia Pacific (APAC) have their top two teams who will head to the Season 9 Finals in Milan, Italy on May 18-19. We also know which teams have been sent to relegation matches and who has been auto-relegated to Challenger League.
Despite there being more matches to conclude Season 9, the regular season has been an interesting couple of months. Many regions have seen a huge swing in competition, with the likes of NA and Brazil having close battles for positions in their respective top half. EU has seen the decline of G2 Esports (the most decorated Rainbow Six team), and APAC as a rising sub-region. A reflection on Season 9’s regular season across the globe honors the great growth of competition in Rainbow Six.
North American Rainbow Six was a two-horse race in 2018. Rogue and Evil Geniuses consistently battled for first and second place in regional play, represented NA at LAN and then both dropped off early at the Six Invitational 2019. Team Reciprocity (previously Cloud9) progressed the furthest out of all NA teams with a surprising third-fourth place finish. Team Reciprocity’s semi-final exit was the sign that the status quo in NA had finally been broken.
EG had to respond if they wanted to maintain their position as NA’s number one team. They accepted the challenge and succeeded. Evil Geniuses’ returned to a strong and secure first position in the Pro League standings in advance of play day 14.
Meanwhile, DarkZero Esports (formerly SK Gaming) acquired former EG players Brandon “BC” Carr and comrade Jordan “BKN” Soojian. They were the pieces needed to push that roster toward international appearances as they are the NA number two seed. In other seasons, SK Gaming fell short heading to international events other than DreamHack in 2018. But now, the core of DarkZero has a chance to compete against other region’s greatest teams. This shouldn’t discredit Team Reciprocity either. DarkZero and Reciprocity were neck and neck until the potential for a tiebreaker for second was denied in week 13.
As for Rogue, their fall from top two to top four isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even Spacestation Gaming slipped from the top half to the bottom half. The shift in team positions on the ladder shows that the NA region has some serious competition in its midst. It will be very exciting to see what happens in Season 10.
Likewise, Europe has a new dynamic in the regular season. Team Empire was a hot topic when they were in the Challenger League. Their path of destruction was met with questions among the EU pro scene. Could they keep this going once Pro League sides understood they are a frag-heavy team? The answer was clearly a yes, as they not only dominated continuously in the regular season but came second place in the Six Invitational. As for Milan, they were the first team to qualify for the event as early as playday #11.
On the other side of things, LeStream lost a few players and its former org, Millenium. What they have managed to do is incredible. Similar to Empire, they carved their own path to the top. LeStream had to go through some of the “if this team beats that” scenarios to push them further up prior to week 13. The shakeup they made and gradual improvement over Season 9 pushed them from consistently missing out on LAN to achieving it.
G2 Esports has been the top dog of 2018 and capped it off with a Six Invitational victory in February 2019. The most astonishing part was they did it when they were a mid-table team in EU, and 3-0’d Team Empire in the final. Since the Six Invitational, G2 continued to struggle to gain wins, which means they will miss out on Milan finals. As a community, we expect G2 to attend LAN and we ponder who could dethrone them. The shock and awe of them not making LAN is a testament to the talent present in the region.
By the end of the regular season, there was a three-way tie for third place. G2 Esports, Penta Sports and Chaos all ended the season on 21 points. Both Penta’s and Chaos’ redemption stories are great. Going from bottom half teams in Season 8 to second seed contenders in Season 9 are solid achievements. In the end, it was on the mini-league system that stopped them from burying G2 in fifth place. The mini league ruling system determines how the final standings look. G2 claimed third due to round difference, whilst Penta pushed above Chaos because of rounds played. For EU, every round and every week mattered this season. Each of these teams at one point had a shot at getting second place. LeStream rose quicker than the other three teams, putting their dreams to rest in the penultimate week.
Finally, the relegation teams in EU is a shocker. Team Secret and Natus Vincere (Navi) found themselves facing relegation, with Navi being auto-relegated. Europe has a tendency for its former top teams to tank and get relegated. Team Vitality and ENCE were no exception as ENCE were relegated in Season 7 after winning the Season 6 LAN final, whilst Vitality attended Six Invitational 2018, only to be relegated to Challenger League by ENCE (now Mouseports). In contrast to Season 8, Navi and Team Secret were neck-and-neck battling over the second seed to Rio de Janeiro. For both teams to be battling over who gets auto-relegated is a sad state but almost a natural phenomenon for the region. If anything, it’s a sign that teams must always be on their game in EU.
We do have to wonder is it likely for Team Secret to survive their relegation match? Europe’s Challenger League is full of talent as we have seen with Empire. This time, the four Challenger League teams currently in playoffs are legitimate threats. Again, EU talent right now is massive and its really showing in every area of the region’s competitive play.
Brazil has always been a strange region. It has historically has always had one strong team, and the second season is considerably weaker. At first, it was Team Liquid, and now its FaZe Clan. This season, FaZe Clan did not hold a huge lead above its second seed counterpart. The battle for second seed was between Immortals, Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) and Team Liquid. The second seed was only decided in the final week when Team Liquid defeated NiP to decline the opportunity for NiP to pass Immortals.
The close competition between the big organizations for the top two is a great sign. Now that the big orgs in Brazil have stabilized and improved their gameplay, Brazil is an exciting region and all four teams will have to do their homework in Milan and for Season 10 if they want to keep improving and challenge EU and NA.
Asia Pacific is the arguably weakest region in international events. Over the last few seasons, APAC has surprised Rogue and Evil Geniuses to upset them in quarterfinal matchups. The usual suspects are Fnatic and Nore-Rengo, the two teams who are heading to Milan from APAC. However, the Southeast Asian sub-region may upset the balance. Cloud9 (previously Mantis) was APAC’s third team heading to major tournaments. Their dream was shattered when they were defeated by Aerowolf in the quarterfinals of the APAC LAN. On the other side of the bracket, Xavier Esports made a good run when they defeated Australia’s first seed, Orgless. Heading into Season 10 and the NA major, we may get a brand-new team representing APAC in the group stages. And as we have learned the hard way, never count out APAC in international appearances.