At his very first Rainbow Six LAN event, the Russian player of Dan has been crowned the MVP of the Season 9 Finals in Milan this weekend. Dan’s performance was a definite surprise after he joined Team Empire with only two weeks to go in the online season.
Since the beginning of Season 8, the Russian-majority giants of Team Empire have been on a climb up from the Challenger League all the way to the top two in the world at the Six Invitational 2019, and also to these finals at the top-seeded European team.
Coming into these Pro League Finals in Milan, Empire was seen as one of the favourites as they were dominantly leading the community vote and the SiegeGG Predictions -- this despite them bringing on the incredibly inexperienced player of Danila "Dan" Dontsov to replace the longtime member of Artyom "Shockwave" Simakov a mere month ago.
Coming to Milan with confidence, Empire began their march to the title against the second seed in North America -- DarkZero Esports -- in an incredibly close matchup on Bank. After a remarkable back-and-forth first map that saw the Europeans win by a hair in the 15th and final round, Empire had no such opposition on the second map. An overall rating of 1.15 from Dan helped shut down DarkZero’s LAN hopes 7-3 on Oregon, and set them up for a meeting against Fnatic.
Team Empire had previously defeated the other APAC roster in NORA-Rengo in the semi-finals of the Six Invitational 2019. This time, however, Fnatic proved themselves better than the Japanese side in the quarter-finals and Virtue was keen to finally get an APAC roster into an international Grand Final. Virtue did manage to hold his own, helping Fnatic win the second map after losing the first, but Empire was simply too good for even his skills, ending the contest with a 7-0 swipe on map 3.
Then came the Grand Final -- Empire’s second in three months but Evil Geniuses’ first in almost a year -- and Empire looked weak. EG won on their own map pick, Bank, with a 7-5 scoreline and were soon up 6-3 on the second map of Oregon. On match point, series point, and Pro League title point, history repeated itself. In a repeat of one of the most famous games in R6 history, the Six Invitational 2018 grand-final, Evil Geniuses lost their nerve, and Team Empire -- grateful for the respite -- drove their daggers through the gap and forced their way in to get a reverse sweep.
Empire won three rounds in a row to come back to overtime, all of which saw them needing to clutch after going down in man-count, before then adding on two more round wins to take the map 8-6. The comeback was rather similar to ENCE eSports’ one on map two against Black Dragons during the Season 6 Grand Final -- the last time a European team that wasn’t G2 won a significant international event.
That seemed to have broken the spirit of the EG defence as Empire climbed up to a 5-1 lead in the first half of the map on Clubhouse. Suddenly, EG sparked to life and teased a comeback of their own, but after being up 5 men to 2 on the tenth round let things slip against Scyther and Dan. Then put into a 1v2 clutch situation, the newest member of Team Empire held firm ended the map and game for the Russians, earning themselves the title of Season 9 Pro League champions.
Throughout this LAN, each member of Team Empire has shown he is an individually outstanding player, with no one person letting the team down. However, Dan has unequivocally been the standout player, especially given the fact that this was his first-ever offline event in Siege. As well as being the top-fragger at the event and getting the title-winning clutch, the Thatcher/Lesion main was the top entry fragger on his team with 15 out of 34 successful opening kills across the three games, all while being an apparent support/flex player.
Team Empire is now certainly one of the top two teams in the world, but they have yet to defeat their main rivals, G2 Esports in any form of play -- something that is likely to be one of their main goals when Season 10 of the Pro League kicks off. As for Dan, this is certainly a dream of a start to his professional Rainbow Six career, becoming a Pro League champion and joining the previous MVP winners of Nesk and Fabian from Seasons 7 and 8, respectively.
Congratulations to Team Empire for taking the title and to Dan for his award. You can view all of the weekend’s matches during the event here, see our news coverage of the event here, and watch our highlights of every match on YouTube here!