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Rainbow Six Year 1 - The Wild Wild West

As part of the companion series to our competition pages, here is a narrative and stats-based look at how the first year of competitive Siege shaped up.

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SiegeGG was only launched in November 2017, starting as a band of volunteers all over the world with one goal in mind -- to provide premier-level esports coverage to the game we all know and love. Our first event covered was the Six Invitational 2018, and as we have grown, we have expanded our staff and taken on more ambitious projects, though none have been as ambitious as this one.

Since there was no collective or consistent repository of statistics before we were established, nor did we have the capability to address that gap, those games lacked a statistical picture -- until now.

With our expansion and tireless work of statistics staff and developers, SiegeGG is proud to present our Competition Pages -- as complete a look at the historical data as possible for the ESL Pro League for Year 1 and Year 2, with ratings for all events including and beyond those years back-calculated using our updated formula.

This companion piece will serve to dive into the storylines, stats, and successes of each period in the history of our game, starting with Year 1 -- the Wild Wild West.

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Season 1

Europe

The Pro League was inaugurated in Europe, kicking off on the 4th of March 2016 at the famous Spodek arena in Katowice, Poland. The Finns of GiFu eSports would be consigned to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Spanish gBots squad. Most teams participating were simply those that had the mettle to stick together and grind Ranked as a five-some, according to now-analyst and then-player Alex "z1ronic" Dalgaard-Hansen.

That early on, there was little strategy involved. Each team had its own distinct style, with gBots often running four shotguns on defense, GiFu famous for having Niklas "Willkey" Ojalainen playing the Glaz, and dat fLAM3RS and PENTA Sports proficient with the Recruit shield. Today, laments z1ronic, the vast majority of teams try to emulate the best rather than hit their top potential playing their own way -- an understandable development, but one that has homogenised the way Siege is played.

Back then, each team only had three to four strategies per site and had not quite figured out the art of roaming or roam clearing. Yet, as the statistics show, a hierarchy of teams -- and to an extent, players -- was beginning to be established.

Bounssi, over a year later at the Six Invitational 2018. (Photo: ENCE)

Jouni "Bounssi" Salo was already very obviously the best Smoke player in Europe, and one of the best in the world, according to z1ronic, a position he would hold until his team's first and only Pro League victory in Season 6. As a result, he would finish the hybrid online-offline first season with the higest rating by a fair margin -- 1.48. The eventual champions of Rainer "S4i" Kneidl and Niclas "Pengu" Mouritzen, alongside Daniel "chOi" Ortega Martínez and z1ronic, would be a little further back.

Of these players, only Pengu, now playing for G2 Esports, has been able to maintain his peformance to date, a feat that many (including z1ronic) would take to be evidence of him being the best-ever Rainbow Six player.

PENTA would have its other players topping the charts as well, with Iván "KRYP" Cuesta Méndez having the fifth-highest Kill-Death differential in the league, Martin "rendier" Friedrich having the third-best entry statistics -- only behind his own teammates of Pengu and S4i -- and Michiel "oVie" van Dartel would be tied for third in the number of successful defuser plants.

The top-five players in each metric in Season 1 in Europe.

Despite the general lack of strategy, both GiFu and PENTA had already established a very early form of structure, with the modern philosophy of trading map control for time already very much present.

North America

Over in NA, things were quite similar in some regards but also rather different in others. Just like in Europe, the fact that Siege was a brand-new FPS game that not only had a no-respawn system, but also had a unique style of methodical and tactical-focused gameplay, was enough to attract players like Michael "KiXSTAr" Stockley and Troy "Canadian" Jaroslawski.

In North America, too, there was an initial team hierarchy with Team Orbit and Kingdom eSports (and VwS Gaming, playing with the cheating and eventually-'retired' player of Philip "Clever" Lough) seen as top of the pack. However, there was no particularly established player hierarchy. Teams were formed on the basis of interpersonal relationships and a base level of mechanical skill was all that was needed to join the Pro League.

With 22 maps missed off-stream, however, the statistical picture is not exactly complete, according to KiXSTAr. To him, the season had felt very different than what the statistics display -- a feeling that his Season 2 teammate Canadian echoed. With the way that professional esports work, especially in the context of the early days of competitive Siege, matches only provided approximately "five percent" of the image, with private scrimmages making up the rest.

As far as ratings went, Team Orbit's Ozgur "Kanine" Alturk led the field with a 1.34 rating, 0.07 ahead of the next legitimate player. Recent Evil Geniuses player Ammar "Necrox" Albanna featured in many of the metrics, however, having the fourth-highest rating, the highest K-D differential, and the joint-second-highest entry split.

The top-five players in each metric in Season 1 in North America.

Other famous, currently, or recent active pros include then-Velocity Esports player Brandon "BC" Carr, who now coaches DarkZero Esports and Owen "Pojoman" Mitura. The former not only had the best entry differential in the league, but also the higest number of clutches, and the joint-third highest KOST.

However, KiXSTAr noted that most of Orbit's best games being off-stream meant that the rest of the team's lack of appearances in the top-five of any of the other metrics -- save for Dave "Kuush" Brunelle having one 1vX clutch -- belied its first-place finish during the season. When Team Orbit performed, he noted, it was usually off-stream and when it did not, it was when Kanine would be doing everything in his power to stave off a loss.

In comparison to the top players, though, it is particularly interesting to see one of the best in the region today -- DarkZero Esports' Matthew "Hotancold" Stevens -- was struggling in particular that early with Got em Gaming, finishing Season 1 with a 0.78 rating.

Finally, as far as the maps went, North American teams preferred to stick to the smaller maps such as House and shied away from more complex maps like Bank and Consulate as they were easier to learn and master. Yet, according to KiXSTAr, strategy was extremely limited and teams used to listen at casters' attempts to ascribe logic to team and player decisions with much amusement.

Finals

PENTA Sports won the Season 1 Pro League title. (Photo: ESL)

Things were about to come to a head at the inaugural Pro League Finals, however. Thanks to Europe's more structured play style, North American teams had little idea what they were in for -- VwS Gaming in particular had it rough, given that they had to play with Kyle "Mint" Lander in place of the mysteriously 'retired' Clever.

PENTA Sports would go on to win, defeating both VwS Gaming and GiFu eSports 2-0 in the span of four hours. Team Orbit, as KiXSTAr recalled, felt completely controlled and outclassed by the eventual second-placed GiFu. This would be a big learning point, for the North Americans, however.

The top-five players in each metric at the Season 1 Finals.

Much to no one's surprise in hindsight, Pengu finished as the event MVP (Most Valuable Player) with a dominant 1.47 rating that stemmed primarily from his +18 K-D split and 79% KOST. His teammate of oVie would be one of the two EVPs (Extreme Valuable Players), though would be some ways away with his 1.23 rating while GiFu's Willkey would be the other, with a 1.07 rating.

First blood, thus, would go to Europe.

Season 2

Europe

With what is known about Pengu now and his accomplishments in Year 2 and beyond, some might be forgiven for expecting PENTA Sports to continue to dominate. However, this was, as z1ronic put it, "the Yunktis season".

Despite victory for the region, teams in Europe felt that they had not taken Siege seriously enough in the previous season. Teams put their heads down and worked even harder, with Yunktis rising quickly to take the lead. The Frenchmen worked especially well thanks to being ahead of the curve in regards to understanding how to use intelligence operators like Valkyrie, pioneering the choice to place the Black Eyes outside of the building rather than inside.

Sixquatre at the Season 2 Finals with Yunktis. (Photo: ESL)

Much of the credit can be given to now-caster Benjamin "Sixquatre" Leray. Bringing a military-like discipline and efficiency to his team would change the game so much that z1ronic described them as having the same impact Team Empire has had in recent times. Canadian, for his part, said that most in-game leaders that progressed on to lead their teams well learnt the art from none other than Sixquatre.

Despite the prevalance of Valkyrie and Pulse, teams still did not understand the value of IQ on attack, largely in part due to the necessity of the hard-breach duo of Thatcher and Thermite, the need for soft-destruction with Sledge, and the sheer power of having an Ash and the newly released Blackbeard. As a result, with Ash forcing engagements and Blackbeard holding down lines of sight, players with the most time on those two operators usually dominated the killfeeds.

The top-five players in each metric in Season 2 in Europe.

The statistics do not lie, though some may be surprised to see PENTA players dominating the metrics. For his part, though, oVie's 1.79 is an outlier given that he had only played 17 rounds, with the next-highest rated player being Yunktis' Olivier "Renshiro" Vandroux . Pengu, as expected, follows right behind -- effectively second not only in rating, but also K-D split and KOST.

Despite the presence of PENTA players in the top-five of each metric, the Season 1 champions missed out by three points, finishing fourth to GiFu's second. The Finns, surprisingly, were only dominant in the Entry category, though the professional swimmer Riku "Keittiömestari" Pöytäkivi had three clutches and Mikko "ProtaX" Mutanen had nine successful defuser plants.

North America

Over in North America, Team Orbit was ready to put what had been learned from their loss against GiFu to good use. As such, team hierarchy would get entrenched further as Team Orbit would dominate North America, spreading the European style of play and mixing it with the North American.

KiXSTAr with Team Orbit at the Season 2 Finals. (Photo: Sammy Lam, ESL)

Behind Team Orbit, True Amibition and Trinity eSports were not too far off. Orbit and Trinity, in particular, made efforts to have a deep map pool, scrimming every single map to be as ready as they could be. Slowly, but surely, the maps that can now be considered 'more competitive', such as Kanal, Chalet, Club House, and Bank saw more play. However, Hereford still saw eight appearances, with its uncompetitive nature not really coming to the fore until Season 3.

Both Consulate and Oregon saw little play that season in NA, given that they required different play styles and needed a deeper understanding before teams became comfortable with the maps. This was hindered, in part, due to the fact that only a handful of players in the scene then contributed to the strategy-making, with most simply playing as instructed. Today, Canadian argues that to be the best team -- as Spacestation Gaming is now -- everyone has to contribute.

The top-five players in each metric in Season 2 in North America.

Similar to oVie in Europe, Dylan "Gib2k" Gibbs only played 12 rounds, meaning that Ace Gaming's Legend finished with the highest rating at 1.25. The Orbit duo of Steven "Snake_Nade" White and KiXSTAr followed close behind, with George "KingGeorge" Kassa tied on rating with the latter. Each metric, however, clearly reflects how dominant Orbit was that season, with every one of its players appearing in the top-five of a metric.

Trinity played well too, with Mint and Pojoman combining for a total of five clutches, with KingGeorge the other member having a strong rating and K-D split, while Joey "Xclusive" Buzzeo finished with a league-topping 10 defuser plants. However, despite their strength, the eight point gap to Orbit showed just how far ahead Orbit was.

Finals

With their two strong personalities of Sixquatre and Vincent "Falko" Baucino, Yunktis was never going to be stopped from winning the Season 2 Finals. According to z1ronic, the duo was unstoppable in-game, even if things might have been rockier out of it.

Team Orbit, having learnt its lesson from losing to GiFu the previous season, came back with a vengeance and took the Finns down. But, as Canadian and KiXSTAr agreed, the Orbit players were in no way prepared for Yunktis. FlipSid3 Tactics, having signed the Trinity roster, got the closest, nearly winning the first map in overtime that would have sealed a 2-0 with their 5-3 win on the second map.

In the grand final, recounted Canadian, Yunktis always had a plan and Orbit lacked the ability to adapt. These strategies kept the Frenchmen one step ahead of the North Americans at almost every turn.

The top-five players in each metric at the Season 2 Finals.

Despite Canadian's valiant efforts, netting him an EVP merit with a 1.11 rating, the 1.27-rated Blackbeard-Valkyrie of Renshiro took the win as well as the MVP title, and 1.16-rated Buck-Pulse of the EVP Falko meant that Yunktis would go ahead and win their first Pro League title.

Season 3

Europe

In Season 3, the competition in Europe heated up like never before. This was, according to z1ronic, when Siege "got serious" and the contemporary meta that is seen today began to be recognisable.

While Yunktis had dominated in Season 2, every team that had been battered by them then had spent time working out the holes in their armour. Not only that, with the French team's personalities beginning to cause friction, others were circling to steal the Pro League Finals spot away from them.

The Season 3 Playing Ducks roster. From left: meepeY, ENEMY, Panix, z1ronic, and Elemzje.

Playing Ducks, for their part, were trying especially hard to qualify. Having dropped its old team, only carrying over z1ronic and Konstantin "cHaOZ_ZoNE" Marahrens to replace the PENTA-bound František "A1GA" Kotačka on the Search Orga roster, the team was cautiously hopeful that the changes would be enough to get them to LAN.

With Ville "SHA77E" Palola leaving the old Playing Ducks roster, originally intending to join the police academy, the team had certainly lost one of its stronger players but had also reorganised into one that would give us one of the most entertaining Pro League games to date. With his plans seemingly postponed, SHA77E then found himself on GiFu eSports, who unlocked a new side of him.

As far as the statistics go, every metric had a diverse mix of players. Willkey lead the charts with a 1.37 rating and was third by one kill to Yunktis' Renshiro and PENTA's Joonas "jNSzki" Savolainen in terms of K-D differential. Aside from them, Mattias Johannes "Renuilz" Nordebäck was also making a name for himself, finishing with the fourth-highest rating and fourth-highest K-D spread.

GiFu was certainly the team to beat that season, a feat that none of the Europeans accomplished as the Finns finished with a 3-4-0 record. Below them, however, was a bloodbath. On the final day, each of the four matches had finished in a draw, meaning that all of Playing Ducks, PENTA Sports, and Yunktis had a 3-3-1 record and 12 points. What's more, the former two teams both had an identical round-differential, though Playing Ducks had played six more rounds than PENTA.

The top-five players in each metric in Season 3 in Europe.

Eventually in the evening, z1ronic and his team got the confirmation -- they were headed to LAN. Playing Ducks themselves had no shortage of top players in the metrics, with Dimitri "Panix" de Longeaux having a joint-third best KOST -- behind only his own teammates of Matthew "meepeY" Sharples and Julian "ENEMY" Blin -- and the joint-second highest number of clutches. In addition, meepeY led the league with 10 plants this time around, creating a solid core for Playing Ducks.

North America

Over in North America, though, the winds of change were blowing. After failing to win the title last season, Canadian had decided to form his own team -- one that would go on to fill the Siege history books. Having identified the players he would work the best with and those that were strong in their own right, Biggity Boo Bop -- later Continuum -- was born.

The Season 3 Continuum roster. From left: Necrox, Retro, Canadian, nvK, Yung.

With Nathan "nvK" Valenti, Alexander "Retro" Lloyd, Necrox, and Yung, on board Continuum would keep making strides, grinding towards the coveted Finals slot. Interestingly enough, Canadian noted that his current coach -- Justin "Lycan" Woods -- would have similarly made an equally strong team given the time.

Just like in Europe, this was when some teams began showing early signs of the Siege we know and love today, with the structure of Yunktis being shared with all of North America as well. The region was acutely aware, however, that it was playing catch-up.

With time to practice, teams in North America were now comfortable playing on the larger maps like Club House, Chalet, and Border and taking risks to try and gain a competitive advantage. Of note -- at least in North America -- was how Clubhouse was starkly attacker sided, with only a 38% win rate for the defense across 63 rounds. Much of this, according to Canadian, was due to the strength of Blackbeard on the map as well as the massive radius of Thatcher's EMP grenades.

The top-five players in each metric in Season 3 in North America.

As far as the leaderboards were, it was clear that this was the season of Continuum. Each one of its players made it to the top-five in at least one metric, with Canadian topping the rating and K-D splits with 1.28 and +32, respectively, and finishing in joint-third for the entry differential with +5. As for the rating, though, both KingGeorge and Pojoman were not far behind at all, with the two also having impressive K-D and Entry splits.

Elsewhere, OrglessGG's players, Spencer "Slashug" Oliver and Snake_Nade both had strong entry statistics, with Slashug having the league-highest of nine defuser plants and a strong 72% KOST -- though Retro led the way with an extremely high 84% figure.

Particularly interesting to note is the fact that all but six players in the top-five of each metric were active pros in Season 11. Of those inactive, Snake_Nade and KingGeorge are now primarily Rainbow Six: Siege streamers, Marcus "Talon" Lynn had played in the Challenger League as recently as Season 10, while John "Avian" Ackerly had played in the Pro League in Season 10.

Finals

Going into the Finals, both z1ronic and Canadian would go on to have a career-defining two days. Rainbow Six, too, would also begin to start growing into its own as an esport, with the weekend culminating in one of the most entertaining Pro League matches to date.

For their part, Playing Ducks had not intended to play Kanal against Most Wanted (formerly OrglessGG) in the semi-finals. With the map not something favoured by the Europeans and it being the decider, the odds were stacked against them. Somehow, through the prowess of Panix and meepeY, Most Wanted fell in the final round of overtime, leaving Continuum to deal with them to take home North America's first title.

With the contest extremely evenly matched, the final, infamous round of overtime was all thanks to a bold choice by Necrox and just the correct amount of mechanical skill. It was, as KiXSTAr put it, the one time that North America not only did not choke, but snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Playing Ducks had been one of the earliest teams to have a strict and structured flank drone setup on each map, and knowing this had initially led Canadian to dissuade Necrox from going on the flank. However, staring defeat, he eventually relented, hoping that the flank drone in kitchen would miss the flanking Smoke. 

As chaos reigned during the site take, with z1roic eliminated by his teammate of Bryan "Elemzje" Tebessi, through an inexplicable sequence of events, a decision by Elemzje to drone the site proved to be the Europeans' undoing. Previously, when throwing out a second drone, the first used to get destroyed, and when Elemzje had droned the site, he had caused the crucial flank drone in kitchen to vanish.

As z1ronic hopped onto the drones to check for flanks, a sinking realisation set in -- the flank drone was gone -- and as Necrox completed the flank and Retro traded him out in the final 2v1, he could do little but watch. Still, z1ronic and the rest of Playing Ducks held their heads high, as, for the first time ever, a Siege game had netted 100,000 concurrent viewers.

The top-five players in each metric at the Season 3 Finals.

The statistics were as expected. The ratings and K-D charts were both led by nvK, netting him the MVP merit, while his teammate of Yung earned an EVP merit with the second-highest rating on the team. Playing Ducks' meepeY was not far behind, securing an EVP merit with a 1.23 rating, likely in large part to a whopping 11 plants in just the two games played.

Six Invitational 2017

It was then finally time for the Six Invitational 2017, the first tournament of its kind. According to KiXSTAr, he distinctly remembered one thing -- he knew, with a certainty, that Continuum was going to win. Having seen their performance in Season 3 and tracked their improvements, he and z1ronic both knew that little would stop the North Americans.

For Canadian, this improvement was brought about simply by putting in the hours. Those who could, got better, and those who did not, fell behind. As players slowly learnt from each other, the understanding of the game grew and pure mechanical skill started becoming less important.

Both KiXSTAr and Canadian noted, in particular, the performance of Santos Dexterity -- the squad that is now known as FaZe Clan. Immediately, their prowess was clear, with Leonardo "Astro" Luis immediately a standout performer. The statistics reflected this, as Astro had the fifth-highest rating, as well as the third-highest K-D split.

Both Latin America (LATAM) and Asia-Pacific (APAC) were playing at an international event for the first time, thus few had any idea what to expect. While some might have perceived that as a lack of respect, z1ronic, Canadian, and KiXSTAr all agreed that it was simply due to a previous lack of any chance to earn the required respect.

Both Santos Dexterity and Team Envy (now Giants Gaming) did admirably. Santos defeated Euronics Gaming in a definite upset and gave Continuum the run-around too, while Team Envy managed to take a map off the eventual finalists of eRa Eternity.

Little had been known about these two regions before this, and Canadian noted that the Envy captain -- Glen "Lunarmetal" Suryasaputra had a deep understanding of the game that allowed him to spring a surprise against much more experienced opponents despite the lack of a bootcamp or the ability to dedicate as much time.

Santos Dexterity, said Canadian, was strong, but it was the lack of experience that eventually did them in -- as it did for Envy. As z1ronic put it, back then, Europe had pioneered strategies, while North America tried to beat them, but LATAM and APAC both had come to play their own game.

While GiFu's SHA77E turned up huge at the Six Invitational, finishing with the second-highest rating in a far cry from his dismal Season 3 Finals performance, it was not enough. Team Envy's star player of Adrian "Ysaera" Wui, too, did well, getting the seventh-highest rating despite his region's lack of competitive structure, but the show was all Continuum's.

The top-five players in each metric at the Six Invitational 2017.

Canadian was by far and away the best player there, topping the charts with a 1.32 rating, largely thanks to his +20 K-D split, +7 entry, and 75% KOST, to earn the MVP merit. His teammate, nvK, also secured an EVP merit with a 1.23 rating, while eRa had Tyler "Ecl9pse" McMullin and Kanine finish with identical 1.06 ratings to also be classed as EVPs.

The all-NA grand final was certainly a tense game, with Canadian recalling that eRa had been fairly close to Continuum in terms of skill. However, with the two teams being scrim partners, he noted -- perhaps with the luxury of hindsight -- that his team had never really felt like they were going to lose.

Sure enough, as fans watched the second round of overtime on the decider map play out, as Snake_Nade and Avian stood stuck in Barbed Wire, Continuum rose up to grab the caber and become the first world champions.

Up Next

While you wait for the second part of this companion series, detailing the second year of Rainbow Six competition, check out the Competition Pages that we have launched, and leave comments about what was your favourite moment from Year 1.

Next, we will be taking a look at PENTA's searing runs through Seasons 4 and 5, Elevate's fairytale run in Season 5, and ENCE eSports' first and only Pro League title. Stay tuned for more and follow us on Twitter for everything competitive Siege.