The final week of the NAL featured a couple matchups that didn't live up to the hype and a match billed as a snoozer that ended up being one of the best of the season.
On Monday, DarkZero thumped Oxygen to secure their spot in the November Mini-Major, and Soniqs defeated Disrupt behind rookie David "Iconic" Ifidon's best day yet. Wednesday's action featured the first iteration of Oxygen-TSM, and it was a barn burner.
TSM came out on top, but only by a hair. The two will face off in the first match November Mini-Major, while DarkZero awaits the Qualifier winner. Disrupt and eUnited squared off for the final spot in the Qualifier, and behind a stellar performance from Aaron "Shuttle" Dugger, Disrupt took the final spot in the Qualifier tournament.
Stat of the week: Shuttle and Skys shine
It took a Herculean effort from two key players to put DarkZero in first place overall and Disrupt into the Qualifier. Alexander "Skys" Magor was lights-out against Oxygen, and Shuttle devastated eUnited to take the final Qualifier spot.
Skys pulled off a staggering 30-14 K/D stat line in just 24 rounds. He was seemingly in the right spot to catch Oxygen off-guard, and in his 50-50 gunfights, he was just not missing. DarkZero take the No.1 overall spot in the regular season, and it's at least partially due to Skys' individual efforts.
Disrupt is another thing entirely. Written off as a dead team over the summer, the addition of Nick "njr" Rapier energized and pushed this squad to actual competitiveness, something not many saw coming. In Stage 2, it was clear that njr couldn't do it all himself. Enter Shuttle, a veteran who is now playing like a hungry rookie. Shuttle dropped 31 kills on eUnited and had a 6-1 Entry +/- stat to boot.
Clips of the week
Here's a collection of clips from the Oxygen-TSM matchup that sneakily became one of the best matches of the year.
I highly recommend that you watch the highlights from this match at the very least.
Beyond that, here are some other plays. I'm particularly fond of Kevin "Easilyy" Skokowski's trigger discipline in this next clip.
Also, this little near-disastrous timing occurred during the DarkZero-Oxygen matchup.
Storyline of the week: See you for now, NAL
This was the last week of regular season games for the NAL until next March. That's an absurdly long amount of time, but luckily we'll have the Qualifier, the November Mini-Major, and hopefully Six Invitational to look forward to.
It's hard to imagine the Six Invitational not happening, but the possibility is still there. The November Mini-Major could be a repeat of the exact same teams that were featured in the August Mini-Major. The Qualifier will see some solid gameplay with Disrupt, Mirage, Spacestation, and Soniqs, but we've been watching DarkZero, TSM, and Oxygen play each other for a while now.
What I'm saying is that things are going to be dull until COVID is over. It's inescapable; until international competition returns, we're going to see the exact same teams play each other over and over and over. If the Invitational isn't international as well, then we could not see anything fresh until March of 2021, or perhaps the relegation matches.
This isn't meant to be a complaint -- it's completely and totally out of the hands of most of the people making the decisions. A global pandemic was always going to throw a wrench in the gears of an esport that thrives off making its Majors community events, enticing viewers and live spectators that normally wouldn't head to www.twitch.tv/rainbow6.
It's just sad. There's simultaneously too much of the same Rainbow 6 over a short period of time and not enough of the same Rainbow 6 over a long period of time. That's completely due to COVID, I'd imagine we all wouldn't be as apathetic to a DarkZero-TSM matchup if it hadn't been played so much already.
Beyond all the very valid complaints...the NAL has been pretty damn awesome.
It's hard to argue against BO3s, they're clearly the superior avenue to go. Even some of the matches that have been billed as snoozers have turned out to be awesome. I can think of...maybe three matches that I thought were dull. The casting and production minus a few early hiccups have been admirable. There could be a better marketing timetable for big matches, but when the word gets out, people tune in. The bright side is that all of the issues are fixable, and now there's a great amount of time to get them fixed in.
The NAL is mirroring the trajectory of Rainbow Six Siege at large: when the game works, it's one of the best esports around. When it doesn't...it's very easy to turn off.
So, bye until the Qualifiers, NAL. I hope by the time we see you again that international travel is easy, LAN environments are safe, and the game itself is in a more stable place.