(Banner image: Ubisoft/Kirill Bashkirov)
“Rainbow Six Siege” as we know it is evolving. The game that used to be defined by a single IGL and rigid roles and meta operators is slowly and surely becoming more flexible. The changes to defender utility have brought the game out of the medieval “20 second meta” and into a fast-paced meta that puts playmaking ability at the center.
And in North America, no one makes more plays than Matthew “Hotancold” Stevens.
A quick look at his stat page warps the brain. Hotancold led the North American League in the following statistical categories: SiegeGG Rating, K-D, and OK/OD. He’s third in KOST percentage with 76 percent, just two percent behind the stage leader, Evan “kanzen” Bushore. Out of the six major statistics that SiegeGG statisticians deem important to a team’s success, Hotancold leads the league in half of them.
“I would say the biggest factor [in my statistical success] is confidence in myself, which stems from my team’s confidence in me,” said Hotancold in an interview with SiegeGG. “It’s easy to be confident in myself when my team is confident in me.”
Earlier in the year, Hotancold went through a relatively messy breakup with DarkZero, the team he played for for some years. He says that at the beginning, he felt the team’s confidence in him, but definitely felt like that waned towards the end of his DZ tenure.
Hotancold also made clear that he’s still friends and has respect for the DarkZero camp, saying, “It'll always be fun beating those guys, just because I'm very competitive, and most of those guys are my friends. It's always fun beating your friends.”
Hotancold moved from a support role with DarkZero to a more aggressive role, first with Mirage and then with Spacestation. It’s clear his individual skill makes a difference in matches: Mirage would’ve qualified for a Major with him on the roster had SI 2021 not been postponed (they have not cracked the top four since), and Spacestation has only lost a pair of games in the two stages Hotancold has been on the roster, one per stage, with a 7-1 record each time.
Spacestation made it out of groups in Mexico, but fell to eventual Major finalists Team Empire in the quarterfinal round. Every time a team makes a change, their makeup fundamentally changes, and after the Major, Spacestation made another blockbuster change: signing Hotancold’s old DZ teammate, Alex “Skys” Magor.
“It [signing Skys] makes our team so diverse, everyone can play every role if they needed to. I feel like the teamwork is already there, [Dylan] Bosco teamed with Skys, I teamed with Skys, the teamwork’s been clicking since the start,” said Hotancold.
Spacestation enter the Sweden Major as the top-rated team out of North America. They’re made up of Invitational MVPs and statistically dominant players. The sum of the parts is simply higher than other teams with similar pedigrees. “Rainbow Six” is a more teamplay oriented esport than others, but it’s difficult to not look at the names on this roster and not immediately think “superteam”.
Even though Hotancold has incredible entry stats (a staggering +16 in OK/OD in Stage 3 alone), he doesn’t really play an entry role. “A lot of the time I'm playing by myself,” said Hotancold about his flex role. “I'm usually droning myself and looking for openings...I just find openings and get kills, that's my job.”
Hotancold also mentions that he took on a chunk of the IGL role for Spacestation, but that it’s been spread even more. On offense, he calls some shots along with Skys and Alec Fultz, and Bosco helps on the defensive side. That’s helped free him up to make even more plays, something he’s been excelling at all year long.
While multiple IGLs are quickly becoming the way of the future, there’s a word of caution for younger teams looking to emulate that structure. If you have players that have LAN experience, that have been around for a while, that have lots of IGL experience, then yes, your team could have up to three or four IGLs, side dependent, says Hotancold. Younger teams should stick to having one strong voice in the room, though.
“Like, the best way to play Siege is to have multiple IGLs at this point at the top[-flight levels],” said Hotancold. “Even if you have a main IGL, you need people assisting them and giving them info.”
The entire calendar year and the changes Spacestation has made will be on full display at the Sweden Major.
While we’re currently in an era of Brazilian excellence, Hotancold believes that if his team just plays the way he knows they can play, they’re going to have a deep playoff run. “I think we're just going to go to Sweden, have some fun, play the Siege that we play, and I think if we do that, then we're looking like a favorite,” said Hotancold.
Spacestation will begin their run on Nov. 8 at the beginning of the group stage.