Throughout its history Rogue (and the previous organizations that represented it’s core roster) has played second fiddle to the North American juggernauts Evil Geniuses. EG’s success often came at Rogue’s expense, including the 2017 Invitational Grand Finals (under the organization Continuum), and more recently with the 2018 Invitational semi-final comeback victory.
However, Rogue’s roster evolution and mentality shift finally allowed them to defeat Evil Geniuses to earn the #1 NA seed going into the Season 7 LAN Finals in Atlantic City. Their reversal of fortune seemed to continue, as #2 NA seed Evil Geniuses drew the tougher matchup against PENTA Sports. On the other hand, Rogue was paired with NORA-Rengo -- a team from Japan that Fnatic routed 5-2 and 5-1 in the APAC Finals.
Simply a warm-up lap before their guaranteed semi-final match against a top three team, right? Not quite. Two of the three maps went to overtime, and Rogue was embarrassed 5-1 on their own map pick of Coastline. They eked out a win, but in a fashion that was much closer than most anticipated.
Tristan “Ranger” Pehrson, Rogue’s coach seemed bemused after the match. When asked whether their opponent met their expectations, Ranger replied that he was not particularly impressed with NORA-Rengo’s tactics from VODs they reviewed, or what they experienced today. Overall, he felt the Japanese team’s play style was relatively basic, citing examples of their players gingerly crouch walking on the basement of Consulate during situations that called for more urgency. Nevertheless, he admitted that NORA-Rengo played pretty well and chalked the closeness of the match to Rogue’s own mistakes.
According to sources, NORA-Rengo had surprised their opponents in scrimmages in the days leading up to their match, not looking too far short of top rated online opponents such as FaZe. One particular source very familiar with the APAC region and NORA-Rengo’s play predicted a victory for the Japanese squad, though primarily due to the concern of the relatively late “Shuttle Shuffle” substitution in the lead-up to the LAN Finals event. This individual observed that NORA-Rengo often play well, but make costly mistakes and are their own worst enemies.
During our conversation, Ranger expressed dismay multiple times about his players losing gunfights that he’d normally expect them to win. He believed that several rounds were thrown, estimating that they lost three separate 3 vs. 5 scenarios on Consulate against NORA-Rengo. The new addition of Tactical Timeouts to this LAN proved helpful on all maps to slow down their opponent's momentum allowing Rogue's coach to refocus his team and remind them to quell their aggression towards the end of rounds.
After KingGeorge left the squad earlier this year, the vacuum of in-game leader was initially filled by Slashug, while renowned leaders on other teams such as Easilyy and Geoo were added to the roster over time to contribute. We asked for clarification on who Rogue’s current IGL is and Ranger explained that the team has a more dynamic setup with three official IGLs depending on the map and situation: Olliver “Slashug” Spencer, Kevin “Easilyy” Skokowski and Emilio "Geoo" Leynez Cuevas. With Geoo’s visa issues preventing him from coming to Atlantic City, this caused some complications. Rogue’s coach remarked “Geoo is very vocal, so that element of his leadership was missing” in today’s match.
Ranger conceded that their preparations were more focused on integrating Shuttle into their lineup than counter-stratting their first-round opponent. Those efforts proved fruitful as Shuttle established his fragging ability even on his temporary squad, leading the team in frags and kill-death ratio, ending the game in a tie with Slashug for overall rating. That said, including a new team member is still delicate as it can have reverberating effects on other player roles. For example, Rogue’s traditional anchor Bryan, often the last player remaining typically plays Smoke. However, (the seemingly always smiling) Bryan remarked that on the last day of boot camp, Easilyy assumed the role of Smoke for select situations, influencing Bryan to select other operators such as Lesion.
When interviewed on the stage by host Matt Andrews about whom he would prefer to play in the finals between Evil Geniuses and PENTA, Easilyy indicated PENTA as his preference. This was also how Ranger felt. While he expressed he’d ideally like that matchup to take place under normal roster circumstances rather than with each team’s late substitutions, he’s always wanted the opportunity to play against the best team in the world. Now we can see that Ranger and his team’s wish has come true. It is up to Rogue to review VODs and make the most of their temporary team, because PENTA -- despite also fielding a makeshift roster -- looked frightening at times with Kantokaretti. What's more, that was against one of the best teams in the world, not NORA-Rengo.
Despite an undefeated run, this isn’t the only unconvincing victory we’ve seen from Rogue this season. Even with their full roster, we saw a relatively sloppy performance against SK Gaming when the two played a few weeks ago. Conversely, we’ve also seen them rebound from those lackluster games and return to their dominant form. With the stakes as high as they are, which Rogue will we see show up against PENTA?