Regional Report Card: Six Invitational 2019

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OPINION – It is once again time to sit down and evaluate the overall performance of each region at the Six Invitational 2019. Let’s determine who shocked us and who had a tournament to forget.

Asia-Pacific: B

A historic double APAC semi-finals at Season 8 LAN finals – much to the horror and disbelief of many Rogue and Evil Geniuses (EG) fans – was a clear statement of intent from the region. Whilst NORA-Rengo and Fnatic didn’t advance further than that, this much was apparent: APAC had truly arrived, and they weren’t messing around. Fast forwarding to the Six Invitational, those who believed the results of S8 finals were simply a fluke was swiftly proved wrong; not only was the feat repeated, but improved upon as well.

Fnatic surprised many (the SiegeGG staff included) by topping Group A, beating S8 finalists FaZe Clan and DreamHack Montreal 2018 winners Team Reciprocity (formerly Cloud9) to get there. The Aussies’ performances weren’t overwhelmingly convincing, with 4 out of 6 maps played during groups going beyond 10 rounds. Pretty or not, they managed to get the job done before eventually bowing out at the quarter finals to Asian neighbours Nora.

Fnatic squaaaad
Fnatic, ready to take on NORA-Rengo in their quarter final face off (via @AcezProduction)

NORA-Rengo was equally impressive against their opposition, coming back from a map down to win the next two both times against PENTA Sports. They couldn’t quite muster their strength to beat EG, but they did end up making a deeper run into the tournament than their North American groupmates. The Japanese squad eventually succumbed to the juggernaut of Team Empire in a match that went the full three-map distance. With greater LAN experience now under their belt, it will be interesting to see how this promising squad performs at future events.

NR celebrate
Nora celebrate their second win against PENTA Sports, sending them to the quarter finals (via @kizoku_noraren)

Last of the APAC visitors at Montréal were mantisFPS, who earned their place at the event through the APAC Qualifiers. In Group C along with G2 Esports, Team Liquid, and Mock-it Esports, it was never going to be an easy task to begin with. Despite winning a single map of five played, mantisFPS managed to push defending champs G2 into overtime on Map One. No small feat, considering it was one of only three occasions, together with Spacestation Gaming’s inspired comeback on Club House and the 22-round marathon on Coastline during the final. Otherwise, the aforementioned map win against Liquid was really the only other good piece of news for the Korean squad, who exited the tournament off the back of consecutive defeats.

APAC continue to build upon their successes with each tournament, looking stronger with every appearance. Whilst mantisFPS didn’t achieve the highs of Fnatic and NR, they didn’t go down meekly. For these reasons, the region merited a B grade.

 

North America: B

On the warpath after being humiliated by APAC’s finest at S8 finals, NA sought to re-establish itself as a strong competitor in R6 Esports. Represented by Spacestation Gaming (SSG), Evil Geniuses (EG), Rogue and Team Reciprocity at this event, NA looked primed for battle with their international counterparts, with EG, in particular, looking to redeem themselves after that final at Invite 2018.

Whilst Skys spoke to SiegeGG about his extreme confidence at LAN as well as his partnership with teammate LaXing, Reciprocity found themselves with the difficult task of handling Fnatic. Dissuaded but not dismayed from the 2-1 defeat, the “RECpack” took down both NiP and FaZe in gritty matches to send both Brazilian teams packing, leaving the North Americans to square off against their countrymen in EG, and in fact, celebrated an emphatic win. A great tournament all round for REC, although losing their match against Fnatic after gaining a map advantage, and their capitulation to G2 in the semis proved they have some ways to go.

Rogue meanwhile, were caught asleep at the wheel for most of the tournament. Picked apart by SSG, they had to battle it out with Immortals in the loser’s bracket for any hope of salvaging their chances. In spite of a better fightback from the NA squad, with two of three maps reaching overtime, it just wasn’t their tournament as they crashed out without a single win. Long considered second fiddle to NA’s #1 in Evil Geniuses, it appears Rogue will have plenty of competition for that honour as they sit in fourth, six points away from third place.

If ever there was a dark horse team at this tournament, Spacesation Gaming was it. A series of draws had held them back in the regular season, but the Bo3 + overtime format at Six Invitational left no room for a repeat of that. Add to the mix the decision to place Bosco back on his beloved Smoke, and SSG it seemed, was cooking with gas. While they beat Rogue, they lost to eventual finalists Empire. The tiebreaker against IMT provided a closer affair, but their game against G2 Esports was nearly the upset of the tournament as they were the only ones to take a map off the eventual winners and became the pride of NA this tournament.

SSG Group B
Bosco leads the charge for SSG after 3 group games

Last of all is Evil Geniuses, led by blue-haired head honcho Canadian. With a strong start to the group stages, beating both LSE and NR without dropping a single map, EG looked strong. Strong enough perhaps to not only challenge G2, but this time, come out on top. Fatigue perhaps began to creep in as they moved into the knockouts against Reciprocity, and a 13-hour day for them ended with a second quarter-finals defeat in as many LANs. A middling performance then, for EG, as bigger things had been expected of them, and while they began the Invitational looking red hot, they couldn’t sustain their efforts.

EG prep for battle
Evil Geniuses prepare for battle (via @peterhchau)

Overall, though, the Invitational was a much better LAN event from North America than Season 8’s Pro League Finals, and with the exception of Rogue, all NA teams at least made it to the quarters. However, none could pass G2 or Empire and make it to the final, earning them a B grade.

 

Latin America: D+

A heartbreaking loss to the World Champions of G2 Esports in front of a home crowd at the S8 finals saw heavy expectations for the flag bearers of Latin America to perform – particularly FaZe Clan who were looking for some payback after losing the final to G2, as well as Immortals (IMT) and Team Liquid who both currently sit top of the table after the first half of the season. Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) also seeking redemption from their quarter final exit during the last Major in Paris.

With new coach Marlon “Twister” Mello on board, FaZe began their campaign strongly with a swift 2-0 of Twister’s former team in NiP, but that was about as good as it got for FaZe fans, as they lost the next two games to Fnatic and Team Reciprocity to send them home wondering what might have been.

Faze are eliminated from Invite 2019
An outpouring of emotion from Astro and Cameram4n as FaZe are eliminated

The only team to have been swept 7-0 – not once but twice – at the Six Invitational, Ninjas in Pyjamas had an extremely poor showing. Comprehensively handled by FaZe, they mounted a better challenge against North American opponents Reciprocity, but not much better, losing out in an 8-6, 0-7, 3-7 score line. This was in stark contrast to their regular season form, where they are breathing down the necks of IMT and Liquid with a point behind after the first half. Despite Pino’s great performances so far, another poor showing on LAN indicates there is more work to be done for the Ninjas.

Pino's performance earlier in the season
Pino leading the way for NiP earlier this season

Meanwhile, Team Liquid began the tournament on the wrong foot, losing on Day one to Mock-it in a hotly contested affair. Playday two saw them in a scrap with mantisFPS, and despite a map lost they managed to squeak past. Naturally, this propelled them onto a collision course with Day One opponents Mock-it. Capitalising on the Germans’ mistakes, Liquid pulled through this time to take the win in a match that heated up more outside the game than in it.

Their quarter final adversaries of Empire looked a force to be reckoned with, but while Liquid found a few gaps in the armour on Coastline, Empire fought back hard to win the next two maps and thus brought an end to Liquid’s run. Despite performing best of any LATAM team, Liquid does not look the same team that beat G2 at the Season 7 finals in Atlantic City. The good news is, heading into the second half of the season, they sit behind only Immortals on the table, equal on points but with a worse overall record.

Speaking of Immortals, they came to the Six Invitational on a mission to prove their worth. They’d come close to beating G2 at S8 finals but the Europeans ultimately got the better of them. IMT began the Invitational by pushing Empire to their limits, with both maps played reaching an 8-6 scoreline in Empire’s favour. Their loser’s bracket match against Rogue was almost as close, although this time they came out ahead over three maps. They would finally be brought down to earth by SSG, again in tight circumstances as SSG fought from a map down to claim their quarter final spot.

Of all three LATAM teams eliminated in the group stages, IMT certainly deserve the most praise. They played well across all of their matches, just not well enough to get them over the line. Currently holding first position in their region ahead of Team Liquid in the PL standings, hopefully these games serve as motivation to perform even better at future events.

2018 saw LATAM make a semi-finals run at Invite, Liquid winning S7 finals and FaZe reaching the finals of S8. The region seemed to be making positive strides, with the exception of the Paris Major. Invite 2019 however saw a completely different narrative: three out of four LATAM teams failed to make it out of groups, and even the team that did get to the quarter finals, Liquid, never really had a convincing performance: All four matches they played required a third map serving as a tiebreaker. These backward steps result in LATAM’s worst grading since the report cards began after the Paris Major.

 

Europe: B+

Europe once again staked their claim as the region to beat in Rainbow Six Esports, largely due to the efforts of Team Empire and, of course, the staple presence of G2 Esports. However with five European teams present, the most of any region making the trip out to Canada, only two advanced past the group stages.

Mock-it Esports was something of an unknown quantity coming into the Six Invitational – a lukewarm first half of Season 9 coupled with defeat to FaZe Clan at the S8 finals showed their flaws, whilst their masterful second half of Season 8 displayed their fortitude. Could they measure up to the titans in G2 and Team Liquid or would it be lights out early on?

After three games, the answer was clear: Whilst they managed to defeat Liquid in their first match, an efficient 2-0 at the hands of G2 saw them in the tiebreaker bracket for a chance to advance into the quarter finals. Once again they did battle with Liquid, although this time it was the Brazilians who came out on top thanks to errors from Mock-it - most notably their inability to deal with xS3xyCake’s Smoke with a 2 man advantage. A decent tournament all in all for Mock-it, but definitely things to improve upon.

LeStream Esports (LSE) however, have a lot of pondering to do. A star-studded line up including AceeZ and UUNO couldn’t save them from two 2-0 defeats inflicted by Evil Geniuses and PENTA Sports, meaning LSE was the only team at the Six Invitational who failed to win a single map. With a team-wide KOST average of 0.54 across both matches, LSE had an abysmal tournament, one they will be no doubt contemplating for a while.

LSE Group D
LeStream's lacklustre statistics across both group stage games

Better news came out of the Team Empire camp, who currently sit atop the European standings with 19 points -- extremely impressive for a team that just came up from Challenger League. However, wanting to prove that their prowess wasn’t limited to the online format, Empire brought their A-game offline; placing first in Group B and moving past tough matches with Liquid and NR to reach the final against defending champions G2.

This also meant that it was the first all EU final since Season 1 when GiFU Esports (now mousesports) squared off against PENTA (now G2). The 3-0 scoreline of this final, however, didn’t quite tell the full story. With the introduction of infinite overtime, the audience was treated to a marathon 22-round thriller on Coastline, ending when Empire failed to win the double-bar site both on offence and defence, putting G2 up 1-0. Whilst they mounted a solid challenge on Border to try and bring things level, there was nothing more in the tank for Empire, as they conceded Bank, winning a singular round to hand G2 the treasured Caber for a record second time in a row.

Empire definitely has nothing to be ashamed of -- while their mental and physical stamina needs work if they aim to win future offline events, their teamwork and the reduction of their reliance on JoyStiCK to make things happen will hold them in good stead for the rest of the season. Nevertheless, they walk away from this event with a 16% slice of the $2M USD prize pool.

Sporting the PENTA name that had garnered so many admirers during their time with the current G2 roster, the squad of Hungry, SirBoss, blas, ENEMY and RevaN (with Coach/Analyst Jess overseeing proceedings) took the fight to NORA-Rengo in their first match, but ultimately came up short despite a ludicrous six-second ace from Hungry. Their lower bracket match against LeStream went much better, sending their European rivals out into the cold. NR stood in their way again for the tiebreaker, and despite Jess’ brilliance, the Japanese progressed. Currently third on the table with 11 points, PENTA now look towards claiming a spot for the S9 finals in Milan.

Finally, we get to G2 Esports. Despite their recent out of character regular season form, they are without a doubt a genuine super roster. Questions surrounding whether they could competently defend their title as World Champions were all but silenced as they won map after map. The only real threat to their chances was the quarter final match up against a spirited SSG side, who stole away Clubhouse in an 8-7 scoreline after letting G2 break away to a 5-1 score -- their only map dropped.

Team Reciprocity proved easier to handle for G2 as they fell to the EU giants in a 7-2, 7-2 result. All that remained now between them and retaining the title of World Champions was Empire, and in a battle of endurance, it was G2 who came away as winners and, need we remind you, became the best team to have ever graced Rainbow Six Siege without a doubt.

G2 champions again
World Champions for a second year running (via @ESLRainbowSix)

EU’s success with Empire and G2 helped buffer their grade, but with LSE’s failure to launch, coupled with PENTA and Mock-it being unable to push past the group stages, they end this tournament with a B+.

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Well, that about wraps up the report cards for this year’s Six Invitational. Were we close to what you expected? Or way off the mark? We look forward to providing you with our next report card after Pro League Season 9 finals in Italy end on the 19th of May.