RGL Season 10’s regular season comes to a close, and four teams enter the Advanced playoffs in a double-elimination bracket. The fight to get here in the first place was surprisingly intense, as even going into the final weeks, four additional teams were still in playoff contention. Nonetheless, the dust has now settled, and we're down to our final set of championship contenders.
#1: Kronge Realm Blanco (15-1)
vs. #2 RPC (1-1)
vs. #3 THE GOBLIN ZONE 2 (2-0)
vs. #4 PEGMODE (2-0)
- Pocket Scout: animus
- Flank Scout: Skele
- Roamer: nomi
- Pocket: bwelp
- Demoman: Alley
- Medic: monsta
Once again rising above the crowd, Kronge Realm Blanco finishes the regular season as the top seed in spite of a competitive, yet decisive, loss to RPC in the final week, ending their shot at a perfect season. On the other hand, perhaps they're grateful that they've avoided the treacherous, and still unbroken, curse: the division directly below Invite, no team has completed a perfect season (excluding seasons where Open was the only other division).
Superstition aside, Kronge Realm has a lot going for them, making them a serious favorite to take home another championship. These guys have had numerous deep postseason runs and know how to adapt and endure through long and arduous playoff series. Plus, their long years of experience playing together gives them an unspoken synergy that’s hard to replicate.
Another aspect to highlight is the huge contributions from animus, the only player on his main class. He has consistently put up great numbers, often top damaging, and being in his comfort zone on Scout adds to the already strong foundation of the lineup. Granted, the help from Skele shouldn't be discounted either. While he hasn't been quite as consistent and has had an off game or two, he's still been a reliable contributor with the potential to really heat up and collect a bag full of frags.
In terms of maps, with only one loss, Kronge Realm has looked strong across the board with two notable exceptions. They do seem slightly weaker than normal on Process, the map where they were dealt their sole loss. Even before that match, they had several competitive outings on it where teams were able to bleed a respectable number of rounds from them. On the flip side, they look absolutely dominant with their Product lineup. nomi, on sniper, has shown up big in both of their Product matches and the results speak for themselves, as they've destroyed both RPC (4-1) and THE GOBLIN ZONE 2 (4-0) on that map. For map bans, I'd expect that one to be a high priority for their competition.
Of course, the final thing to keep in mind is that Kronge Realm always has a secret arsenal if they're ever pushed to the brink. The words "should we mainclass?" have been whispered once or twice. It hasn't happened yet, but if things get tough in playoffs, we'll see if they decide to drop the training weights and get serious. If they do, they'll be tough to beat, to put it lightly.
#2: RPC (13-3)
vs. Kronge Realm Blanco (1-1)
vs. THE GOBLIN ZONE 2 (1-1)
vs. PEGMODE (1-0)
- Pocket Scout: rickrigatoni
- Flank Scout: Jayytee
- Roamer: R33se
- Pocket: Kyler
- Demoman: Kevito
- Medic: Divine
Coming in as the second seed and the only team to take down the first seed in the regular season: RPC. This team is certainly a strange case and something of a wild card. Due to availability issues, yerb and rickrigatoni share time on Scout. Additionally, pandoo, Kevito, rick, and even Zam have all suited up on Demoman in matches this season. The rest of the roster of Jayytee, Divine, R33se, and Kyler have remained mostly consistent, but having up to half the combo as a variable is surely a tough obstacle. It’s been a contributing factor in a few upsetting results like their near loss to the epic of gargamel early in the season and their shocking loss to Wild_Rumpus on Sunshine (a team that only won four games all season - two of those being against playoff teams, funnily enough).
Hopefully, with the added date flexibility of playoffs, they'll be able to show up at 100%. The lineup they rolled out in their win over Kronge Realm looked incredible with Kevito on Demoman and rick on Scout. It probably helps that half of them have played together before in Season 6 Invite where they finished with a respectable 5-13 record. Even with their inconsistent roster, they have looked shockingly well coordinated at their best, especially in teamfights and last pushes where the focus fire and team positioning looks sharp. At times, the soldier bombs look a touch out of sync on midfights, though the individual skill of Kyler and R33se usually makes up for it.
Kyler mentioned in a post-game interview that Kevito has an aggressive playstyle, and if the team can get on the same page to support him at the right times, they're a formidable force. From what we've seen, it's hard to disagree. Of course, this all ties back to the previous point: it's hard to be perfectly in sync with your Demoman when the position is a revolving door.
At the end of the day, all things considered, they're a hard team to predict, yet not one to count out by any means. They have at least one win against each of their fellow playoff teams, so they know they have what it takes to win it all. I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see them pull it off.
#3: THE GOBLIN ZONE 2 (11-5)
vs. Kronge Realm Blanco (0-2)
vs. RPC (1-1)
vs. PEGMODE (1-1)
- Pocket Scout: deadlyseed
- Flank Scout: Magma
- Roamer: tomato tom
- Pocket: Muma
- Demoman: Guyehhh
- Medic: saam
Kronge Realm isn't the only familiar set of faces in playoffs this season. The legendary GOBLIN crew, in their eighth Advanced/Division 1 season of the RGL era makes their fifth playoff appearance. GOBLIN vets tomato tom, saam, Muma, and Magma are joined by new GOBLIN initiates Guyehhh and deadlyseed.
To recap, the first game of their season was dire, as they fell to the previously mentioned Wild_Rumpus team. After that, they've turned it around and showed they have what it takes to compete with the top dogs this season, rattling off win after win against the likes of RPC, gargamel, and PEGMODE.
As everyone has come to expect, some... unique strategies are always in play when facing off with THE GOBLIN ZONE. We've seen plenty of Pyro, banners, direct hit, off-time spies, and a ton of the classic tomato tom movement technology. Some of it fails catastrophically and some of it wins rounds. Teams should also be extra wary when pushing, as THE GOBLIN ZONE loves to repeatedly abuse shoving flanks and threatening backcaps even more so than other teams.
Taking a closer look at the personnel, Season 8 Advanced champion Guyehhh has been a good pickup on Demoman, filling the large boots of GOBLIN legend Hedgehog Hero. He might not two pipe medics with arcane loch-n-load angles, but he does do what he should: a lot of damage. While old man Muma is usually the first suspect to pull off some shenanigans, don't forget he's still plenty competent when he's doing plain old Soldier stuff. Rounding things out, deadlyseed has made a huge statement this season: he's developed from an unrefined rising player to a legitimate high Advanced Pocket Scout, consistently filling the stat sheet and helping run the offense — not bad considering he didn't even play a combo role until this season.
All-in-all, toppling Kronge Realm does seem like a steep challenge. However, against every other team in playoffs? Who knows, they're crafty and they could very well end up making a trip to the final.
#4: PEGMODE (11-5)
vs. Kronge Realm Blanco (0-2)
vs. RPC (0-1)
vs. THE GOBLIN ZONE 2 (1-1)
- Pocket Scout: KJKUOD
- Flank Scout: Market
- Roamer: kawa
- Pocket: nazara
- Demoman: peniferous
- Medic: charis / caboose
To round things out, PEGMODE has secured the final playoff spot after securing sufficient rounds in their final match versus Kronge Realm Blanco — though it ended up not mattering since ROME beat Tha Dogg Pound.
Technically, PEGMODE only has one win versus their playoff peers, but all of their losses have been good fights where they only came up short by a round or two. Additionally, most of their ugliest days came early in the season or while they were missing key starters, granting them some leeway there.
Speaking of key starters, one of their losses came while missing their star player KJKUOD. They'll need him to keep up the good work if they want to send some of these other teams packing. The rest of the squad shouldn't be discounted though, as they're strong overall, flaunting Advanced level playoff experience across the board. Looking through recent games, everyone is pulling their weight and has had their time to shine.
Another small factor to consider is if caboose rejoins the squad for playoffs. He was banned for language during the last couple of weeks but can rejoin for playoffs if needed. If not, charis has been a plenty serviceable replacement as the team’s medicinal man.
Similar to THE GOBLIN ZONE, PEGMODE has their own secret weapon (not really much of a secret) with kawa playing more Pyro than Soldier for several matches this season. While Muma is content with a few minutes of Pyro action here and there, kawa is regularly sticking to the class for over twenty minutes. At this point, their competition has dealt with it enough that they should know what to expect — though even then, we've seen that it's sometimes hard to resist the urge to shoot projectiles at the class that reflects projectiles.
Earlier in the season I'd have counted PEGMODE out. However, they've looked hot this last week with their win over THE GOBLIN ZONE and a near win against Kronge Realm; they can't be discounted.
Playoffs Round 1:
Kronge Realm Blanco vs. PEGMODE
Previous Results: 5-1 Kronge Realm Blanco (Process), 4-3 Kronge Realm Blanco (Snakewater)
In their most recent meeting to wrap up the regular season, Kronge Realm came out strong with a 3-0 sweep in the first half, yet PEGMODE brought it back in the second half before finally going down in golden cap. As usual, animus got a lot of the dirty work done, but Alley also had one of his best games of the season with a clean 31 kill, 10 death stat line along with top damage. In comparison to his usual numbers, KJKUOD had a more pedestrian game going with 207 DPM and a relatively poor K:D ratio. This could be taken as a good sign though. If PEGMODE can make it close with a key player having an off game, they have a respectable chance of winning if he can do what he normally does.
All things considered, I'd normally consider Kronge a heavy favorite, and of course, they will be an overwhelming favorite if they decide to main class. On the other hand, Week 8 has made them look mortal, and PEGMODE has been on the rise so an upset isn't out of the question.
RPC vs. THE GOBLIN ZONE 2
Previous Results: 5-2 GOBLIN ZONE 2 (Process), 5-3 RPC (Process)
After some scheduling disagreements, there's been some anger bubbling which should make this first round matchup extra spicy. Both of their regular season meetings took place on Process, which the teams split 1-1.
Looking at their most recent game from this past Thursday, this series could go either way. Kevito has been absolutely cooking lately and will be a big piece of the puzzle... if he plays. On the GOBLIN side, the numbers were much more flat across the board. Oddly enough, the team got out damaged by over ten thousand points, so it's shocking they made it such a close game. RPC did have a lot of chances to win rounds, but had trouble getting people into the fights on last pushes which allowed THE GOBLIN ZONE to hold the line consistently.
Looking further, perhaps the biggest factor in their last match is the difference in medic deaths. RPC's medic, Divine, had eight less deaths, five more ubers, and one less drop than saam which kept RPC in control for a large portion of the game. There were some medic misplays, but also some disastrous unforced errors by the team as a whole, letting RPC get away with some salvages that could have been prevented.
RPC has a ton of momentum heading into the postseason after a glorious Week 8 run, so they've got to be a narrow favorite here. Nonetheless, both teams have learned a lot from their previous meetings and I'm certain they'll come well prepared for a long night in this third act of their trilogy.