People often bring up the saying "it's about the journey, not the destination" to help people focus on the now and live life to the fullest. I completely agree with the motto and believe it fits in with every activity we come across. So on the weekend I went to the Melbourne Esports Open specifically to watch the Rainbow Six Masters, Australia and New Zealand's biggest Siege event. With eight teams fighting it out to see who was the best in the ANZ region, the event seemed to be a journey for everyone. Most would agree that the destination we ended up at was the one we expected, but the journey to get there was anything but ordinary.
Let us start at the destination then. Fnatic battled it out with Orgless yet again to decide the best team in the ANZ region with Fnatic proving too polished to win in three maps. You ask anyone going into the tournament, and that sentence would be precisely what any of them would have predicted. As the scene is still new and growing, that is expected, especially with Fnatic being a professional team amongst a group that is still trying to make it. If you didn't watch each match to the destination though, it would look like the Rainbow Six Siege competitive scene isn't very competitive at all. However, being at the venue, watching it live, it is a very different picture than I would paint.
With the finals of the Six Masters played over seven matches, we saw five of them being epic encounters. I am glad all seven weren't as we would have been there till midnight each night and my heart could not take it. We started Friday night with Orgless winning easily over Rhythm as expected. As I was flying, I completely missed this match, but the quick scrub through the replay made it look like Orgless was at a different level. Well done to Rhythm for making it to LAN, just a shame they ran into a team out to prove something.
Saturday saw three matches to end the quarter-finals section of the tournament. I have written at length about the ACME Association verses Mindfreak match (linked here for your reference). Mindfreak advanced, once again, as expected, but the journey was worth the price of entry alone. I then missed most of Fury beating Sinister in two maps of overtime. What seemed like a one-sided match when I left, turned into another nail biter. I had appointments to check out some games, but honestly, I did need a break after the stress of the ACME verses Mindfreak match and before the big battle between Fnatic and Oddity.
With Fnatic coming off a quick exit from the Raleigh major and Oddity only just qualifying for their first LAN, it was hard to tell what the quarter-final would bring. Both teams I have accused of being hit or miss before, yet on their day, either team could win. To both their credit we got the best of both sides turn up. Oddity had every chance to knock out the defending champions but, as was the case for the weekend, class prevailed when it mattered. It was impressive to see Oddity work as a team, better than the past and push Fnatic, proving Oddity is a top-four or even top-two side in ANZ.
On paper, once again, Sunday's semi-finals looked very one-sided, and we would get the grand final we knew we would get. We almost didn't though; Mindfreak bouncing back and nearly knocking out Orgless is precisely why Rainbow Six exports are looking so good in the ANZ region. Mindfreak not only looked likely, but they had so many chances to win the semi-final until class or polish, got the better of them. When Fnatic came out against Fury, things looked bad for the underdog right from the start, and they never recovered. Saying that one of the biggest cheers of the day went to Fury as they stopped a 14-0 scoreline on the fourteenth map. Then Fury followed it up, taking two rounds off the defending champions. The rest was an epic battle that went blow for blow with Fnatic proving too strong in the decider.
The major takeaway from this event is that Rainbow Six Siege esports are in the right place and heading to an even better one. Most of the teams had their chances to win, and it was thrilling to watch from start to finish. The difference between all the groups came down to experience and polish. Each team was excellent at individual plays that would give them the advantage in around. Pressing home that advantage was the real issue. Fnatic and Orgless were just better in positions when they were down a player or two early, or if they had the numbers advantage, they rarely gave it up. Knowing what to do under pressure, especially in front of a crowd was the difference between winning and losing.
What this means is more events like this, there are more chances for the lower teams to push themselves against the better teams. Events like this are precisely what the scene needs right now, and it seems that is what they are getting. The experience that all eight teams will take from this is priceless, but especially sides not in pro league, this was an essential step for them. Overall the Rainbow Six Masters was a significant step forward for the scene in ANZ, and we now have a competition that crowns the best in the region. The Rainbow Six Masters will continue to grow over the coming years and be a tournament that everyone will be striving to be a part of in the future. The eight teams from this year already have a leg up as they have qualified for the group stages next year so I look forward to seeing their progression over the coming 12 months.