FlipSid3 Tactics made a splash in August 2015 by being one of the first eSports organizations to acquire a Rocket League roster, before other notable eSports organizations had bothered, and months before the official Rocket League Championship Series was even announced. That early investment and eye for talent was rewarded last month when FlipSid3 took the season two RLCS crown.
Mark "Markydooda" Exton and Francesco "Kuxir97" Cinquemani have been with the team since the start, helping FlipSid3 remain one of the most formidable Rocket League squads — but securing the game's ultimate trophy didn't come easily. FlipSid3 fell in the season one Grand Finals to iBUYPOWER Cosmic (now G2 Esports), and then founding member Mike "M1k3Rules" Costello left soon thereafter.
With season two arriving quickly thereafter, Marky and Kuxir bounced back from those dual losses and recruited Marius "gReazymeister" Ranheim — previously of fellow EU team Northern Gaming — and gradually got in sync over the course of the season. After some up-and-down early weeks, FlipSid3 hit its stride at the right time, winning the Online Finals in the EU and then going on a blistering lower-bracket run at the Live Finals before winning the championship.
Fresh off of their $50,000 victory, and with a third RLCS season expected soon, I spoke with Marky and gReazy, and Kuxir about winning it all, how a pre-finals boot camp helped ensure their rhythm, and why North American teams can't seem to hang with Europe's best.
iBUYPOWER Cosmic was like a runaway train at the Season One RLCS Live Finals in August. Led by Cameron "Kronovi" Bills, Cosmic had late-season issues and elevated a backup to starter before the live finale, but clearly had its mojo working as the team won every series that weekend. FlipSid3's only series losses came from Cosmic: In the first round, after which FlipSid3 beat four other teams in convincing fashion, and then again in the Grand Finals.
Kuxir admits that Cosmic "totally deserved" the win for "how badly we countered their speed," and that his own disappointment was due as much to the loss as it was to Costello's expected departure. Mike's teammates already knew that he would step away, following controversy over skipping a match and friction with the organization. "That's why I got so upset when losing in the finals," Kuxir adds. "Mike didn't receive the goodbye that I wanted for him."
With Mike out, however, FlipSid3 had to contend with replacing a member of a Grand Finals-caliber team with little time, as season two was announced only a week after the confetti settled. The team tried out some potential thirds without a clear winner, but then Marky offered the role to gReazymeister as a joke during conversation — and the member of Northern Gaming, season one's third place team, accepted. So they got to work.
"Replacing someone like M1k3Rules was not the easiest thing to do. Play style-wise, gReazy is the opposite: He's probably the fastest in the world when it comes to air challenges, but had some gaps in game understanding, which he eventually fixed and learnt with his will to always get better," explains Kuxir. "He quickly became good friends with us, and his game was as relevant as mine and Mark's for season two."
Getting in sync and finding their form took time, as a particularly rough third week of the season — losing to both Mockit Aces and OhMyDog — showed. However, FlipSid3 bounced back in week four with back-to-back sweeps, and handily took the EU Online Finals by winning 4-1 over Precision Z and then 4-0 against Northern Gaming.
Even though they hit their stride in time for the Live Finals, FlipSid3 worried about losing steam once they were onstage. Marky and Kuxir both thought that the transition from playing online to being together, and especially using unfamiliar equipment setups, had hindered them in season one. So this time around, the squad convened in Scotland and used manager John "johnnyboi_i" MacDonald's living room for a weeklong boot camp leading up to the Live Finals in Amsterdam.
Marky estimates that they played Rocket League at least 3-4 hours daily during the boot camp, and that being able to coexist and live amongst each other also helped them feel more comfortable and prepared. And it let their personalities mesh a bit, too. "I kind of knew how Mark was in person, and he fulfilled my expectations of being a silly man," says gReazymeister with a laugh. "I wouldn't be without [the boot camp]."
"More than anything, it just helped the guys feel confident that they could succeed on any setup and in any location," says johnnyboi_i via email. "It was clear that they were very much going in to the event as a team and that they trusted each other completely to get the job done. They also knew that they were the only team who had gone out of their way to prepare like this, so that was another confidence-booster."
Marky affirms that sentiment: "We were pretty bloody confident, actually."
FlipSid3 brought that confidence into the Theater Amsterdam last month, intent on beating the seven other top teams to show their supremacy. North America's Take 3 went down easily in the first round, but then Mockit Aces dealt FlipSid3 a surprising 3-1 series loss in the semifinals to knock them down to the lower bracket. FlipSid3 was stunned.
"It was a pretty shit feeling. We never really doubted ourselves for a second. We just felt like idiots. We knew we could play a lot better," Marky admits. They calmed down after watching the replay, and worked on addressing communication and positioning issues. "We knew that if we just played our game, then we were the best team by a fair distance. We just needed a kick up the arse. We knew that we were the best team, and we just needed to prove it."
After that loss, FlipSid3 clearly started playing its game, breezing through the rest of the lower bracket all the way up to the Grand Finals. Top NA seed NRG Esports fell 3-1, Take 3 lost another series 3-0, and then FlipSid3 continued its dominance against Northern Gaming with a 4-1 victory.
That put FlipSid3 in a rematch against Mockit Aces — which hadn't lost a series yet that weekend — for the Grand Finals. However, coming from the lower bracket meant that FlipSid3 would have to win two best-of-seven series to take the trophy. Meanwhile, Mockit could secure the overall win by taking only a single series. Kuxir wasn't fazed by the seemingly long odds.
"Having to win two series in a row has never bothered me," he claims. "Once you make it to the Grand Final, you have to put yourself and everything you have into the game: No losing focus, no excuses, just helping your teammates when you are needed. That's what we did. We just went there to prove who we are."
"We never doubted ourselves going into that Grand Final. I told Mark and Kux, 'There's no way we're going to lose this,'" gReazy recalls. Marky adds, "I think we knew. We played so well against Northern, it was like, 'It's our day.'"
Sure enough, it was FlipSid3's day—the team emerged victorious with consecutive 4-1 series wins over Mockit Aces. Although the win tallies make it seem like a very one-sided affair, the matches remained close throughout, and six of the 10 games were decided by just one goal. Among those was the first game of series two, a stunning match that included 7:17 of overtime with Mockit's Jos "ViolentPanda" Van Meurs ultimately knocking in the winning goal. However, FlipSid3 notched the next four matches in a row to finish off its impressive victory.
"I think we're just faster, more accurate players," says Marky about the Grand Finals win over Mockit Aces. "I think we just had a bad day that first day … we just had to make sure we were playing properly as a team and rotating properly. That's what was missing from day one: we weren't communicating properly or rotating properly, and once we got in a good rhythm, were going fast, and hitting our passes and shots, it was no problem."
Mockit Aces was formed before this season by captain Philip "Paschy90" Paschmeyer, a standout player who finished seventh/eighth in season one with Mock-It EU. He briefly filled gReazy's vacancy on Northern Gaming between seasons before returning to Mock-It with lesser-known players David "Deevo" Morrow and ViolentPanda. FlipSid3 complimented their fallen foes, but also highlighted some weaknesses.
"Paschy is actually a very good team captain. I always think his teams are well-organized, and they always rotate nicely. They're always very solid," says Marky. "Their positioning is good and they know what each other is doing, but individually as players, Panda and Paschy are a bit floppy. I think Deevo is one of the best players in the world, but he gets greedy and gets in the way sometimes. Paschy and Panda make a couple mistakes and can be a bit slow and a bit passive sometimes, but they are well-organized and tough to beat."
"I think it was mostly nerves on their part in the final, because they were hitting each other on defense and giving us way too much space when they could have prevented it," adds gReazy. "Maybe a lack of communication and confidence in your teammates, I feel."
And there seems to have been a lack of confidence from Aces's organization, as well. After the finals, gReazy shared a video of himself burning a contract offer from Mock-It, and FlipSid3 chief operating officer Dana Kawar confirmed on Reddit that Mock-It tried to poach all three members of its Rocket League team right before the Live Finals were underway. Paschy's team has since departed Mock-It and will continue on independently as Aces without Deevo, who has moved on to Northern Gaming. Meanwhile, for FlipSid3's targeted players, Mock-It's move wasn't that much of a surprise.
"I thought it was funny. We'd known they were scumbags for a long time," says gReazy. Adds Marky: "It wasn't that unexpected, honestly. We were like, 'Oh yeah, just Mock-It being pricks. Standard stuff.' It was just funny; it just reinforced all of our opinions of them."
Even with that added distraction, which surely brought a strange element to the showdown with Mockit Aces, FlipSid3 Tactics emerged victorious and cemented themselves as the reigning Rocket League champions. Marky was seen screaming onstage immediately after the win, yet that level of excitement didn't come through in the interview. He admits that following the explosive display, his lingering sensation is more relief than anything.
"I wasn't that disappointed from season one's loss, but I did feel like the next three or four months were leading up to that match," he explains. "Every match and every bit of Rocket League I played up to that [season two] final was leading up to it. Even though I wasn't actually that disappointed, I was playing for that final and playing to win this time."
On the other hand, gReazymeister is a lot more ebullient about the win, saying, "It was probably the best feeling I've ever had."
FlipSid3 are prepared to defend their title in season three, but they don't expect much renewed competition from North American teams. While European squads largely performed well at the live finals, all four NA teams finished outside of the top three — and season one winners G2 Esports didn't even make it to the playoffs this season. Marky sees a difference in mentality between the top EU and NA teams.
"I don't know. They're just shit," he declares when asked about NA teams. "Garrett [formerly of Orbit] is a really talented player, and they've got quite a lot of talented players. But you hear their comms, and it's always like, 'Aww, unlucky dude.' They go for some stupid shit aerial and they're like, "Aww, close one dude, unlucky bro.' And it's like: No, that was just fucking dumb. They need to be a bit harsher on each other, I think."
"I think they just need a couple of professional teams to come along — well-organized teams," he adds, saying he believes that NRG is the only NA team that fits that criteria. Asked about up-and-coming NA threats, Marky mentions Team Iris, the new squad formed by ex-G2 Esports player Lachinio, but he's not convinced just yet. "It seems to me like a bunch of talented kids coming together and flopping about," he says. "It doesn't seem very professional at the moment."
Even with a grim view of some of the expected competition, FlipSid3 say they're not resting on their laurels ahead of season three. Now that they've proven themselves as a unit, they plan to elevate their game further for the next wave of challengers ahead, with Marky promising some "next-gen tactics" in the works.
"Don't expect us to take it easy — we will always put all the motivation we have to be at the top," Kuxir asserts. "New players are around the corner and the scene itself is growing, so we'll make sure to be ready once again."