Rogue rockets to top of NA RLCS

by Mitch Reames

With a win in the RLCS X Games event last weekend, Rogue not only beat NRG — unquestionably one of the top teams in the game — they cemented themselves as a top-tier team in Rocket League. It was the culmination of Rogue’s roster reconstruction over the course of the past year, in which they have slowly replaced experienced pros with young stars, finding more success along the way. 

“This win did feel like an arrival at the top,” said Jason “firstkiller” Corral, the 16-year-old who has quickly emerged as one of Rocket League’s up-and-coming stars. “Some pros would put me up there with the best in conversations, but no one thought I had the experience. People thought I would crack under pressure. This win proves that I can play the same no matter the pressure.” 

Rogue’s transition began with the signing of firstkiller, just a few months after he turned 15 and became eligible to play in the RLCS. Firstkiller replaced Austin “AyyJayy” Aebi, a veteran of multiple RLCS seasons, in January 2020. It was the first sign of a new direction for Rogue, one that has culminated in the most consistent success the organization has had in years. 

In April, Rogue brought on Leonardo “Turintoro” Wilson to replace Nicholas “Wonder” Blackerby. Similar to firstkiller, this was the addition of a young pro replacing an RLCS veteran. 

“From what I heard, the old Rogue rosters had a bunch of problems playstyle-wise and clashing personalities too,” Turintoro said. “It’s just been a gradual filling in of the problems.”

Upcoming event: NRG x NSG Last Chance Qualifier

After Turintoro joined, Rogue brought on Gabe “CorruptedG” Vallozzi to coach the team. CorruptedG was a longtime RL veteran with Denial Esports and Evil Geniuses primarily before becoming coach for Rogue. The new coach was crucial in the final decision that helped this team turn the corner — cutting Cameron “Kronovi” Bills in favor of Alexandre “Taroco” Reis Pedrogram. 

Kronovi was one of Rocket League’s first superstars, winning RLCS Season 1 in 2016 with IBUYPOWER. After spending the next few seasons with G2, Kronovi joined Rogue in 2019 but never regained the success he was known for earlier in his career. In a twitlonger about his release in November, Kronovi thanked Rogue for his stint with the team but cited the team environment and clashing personalities as his reason for leaving. 

Kro is one of the biggest names in Rocket League, a fan favorite since the early days of the RLCS. In comparison, Taroco is a 17-year-old player who was previously competing in the RLRS, Rocket League’s feeder league. He was known by hardcore fans (and students of the game like CorruptedG) but hadn’t had a chance to prove himself in the RLCS. 

“I didn’t feel much pressure [replacing Kronovi], I just focused on myself and focused on playing well,” Taroco said. “Firstkiller and Turin are both aggressive and fast players; I’m more defensive minded. Our playstyles really work well together.”

The results show it. Taroco joined Nov. 1, during the first NA regional event of the winter split, and Rogue finished third. The team’s best finish in the three fall regionals was a knockout in the quarterfinals. In the other two fall regionals with Kro, the team finished out of the top eight. 

In the second NA winter regional, Rogue grabbed fourth, and a week later they took Spacestation Gaming to seven games in the finals of the Rocket League Summit. With the win at RLCS X Games, which is the third and final winter regional event, Rogue finished the tournament with a gold medal. 

“We are really coming into our own playstyle and form as a team recently,” Turinturo said. “The defense has improved by leaps and bounds since Taroco joined. We really just needed that stable third man.” 

“Honestly, everything is going great personality-wise too,” firstkiller added. “I’ve known Taroco for a few years — we’ve always been friends. Turin and I weren’t that tight before he joined the team, but we knew each other and it worked out well. Everyone fits perfectly personality-wise, we get along great.” 

Rocket League, with its tight-knit, three-man teams and quick action, rewards teamwork and communication. Clearly, according to Kro’s twitlonger, that was the biggest issue with the team. Considering Rogue’s success after his departure, he might bear the brunt of the responsibility for those issues.

All three players are mechanically gifted, of course. Firstkiller has been showing that off for years in JohnnyBoi’s 1v1 showmatches before he became eligible for the RLCS. But when it comes down to it, communication between players is what separates good teams from great ones. 

For esports organizations, Rogue’s recent success is a reminder that while longtime veterans might bring in fans, they can also be what is holding a team back. By replacing AyyJayy, Wonder and Kronovi with two 17-year-olds and one 16-year-old, Rogue’s string of successes places them among the game’s best teams. The trio’s RLCS journey is just getting started, but an X Games gold medal is a solid start.

Lead image credit: Psyonix

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