That was a helluva Rainbow Six Siege championship

Photo: Justin Kruger, Ubisoft

You couldn’t have drawn it up better on a blank movie script: Evil Geniuses, the North American, defending Six Invitational champs, were facing off against Europe's Penta Sports, another favored team that had earned three of the six Rainbow Six seasonal championships, but failed to claim the top prize of Siege’s still-growing esports scene.

The turning point was map four, round six.

On this final day of a five-day series of matches between more than a dozen international teams, it would take a full five maps to crown a Six Invitational 2018 winner. Evil Geniuses, the reigning champs, shot out ahead with little trouble, taking the first two maps (Clubhouse and Oregon) off the back of great performances by top-fraggers Canadian and BC. EG was playing at its best, and Penta was looking uncharacteristically inconsistent. At a key round on Clubhouse, Penta neglected to bring a Thatcher to its bottom-floor attack, leaving Thermite unable to breach a crucial wall against Bandit’s gadget. Penta looked better on Oregon, but dropped it 5-6 in OT.

EG's comfortable lead vanished quickly. Penta took the next two maps 5-3 (Cafe), and 5-2 (Bank). With EG needing only one of those maps to retain its championship, momentum had swung from one side of Ubisoft’s circular arena to the other. Heartbreaking defeat imminent?

A key juncture

To me the turning point was map four, round six: Penta is up 3-2 on Bank, with EG defending CEO office on the top floor. In the final minute of the round, Penta fails to get the defuser down. A 3v2 in Penta's favor becomes a 1v1 after Thermite gets picked off while planting atop the CEO's desk. Montagne (Penta) and Jäger (EG) are left alive, with Jäger in something resembling a retake scenario.

But the defuser isn't down. All that EG's Necrox has to do is play the clock and force Penta to plant it. Perhaps fearing staring down a Montagne with the defuser planted, he instead pushes in, dueling at medium range in the outer corridor inside CEO’s office with his SMG. Face-to-face, Jäger should have the advantage. Unfortunately, his long AR spray only finds shield, then the space over Montagne’s head as the French shieldbearer drops his guard to put four or five pistol shots into Necrox to take him down. "How does that happen?!" an ESL announcer exclaims.

The final map

All of that back and forth action brought us to Coastline, a slight wildcard map with four viable objective sites for both sides, and no clear favorite in terms of team experience and playing style. EG takes the opening round, restoring some faith that they had regained their footing after dropping the previous two maps. But Penta quickly recalibrates, taking four successive rounds. It's championship point for Penta.

But staying loyal to the back-and-forth rhythm of the finals so far, EG takes it to 4-4 with brilliant and bold play. As Rook, Canadian staged an audacious runout in round 8, spawn-peeking against the grain of what had otherwise been conservative play to kill Glaz seconds into the round. I didn't notice any successful or attempted spawn peeks from either team up until this point in the finals.

But in OT, Penta reclaimed control, winning a 1v2 with the defuser down to claim their first Six Invitational win. As Siege looks to establish itself further as an esport in 2018 and beyond, this finals was some proof of the game's watchability and potential.

In terms of operator picks in the final maps, we saw lots of Mira, Bandit, Smoke and Ela on defense, and an equal amount of Buck, Hibana, Sledge, and Ying on offense, with moments of Montagne and Blitz to give attackers a different approach. Plenty of Siege's 34 operators were off the table completely, like Frost, Tachanka, and Fuze, and it'll be interesting to see how much the roster of viable operators expands when Ubisoft adds a pick and ban system to Siege later this year.