As part of a Rancher upgrade, do I need to upgrade my k8s cluster to a version listed in the support matrix for that Rancher version? If I do not, will the cluster continue to work fine as is? Will Rancher support this cluster?

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It is recommended to move to the k8s versions listed in the matrix for a Rancher version but not doing that should not break things. You could leave the cluster (for example, k8s v1.11) as is, for a move to say Rancher v2.2.6 from v2.2.2. It should be ok. Rancher Support will continue to help should there be a need.

That said, should there be an issue on that cluster that requires a fix in k8s v1.11 we may not be able to do that and would at that point require an upgrade to a higher supported k8s version.

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