Dropping Style For Substance: Team Dignitas’ Unlikely Path to Greatness

“Team Dignitas, the superior team today, take them down 3-1 as they head into the semifinals!”

Phreak’s words echo across the NA LCS Stage, as Dignitas tear off their headphones and leap into the air in a moment of pure ecstasy. The ups and downs of their bumpy split culminated in a climatically satisfying victory. Through a chaotic split of upsets, substitutions, and a 4 game losing streak, Team Dignitas persevered.

In playoffs, their arduous effort finally paid off in a win over Cloud9, the one team they failed to defeat in the regular season. The team comes together for a joyous embrace; they had defeated their demons, shocked the scene, and advanced in the LCS Playoffs.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Dignitas received very little support going into the playoffs, with most expecting a C9 victory, and few excited about DIG’s new roster. It wasn’t always this way. At the turn of the season, Dignitas hype was at an all-time high.

Their Korean imports, both on and off the rift, excited fans with their LCK experience. Similarly, after a strong rookie split with Team EnVyUs, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck seemed set to become America’s next breakout AD carry – NA’s newest team was even ranked 13th in the world by ESPN eSports, in a classic example of extreme overhype.

Sadly, the all-star lineup did not live up to its supposed caliber. Communication faltered as internal problems overshadowed individual play and rumours of a dysfunctional coaching staff and an inhospitable team environment created doubts within the scene.

Though the coaches were soon replaced, and improvements were made, the damage had already been done with regards to the team’s Spring Split.

As high hopes for the returning team faded away, so did their highlight media coverage. No longer did DIG receive the buzz they enjoyed at the turn of the new year, they were middle-of-the-pack, nothing more, nothing less.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

To everyone’s pleasant surprise, Dignitas returned for the Summer Split refreshed, and renewed. Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun’s jungle replacement, Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-Hoon, commanded the jungle role, with an experienced prowess he lacked during his time with Apex Gaming.

Through the jungle change, coordination soared, in a way unlike the split before. Shrimp played to his teammates’ strengths, a successful departure from Chaser’s more aggressive style.

Another improvement came with the bot lane replacements, Johnny “Altec” Ru and Adrian “Adrian” Ma shifted the attention to the bottom lane, taking the pressure off their mid and top laners, Jang “Keane” Lae-young and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, creating another threat for teams to opponents to worry about.

In the playoff series, Altec shined on carry champions and proved his worth as a serious carry threat. However, this wouldn’t be able to happen, without Shrimp facilitating Altec’s leads through his early game ganks.

The team’s improved coordination has helped in more than just the changing pressure around each lane, it has also helped Team Dignitas in one of their most key weaknesses: baron calls.

Team Dignitas is infamous for their tendency to throw around baron, a trait which has inspired much ridicule over the years. This stigma continued in Spring, as they failed to close out games around the infamous objective.

By the end of Summer, their shotcalling and zoning around the beast is much more effective. In fact – as a testament to their improvement – intelligent play around baron served to secure Dignitas’ victory over Cloud9.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Team Dignitas is a different team from the one that debuted in the last split. There is no more overzealous excitement about their potential: players like Shrimp and Altec don’t grab media attention like the ones they replaced, but with the lack of unbridled enthusiasm surrounding their play, has come immeasurable improvement from the team in general.

There is not as much style about the current iteration of Team Dignitas as their previous iterations, but there is more substance to their play. Team Dignitas has already beaten Team SoloMid twice in the regular season and will fancy their chances heading into the weekend’s fixture.