After three seasons, three splits, and three narrow victories that kept them from relegation, it’s clear that Dignitas is both an established eSports brand with history and traction and a definitive also-ran. TSM and CLG have consistently outperformed the old guard team, and teams in the new guard, such as Cloud 9 and Vulcun/XDG, gave them a run for their money in enough splits to keep them perpetually out of the top spots. With the addition of ZionSpartan and Shiphtur, Dignitas has certainly picked up talent, but whether or not synergy comes with it is still up in the air. All in all, Dignitas will be a stronger team, but their chances of breaking into the top seeds for the North American Regional Tournament are without a doubt slim.
In the very beginning of season 3, it was Dignitas and Curse who dominated the North American scene. With Scarra on champions like Diana and Gragas, Kiwikid running Singed, and Patoy proving he was the best support in North America, it looked like TSM and CLG had finally fallen off and Scarra and co. could bring a championship title to the team. But as the first few patches in Season 3 dropped, Dignitas struggled more and more. With nerfs to Diana, Gragas and Singed, Dignitas was not a performing team. In fact, their fall from grace in the Spring Split led to a similar performance for the next year – An almost-ran team that was bigger and badder than the Velocity/Coast crowd, but never enough to crack the top tier.
At the beginning of Season 4, that was certainly called into question. Dignitas brought convincing victories against Cloud 9 and CLG, which put them on a collision course for a 3rd place finish mid-season. Imaqtpie, specifically, was undefeated on Jinx for weeks, and Kiwikid’s adoption of the support role made for the best Annie play in the NA LCS. But as the split wore on and Imaqtpie adapted to the Sivir/Lucian meta, neither Cruzer nor Scarra seemed capable of picking up the slack. And though they remained better than their bottom tier brethren (Coast, XDG and EG), taking wins off the top teams was consistently harder. Both CLG and Curse surpassed them as their roster changes solidified.
This prompted Dignitas to enact their own roster swap, benching starting mid laner Scarra in favor of compLexity Red’s GoldenGlue. GoldenGlue had made splash with GG.LA alongside Curse top laner Quas, but the swap only lasted two weeks before Scarra came in to play the playoff matches for Dignitas. Though the team avoided relegation, it was fairly clear that without high level roster changes, Dignitas was competing for a bottom three spot in the Summer Split.
Despite all of this, Dignitas isn’t a team without hope. Crumbzz, specifically, has stood out as one of the strongest junglers that North America has to offer. With a champion pool definitively deeper than even Meteos and Dexter, Crumbzz could bring out strategy-specific picks such as Nunu and Kayle to give his team an edge. He, along with Meteos and Dexter, was one of the biggest adopters of Lee Sin and Kha’zix jungle, the two dominant picks after the IEM World Championships, and had the mechanics to properly play both at the higher level. He single-handedly kept Dignitas in games they should have lost with his spectacular jungle presence and showcased a newer, better form of shotcalling for the team. And though they never matched the strategic adaptability or level of Cloud 9, it was no longer their greatest weakness.
In the off-season, Dignitas dropped Cruzer and Scarra to add in the relegated Coast’s ZionSpartan and Shiphtur. Finally, it looks like Dignitas has some promise, especially in the upswing in the meta. Attaining two strong mechanical players with years of professional League experience for their solo lanes is just what the doctor ordered. One of them, Zion, even has shot-calling experience and is known as one of the best communicative players in professional League. While this certainly is a positive change, it doesn’t seem like Dig is going to go undefeated this season. Most of the other LCS teams made strong roster changes as well, and changing up players rarely solves fundamental shot-calling failures in a team. That being said, adding coaches like Scarra, certainly helps, and maybe with a team of analysts and coaches, Dignitas can truly challenge for the top 3 in Worlds.
Darshan “Zion Spartan” Upadhyaya – Top
One of the breakout top laners from North America in season 3, ZionSpartan epitomizes the carry top laner. While Voyboy found himself relegated to the mid lane and other top laners played the tank meta for their team, Zion was the first to adopt Jax and top lane Lee Sin in North America. With these champions becoming a legitimate part of the established meta-game, perhaps his ability to play these hardcore carrying duelists will be strong for Dignitas. Most analysts point out his weak win rate with tanky initiators such as Shyvana and Mundo, but his performance on these champions can’t quite be called into question. While it’s true that Coast didn’t win games with Zion on Renekton, Shyvana and Mundo, his performance in those games was rarely to blame. His ability to create pressure with them, bullying out laners when even up against stronger matchups, can’t be denied. Zion won his lane twice against Westrice’s bullying Renekton and Lee Sin with Dr. Mundo. He drew Brokenshard top lane all four matches to match the pressure Zion put onto Westrice. Unfortunately, the rest of his team never seemed able to capitalize on the map movements, and they’d lose the game. The new Dignitas should have a much better time taking advantage of all the pressure Zion brings. The bans that he takes will free up Crumbzz and Kiwikid to pick power champions, and the focus that he makes out of top lane should allow the rest of the team to take objectives on other sides of the map.
However, the fear with adding Zion to the team should definitely be his shot-calling. Coast could take games off of most LCS teams, but whenever strategy was concerned, they came up short. In a raw, 1v1 mechanics battle between Shiphtur, Zion and their opponents, they could quickly snowball a game in their favor. But rotations, vision, and map movement were always shoddy. Shot-calling from the top lane certainly doesn’t help, as the isolated match-ups tend to keep top laners away from the rotations and action as much as possible, but it’s certainly clear that the only strategy Coast can consistently run is a 4-1 split, and that’s not likely to carry them to Worlds. Zion needs to trust in Crumbzz to make the calls and play the map, and focus on communicating his lane with his team. If he can correct some of that shot-calling trouble and warrant the same bans, pressure and split pushing power, he’ll be one of the best acquisitions Dignitas has ever made.
Danny “Shiphtur” Le – Mid
Largely praised as Coast’s breakout player and the 2nd best mid in North America, the acquisition of Shiphtur is a fearful one for many NA teams. Though the meta has shifted towards the Soraka/Lulu/Orianna supportive mid-laner, Leblanc, Nidalee and Ziggs are the champions that Shiphtur loves to go wild on. And despite under-performing on those champions, it is clear that Shiphtur knows how to take over a game on a champion with more selfish power. While Zion’s greatest strength and asset for Dignitas is the sheer amount of pressure he creates top lane, Shiphtur compliments him as an excellent team-fighter with spectacular positioning. What makes this dangerous for Dignitas’ opponents is the unique mid-game that Dig brings to the table. With a solo farming marksman and roaming support/jungle, Shiphtur will have an easier time snowballing an advantage in lane. Hopefully, the mechanical skill of Shiphtur will give Dignitas a mid laner that they can roam and coordinate with rather than forcing him to make solo plays.
Alberto “Crumbzz” Rengifo – Jungle
Crumbzz has been Dignitas’ jungler since the beginning of season 3, and has always been one of the unsung heroes of their performances. With a calm head and a great sense for the game, Crumbzz has risen as one of the best North American junglers in the 2014 season. Always focusing more on the carrying power of junglers like Kha’zix and Vi, he was instrumental in the meta shift away from the tankier Spirit of the Ancient Golem, heralded by Curse’s IWillDominate. He’s one of the few North American junglers to play Lee Sin, though the influx of Amazing and Dexter will likely bring more of the Blind Monk to NA. How Crumbzz reacts to Shiphtur and ZionSpartan is the main sticking point for new Dignitas. Crumbzz spent most of his time in the Spring Split camping his mid and top lane, hopefully keeping them afloat long enough for Kiwikid and Imaqtpie to start rolling against enemy bot lanes. As an active jungler, expect Crumbzz to get caught out less and create better picks and fights than Nintendudex. If he and Shiphtur develop the synergy to run around the map creating picks and finding kills, the ideal scenario isolates both ZionSpartan and Imaqtpie to farm, scale and eventually carry games on their shoulders.
Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana – AD Carry & Alan “KiWiKiD” Nguyen – Support
Imaqtpie and Kiwikid may be one of the most aggressive duo lanes in the LCS. Their tendency to farm up, go ham, and walk away with a double kill, is one of the reasons Dignitas took an early lead in the Spring Split. But once Sivir rose to prominence as a team-oriented marksman and Annie received nerfs to her unavoidable burst and initiations, it became clear that Dig was unable to adapt as well as other LCS teams. Kiwikid builds plenty of offense into most supports, which can hurt their vision at times, but his understanding of tactical wards is top tier among LCS supports.
Kiwikid will always have flanks and split push paths warded for his team when they begin their trademark 1-3-1 constant pressure. Imaqtpie tends to get plenty of solo lane farm and experience as Kiwikid’s penchant to roam across the map for ganks takes hold. This tends to result in qtpie having a significant experience advantage over his opposing marksman, though their gold totals remain the same. Additionally, Dignitas is one of the only teams to use their marksman as a primary split pusher. And though Zion will take some of that glory from him, I expect solo lane qtpie and roaming Kiwikid to continue in full force with the new roster.
While the bulk of the roster changes have yet to be seen in action, it’s actually fairly straightforward to see how Dignitas will adapt to the Coast additions. Both teams love creating picks with mid game roams, both teams love to split push, and both teams love to over-commit and lose Baron fights. Neither Coast nor Dig have performed particularly well in hyper late game scenarios. Instead, they tend to shine in laning-focused mid-game rotations (which is to say, rotations where mid roams bot or top to gank in laning phase). Shiphtur carried Coast through the NACL with his roaming Leblanc play, while Kiwikid carried Dignitas’ mid laners with his roaming support play. If he, Crumbzz, and Shiphtur group together, they combine the best of both worlds. On one hand, you have a roaming group of players looking to create picks and take objectives. On the other, you have Imaqtpie and ZionSpartan isolated in split pushing scenarios. And while TSM might be the best all-lane pressure team in NA, no team plays the 1-3-1 split better than Dignitas.
That said, Dignitas rarely plays lane swaps correctly and falters hard when they are forced into 5-man team based play. In order for them to maximize their advantages, they need to force the 2v2 lane with deep, early wards (which will be possible with the 4.7 trinket changes) and allow themselves power and pressure in the laning phase. If the meta stays in the favor of ZionSpartan, but doesn’t drive Shiphtur too far away from his comfort picks, the mechanical edge the two players bring should help Dignitas outperform EG and compLexity easily, while trading games with LMQ, Curse and TSM. CLG and Cloud 9 will likely take the most games from Dignitas, but either team losing to a mid-game snowballed Dig isn’t out of the question.
I’d place Dignitas at a solid 4th for the season, below TSM, but above LMQ. All Dignitas lanes should be able to match their Chinese counterparts without too much trouble, but Crumbzz’s effect on them tips it in Dig’s favor for me, specifically. Like most North American teams, Dig needs more than just a roster swap to truly perform at the best levels. Hopefully, they’ll be able to combine their new roster with a new dedication to learning rotations and the macro strategy they need to qualify for worlds.