Dignitas squeaked into a playoff spot in the last week of the regular season thanks to a couple strong performances of their own along with a whole lot of struggling from CLG. Dignitas ended the regular season with a 5-13 record, and with the tiebreaker victory, they head into the post-season as a 6-13 team throughout the League Championship Series Summer Split.
While Dignitas had a lot of roster swapping this season, the bot lane stayed the same, and Johnson "Johnsun" Nguyen became a strong carry for the team. Even in losing games, he often looked strong, and alongside Zaqueri "aphromoo" Black, he was able to develop a lot over the past couple splits.
Johnsun secured his first-ever professional post-season, playing against the loser of TSM and Golden Guardians this weekend, and he's in the running for Rookie of the Year. We spoke with him about his growth, the inner workings of Dignitas, and who he thinks deserves that award among the plethora of rookies that popped up in 2020.
What is your personal opinion of yourself for your first two regular splits, based on how you performed and how you improved as a player?
I was able to improve drastically as an individual. I was able to be more versatile in my champ pool. Like in the first split I just played Aphelios like a one-trick. But obviously, the meta changed, so I played different champs this split, like Kalista, Ezreal, Ashe, and even Varus. So I played more consistently on champs that aren't giga-broken [like Aphelios in Spring]. It's kind of hard to answer, to be honest.
Feel free to gas yourself up! What do you think your placement is in the League?
Well, we're only at like six wins with the tiebreaker, so I don't want to say anything like top two AD Carry, but I guess at least in the middle given the circumstances in my games. I wouldn't say I'm at the top unless I outperform the top ADs on a consistent basis, or if I beat them in the playoffs then maybe I can, but I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle.
How do you feel like COVID impacted your debut and growth this season?
I'd say COVID ruined the hype plays we made in-game - anything cool that happened. The live audience makes it kind of hype, like when you solo kill someone. And I don't think COVID made me more comfortable because I don't think I had any stage nerves before COVID, I just wasn't as good of a player as I am now.
Do you feel like it impacted your fan perception at all? Do you think things might've gone differently in a regular season?
I'm not sure. But I would say the one positive factor of COVID is when we were losing I didn't have to walk off looking at the crowd. But yeah, maybe some players weren't as comfortable because we're all just playing online, so it's kind of like just playing solo queue right? Nobody is watching you, there's no crowd.
Shifting gears a bit, how was the ten-man roster this split? There were quite a few roster changes, but obviously not in the bot lane, so how was that for you?
Honestly, I'd say the ten-man roster wasn't that beneficial. Like, every team has an Academy team, so we don't necessarily need to force this ten-man idea. Obviously is someone is underperforming and the Academy counterpart is around equal skill, we can just swap players. Our team in general was not consistent and then we added in a lot of swaps, and so it wasn't as useful because we had to rebuild synergy.
We added a new Jungle and Top and we didn't have much time to build synergy from the off-season that much with the additional players. I mean, I was playing with aphromoo so it's whatever, but our topside was pretty whack through the split. And I'd say that's partly due to the ten-man roster thing.
That's really interesting, so you think it would be better if you just chose five and stuck with it and made changes if you really needed to then?
Umm, yeah the point was everyone is of equal skill - that's why we formed the ten-man roster - but obviously, if someone underperforms heavily, you just swap them out. But that's what every team has been doing. So having a five-man core synergy built is important, and hard forcing solo queue too, so that we're all on the same page. But if you watch the Split, half our matches we aren't on the same page.
How instrumental has aphromoo been to your development?
He's been very instrumental in my development. We built a trusting relationship and I respected him and him, me. We were working on how to be better together. He taught me things I need to do and I'd tell him if he's inting or not hahaha. So basically we just look out for each other.
People were really critical of him for a few splits, but this split the narrative changed a lot. What do you think of others criticizing him? Is that a misunderstanding of his performance?
I'd say this split he played really well, like for sure a top four support. He's definitely proving his critics incorrect, that he can still perform at the top. But honestly, everyone has a bad split or a bad year sometimes. Even Faker. And everyone - like Reddit - will always just have a bandwagon against specific individuals if they keep losing, so it's not warranted, but yeah...
How instrumental was TSM in your development?
They helped me a little bit, but I learned the most playing with aphromoo because he knows bot lane more. When I was on TSM, I didn't have a bot lane coach or anyone to tell me what to do to not f*** up a wave, or "do this, do that."
I know you just played the four games with them, but Edward "Tactical" Ra has spoken about how much Erik "Treatz" Wessén helped him. I guess you didn't get much time with him?
Treatz helped me a little bit with aggression, like playing for lane, but I learned more from aphro. That's why I'd say I didn't learn as much since I learned stuff [with Dignitas] that I wouldn't normally learn.
Tactical said you deserved Rookie of the Year, and you're the only one who played both splits in full. What do you think about Rookie of the Year? Who do you think deserves it? And besides you, like if it were just Rookie of the Summer, who would you give it to?
If it's not me, you'd give it to Tactical, right? His play has been solid, and he has the most wins. And if not Tactical you'd give it to... Ehh I'd say Treatz. He's pretty good. He subbed out Vincent "Biofrost" Wang and now they're top three. He's been performing solidly in his role too. But really you could give it to any of the four, to be honest. But I'd lean Tactical or Treatz. I think they show signs of light when they win and lose, but the others aren't quite as consistent. David "Insanity" Challe and Philippe "Poome" Lavoie-Giguere have a few more ups and downs, and it's evident, like Poome had a 0-10 game. That was brutal.
And with you in the conversation, do you feel like you'll win? Do you think you deserve it?
Ummm. Yeah, I think the other two I mention could deserve it too. Even though we have a 5-13 record this Split, I don't think I individually ran it down consistently. Even in the games that we were losing, I did well.
You gotta campaign for yourself!! Why should we vote for you!?
Well you know, I carried aphromoo (and somehow made the playoffs). And... I don't know. Hahaha.
Come on! Tactical got carried by CoreJJ, Treatz got carried by Doublelift, and all of Dignitas got carried by Johnsun!
Hahaha. Nah they're all good too. But I would say it's hard to look good on a losing team though.
I'm not sure if you're giving yourself the strongest campaign, but we'll see if it's enough for the Rookie of the Year. Now that you've made playoffs, what does a successful season look like for you?
Winning at least one best of five. We managed to sneak in, and I don't want to say we have to make it to Worlds, because that's pretty delusional. So one step at a time. Honestly, let's just win this first best of five against TSM or GG and we'll go from there.
Any parting words before we head out?
I'd like to thank my boys at FlyQuest and C9, like Lucas "Santorin" Larsen and Robert "Blaber" Huang, for beating CLG to let us get the tiebreaker.
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Even though it may not always show up in fantasy production, Johnsun is very good. He is so good that even in an extremely unfortunate fantasy situation, he is able to shine. Even when DIG was 0-8, he still scored over 10 points in all but 1 game. DIG will have a very tough time defeating either of GG or TSM in the playoffs, but DIG will be putting all their faith in their star ADC to get the job done. His skill gives him a solid floor, which is helpful when going for this much of a risk/reward player. Even though it's unlikely DIG will win, if they do, Johnsun will lead the entire position in scoring.
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