As the storm caused by proposals to remove the LCS import rule continue to rage, Dignitas stands out as a rare example of a North American team giving full commitment to local talent. While other teams catapult the most expensive foreign players to their training centers, Dignitas has filled out their rosters — both Academy and LCS — with North American players. The team has since made it to the Mid-Season Showdown playoffs as the second team from the LCS, closely following Cloud9.
At first, this strategy seemed doomed to fail, with Dignitas finishing dead-last in their group during LCS 2021 Lock In. Since then, their lineup has looked far more promising, dancing around the upper half of the standings. Their performance has looked pretty consistent, capable of confidently beating most of the teams on the lower half of the standings. In the most recent week 5, Dignitas also racked wins against TSM and Evil Geniuses, as part of their 3-0 showing.
The roster is well-constructed: two old-timers capable of whipping some high-ceiling newcomers into shape. The veterans of the team, Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black and Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett, have been experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Both of them have had recent lows in their career, showing questionable performances on 100 Thieves and Team SoloMid respectively. Since their time on Dignitas, Dardoch has once again shown to be a confident and versatile talent, while Aphromoo continues offering proof of him being North America's greatest Support player (even winning a Player of the Week).
It's clear the Dignitas benefits from its mentoring abilities. When asking Max "Soligo" Soong about this, the mid laner told Inven Global:
"It's been a really great experience. Dardoch and Zaq both have years of experience over the rest of us rookies...They've been through a lot of metas and they've been through many years of setting macro, so them teaching us the years of experience that they have has been a pleasure." Their AD carry Toan "Neo" Tran offered similar praise for the quality schooling he's had on macro.
It's not just the ingame knowledge that the two veterans bring to the table. When talking with them, it's clear that the two of them have set up a strong culture to teach their younger players the proper way to play the game.
"With more experience, FakeGod could be one of the best top laners in the LCS."
"I think so far it's been pretty good progress already," Dardohc told Inven Global. "I don't know specifically if anyone's made greater progress than others. It's kind of a beneficial thing that we're all growing at the same rate as far as the younger guys go. We're trying our best to teach and learn the game as a team. We're always thinking about how we can incorporate all five of us into whatever play we're doing in the game. Everybody's thinking about what macro play is best for the whole team and not just their own guy."
This is a clear reflection of their games. Dignitas' play this season consists of high amounts of aggression paired with fairly selfless decision-making.
If this incubator continues to be effective, it points to a wonderful future for Dignitas. Soligo, Neo, and Aaron "FakeGod" Lee have been three of the most promising new players of the split. With a strong support structure behind them, the team's potential may be very dangerous for the rest of the league.
After struggling to make a good impression in his LCS debut with 100 Thieves, FakeGod has been a solid rock in the top lane. Previously suffering from some imposter syndrome, he’s now able to stand toe-to-toe with the best of the league’s top lane talent — even former teammates he’d compare himself to like Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho. Even more impressive is his mindset. His older teammates praised his eagerness in asking questions on how he could get better. With more experience, he could be one of the best top laners in the LCS.
Neo's partnership with Aphromoo has created one of the most exciting and aggressive bottom lane duos in the league. In-game, Aphromoo always looks happy to follow up on the rookie's aggressive tendencies, and gave high praise when reached for comment:
"Most of the time he's just always killer instinct all throughout the game, which is where you want him as a carry... He definitely has a good champion pool. He has it all: high communication, always talking, talking about what he wants — what more could you ask for?"
"Neo's partnership with Aphromoo has created one of the most exciting and aggressive bottom lane duos in the league."
Soligo has also been showing strong results, even when playing against fearsome mid laners from Europe. As he finds his stride in the league, he's shown excellent versatility and selflessness.
"I think Max is just a really flexible guy," Dardoch said. "He came in without a true identity in the mid lane or definitive style. He kinda just said he wanted to play whatever the team wanted him to...I've been able to trust him more in terms of him being the carry and me being more supportive...When it comes to Max I think he's stacking up well in the LCS and he's just getting started, so the sky's the limit."
One point that was encouraging when interviewing the young Dignitas players was their attitude. All sounded dissatisfied with their performance and were hungry to take it to the next level, a fresh outlook coming from a region noted for its lax attitude towards competition.
Dignitas have potentially built something special: a full North American roster made up of talented players. Not only that, but one instilled with a culture of hard work and humility at all levels. When asking Aphromoo about the process of teaching his younger teammates, the team captain had some illuminating words that offer a look at Dignitas’ approach to the game: that it’s about “getting on the same page. That's the number one thing. There's no 'I'm above this guy and he's below me', it's seeing his playstyle, and just talking to him. That's important.”
They just may prove it.
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