As in several other eSports titles, competitive Heroes of the Storm features a sizable gap between the Korean elite and the best of the rest. Some mind not the peninsula’s protrusion, appreciating good play without caring where it comes from; others grudgingly accept it as a fact of life and merely root for an upset. A good number, however, are severely turned off by the fact that their hometown boys will likely never win against five Asian strangers who don’t speak English.
Many pundits have attempted to persuade the disillusioned. Some vehemently argue for the elimination of regional discrimination, condemning dissenters to be “false” fans of the game. Others wax poetic on traditional sporting virtues, such as the nobility inherent in the struggle. The two positions do come with their own merits. In this particular article, however, I merely wish to share with you a story about a team. A team which I support.
No other Western Heroes squad has been as insistent on improving themselves as Team Dignitas. Ever since picking up the backbone of their current roster in Bob Question Mark, the organization has made a point of always looking for a potential upgrade, going through a revolving door of swaps to field a modified lineup every season.
While the importance of sticking with a roster in terms of teamwork and synergy cannot be understated, the particular context within which Dignitas’ moves were made must be considered. Most Heroes squads blow up after a shockingly bad result or a series of bad results. It also must be stressed that this problem is not limited to the West; many Korean and Chinese teams are also guilty of being unnecessarily triggerhappy.
Dignitas is the exception. Most of their moves occurred after very respectable tournament finishes (Fall 2015 & Spring 2016). Conversely, during their worst slump in terms of performance (Summer 2016), the team kept their roster entirely intact. This allowed them to build the teamwork necessary to win their third and fourth European championships in the very next season.
When asked in July about their expectations for BlizzCon 2016, the team’s response was:
“Unless we are struck with the misfortune of being placed in a group with two Korean teams and eStar, we will have a very good shot at making the semifinals; beyond that, we are not sure. We do want to be the best team in the world, and Alex joining helped us take one step closer to that goal, but we are not quite there as of now. A lot can change in three months, however, and the meta will most likely shift before then. Let’s see.”
And a lot did change. Citing personal burnout as the reason, AlextheProG retired shortly after leading Dignitas to their second consecutive European championship. While Atheroangel was surely the best replacement Dignitas could have signed on short notice, losing a team’s primary shotcaller is not a wound any cure can swiftly mend.
Despite the huge blow to their chances at BlizzCon, however, Team Dignitas would not be deterred. Instead of resting on their laurels with the perfect excuse in hand, they would make the decision to go bootcamp in Korea, becoming the first professional Heroes team to do so.
Upon arrival, the squad spent little time outside the game, scrimming two or three teams every day and playing Hero League during most of their downtime. Having helped arrange many of those sessions, I can say with some confidence Dignitas were able to test themselves against a wide range of skill and styles, although exposure and improvement are two different things.
Despite its external glamour and drama, competition is at heart a drudging labor of love. Too many fans allow the royalty’s aureole blind them from the pretenders’ calloused determination. Between hanging onto a lost cause out of pride, and staying a course in sincerity, lie crucial distinctions.
The Korean community is near unanimous in considering Team Dignitas the third best team at BlizzCon, and many experts believe the same. The fact remains that they do not have an objective edge over MVP Black or Ballistix in any area of the game. But are games solely decided by edges?
Some teams and players just seem destined to forever play second fiddle to the elite. For every Flash, there was a Light; for every Jaedong, a Zero. Yet for every Flash and Light, there also was a Fantasy; for every Jaedong and Zero, there also was a Hydra.
Who are you to decide? Why should you not believe?
Celebrate their dedication. Not your desire.
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