Immediately after their explosive 2-0 victory over Tempest during the 2018 HGC Finals Group stage, I had the chance to talk to Joshua "Snitch" Bennett about Dignitas draft strategies and their expectations for the rest of the tournament. Viewers expected their 10-0 record and it is popular belief that their almost inevitable clash with either Gen.G or Miracle will define the grand finals.
I started the interview asking the specific burst-damage strategy Dignitas deployed to shut down Tempest on Towers of Doom during game 2.
What could Tempest have done vs. your draft? Did they lose at the draft screen?
I think this style of composition is very difficult to play against if you don’t have experience. One of the advantages we have as a team is our innate flexibility within our roster; being able to play a lot of styles like that match into different teams is one of our fortes.
We were very confident with our draft and it felt like a situation where, if they don’t know what to do against this type of comp, they were just going to lose. The way they picked their comp made us confident -- it felt like a draft win.
The Deckard on their team looked like a liability. It didn’t seem very effective and wasn’t able to keep any targets up. Do you try to draft this type of composition every time you face Deckard?
Yeah, the early Deckard was part of why we chose that composition. Our comp was very mobile with lots of burst damage and Deckard doesn’t deal with that well. Usually, the thing he tries to do is play with the sleep and have that as a way to stop our engage and slow us down. But, we were still finding ways to take the fight or we would kill someone before the sleep even got off. Once that happens, it is pretty much over for them.
When they have Deckard it opens up this style of comp for us. When they value it so highly, it makes it easier to draft.
"...before you have a series that is so insane and so intense with crazy mechanical decisions happening every millisecond, with teammates that can break the game at any moment -- until you reach that level of the game you are always wanting it..."
Is there an emerging meta or mind game going on that is specific to this leg of the HGC finals? What are the teams thinking at the draft screen?
It is actually really interesting -- Gen.G is one of our main scrim partners obviously because we haven't played them for ages and we both learn from each other every international. I feel like we are both copying each others secret strats because we are both practicing them against each other. It is interesting to think we might meet in the finals or semis and know the strats each other will play.
There are definently tournament specific ideas right now. The support meta is very defined. Tyrande, Whitemane, Deckard are much stronger than anyone else. The tanks, Diablo, and Garrosh are also very defined.
A lot of the meta revolves around Tyrande for the most part. She brings a lot of power as a hero along with the return of the stunlock meta with her burst damage because of Hunter's Mark. She Has very signicanly impacted the meta and you have to draft with and against her.
We can definently see the roles solidifying but we are still playing different things every series. Other teams are doing different things like Gen.G trying out Alarak. There are a lot of niche picks which I kind of like, despite the tank, off lane and support staples being formed.
Many fans are expecting you and Gen.G to meet at the finals. Do you think it is possible for them to surprise you? Is there some comp out their you might be sleeping on, or do you think you’ve seen it all?
It kind of goes both ways. I think we have some things prepared against them as we have played against Miracle and scrimmed with some of the Chinese teams. However, I think Gen.G has never really struck me as a team that likes to do something weird. They like to fight you and pick a standard composistion that brawls. They want to win the brawls and that is just how their team works. They have these really strong mechanical players.
You know, I was talking to Rich about the Tempo Storm series and he told me how upset they were that Tempo Storm just wouldn’t fight them: they only played the map. Always pushing the side lanes, Greymane always at the end of the map ready to push. They were really angry that Tempo Storm refused to fight them!
It is a testament to how Gen.G are. They love to really embrace the idea of being a mechanically strong team. Even if they do have weird strategies, it is always more about single picks. Like the Alarak or the Hammer in the past -- it is always single things and they rarely try to use a “whole” crazy strat.
There is a storyline floating around about Gen.G being the final boss and Dignitas redeeming themselves after a super close defeat during the Mid-season brawl. Is that playing on your teams minds at all? Do you try to keep that out of your head or do you embrace and it play up to this narrative idea?
We are for sure very aware, but we are not nervous about it. As a team, we all really love the top level of the game so much that the Mid-season Brawl series was the absolute pinnacle for us. If we can reach that again, play that level of game again, it is such a rush as an esports professional. That is the moment we all strive for and, before you have a series that is so insane and so intense with crazy mechanical decisions happening every millisecond, with teammates that can break the game at any moment -- until you reach that level of the game you are always wanting it and that is why you play.
We want to leave a legacy in Heroes of the Storm but, I think for sure those crazy sets and the defining plays we make, the rush and adrenaline you play during a high-level close game is the most important. If Gen.G is the final boss then bring it on: we want to play that level of a series again.
"That is the main upset I’d look, Miracle being a dark horse..."
Is there any moment that you've envisioned during BlizzCon that you really want to reach?
All of us are looking at the moment where we raise the trophy. It sounds really cliche just wanting to be number one but, the way that our team is, our arc throughout the year, we have reached this point where first is on our mind, you know?
We don’t want to be overconfident. Wubby is very much a rock and a leader as far as in-game goes and we are very stable -- we won’t ever undestimate someone. But, our eyes are on the prize with regards to this tournament. Especially because this is JayPL’s last tournament -- this is his last chance to take that final step and be the world champion.
We have never had this chance before. I talked earlier during the interview we had on stage about realistic ambition. The idea is that, when we look at it, we know this is a year we can win. We have the capability, we have the drafts prepared, we have the players and we have practiced all year. We have the ability and, looking at the other teams and comparing ourselves to them, we know we can be number one.
What do you think is the most realistic upset in this tournament that has the highest chance of actually happen?
We are actually kinda nervoused that Miracle wins and the Gen.G comes second. Then we have to hit them earlier than we want it. It doesn’t really matter because, if a team is better than Gen.G and we meet them in the finals we are still going to have a crazy high level set.
But, Miracle has already beaten Gen.G before and are a very fresh Korean team: very talented. We have practiced with them quite a lot as well: very good guys and very good players. They have a really solid drive and clearly, want to do very well. They are very nervous about playing Gen.G from when I talked to them, but I think they have the capability to beat them.
That is the main upset I’d look, Miracle being a dark horse. They have already had a really solid performance during the tournament so far and maybe they can shake things up. Outside from that, the other teams are doing about as I expected. Team Liquid is performing about where I thought -- what they should have done at the clash before -- but they are definently doing well now. Looking forward to playing them if it comes to it.
Any last words to fans reading this?
Huge shoutout to Dignitas and our fans. Throughout the year it has been a crazy experience -- the best year of my life in esports. It has been very amazing to be kind of the captain and figure head of such a talented and impressive team. We have been working as hard as we can and will continue to work hard to try and win the BlizzCon trophy.
I hope our fans will continue to support us and make their be a Dignitas mount in the game. That is what we strive for, our own Hexagon!