Macro strategy and the rise of Team Dignitas
It’s been more than a year since Team Dignitas has placed higher than fourth place in a League of Legends tournament. Now, they sit in a three-way tie for first place in the North American League Championship Series.
It wasn’t by luck, either.
In fact, the competition in North America got even tougher. But by restructuring their coaching staff and bringing in all-star free agents, Dignitas has shown that a professional League of Legends team’s success can often stem from smart management choices.
Since the start of the League Championship Series 2014 Spring split, Dignitas’s solo lanes had lacked a certain flare. Cruz “Cruzer” Ogden and Scarra were simply not cutting it, and the team recognized they needed to field new talent. Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaha and Danny ‘Shiphtur’ Le were the superstars of the relegated Team Coast. Despite their team’s pitfalls, Upadhyaha and Le could take on top North American players and sometimes carry their team to victory. Playing on a team of peers has helped them realize their true potential and has improved Dignitas by an order of magnitude.
Not only did the team make an improvement to their mid and top lane, but they also buffed up their coaching staff. The removal of William “Scarra” Li from the starting roster has allowed him to bring his superior game knowledge and coaching ability. In addition to Li, Dignitas hired “Comely” l, a well-known face from other MOBA titles like Heroes of Newerth, as a macro-strategist.
I spoke with Comely about his addition to the team and how he's getting results against some tough NA competition.
Do you think your coaching has played a significant role in Dignitas’s improvement?
I think so, especially at first, a roster swap can be hugely jarring for a team, but me and Scarra were there to focus them in on things in a way that allowed them to mesh much quicker.
I feel incredibly lucky to be working with such amazing and talented players who make it much easier to do the things we do. The team would have absolutely done well without me, I have no doubt about that, but my hope is that me being around will make them more consistent in that, and more able to quickly adapt to changes in the game and meta. I also really can't overstate how important Scarra has been to the equation.
A lot of what I do is filter my thoughts through him so that he can actively work with the team effectively. I think working together makes things work a lot better than it would be individually.
How did you become a part of Team Dignitas?
I talked for a while to Scarra about the game and my thoughts on it and the various teams and their problems. He was looking to expand the support team and thought I might have a place on it, so we tried it out and I've really been enjoying working with him. He really dove into his coaching role and wanted to give the team whatever it needed to succeed. [Owner Michael ‘Odee’ O’Dell] and the Dignitas staff as a whole did a really great job supporting and empowering him to do that.
What qualifies you to be a macro strategist in League of Legends?
I like thinking about games, but I also have a lot of experience in taking that and communicating it well. People with a lot of game knowledge in League are pretty common, but putting things into practice is another beast. I like thinking about the game as a whole, but I can also flip a switch and be very pragmatic in actually implementing things.
What is the most effective way to teach Macro strategy?
The most important thing you can do is actively asking why things are the way they are. If players don't understand why they are doing the things they are doing, it becomes very hard to adapt to new situations, new metas, pretty much anything that requires flexibility.
Most people knee-jerk to handling a specific situation that occured, but it's pretty unlikely for that exact situation to arise again, so you have to go a layer deeper and address whatever the real problem is.
How did you overcome clear deficiencies in strategical knowledge from last split?
Backing up and refocusing in on basics. I really didn't carry a lot of assumptions about how NA LCS teams work, which is great because there is nothing I accept as is, which I think is really important when you are backing up and refocusing on things. There were/are a lot of status quo things that I think are holding some teams back.
How involved are you with the team—what’s your day like?
Watch scrims during scrim days, talk through the games with Scarra as they are happening, and then we filter what we want the team to focus on in the pre and post games. Outside of that there are game reviews, lots of planning on what we want to focus on and how, listening to Scarra go over pick phase things while my eyes kind of glaze over, and pretty much any time I'm not doing one of those things, I'm thinking about the team, the games, and how to improve what I know needs to be improved.
What’s working with Scarra like - what does he bring to the table?
Scarra is amazing to have around.
I think we are both pretty clever, and so having each other to bounce things off of and check assumptions and be thinking about things out loud constantly is a huge boon to how we work on things.
He is also relentlessly positive, which is great because I get to just take everything apart and he's around to put things back together in a way the team can work with much better, he's been around the scene long enough to be really good at that. I'd also like to highlight ZionSpartan who has really kept me sane whenever I've gotten frustrated at things, he is an incredible guy who kept me on track, and has this amazing desire to improve that really gave me a lot more focus with working on things.
He's a great player right now, but I don't think he is even close to peaking, which will be awesome so see going forward. Finally I'll say that Dignitas has been great and really supportive. Odee has a lot of, shall we say passion, which people have seen, but it also goes the other way and he is incredibly involved and concerned for the players and staff.
What’s your history in other MOBA titles?
In [Heroes of Newerth] I was a caster and active poster on the subreddit, and I was fortunate enough to have some time with some of the devs talking about ideas and implementation stuff for the game, which I always really enjoyed.
I love the genre in general so I've played pretty much every game in it to some degree or another, I've been around the block.
Team Dignitas will face the two other teams in first place they are currently tied with in Week 6 of the NA LCS, Counter Logic Gaming and LMQ. Dignitas currently holds a 8-4 record.
Screengrab via Riot Games/YouTube