NA LCS Play-off Preview: Team Dignitas
Team Dignitas (10-8, 6th seed)
Strengths: Unique roaming playstyle, strong laning, good TP usage, flanking
Weaknesses: Fails to deliver on tanky champions, mediocre teamfighting outside of flank engages
Favorite champions: Hecarim, Gnar, Jarvan IV
Top laner Gamsu has emerged this season as Dignitas’s leading star. Last split, Gamsu was already one of the most consistent tops in NA but he lacked both carry potential and a distinctive playstyleThis season, Gamsu has been unleashed as an intriguing carry threat. Because Gamsu so frequently plays damage oriented champions (his main two champions this season have been Hecarim and Jarvan) fans will be surprised to find out that he deals the second lowest damage out of all North American top laners, ahead of only Cloud9’s Balls. That’s because Gamsu’s playstyle is heavily predicated on roaming and engaging. Both Helios and Shipthur play passive early games, leaving Gamsu and KiWiKiD to pick up the slack with their own early-game roams. Gamsu’s engaging skills will also be key for a Dignitas lineup looking to make an upset bid. Against teams with one primary damage carry, like TSM or Gravity, Gamsu’s ability to flank and circumvent peel will be critical.
Strengths: Above average vision control
Weaknesses: Poor early game pressure, mediocre teamfighting
Favorite champions: Rek’Sai, Evelynn
Dignitas’s mid-season acquisition of Helios was supposed to bring in an experienced Korean-speaking player who could improve the team’s shotcalling and top-jungle synergy. In addition, former jungler Azingy had only shown real success when given the somewhat off-meta Zac. Dignitas’s shotcalling has seen some improvements, but Helios has largely failed to deliver on what was a promising acquisition. Statistically, Helios has been more or less identical to Azingy – outside of a fairly high warding count (third behind noted vision-centric junglers Move and Kez) he has been unable to output much early game pressure and his teamfighting has also left much to be desired. Outside of following up on engages from KiWiKiD or Gamsu, Helios has made very few teamfight plays this season. Helios’s biggest weaknesses this split has been his poor jungle pathing. Although he was brought in to synergize with his Korean-speaking side laners Core and Gamsu, he has been strangely reluctant to gank for them and instead will frequently try to force action with Shipthur in the mid lane. Unfortunately for Dignitas, Shipthur has been Helios’s partner in crime in early-game passivity.
Strengths: Strong play on poke champions
Weaknesses: Low teamfight damage, frequently falls behind in lane, overly passive with roams
Favorite Champions: Azir, Diana, Kog’Maw
Dignitas’s mid laner Shipthur is one of the most frustrating players in professional play. To this day, his mechanics remain very strong but his crippling passivity means that players half as talented can easily have double the impact. Because Shipthur refuses to take risks in lane, he frequently leaves the laning phase down creeps and gold on his opponents. This year, only InnoX and substitutes Gate and Bischu have left lane with fewer creeps on average than Shipthur. Unfortunately, Shipthur doesn’t pay off his early game woes with late-game performance. This season, Shipthur has dealt the least damage per minute out of all NA mids aside from substitutes mancloud and Gate.
Dignitas’s best bet with Shipthur is to simply place him on poke champions. His Ziggs, which he hasn’t played this season, has always been one of his best champions and carried Dignitas back from the brink of relegation against Team Fusion. This season, the Dignitas mid laner is 2-0 on Kog’Maw. Shipthur still boasts strong skillshot accuracy so if Dignitas are in a situation where they can guarantee his safety, Shipthur can still succeed. Unfortunately for Dignitas fans, these situations have been few and far between, and as soon as the other team manages to force a teamfight, Shipthur becomes much less useful.
Strengths: Calculates burst well, aggressive playstyle, strong laner
Favorite Champions: Corki, Kalista, Sivir
CoreJJ’s playstyle strongly resembles that of WildTurtle in Seasons 3 and early Season 4. The Korean import is a strong laner who seeks to snowball his lane advantages into more kills with aggressive individual outplays. One of Core’s best attributes has been his ability to quickly calculate burst damage. This gives him the confidence to take daring Flashes or forward jumps in teamfights because he is confident that he will be able to take the kills and then escape. Of course, playing this style comes with its innate disadvantages, as WildTurtle’s play in late Season 4 and Season 5 has shown us. If an aggressive “flash forward” AD Carry miscalculates, then the teamfight is lost almost immediately. This is especially dangerous because Core is Dignitas’s primary damage dealer in teamfights. Rather than peeling for Core, Gamsu, KiWiKiD, and Helios have adopted a strategy of simply playing even farther ahead of him, doubling down on their aggressive AD’s playstyle to mixed results this season.
Strengths: Unpredictable early game roams, strong engager
Weaknesses: Poor warding, frequently gets caught, underperforms when not on engage champions
Favorite Champions: Thresh, Nautilus, Annie, Alistar
Like his lane partner, KiWiKiD is a player whose strengths and weaknesses both come courtesy of his aggressive but unpredictable playstyle. KiWiKiD’s unpredictable early game roams were a staple of his gameplay even back when he played with Imaqtpie - casters would joke that the KiWiKiD roam was a roam directly from bot lane to top lane. One of the most important aspects of KiWiKiD’s improvement has been better control and timing of his roams. In previous seasons, KiWi would just lose experience on bad roams, but nowadays his roams almost always result in large advantages for him and his teammates. KiWi’s aggression extends to his mid-late game play. He is one of the most willing engagers in the NA LCS. Unfortunately, Kiwi is sometimes too aggressive and winds up sacrificing himself for nothing – KiWi takes up more of his team’s deaths than any other player in the league, at a whopping 31.3%.
To make matters worse, KiWi’s tendency to play overaggressively is compounded by his poor warding. KiWi is the only support in the NA LCS who places less than a ward a minute (at 0.96). Overall, the defining characteristic of KiWiKiD’s play is his inconsistency. KiWiKiD is a strong laner and synergizes well with Core. At times, he is also a skillful engager. However, his badly timed aggression and poor warding means that he will only rarely play like a top NA LCS support.
Biggest Strengths: Unpredictable roams for kills
The key aspect of Dignitas’s early game play has been their unpredictable roams. It’s typical for supports to roam in the early game, but few do it with the unpredictability and aggression of KiWiKiD. While most supports roam for vision, KiWiKiD focuses on simply killing his opponents. He has a bizarre knack for getting behind his mid and top lane opponents, and his roams frequently result in kills or burnt Summoner Spells, particularly when he brings CoreJJ along for the ride. Gamsu’s use of jungle champions like Hecarim or Jarvan to gank for teammates is similarly impressive. Even though Gamsu spends a lot of the early game roaming for Dignitas, he rarely falls behind in farm or experience. In a meta which heavily focuses on freezing minion waves, Dignitas’s roaming style probably isn’t optimal, but it continues to surprise opponents nearly 20 games into the season.
Biggest Weaknesses: Poor synergy & Relatively weak individual play
When we look at Dignitas’s players and the way they prefer to play, it’s hard to find a way to fit the whole team together. After 14 games with Helios, Dignitas still don’t have a set style. The team has three players which like to roam aggressively in the early game, and two players which like to play for teamfights. In the teamfight phase, Dignitas looks similarly disorganized. This is a teamwide problem. The team almost never peels for Shipthur when he is on a poke champion, and when he plays assassins like Diana he almost always goes in too late. Similarly, even though Core and Gamsu are aggressive players, KiWiKiD is oftentimes too far ahead of even his teammates. While Gamsu is a strong flanker, he has mixed results in direct engagements, and sometimes dies far ahead of his teammates just like KiWiKid does. When Dignitas move together, they are a scary force. But more often than not, Dignitas’s fights are lost as soon as they start, either because players are picked off or because engages aren’t synchronized.
Dignitas’s other problem is the relatively weak individual players on their roster. Of all the teams in the playoffs, Dignitas is the only team that doesn’t have a single player who is top 3 in their position. Without either a star to step up and solo carry the team or a high level of team synergy, it’ll be hard for Team Dignitas to advance past the first round.
Understated Storyline: Dignitas’s Decline in the second half of the season
In the second half of the season, Dignitas has gone 3-6. In the 12 games they’ve played with Helios, Dig is a mediocre 5-7. Fans know that Dignitas hasn’t been doing well after their hot start, but closing out the season on this note makes it seem like Cloud9 or even TDK might have been better play-off candidates.
If Dignitas wants to return to their early season form, they’ll need more ganks from Helios to snowball their side lanes and get Dig’s roaming strategy off to a head start.
Dignitas’s first round matchup will be against Team Impulse. Overall, this will be a fairly difficult for Dignitas, as Impulse is a team which has the tools to negate Dig’s strengths and punish their weaknesses. As mentioned earlier, Dignitas relies heavily on early game roams from their side lanes to snowball games to victory. Impact is one of the few NA top laners who can contain Gamsu, and Adrian, who places the most wards per minute in the LCS, should be able to monitor KiWiKiD. If Dig isn’t able to snowball games off of their early game roaming, TiP will have the advantage in the mid-game teamfights due to their superior synergy and mechanics. One particular issue will be Dig’s poor peel – Impact and Adrian are two of the best engagers in the entire LCS.
However, there is some hope for Team Dignitas. One of the key aspects of the Dig/Impulse matchup will be if Shipthur can punish Gate. Gate has been a decent teamfighter during his time in the LCS, but he has not been a very successful laner. If Shipthur plays his normal passive style and lets Gate get to the 20-minute mark unpunished, Dignitas will have an extremely hard time finding ways to win the game. Rush, Impact, and Gate have some of the lowest ward scores in the LCS. Helios and Gamsu should look to punish this with ganks on the top side of the map – if they can snowball Shipthur ahead at Gate’s expense then even better. Simply put, Shipthur and Helios will have to play aggressively – Dignitas can’t rely on their teamfighting to beat Impulse. Unfortunately, we haven't seen strong aggressive play from either player for over a year.
While Dignitas have some solid strengths, they just don’t have the synergy or firepower to advance far in the NA playoffs. Outside of their strong roam game, Dig don’t have much else going for them. In particular, the stronger side lanes they’ll meet in the playoffs will probably restrict Gamsu, KiWi, and Core, leaving Dig with no way to force early game action.
Against Impulse, Dig will have to focus on snowballing the top side of the map and exploiting Impulse’s weak top-side warding. Most importantly, if Shipthur can shake off his overly passive playstyle and take command against rookie Gate, then Dig has an outside chance to advance to the second round. However, this seems unlikely. Overall, I would predict a 3-0 or 3-1 win by Team Impulse and a first-round exit for Team Dignitas.