Dignitas (or then, Clutch Gaming) finished their 2019 season with amazing success. Some may say they capitalized on a morally-weakened CLG and TSM, but one thing is sure: they made it to the World Championship, and destroyed everyone in their way to get there. After holding tenth place for a while in both splits, Clutch Gaming managed to find their stride in top lane carries for Huni and late game carries for Cody Sun. If you put Damonte on someone able to roam, their skirmishing ability was unrivaled, and they simply outfought you the way Chinese teams would. Once the formula was solved, they managed to end at fifth place in the standings, and almost beat Team Liquid in the semifinal; but lost and managed to win their way through the gauntlet instead. Despite that wonderful time, once they found their way to the World Championship, they didn’t perform quite well. They went winless in the group stage and it seemed like a sour taste was left in many peoples’ mouths. So heading into this season, a lot of changes were made. In fact, only one starter is still a starter. So the road that had finally lit up is now dark, and perhaps rocky.
The one returning starter coming into 2020 is top-laner, Huni. Huni is rivaling Impact and now sOAZ for most accomplished North American top-laner; winning seasons in Korea, Europe, and making the World Finals as well. But the further time has gone on, the less people have respected him. Sure, they recognize his skill, but he’s easily played around and abused if he isn’t watching himself and playing carefully. Throughout most of last year he was surrounded with criticism and speculation because of this, but as the season finished with such a high note, people were once again riding the Huni train. Public opinion of him is a constant rollercoaster from “best top in the league,” to “why is he even on a team anymore?”, which simply mirrors the ups and downs of his performance. Do Dignitas have a talented top-laner? Yes. But will he also feed at least six games this season? Almost certainly.
Huni playing for legendary team, SKT.
The next tale is very different from the last, and it comes from Grig in the jungle. I was actually unaware of this before researching for this post, but Grig has played in a mixture of amateur and pro leagues since early 2014. That being said, he has little to show for it. To give him a pass, his starting experience is made up of a couple starts for Echo Fox when their starter had Visa issues, and the rest for TSM: the killer of all junglers. So his experience is quite possibly the worst case scenario any jungler ever. Many people have consistently complimented his skills in solo queue and even academy, so I actually have faith in his mechanical skill, but until we see him in a decent and consistent team environment, I don’t know if we’ll get to see this side of him. This season will probably prove whether or not he has what people say he has.
If you want proof that a door opens every time another shuts, look at Froggen; now on his thirteenth team in the past ten seasons. One would assume with that track record, having missed the World Championship the past five seasons, and not ending a season at higher than fifth in North America, he’d be a bad, poor-performing player, but it’s quite the opposite. Froggen has been playing professionally since 2011, and has since been known for his unusual, farm-and-lane-heavy playstyle, which he has carried over until even today. But he’s still managed to be one of the hardest carrying, best performing individual mids in the league. Much like Meteos’s track-record after Cloud9, Froggen has not played with substantially talented teammates since he left Alliance in 2015; the last time he made the World Championship. The Golden Guardians finished fifth and sixth respectively last year, and honestly, it was entirely due to his and Hauntzer’s success. So Dignitas certainly drew well by picking up Froggen this offseason.
Froggen playing at the All Stars event several years ago.
We’ve finally made it to the bottom lane; where things get interesting. After losing star ADC Cody Sun during the offseason, Dignitas managed to pick up famous solo-queue star and former member of TSM Jr., Johnsun; who has yet to play a professional game. His youth and inexperience has caused him to stay in the developmental leagues up until now, but I think he’s more than ready to release his skills upon the world. I believe at the time of his signing with Dignitas about a month ago, he had three of the top ten accounts in North American solo queue. His Kai’sa specifically is what’s known to carry him through the harsh solo queue environment of North America, but he’s shown much success with other champions as well; as you have to in order to climb that high. No one quite knows what to expect out of the soon-to-be rookie, but I think his ceiling is quite high.
Ending everything off is North American veteran, Aphromoo. After a successful 2018 on 100T, Aphromoo was one one of the worst teams in the league for both 2019 splits, and at the end decided to part ways with the team. But historically, his success has been quite high in the league; winning multiple trophies. Despite being known for supporting his long-time duo partner, DoubleLift, he managed to win a title without him, and made a statement by getting to the finals with 100T in spring 2018 as well. So he’s still managed to cement himself as an all star support, even without his star carry behind him. I will say I was incredibly unimpressed with his performance last season, but I could say that about everyone on 100T. The team didn’t seem to work well together. And his history has shown much more consistent all star play than poor play. So I’d say he’s still got it in him.
Aphromoo on 100T.
Surprisingly, as you can tell, I believe in the talent that Dignitas have put together this season. But can they work together? Well… no. I’m almost certain they cannot. Let’s start by just looking at their individual stars. Huni excels when he’s given attention top-side, so he doesn’t play up by himself and just feed. Froggen excels when he’s given attention mid-lane, and is allowed to pressure his opponent in order to gain gold leads. Aphromoo has primarily excelled with hard carries like DoubleLift and Stixxay, who need attention to gain leads over their opponent. So, as you can see, they have no amazing weak-side player. And Grig isn’t God himself, even if he is a talented jungler like I believe he is. I think one or two of them are going to have to sacrifice themselves in order for this team to function, and as we’ve seen over the past several years, Froggen and Huni are as stubborn as any players I know. So it better be Johnsun and Aphromoo who take the hit, or one of those other laners is going to lose hard. And putting a rookie; no matter how skilled; by himself against veteran talent is going to probably be a bit rough. The only solace in this cluster of playstyles is Grig’s past in working with strong solo laners. But firstly, BrokenBlade is much better than Huni at playing by himself, and secondly, well… TSM’s success minus last spring has been quite underwhelming anyways.
I’m not quite sure how this team will manage to play the macro game, but if anyone can make them do it, it’s established coach Thinkcard. Thinkcard has been coaching in the league since 2014, and has found decent success these past few years, finally attaining the head coach positions for organizations such as Echo Fox and Flyquest. Through the past three years, he’s managed to take each team he’s coached to the playoffs, minus summer split 2017 Flyquest, which ended seventh. So his ability to make teams work together was been proven for the most part. He also has experience working with Huni, as he coached him for an entire year with Echo Fox and half a year with Clutch, so he should know his playstyle. Everything I said before still applies, but they’re not entirely hopeless in the teamwork department. The coaching is at least strong enough to function and perhaps accomplish something.
Thinkcard (left) talking to Lemonnation (right) on stage before/after a game.
After spending all the money they did on Huni, everyone was telling Dignitas they had no way to sign any other talent. But somehow, they managed to. By going after established-but-less-sought-after players, and a young rookie who hadn’t seen the stage, Dignitas was able to put together a roster with enough raw talent to perhaps; theoretically; win it all. Sadly, League of Legends is a bit more than that. The clashing playstyles and strong, stubborn personalities do not mash well with a still-inexperienced jungler, and a fresh-faced bot-laner, so unless something incredible happens to the individuals, I don’t see how they could make this work. If they do, I think they could easily make semifinals and compete with teams like Cloud9 and TSM for second or third place, but even if Thinkcard is as smart as I think he is, he’s gonna have a hard time molding what kkOma couldn’t.