Current Dignitas coach and former Golden Guardians Assistant coach talks about roster creation and winning LoL with smarter finances.

After having a rough 3 weeks in the LCS, Dignitas are beginning to find synergy with a new lineup. Behind all of this is DIG Jimmy, the LoL Division lead for Dignitas.

After going 2-1 in week 5, we had the opportunity to sit down with Jimmy to talk about the new team, why proper player scouting is important and the Golden Guardians rebuild year.

Dignitas beginning to find team playstyle

After week 4, what was preparation heading into week 5 like?

DIG Jimmy: The preparation was similar to how we approach things in spring to be honest. The public reception thinks we are moving slower, but that is to be expected when swapping in new players. It took us some time to figure out different things on how we communicate. I would give a lot of credit to my strategic coach Mabrey. He got the guys all on the same page on how we all want to play the game. I would say the last few games, our team showed a lot of grit. They were not the cleanest games, but I am proud that they are learning to work together.

In particular, it seems like Akaadian is really beginning to adjust into that secondary leadership role?

DIG Jimmy: Yeah, for what it is worth, I thought he played well in week 4 given the circumstances. I am really happy with what he is showing in all of the games. As far as his development as a leader, a lot of things happened on his own. Akaadian has a lot of perspective on different players and coaches as a veteran.

He is one of the guys who spends a lot of time thinking about what he wants his ideal team to look like. This is something I think a lot about as well so it is a pleasure working with Akaadian and having him build out our team. Having him work alongside Aphromoo as leaders on this team is a nice balance for our three young guys. Right now, we are gelling well together right now.

Dignitas after a victory against TSM FTX in week 5. image via
Dignitas after a victory against TSM FTX in week 5. image via

Player Scouting in North America

I actually want to talk about roster creation with you because of your past with the Golden Guardians. What do you feel constitutes a good lineup from your perspective?

DIG Jimmy: For me, here are a couple of different variables. Budget is always going to be the first one. Not all teams are on an even playing ground with budget. At Dignitas, I feel the budget is similar to Golden Guardians. We need to be more creative with finding players and find diamonds in the rough. From my perspective, a team is flexible and has a good emsh of personalities. You need to match veterans and young guys who are all driven to find a team playstyle.

A term that gets thrown around a lot is roleplayers and carries. However, something I really liked that Mad Lions coach Mac talks about is having specialists. You find guys who are really great at certain things and building around that. Very rarely, will you find people that are good at everything and It should not be expected. Instead, you find players who play off each other very well. These players should be able to balance each other's strengths and weaknesses. I think Dignitas has a group of NA players that mesh well personality wise.

From your outside perspective, what is your view on watching Golden Guardians go through a rebuild year.

DIG Jimmy: I think the Golden Guardians are doing a really great job this year. I am definitely biased because I know who is there internally and what they are capable of. A hard rebuild is something that is not a choice for them. I thought they owned it and were very transparent to the community about expectations as well. Golden Guardians are not a 10th place team like they are labeled as. They are slowly finding their footing.

The three Golden Guardians rookies after a victory against Cloud9.
The three Golden Guardians rookies after a victory against Cloud9.

I feel they are very happy with their players' progress in the LCS as well. Not everyone is going to be a top team that has an insane amount of money, but that is not the only way to win. You do not need to spend an insane amount of money if you can find the right players and coach them. I have a lot of respect for Golden Guardians and their approach to building lineups.

What is your stance on people complain only about three or four teams at the top. Do you think a salary cap for teams would be a good solution for this?

DIG Jimmy: A salary cap would be good in the LCS, but not for the reasons fans view it. When I think about how finances work in the LCS, it is about being sustainable. When you have a cap limit for how much teams are spending, I am willing to bet the quality of infrastructure you do things is higher. Top down from the orgs perspective, it would be easier to view each split as less of a gamble as well.

As far as fan perception, I have been watching League since the inception. There is this top 4 which remains competitive, but it is not the same four teams every split. 100 Thieves are the best team in the LCS right now, but that is the Golden Guardians core plus Abbedage and Ssumday. Now people are raving about them.

It all depends on team preparation and how you show up on the day. I would argue the LCS is really competitive right now.

In LCS, we have scouting grounds where you can draft players, but it feels like there is not as much weight compared to traditional sports. What do you think needs to happen in order for this to all change?

DIG Jimmy: I think for that to happen, the LoL scene needs to actually understand how esports works. Scouting Grounds does not function like the NBA Draft. You do not have exclusivity to players. In League of Legends, it all comes down to a finance game. If you look at how teams stay dominant in the east, they have two to three feeder teams with solo queue talent. A few of those workout and then you sell them to other teams. 

In North America, this is not the case. A lot of it comes down to how you are scouting players and finding someone that is overlooked. Maybe you are also one of the orgs who can afford to have multiple players in the academy to do this. A lot will come down to financials in esports. It is really hard to ever imagine esports work similar to the NBA where the bottom teams get these top picks. I don’t think it will ever get to that point, but I do not know what a proper solution would be.

In terms of being creative, is that something you are really passionate about as a coach?

DIG Jimmy: I feel like some people see the Golden Guardians with recency bias for the 2020 lineup. I think a lot of scouting comes from actually spending the time to watch soloqueue and get opinions of players. You need to find players who fit into your ideal playstyle. Another very important thing is to look at non-major regions for talent as well.

There is talent everywhere, but they assume a region is weak because they do not get far in worlds. A lot of it is about spending actual time with scouting and understanding what statistics mean. You also need to know how to interview players before entering a team. You need to understand how certain personalities would work together. Just because some guy is insane at soloqueue does not mean that he will be a stud in competitive. This is something I really respect about the Golden Guardians and it is something I am working on bringing over to Dignitas this year. 

I wanted to give you the floor to say any final words to Dignitas fans and the LCS community.

DIG Jimmy: I appreciate everyone who supports us. I understand in esports, transparency is hard to walk that fine line. From a public perspective, it can be frustrating to feel like some information is missing.

What I would say, in spring, people doubted us. They saw us as a 9th or 10th palace team and we got up to fifth place. We just need to show that in summer. What I would wish for is that people do not only focus on recency bias. Up until a couple of weeks ago, we were 14-1 in the league versus anyone not C9, TL or 100 Thieves.

100 Thieves are the top team in the 2021 LCS Summer Split. image via
100 Thieves are the top team in the 2021 LCS Summer Split. image via

If you expect a team to end 9th and they are 14-1 against the rest of the league, you would be excited about them. I think the community has a hard time placing us in the standings. From my perspective, they do not understand if we are a development squad or if we are a roster that is a contender. We are trying to build a roster that can challenge the top again. That being said, it is going to take some time, but I am really happy with the growth of this team right now. I always appreciate the people who continue to cheer for us even through these growing pains.

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