For the past three months, there was no Heroes of the Storm team bearing the name Dignitas. But with the signing of Bob Question Mark, it’s a new beginning for both the organization and the team.
Rising stars James "Bakery" Baker, Joshua "Snitch" Bennett, Matic "Zarmony" Mikec, Adrian "adrd" Wojcik and Lawrence "Atheroangel" Harper have shown that they have yet to hit their limit. Their potential drew attention from interested sponsors: as mentioned in a previous interview, they received numerous offers.
But Bakery, Snitch and Zarmony were all part of the now-defunct SK Gaming squad. They learned from that experience and were able to apply the lessons learned in their negotiations with Dignitas. The goal was always to play Heroes professionally, but the method was careful consideration of the available organizations.
“We’ve learned a lot since we were first signed as a team, and we took a long time to ensure that our next organization would be able to support us with our aim to be the top team in Europe. Team Dignitas ticked all the boxes for us, and we are excited to represent them at Prague,” Bakery explained.
Bob — now Dignitas — has seen considerable growth over the past few months, and they capped that improvement with a first-place finish at Enter The Storm #3. But more than just their play, Bakery believes that the win showed an improvement in their competitive mindset.
“I think Enter the Storm was my first big tournament win, and it felt great to finally prove myself the best in Europe, at least for a bit. I think in the past we have shown some weaknesses in our composure, and we were able to nail that down for Enter the Storm. I think we’ll be able to continue that going into Prague,” he said.
Snitch agrees, pointing out that they also could improve their pre-tournament scouting in some cases.
“Yeah, mostly focusing on maintaining our attitude and focus. We also failed a little to properly scout out a style that Alternate Fancy were playing during our first series with them and ended up giving them a free win, so paying closer attention to what other teams are choosing and using that,” he said.
The team doesn’t necessarily have a signature style in the typical sense. What they do possess is the ability to make less-favored heroes into powerhouses.
Bakery is known for his Kharazim play, using the monk in a variety of compositions when Uther is unavailable. Yet, while he is able to make the monk work for his team, many other EU teams refuse to play him. It means those teams can either ban Kharazim or give him up. In most cases, they’re not comfortable stealing him.
Bakery has long espoused the value of Kharazim and the hero’s power was on display at Enter The Storm #3. The results speak for themselves: Bakery didn’t have a whole lot to say to the haters.
“I told you so.”
adrd is another piece of the niche puzzle. He’s got a great hero selection and is arguably the best Azmodan player in EU, so he can threaten an Azmodan composition, potentially force bans, and grant his team an even larger draft advantage.
Meanwhile, Atheroangel is fully capable of playing popular warriors like Leoric, but he too has niche picks that the team can exploit. Though popular in the Korean and Chinese scenes, Tyrael is not picked as often in EU except when the majority of bans go to warriors. Athero’s aptitude with that hero means that those bans are often a wasted effort against Dignitas as he is capable of both defensive peeling and well-timed aggression using the archangel of Justice.
But Athero even brought back the brewmaster himself, Chen.
“Yeah Chen is more broken the more I play him, the only issue I have is that Blizzard decided to buff him and now people might start playing the sleeper OP. You can expect to see a lot more Chen in the next tournaments,” Atheroangel predicted.
That flexibility, and the ability to compromise on a certain pick to strengthen the rest of their composition, is part of what makes Dignitas such a threat.
“We’ll play pretty much anything if it calls for it. Our practice is plentiful and very dynamic, so we’re always prepared to draft anything we need without it affecting our gameplay,” Snitch said.
“Other than the fact that I play dumb heroes when adrd lets me, we aren't afraid to play ‘niche’ or ‘cheesy’ heroes in competitive games,” Atheroangel added.
As long-time members of the competitive community, the members of Dignitas also have a lot of respect for the other players and personalities that make up the EU scene.
Asked who would be their first choice to replace them on Dignitas if, hypothetically, they weren’t able to continue playing Heroes, the team had varying answers.
Bakery, the support player, gave a shout-out to Team Liquid.
“I would definitely want GranPkt to replace me. He’s a great guy, he’s really dedicated, and he’s also a fantastic Support player,” he said.
Snitch, in typical Snitch fashion, did the opposite.
“I’d say Blackscorp could replace me, but if that was the case it’d probably become harder to 2-0 Liquid so consistently,” he said.
Atheroangel likes to joke around and his response was no exception, nominating either Team Liquid warrior player Pedro “LucifroN” Moreno Durán, or community casting favorite Thomas “Khaldor” Kilian as his replacement.
“LucifroN because when I started getting into HotS I played against [Team] Liquid in scrims and constantly and got destroyed by him in lane, so I think my playstyle is an adaptation of his play. And Khaldor well, I mean his biceps can tank anyone in the world really.”
Zarmony, for his part, said he was irreplaceable.
“I am too special in too many ways,” he argued.
Bakery took a moment to recognize his new organization.
“Shoutouts to our organization, Team Dignitas, and all of their sponsors […] Also @MuppetEU, he’s the best meme I know.”
“Shoutout to Curlychan, who once again, will kill me if I don’t. As I said before, hoping we have fans watching at Prague,” Snitch added.
All roads lead to Prague
The European Championship will not feature those aforementioned warrior balance changes, but it figures that Dignitas will find further ways to expand their hero pick horizons. For the moment, they’re focused on Prague.
“I think there’s meant to be something like four thousand people there. It’s a little frightening, but I’m confident we’ll be able to pull out our best on stage when the time comes,” Snitch said.
“We’ve been training very hard the last few weeks and we’re confident we’ll be able to show up here. Hoping to see lots of fans at the event even with the name change!”
That training will likely be needed. Despite the recent dominance this team has displayed, the EU scene is notorious for having a number of very strong teams that are capable of winning any given tournament.
Dignitas went 4-1 against Team Liquid in Enter The Storm #3, but even with that impressive record, adrd isn’t ready to count them out.
“Team Liquid, even though we beat them a few times recently in online tournaments … I think they are more experienced in offline events and might play better there. The other one is Na`Vi, it happens that both of those teams are in our group, so I think getting out of group stage might be the hardest part of qualifying for BlizzCon,” he said.
Bakery agreed predominantly with adrd’s assessment of Na`Vi.
“I think Natus Vincere have looked incredible over the past two weeks, and I expect them to be the other qualifying team,” he said.
Still, despite the opposition, this is just the latest step for a team that has come a long way. To them, getting the backing of a professional organization wasn’t the end — it was just the end of the beginning. They can almost see the finish line.
“Number one in the world has been the goal the whole time,” Snitch explained.
They’ll need to get to the top two of this tournament in order to progress to BlizzCon. But for the team that has come this far, it’s not hard to visualize the win, Bakery said.
“We spent a night a couple of weeks ago looking at photos of the venue. I think we can all imagine how great it would feel to win the tournament, all that’s left is for us to do it.”
And Bob’s your uncle.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Josh Bury is the owner of an underground, one-versus-one Murky fight club. You can follow him on Twitter.