Across any sport, or eSport, an offseason is rife with perceived winners, losers and a nebulous handful of teams that no pundit knows quite where to place. The North American League Championship Series is no exception, with Team SoloMid and NRG eSports seen as the winners of the offseason, while Team Impulse were often placed firmly in their own tier as the presumed dregs of the upcoming season.
Alongside them, with a murkier outlook, was Team Dignitas. Many tore the organization apart for releasing top laner Noh “Gamsu” Yeongjin and AD carry Jo “CoreJJ” Yongin while continuing to hold on to support Alan “KiWiKiD” Nguyen. Their two most significant roster acquisitions were jungler Thomas “Kirei” Yuen, previously of Denial eSports in Europe, and former Gamers2 top laner Lennart “SmittyJ” Warkus. These signings were met with a large amount of skepticism, and occasionally contempt, by those unfamiliar with their respective performances in the European Challenger Series.
Kirei immediately proved his raw skill and strong pathing sense against the Qiao Gu Reapers at IEM Cologne, thoroughly besting Baek “Swift” Dahoon with a stunning 3/1/11 Elise performance before Dignitas lost their next two games. Now in North America, Kirei has been generally strong. Falling in the middle of the pack for most statistics, he has a high first blood percentage, hinting at his involvement in Dignitas’ early game.
Unfortunately, SmittyJ didn’t work out nearly as well, although it wasn’t due to in-game performances. Citing attitude issues, the team recently moved him to a substitute position, and signed Billy “BillyBoss” Yu as their starting top. An experienced North American Challenger Series player, BillyBoss has been playing in Challenger since 2013, when his Team Blade roster was picked up by Denial eSports.
Since then, BillyBoss has played on a total of 11 teams, including Dignitas, most of which have been in the Challenger Series — although he previously been listed as a substitute for Complexity and Team SoloMid. Most recently, he was on the challenger squad Team Vortex during their unsuccessful run in the 2015 NA CS Summer Season.
“I did not realize I was on eleven teams,” he admits. “The only team I've made more than a time investment in would be Team Vortex, where I resided in their gaming house for the 2015 NA Challenger Series.”
BillyBoss has recently split his time between playing League of Legends and attending Rutgers University New Brunswick for a degree in Information Technology. Because of this, he has been previously hesitant about committing fully to a team, and was set to graduate from university in 2017 prior to signing with Dignitas.
“League had always been a hobby where I invested probably too much time into,” he says. “Don't get me wrong playing LCS with Team Dignitas is dream come true, but I have previously never compromised my schooling for League. Dignitas was just an opportunity I knew I had to jump too and I'm glad it has been working out thus far. It truly is a dream come true.
“Dignitas is different in the fact that this organization not only has my utmost confidence in — ODEE has truly been the most reasonable and accommodating owner I've ever interacted with — but the players are players I highly respect not only in terms of mechanical skill but mindset in and out of the game.
“I would not quit school for a team I think would not do well in LCS and I believe we can go the distance.”
BillyBoss’ first week in the NA LCS was mixed. His team pulled off a win against Renegades, but then struggled against a Team SoloMid roster that showed signs of coming together after struggling initially. The end result was an 0/6/0 Gnar performance for BillyBoss’ second professional game, and a loss for Team Dignitas.
“In regards to a top lanes I would like to face, it would definitely be Hauntzer again,” he says, eager to move forward from their first LCS meeting.
“I heavily respect him as a player and met him my first week of LCS. I played very poorly via a combination of a lack of practice, nerves, and a slight hiatus from league. Next time I'm willing to bet it won't be such a stomp and I'll go something better than 0/6."
Team Dignitas, and their new top laner, sit solidly in the middle of the NA LCS standings with a 2-2 record, tied with Counter Logic Gaming, Team Impulse, Cloud9 and Team SoloMid. This coming week they face off against the surprising upstart Team Impulse, and Cloud9 with the hope that they can overtake them in the standings. However, like most things, BillyBoss’ progression with the team will take time and a large amount of effort. The new top laner is more than well-aware of this, but cites Team Dignitas’ open atmosphere as an advantage in overall improvement.
“If someone has a concern they voice it instead of letting it nag at them on the inside,” he says. “We all respect each other and want the best versions of ourselves. No one is arrogant everyone is open to criticism and we are all friendly with each other.”
Predicting a League of Legends team’s success prior to the start of the season is a tricky undertaking, nearly always proven wrong once teams load up onto the Rift. Dignitas was said to have lost in the offseason and this perception didn’t change much, even after nearly upsetting Qiao Gu at IEM Cologne. Thus far in the LCS, Dignitas shows strong early game prowess but lack the wherewithal to capitalize on any early leads, something that a simple roster substitution is unlikely to fix. However, their new top laner appears to have the right attitude and is overwhelmingly eager to learn.
“In my opinion I am a very raw player in the fact that I am making a vast transition from playing the game a couple of hours in between classes to becoming a full-on professional,” he adds of his own personal performance.
“This was very apparent in my first week of LCS where I had not played the game in a competitive setting since team Frostbite about two months prior to my debut. Overall I feel like I have an enormous amount of potential for the weeks to come. In anything that I invest into I put my 110 percent in. I will become a well-respected NA top laner. I have no doubt and have a lot to learn in the upcoming weeks.”
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore eSports. Her love for the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.