Unheralded, unexpected and unprecedented.
Going into EPICENTER, the story was clear. The three best teams in the world going into this tournament were SK Gaming, Virtus.Pro and Natus Vincere. Below them were Ninjas in Pyjamas and G2, two dark horse teams that could upset the best teams if they were in the right form on the right day.
As for Dignitas? They were playing as spoiler. This was a team I considered at the top of the heap among the Tier 2 teams. The results spoke toward this, as the core of the lineup had strong recent results at Starladder and DreamHack Bucharest.
Dignitas’ Starladder run ended with a fourth place finish. On the surface, it was a good placing, but then you look at their run: One map loss to Godsent. Then one map win over Hellraisers. One best-of-three win over Godsent, a team who went on to become worse than anyone could have imagined. A best-of-three win over Heroic, a rising Danish team. They then lost in a close manner to G2.
Samething happened at DreamHack. Dignitas lost one map to FaZe. Then they beat Flipsid3 and FaZe in best-of-threes to get out of the group. Flipsid3 is a strong tactical team, but never seems to get it together except at the Majors. FaZe at that time was a great one-map-upset sort of team because of the firepower it possessed, but the team had no system. Dignitas then lost to the eventual winners VP in a close 2-1 series.
Given that amount of information, we knew Dignitas could play close to all of the top teams in the world. But almost doesn’t cut it. Many teams have “almost” taken series off the top teams, but few rarely do.
So how did Dignitas win EPICENTER? Persistence, luck and skill. One of the essential reasons why you could never truly pick Dignitas to be an elite team is simple. It was the second best Danish team in the world for most of its inception. Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen has been leading this team since March 2015 and is now the only member remaining that didn’t leave.
But MSL was persistent. He could never get enough of the right pieces at the right time to make an elite team. Each time his team was close to breaking out, his star player was taken. After a strong emergence, Philip “aizy” Aistrup was bought out by FaZe. Then MSL would try to build the team around Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye. That team was a bit raw, as both Emil “Magiskb0y” Reif and Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke were performing well only on LAN. Then Kjaerbye left for Astralis, with René “cajunb” Borg coming in return.
The move was interesting because MSL hadn’t had a true primary AWP player in years, which was what cajunb could do. It gave an extra dimension to Dignitas’ identity, but there were still fundamental flaws in the consistency of the rest of the players on LAN, teamwork issues and MSL himself being a burden on the scoreboard.
All of the problems bore fruit first as they lost at ELEAGUE and then lost to Astralis at the ESL One Cologne. Making matters worse, Astralis played with two stand-ins, one being their coach who hadn’t played in years.
But Dignitas’ persistence did eventually pay off and after the offseason, Dignitas started to kick into high gear as both Magiskb0y and k0nfig found their incredible consistency on LAN. Cajunb began to click. The luckiest part of all was the rapid and almost meteoric rise to the top. It took Dignitas two months to shoot up from a Tier 2 team to among the world’s elite. This is important because no one had time to try to poach their players, and with the current success, it seems incredibly unlikely that any members of the team will leave a winning combination.
The most important aspect of all of this is their skill. Magiskb0y gives extremely consistent firepower round after round and on Overpass in particular is the best CT player in the world. He has a lot of positional aggression where he places himself in great positions on CT side and gets a kill or two and escapes, leaving Dignitas in favorable 5-v-4s or 5-v-3s.
k0nfig is their other star. He is also consistent, but he brings a lot more wild aggression that forces the opponents to second guess themselves. He is also a key member when it comes to Dignitas’ T-side, as he consistently helps breaks bomb sites. Between the two of them they cover the entire base of what you need in an elite team. A consistent killer in Magiskb0y and an incredible player maker in k0nfig.
Cajunb is the third star and is a very stable AWPer who can hold angles as well as come out with big plays every once in awhile. You can depend on him to always hit certain shots in certain positions, and when he’s on fire he can take over a game. Finally, MSL and RUBINO fill out the roles of the team as they do the rest of the work from anchoring sites, getting information, throwing nades, etc. RUBINO in particular is great for a support player and when either of MSL or RUBINO do well, Magiskb0y says it’s incredibly easy to win.
Perhaps most importantly of all is that Dignitas wins a large amount of 3-v-3 and 2-v-2 situations. Their overall teamwork in setting up crossfires and positions for each other is the foundation of their play on every map.
Finally, Dignitas is good on nearly every map. You can’t pinpoint a map they are the absolute best on like SK is on Train, VP is on Cobblestone or G2 was on Dust2. But Dignitas is good enough to give a run to the best teams on their map and they’ve shown they can play nearly the entire map pool except for Train and Cache.
Before this tournament started, we were headed into a world where three teams were to battle for the throne over the dominion of CS:GO. Then Dignitas put its name into the discussion by the best way possible: ritual combat. They defeated Na`Vi in a best-of-three and then beat VP right after in another three-game series to win the title. Dignitas has climbed the mountain and kicked the door down. The only team left to challenge is SK. ESL Pro League finals start next week.