Brokenshard: My Year In Team Dignitas
Sun 8th Nov 2015 - 10:25am
This article was written by Team Dignitas' LoL Head Coach, Ram 'Brokenshard' Djemal, where he talks about his experiences in 2015 and explains everything that happened.
I wrote on my twitter that I would write a long post about the last year or so since there wasn't a really good explanation about what happened or how things unfolded, it may clear up a lot of things and since a new chapter in my life is starting, I feel like its important to write about it.
This time last year, I left G2. This was a move that was mutual, Carlos wanted to discuss my responsibilities on my job, and I wasn't willing to continue on the team being a remote analyst. So we parted ways.
Fast forward about a month and a half, after assisting H2k in their qualifier during expansion, I decided to look for an opportunity elsewhere. I was receiving offers from multiple places, mostly as a coach. I received both NA, EU and CBLOL (Brazil) offers to coach mainly CS teams and 1 LCS team, however, I decided to play for a team entering the challenger series known as SKP, though they were not contracted to the organisation. This team's lineup was Wunderwear, Sencux, Crazycaps and Zytan. Sencux initially approached me since the jungler they wanted, Obvious, was not able to join them since SK would not buy him out of the contract, so I ended up playing with them during the qualifier and ended up qualifying, though I made no commitment to fully join them at this time.
I met ODEE in IEM Cologne while I was with H2k, and it was there that I really got to speak to him about a bunch of stuff. Sometime around February, he reached out to me for advice regarding his coaching staff and who he should pick up for coach. It was at this time that he offered me the spot initially, where I spoke to him about 'my' challenger team, who were currently NOT CONTRACTED and looking for sponsorship. I ended up playing for this team in the challenger series to disappointing results both myself as an individual and team wise. Our support staff at this time consisted of RngLoL and Froskurinn, and due to circumstances neither party could really control, Rng and the team parted ways.
Why did I return to playing? Honestly thinking back I don't know. The game had lost its enjoyment for me sometime around November of 2014. I just stopped enjoying the grinding of soloq and the long hours of scrimming. For some reason I thought that playing on a team again would just give me the drive to want to become a pro player again, but I just couldn't find it, and decided that whether I was good or bad as a player, I could not put the same amount of time and effort as another person on the team. This was what fueled my decision to retire as a player finally at that moment.
After managing to get 4th and being knocked out of the playoffs due to a technicality, I told Odee my wish to become a Coach, and it was at that point that the 'real' Dignitas EU was being formed. The team that I wanted to be a powerhouse in the EUCS and the team that I wanted to get to LCS.
It would be the first time I would feel like a REAL coach, even though I semi-coached several teams in the past and was Head coach of G2. Odee gave me FULL roster control, FULL authority, anything I wanted, whether it be support staff or buying a player, was given to me. I was already very loyal to Dignitas after working with them for a split, but it was at this point that I understood the true responsibilities of a head coach. I was working alongside with Froksurinn as my co-coach and analyst, and it was through her that I understood better communication skills towards the players, and how to work with different people. I learned a lot just from hearing her talk to the players, and because of her I know I became a better coach, so part of this is dedicated to her: Frosk, thank you for all the work you did with Dig EU, you were fantastic to work with as a coach and as a player.
When Frosk went to cast LPL, we unfortunately had to let her go, as I was juggling the responsibilities of being a head coach AND the team manager, since we didn't have one at the time. I needed assistance, and with her blessing we picked up Raz a few weeks before our games vs Mousesports to qualify for the EUCS. Raz was a godsend, the guy is smart, easygoing, hard working and incredibly flexible at all aspects of the job. This was part of the reason I invited him to join me into coming to the NA team, and part of the reason so many people, Froskurinn included, recommended him to me. We 2-0 mouz with impressive performances from the team, shutting out any doubts about the Nisbeth pickup and about keeping Wunderwear, who grew immensely as a player from the spring to summer split.
I was really happy working with the roster, practice was going incredibly well and after 2-0'ing DNL, we felt insanely confident in the upcoming matches. When overconfidence didn't plague the players, our drafting was on point during the EUCS and we had a comfortable array of champion pools to carry us through, and it was shown in our gameplay that both individually and strategically, Dig EU was the best team in the challenger series.
I don't really want to discuss so much about Esports Festival in Belgium, but I will say that it was apparent that we had some issues playing at LAN events.
The regression of Dig EU happened when I went to NA to help the Team Dignitas NA team once Rico had to return home due to family issues while the team went to DH Valencia to compete.
This is where shit really hit the fan, and if I wanted to destroy someone’s career right now, I easily could. This person nearly jeopardized a full season of work for selfish reasons and put the careers of 5 very talented young and hard working players at risk. This person knows who he is and for that I'm gonna say fuck you. Nothing more needs to be said.
Note: Before people start a witch hunt, this wasn’t someone who was part of the Team Dignitas organisation, so before people start pointing fingers at people wrongfully, I wanted to clear that up.
We lost to G2 2-0 as a result of poor drafting from my part and poor gameplay from the team. This can be attributed mostly to lack of scrims since the team was travelling so much and in hindsight, going to DH Valencia was a huge mistake. I thought the LAN experience would make up for lack of scrim time, but at the end of the day this was a mistake. I was still relatively new at being a head coach, and I needed to make mistakes and make calls so I could learn from them.
On my return from NA, I made the decision to bring the 5 players to a boot camp facility in Berlin to prepare for the upcoming playoff matches where we played Denial, I hoped that this would fix the poor practice we were having and to boost team morale. I was unfortunately wrong.
I can tell you this now, from the moment we arrived in the boot camp to the games vs DNL, we had about 9 sets of B05s, and we may have won maybe 2 or 3 games total. GAMES, not sets, mind you. Practice was going awful, and its not that we weren't getting better, we were just losing games. Team atmosphere was absolutely horrible, and being a relatively inexperienced coach, I was struggling to find ways to fix this. We would lose game 1 after tryharding, and certain players would lose motivation to keep scrimming, or to keep being serious. Honestly, in hindsight I don't blame them, but it was hard to keep motivated. Expectations coming into the games vs DNL were quite low, and I wasn't sure how we were going to do.
Queue up game day, and game 1 we get absolutely destroyed by Kirei and his Rengar in game 1. I was mainly expecting this, but wasn't expecting such a 1 sided match. It was at this point that Kirei started getting Ddosed. DNL lost all their bans however, we didn't want to win any game like that so we offered them in a private message 3 bans. Basically, they told us 3 champions and we would act as if they were their bans and would not pick them. We pull out Xerath, a champion we had been practicing a bit in scrims, and Wunderwear suggests picking Gangplank. We had never scrimmed a SINGLE GAME with GP, let alone have I ever seen Wunder play it, however he was adamant that it was a solid pick so I let it through.
We end up winning game 2 off the back of some insane Gangplank plays and Xerath snipes, boosting team morale infinitely and making the series look winnable. We go into game 3 with a draft that I was very happy with (Fizz Sivir I believe) and we start the game off with really good lane swap set up into getting Fizz very far ahead. The game was even, and we were setting up a strong fizz split push when the pause came out. About 30 minutes or so later, it was confirmed that we got the win since DNL ran out of pause time EVEN though we offered to give them ours. It felt like shit to win due to a Ddos, and I knew that the players would be getting harassed due to it. I felt like if the game had gone on, there was a solid chance we would have won the game based off the composition we were running, however, from this day on that will forever be a "what if." It was planned to stay at the bootcamp longer, however, we decided it would be best if every player went home to rest and recuperate from the disastrous bootcamp and practice for home before the final against Mousesports.
Practice those next few days didn't go MUCH better, however, morale was slightly better and improvement became more visible throughout the days. We were mostly confident in our games against Mousesports, and were feeling very ready to take them on to enter the LCS.
We get to the Riot studios in Berlin after a few days at home, and we schedule some scrims for the next days to prepare for our match. We end up canceling a scrim with a low-tier challenger team to scrim G2 right before their 3rd place match against DNL, in return they promised us that the next day they would give us a scrim right before our games vs Mouz even if they didn’t have an important match coming up. Scrim went decent, we felt good coming into the next day.
This is the BIG XD of the weekend, G2 ended up canceling our scrim against them on match day last minute. Looking back I just laugh at how hilarious this situation is, but at the time I was furious, we basically went into the mouz game with no scrimming warm up, just soloq.
It didn’t really matter, though, because at the end of 5 long, REALLY REALLY nervous games, we were able to beat out Mouz and get a spot in the LCS. It felt like all the past months of hard work were worth it, and it made me feel that the team became overall stronger after a really big down period. The organisation was happy now since we had two LCS teams, one of which we had to sell, and we were looking forward to a relaxing off-season.
Not really much to talk about in I-series, we arrived to the tournament with literally 0 team practice since our Mouz bo5 and just stomped throughout the entire tournament not dropping a single game. The LAN was fun and was a decent experience to see and meet the UK scene.
It was at this time that I had to make a very important choice. What was I going to do? What happens if the EU team sells? Where do I go? I also was receiving several other offers for coaching on other teams, however at the end of the day I decided that I wanted to stay with Dignitas no matter what.
I knew about the team being sold quite a while before it was fully announced, we were receiving bids from multiple teams and honestly, it was a bit of a mixed feeling since I would end up moving to LA to coach the Dignitas NA team. I’m going to be real here, coming back to NA was never actually in my plans when I left compLexity in July last year. I never thought to myself “hey, wouldn't it be great to go back?” because honestly after spending close to a year and a half in EU challenger, I grew to appreciate the talent pool that was present there, and understood that if organisations actually put in the time and effort and FUNDING into the scene, it would rapidly develop. There are a lot of motivated and hungry players who are looking to prove themselves, and EU challenger is vastly underdeveloped organisation wise when compared to NA where currently some salaried players are receiving more money than top LCS players in the region. That’s messed up. At some point in the future I do want to have another EU challenger team, whether it be under Dignitas or my own.
This brings me to present day, writing this up while in the LA gaming house while finalizing the last pieces of the Dignitas NA roster. NA was never in my plans, but I chose to stay with Dignitas and that is where the team needs me, so I hope I can be successful here, and with the support staff i’ve put together I know we can do great things. I’m happy to continue working for Dignitas and happy with the players we have so far, which will be announced hopefully soon.
Thanks for all the fans who have stuck with me for the past 12 months, and also for the new supporters who have joined in recently, you guys rock and it feels good to have people behind me. Hopefully this not-so-donezo manifesto helps re-cap the last year or so and gives you a slightly better idea of what was happening behind the scenes.
TL;DR things and stuff read the damn thing.