On Aztral's wings, Dignitas soared once more.
It was one year ago that the Dignitas roster of Turbopolsa, ViolentPanda & Yukeo sat at the bottom of the EU RLCS. Despite winning the most recent LAN event in Dreamhack Leipzig, one of Rocket League’s most feared names started the season 0-3, and while they would narrowly avoid the relegation tournament, they were unable to qualify for the world championship, being eliminated by PSG Esports and watching on as former teammates Kaydop hoisted the trophy for Renault Vitality. Even with a top-four placing at Dreamhack Dallas, that was just a swansong as less than a month later, Turbopolsa had departed the side. With their best performer leaving, an already declining side now had the impossible task of replacing one of the greatest players of all time, the future of Dignitas looked very bleak.
A rookie announces himself
Enter Aztral, a Belgian player with no RLCS or RLRS experience, but a name that had been catching everyone’s attention for his mechanical prowess, and had upset many an RLCS side across various pick-up squads for the first half of 2019. However not only was the immediate promotion to RLCS met with some doubt, he was replacing Turbopolsa, an impossible task on paper. While everyone agreed he could be great, would it be enough to match the status Dignitas had set? Well, initial results mirrored everyone’s low expectations, 9th-12th in their first outing at Dreamhack Valencia, and 5th-6th in the Dreamhack Montreal EU Qualifier, where they dropped to non-RLCS sides. With the upper echelon of EU featuring Vitality, PSG, FC Barcelona, The Bricks and now Complexity, & Triple Trouble always around to upset, there were questions as to whether this side would be top six domestically?
However, things began to turn around at the first Rocket League Summit. With Triple Trouble’s tumultuous disband, and a flurry of roster moves taking place in Europe, Dignitas was given TT’s spot at Summit. As the bottom seed, they had to deal with a group featuring world champions Vitality, runners up G2 & NRG Esports featuring Turbopolsa. Despite losses to the NA sides, a victory over Vitality secured them a spot in the lower bracket of the playoffs. And come championship Sunday, impressive wins over Cloud9 & G2 meant Dignitas placed 3rd at the event. They followed this up with a respectable 5th-8th placing at Dreamhack Montreal. Cloud9 & G2 may have gotten their revenge, but with a victory over eventual champions The Peeps on day one, it was clear Dignitas was back in the conversation to qualify for the RLCS world championship as they entered season eight of the championship series with Aztral beginning to find his feet.
A rocky start
Unfortunately their start to RLCS season eight was far from ideal. They opened with a spectacular loss to Veloce, a close-fought win over lowly Complexity and a 3-1 victory over FCB. However getting swept by both Reciprocity & mousesports left Dignitas down in the dumps heading into the final week, particularly Yukeo who had not scored since the 2nd week vs Complexity. Going into the final week, there was a very real risk Dignitas would go to relegation. They had to get big results vs both TSM & Vitality, and they did. TSM were swept & Vitality defeated in five games as Aztral claimed player of the week. The job was not done though. Dignitas had avoided relegation but their eyes were set on making the world championship in Madrid. In order to get there, they had to run the gauntlet and defeat both FC Barcelona & mousesports. Unfortunately, FCB was on a hot streak of their own and raced to a 3-0 lead in the Bo7 series. Enter Dignitas’ 4th man: Coach Virge. Sometimes coaches point out flaws in gameplay, other times they try to keep morale high, or in this case, give a talented side on the brink of defeat a motivational kick in the backside. The next four games would signal the start of Dignitas’ rise from the ashes. First up, they would reverse sweep FC Barcelona in the best of seven, a feat that’s only occurred five other times in professional Rocket League. They would ride the momentum into the LAN qualification match and defeat mousesports 4-2 to signal the return of Dignitas to the big stage. And any doubts that Dignitas didn’t warrant that status were quickly silenced as they only lost to the eventual regional champions in a game seven overtime.
The high of the regional finals continued into the LAN finals in Madrid, with 3-2 & 3-0 wins over Pittsburgh Knights & Spacestation Gaming, Dignitas found themselves topping group A and in the semi-finals on Championship Sunday. It was at this point their identity was clear. The best passing team in the world, to always seek out a teammate no matter where they are on the pitch, and always have Aztral handy for solo magic if needs be. Dignitas was exhilarating in RLCS season eight, and their teamwork vs Vitality’s mechanical talent in the semi-finals gave the fans a series for the ages, arguably the greatest of all time? In a true clash of the titans, Dignitas would come oh so close, but despite clutching out a dramatic game six overtime, one mistake in game seven cost them, as Yukeo bumping Aztral away from a save was enough to send Vitality to the grand finals. Regardless, Dignitas had announced their return to the top tier of Rocket League, and season nine was their opportunity to go one further.
With Reciprocity’s decline beginning, Vitality making a controversial move in dropping Scrubkilla for Alpha54 and the Scot heading over to mousesports, the stage seemed set for Dignitas to take the mantle of number one in Europe. Early wins over TSM, AS Monaco & Singularity left them the only undefeated side in Europe after three weeks of play. And then with a reverse sweep over mousesports & a tough five-game win over FCB, Dignitas was topping most people’s EU rankings as the highly anticipated rematch with Vitality approached. Unfortunately, they themselves would be the victims of a reverse sweep as Vitality had ironed out their kinks with Alpha and would go on to top the league table. Dignitas would be right behind them in second, winning out apart from a loss to Reciprocity, and with no world championship to contend for, they had their eyes set on the European championship.
Their regional championship campaign started vs a resurging mousesports in the semi-finals, with Arju the unlikely hero to even get Mouz this far. The first game of the bo7 would go to Mouz and cause an argument between Aztral & Yukeo. In a rare glimpse behind the camera, we not only got to see Aztral’s infamous bad mentality in full effect, but also witness how both coach Virge & ViolentPanda defused the situation and get the squad to focus up. In a back and forth set, Dignitas would eventually reign supreme, being taken to but ultimately triumphing in game seven to advance to the grand finals, where the third date with Renault Vitality awaited. With both sides head and shoulders above the rest of EU, both online and LAN, you could say it was destiny that this would be the finals, and although Vitality had won the previous two encounters, Dignitas would not be denied greatness for a third time. Vitality may have had 2nd and 3rd place in MVP voting in FairyPeak! & Kaydop, but Dignitas had Aztral, the EU MVP, and with an absurd zero-second goal in the second game, Dignitas went up by two games and never let the lead get any shorter. And despite Vitality putting up two games of their own, a goal from Dignitas’ leader in ViolentPanda would seal the title in six games, as one year after falling to an all-time low, Dignitas had bounced back to where they arguably belong. #1 in Europe, with their eyes set on global domination once again.
Image courtesy of ZeeboDesigns