ViolentPanda, Yukeo, Joreuz and Virge discussed everything from how their form has transpired to how there is no doubt in their mind that they should be World Champions.
Cast your minds back to the beginning of March, the RLCS regular season was in full flow and life was so much simpler. Five weeks in, three teams sat tied at the top of the table in Europe, Veloce Esports, Renault Vitality, and Dignitas who were yet to lose. The competition was heating up and eyes were starting to edge towards the playoffs and the World Championships. Oh, what a great and promising time that was.
On the 7th March, Psyonix announced that the World Championships were to be cancelled due to the ongoing global pandemic, and the prize pools would be distributed through the regional playoffs. The worlds greatest teams were left in limbo with no idea who the best in the world was, and one team, in particular, was left scratching their heads.
Jos ‘ViolentPanda’ van Meurs, Maurice ‘Yukeo’ Weihs, and Maello ‘AztraL’ Ernst had so far gone 5-0 and has put their Season 8 heartbreak way behind them. Their eyes were solely fixated on being the best team in the world, and their chances of being crowned as such were diminished by circumstances that were out of their control.
But the best in Europe was still up for grabs, and there was nothing that could stop them, not even their formidable foes in Renault Vitality. With a 4-2 win in the playoffs final Dignitas had earned their top spot. As Shogun put it: “Nobody can prevent ViolentPanda from turning it in, revenge is finally his, the regional championship belongs to Dignitas!”
The off-season produced many changes within Rocket League esports, and in a time of uncertainty regarding the RLCS, a host of community tournaments were introduced. The MVP, AztraL, departed to Oxygen Esports, and highly rated rookie Jorris ‘Joreuz’ Robben was drafted in. Shaky results and inconsistent performances had many doubting whether or not Dignitas had made the right decision in allowing AztraL to mutually depart, instead of patching up the cracks. RLCS X was just around the corner and Dignitas couldn’t muster up enough form to finish in the top three at Fusion, The Eurocup 10K and the Summer Grand Prix.
But when RLCS X kicked off in this brand-new format last weekend (August 1), it was as if nothing had ever changed, and they came out of the blocks all cylinders firing. Servette Geneva Esports, Stormtroopers and Magnifico all fell to Dig, as VP, Yukeo and Joreuz found their feet. A contributing factor to their resurgence for RLCS X could be down to the weight of expectation lifted off their shoulders.
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John ‘Virge’ Willis, Dignitas' coach, outlined: “I don’t expect to win dominantly at all. I think we may even end up near the bottom half of the pack considering how difficult our playstyle is to learn. It takes a lot of time and a lot of analysis and practice. So we have high hopes for this team given time, but for now, we are just focused on using these tournaments to gain Joreuz experience and help him develop into this team comfortably".
With the pressure of expectations of their shoulders, VP, Yukeo and Joreuz were allowed the freedom to express themselves how they see fit, and as they grow through the Fall Split, to them it’s all about embedding the young Dutchman into the team. Few partnerships within the scene are more prepared for that than Yukeo and ViolentPanda, case in principle: AztraL. Joreuz follows suit from the likes of AztraL (Dignitas) and Yukeo (FlipSid3), joining a huge team without RLCS experience, the latter being the perfect role model.
“Joreuz is an amazing player. He definitely has what it takes. The only thing missing is his experience and that will just come after time.” Stated Yukeo, before Virge added “He’s extremely talented, and surprisingly has an insanely strong work ethic for such a young person. I’m excited to see how he develops in time, I think he has the potential to do exactly the same as AztraL did, which was to come on as a new player and completely shake the scene”.
Picking up Joreuz was an eyebrow-raiser from the outside, but with the history of picking up unproven players and turning them into superstars is something that Dignitas has mastered over the years. Much of it comes down to embedding the team cohesively, something that Virge realise takes time, which will ultimately bring them out on top.
“He’s a young new talent with extremely high-level mechanics” explained Virge. “Teaching mechanics takes far more time than teaching someone rotations and game sense. We chose him because we value his individual ability very highly because we strongly believe in our methods as a team to build a strong understanding of decisions and rotation”. But teaching and moulding the young rising star can only go so far; Virge explains that not only is it coaching that’s important, but you can’t polish a potato. Raw talent is huge, and Dignitas’ new third has it in abundance. “He also comes with no previous bad habits to break from spending time with other teams, and he’s in a mindset of just wanting to learn every day. This was very valuable to us as well”.
One player that can only benefit from having a young and stable roster with a common goal is ViolentPanda. The two-time world champion is showing no signs of slowing down and remains a powerhouse throughout the scene. But since the win in Season 5, Kaydop, Turbopolsa and AztraL have all left despite the success of Dignitas. The 21-year-old now has an amazing bond with Yukeo, and with Joreuz coming in, stability is key. VP expressed: “Having a roster you are comfortable with and where everyone is willing to work for a common goal is winning that championship, is what you want. This also means that if you find that roster where everyone is comfortable, you most likely stay together.
“When they [Turbopolsa, Kaydop and AztraL] left that was it. I had to focus on myself and grind myself to get there again. Ever since our team has always tried to work hard. With AztraL and Yukeo it showed, the hard work we put in paid off. We almost made it to the finals again and won another regional championship after. And I am confident with the hard work we and myself have always put in, in time we will get there again.”
With the RLCS X performances showing vast improvements from their off-season performances, Joreuz is slowly embedding into the dynamic duo, to form a terrifying trio. But this also doesn’t come as second nature to the 15-year old. The daunting prospect of representing one of the worlds leading esports organisations alongside a two-times Rocket League world champion doesn’t come without its baggage. Joreuz opened up and dissected the process of representing such a team, explaining: “It has dawned on me that I am representing Europe's best side, it is quite scary to think about. This also means that you have to play like one of the best players in the world to win in this league, which sometimes gets me nervous.
“It’s challenging because the pressure of performing at your best ability is always there. you can't have an off day during a tournament because you'll just lose, so I grind this game a lot to get consistent and not have a big risk of underperforming during a tournament with high stakes.
Since I joined I always kind of felt like I wasn't ready nor good enough to be in such a good team, I completely wasn't satisfied with my skill level, but with grinding and making sure that I use my hours in the game productively I am noticing big improvements in my game and the one of the team.
“In-game the transition to play on such a high level was difficult but after grinding for a few weeks to months and with help from Virge with understanding what my role in the team is I feel like I can keep up and be a very dangerous factor in our team. Outside of the game, the transition was pretty easy. VP, Yukeo, Virge, and I quickly became friends so I always feel comfortable with them and the atmosphere is generally really nice”.
Collectively, the ultimate goal is to be world champions. Nothing less for Dignitas. With the three splits of RLCS, it’s about cohesively forming partnerships and cementing in the final piece of the jigsaw that is Joreuz, before they can kick on and become the best in the world, a title which Virge and Yukeo believe would be theirs if not for the cancellation of Season 9 worlds.
“Obviously [we would have won the World Championships]. Jokes aside, I definitely feel like we had what it takes to win the entire thing. I still think back and wish things were different. I tried everything in the moment so I'm happy with how we performed as a team.” Yukeo stated.
We were winning worlds in Dallas, and I have zero doubt in my mind about that.
- John 'Virge' Willis
Damn coronavirus. Dignitas were playing extraordinary Rocket League at the time, and with sides like NRG, Renault Vitality, G2, and Spacestation Gaming, Season nine worlds would have been a joy to watch.
No point lingering in the past though, and Virge has set his side on course to look forward and not backwards. The new format throws up some interesting challenges, and they’re just as hyped as anyone, including Yukeo. The vehement flair player never fails to entertain with his passion and drive on the field, especially at LAN. With the series online for the foreseeable, Yukeo compared the feeling to a workout, stating “You could compare it pretty well like working out in the gym or working out at home. Online is just a very different environment. You play from home so everything feels like always. You still get pressure obviously but it's just different”.
Whilst the aspect of playing from home doesn’t quite live up to the hype of a LAN, the format is a good fit for Dignitas explains Virge. “I’m honestly just happy to see the effort of change. Whether this format works or not, I think it’s the step in the right direction for Psyonix. I’d love to see them continue making changes and taking risks to test more things, that way we will find what works best eventually”.
With the expectations lifted off the shoulders of Dignitas, they’re free to play the Fall Split with comfortability and exemption, as the trio cement, building their world championship challenging side brick by brick. However the results go from now until the Spring split, you better believe they’ll be in contention to take home the RLCS X trophy in 2021.
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Header Image via Javier Munante