The Incredible Resilience of Champions

If you are into Heroes of the Storm then by now you’ve probably heard that Team Dignitas won the HGC Western Clash.

I’ll leave the game analysis to more qualified players/analysts. What I want to talk about is the manner by which they won the tournament.

To say Dignitas were not favorites coming into this tournament is an understatement. They qualified 3rd in EU and were seen by many as less of a contender than Tempo Storm or even Gale Force eSports.

To prove the naysayers right, they lost 3-0 to Misfits in the second round in absolute brutal fashion. We will never know how much of that was due to one of their players being ill but, regardless, it must’ve played a part not only in the final result but also in the team’s ability to stay focused.

In the loser bracket, they swept aside GFE in a clean 3-0 series, any residues of an ill player completely vanished. With that result, they locked in a place in the Top 4 and booked a meeting for the next day with Team 8, the last standing NA Team in the tournament.

At that time, Bakery tweeted as follows:

This Tweet is more than just “banter” to me. This is their Team Captain acting as the Leader that we can only imagine him to be: setting the tone for the matches yet to come; putting their entire qualifier path in the past; letting go of that Misfits’ defeat; giving his team mates the belief they needed to carry on. This is what Leaders do. This is what Champs do. They learn from their defeats and then move on to challenge the future. They don’t dwell on sadness or frustration. They don’t wonder whether having a player ill affected their past results or not. They rejoice in the insatiable feeling that is to enjoy victory. In sending that Tweet out, Bakery was setting the tone for the final 3 matches of their tournament; like a prophet, he was telling his team mates that they were going to “win them all”.

It’s easy to misinterpret their 3-0 sweep of Team 8 as proforma. It wasn’t. Glaurung is an incredible leader in his own way and, throughout the tournament, was the playmaker his team needed him to be. The two teams had faced each other in Round 1 and Team 8 could’ve taken that match (final result was 2-1 for Dig). This time around, they fought well (again) but Dig was just too good. Any sign of the fragilities they had shown against Misfits – and to a certain extent, in their previous Round 1 match against Team 8 – gone. It was as if the nerves (or illness) of the past couple of days were gone. This was Dig in a Top 4 stage, a place they’d been before, and where they know only the moment counts, not the past.

Enter their Semi Final match against Misfits. Boy oh boy. If there has ever been truth to the sentence “never underestimate the heart of a champion” then that was on display today. Think about it for a second: Dignitas had previously been brutally slain by Misfits, sending them packing with their tail between their legs to the loser bracket and found themselves down 2-0 in the series. How do you bounce from that? You are up against Misfits, the other serious contender aside from Fnatic. You are up against a team that defeated you in the qualifiers, defeated you in the winners bracket and is defeating you now 2-0 on a best of 5. You’ve endured months of the media, analysts, experts, Reddit stating that there’s no way you gonna win the whole thing… and here you are, warming up for Game 3, nothing but hope, a can of Red Bull and a Tweet by your Captain between you and a ticket home (well technically, you would go home at the end of the day anyway, but you get the idea). How do you find the mental strength to carry on, to fight back, to believe you can still do it?

For me this was Dignitas’ finest moment in this tournament for it was also their lowest point. You can argue that, in the end, their victory in the final is all that matters and that this was Fnatic’s tournament to lose. Maybe so. But it was in that Game 3 against Misfits that Dignitas really showed that incredible resilience of a Champion. To come back under those circumstances is one heck of an achievement in any sport. After 14 matches in one day Dignitas were the deserving winners of the HGC Western Clash.

To wrap it all, a great Champion is also humble. Bakery, once again, leading by example, showed a lot of class by calling out DunkTrain’s contribution to their victory and Zaelia’s stepping up despite being the team’s rookie:

The future is promising for Dignitas. It always is for Champions.