It finally happened. After going completely winless in the first half of the 2023 LCS Spring Split, Dignitas avoided history by scraping out a win over Evil Geniuses on Feb. 23.
Dignitas held a massive lead for most of the game but threw it away completely in the late game. In the end, it took a picture-perfect Emperor’s Divide from Dignitas mid laner Jensen. Seemingly refusing to lose, Jensen put his team on his back as EG assaulted Dignitas’ base, shuffling all five of the opponents and turning the tide of the teamfight for his squad. Moments later, Dignitas secured their first victory bow on the Riot Games Arena stage.
It wasn’t just Jensen’s performance that got Dignitas their first win of the season, though. Frank “Tomo” Lam, who has been tearing it up with Dignitas Challengers, was promoted to the LCS squad’s starting AD carry role on Feb. 23. While Tomo was able to help his new teammates get a win against EG, Dignitas came crashing back to reality the next day when FlyQuest handed them a convincing loss.
Jensen was disappointed when he sat down in the LCS interview room after losing to FlyQuest but agreed that it was undeniable that Dignitas were improved with Tomo in the lineup, even in terms of others’ individual play. “When a new player comes in, everyone feels a bit of rush, so everyone may play a bit better,” Jensen told Dot Esports. “I’m not really sure, but I do think we are more synergized when we play with Tomo.”
For Dignitas, at least thus far, Jensen considers Tomo an all-around upgrade at the ADC position: “I think he’s more developed than Spawn was as a player. He understands more of what he needs in a game and has a better understanding of how to play with the team.”
A 1-1 week is certainly better than a 0-2 week (or 0-3 superweek), but in last place with a record at 1-10, it’s safe to say things have not gone as planned for Dignitas. Jensen spoke candidly about the morale of the team from his point of view.
“Personally, I feel a bit disappointed with how the split is going because realistically, our playoffs chances are almost dead by now,” the veteran said. “I actually think I’m playing really fucking well, so it sucks. At the same time, I’ve played pro League for a long time now, so I understand that there are going to be ups and downs in your career.”
Regardless of Jensen’s individual performance, the start of the season is an all-time down in his pro career. Since his debut in 2015, Jensen has won three LCS titles, only missed the playoffs twice, and has competed internationally at least once every year of his career.
“There are going to be some things that are a bit more out of your control,” Jensen continued. “You can’t always win, you can’t always be the best team—so I think this is just a shitty time. But I’m feeling confident. I know I’ll bounce back and we’ll bounce back as a team. Right now things suck, for sure, but you can’t always just have highs in esports.”
Jensen’s disappointment is understandable. After not finding a team in the first half of 2022, he reunited with his first organization Cloud9 in the summer and won the LCS Championship. While Jensen was happy with what he accomplished last year, C9’s 1-5 performance in the group stage of the 2022 World Championship left him wanting more.
“We could have had better results at Worlds, obviously, but I can’t really complain about how LCS went, to be honest. We had a rough start and then kind of bounced back to become a really, really good team in NA, but when you get to Worlds, reality hits pretty hard,” Jensen paused and chuckled before continuing. “You’re not really as good as you think you are and it kind of shows how far ahead the Eastern teams really are. It sucks to get that reality check every single year, but it happens every single year, so it’s something I’m used to.”
Since his professional debut in the 2015 NA LCS Summer Split with C9, Jensen has attended the World Championship every single season. He’s become accustomed to being outmatched by teams from other major regions. But in eight trips to Worlds, his perspective remains the same.
“Every year, I go into Worlds thinking, ‘Oh, maybe things will be different this time around.’ But then I realize how much more coordinated the Eastern teams are,” the mid laner said. “Any time there is a hole in the map or you’re behind in tempo, you get punished really hard. You don’t see the same thing here in LCS, even with the best teams here. They’re garbage compared to the best Korean and Chinese teams.”
While C9 enjoyed domestic success last year, the nature of the team’s international performance had Jensen considering other opportunities in the offseason. “I realized that that specific roster was capped a bit when it came to international play, so I thought that a change could maybe be good,” he said.
Jensen let out a rye laugh before following up with, “Obviously, in hindsight, I can’t really say that right now.”
It’s notable that Dignitas was dealt a bad hand to start the 2023 season. Top laner İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek didn’t start practicing with the team until less than a week before the beginning of the Spring Split, and starting support Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun didn’t arrive until week four due to visa issues. But Jensen isn’t interested in making excuses.
“It sucks that things started the way they did, but the truth is, we weren’t playing as well as we should have regardless of the late arrivals,” Jensen said bluntly. “It was unfortunate circumstances, but that’s the reality of the situation.”
“Lose is improve” is a common term in the competitive League of Legends space, and this is the most losing Jensen has done in his career. But the Dignitas mid laner doesn’t feel like he’s gleaning much from the losses: “I think I’ve played really well in most of our games, and things were kind of out of my control as to why we lost the majority of the games, so there weren’t really any big learnings for me… I don’t think any of the mid laners have impressed me when it’s come to learning something new, so I’m kind of just going through the motions of losing, losing, losing.”
Looking forward, Jensen is confident that Dignitas are going to bounce back, and for more reasons than just the confidence he has in his own level of play. “Right now, I actually think we’re not a bad team,” Jensen said confidently. “The score doesn’t represent how we are as a team right now.”
Dignitas will have a chance to back up Jensen’s words in week six of the 2023 LCS Spring Split. A win over Immortals on Thursday, March 2 would certainly confirm Dignitas’ improvement, but a victory over C9 on March 3 would be a resounding statement in support of Jensen’s claim.