With rumors circling the League of Legends universe that TSM will be signing Dardoch to become their starting jungler in the 2019 LCS season, here’s why that would be a massive mistake.
Rumors have been circling for a few days now, and were confirmed by Jacob Wolf yesterday that TSM will be signing former OpTic jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett for the 2019 LCS season. I briefly covered the implications of this signing earlier, but after thinking on it further I really want to take more time to expand on the reasons why I think this is a terrible decision for one of North America’s most-storied League of Legends franchises.
On the surface, it’s easy to see why TSM would be drawn to a jungler like Dardoch. After years of their junglers being accused of passivity and getting dragged around, of course they would gravitate towards a jungler known for being proactive and decisive in his own shot calling. The problem is, still, that he may not have the resources to execute that vision.
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Consider his mid laner, Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. While known as one of the best western mids of all time, Bjergsen has never been known to be an incredibly aggressive player, especially in the early game. Certainly, I believe that Bjergsen can play more early game focused, but he’s also a part owner of the team which makes me concerned that if he resists Dardoch’s philosophy the team and coaching staff will ultimately side with him.
But let’s say Bjergsen buys in fully to Dardoch’s aggressive early game play. Dardoch still might struggle to execute the early game plan due to having a very passive ADC (according to rumors) in Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup.
On the top side of the map, yes Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik is known for wanting to play aggressive, but he was also wildly inconsistent in 2019. We know Dardoch has difficulties controlling himself when his teammates fail him, so he might choose to isolate or give up on the one member of TSM that actually would want to push early advantages.
A lot of people look at TSM and believe that their passivity is due to a coaching philosophy and dragging around the jungler to form some perfect macro play. That may be partially true, but I think there is also a very distinct possibility that TSM’s passive play in the past two years was because their two big carry roles – ADC and mid lane – had two very passive laners in them.
It’s no surprise that the one time in TSM’s history they had an aggressive jungler, they also had a very aggressive, shot-calling bot laner to facilitate that aggression. Unfortunately, that may not be here this time so Dardoch might be on a completely different page from his teammates.
A lot has been made about Dardoch’s long, documented history of attitude issues, and I discussed them at length in my earlier piece. However, there is one aspect of Dardoch’s toxicity that I think is extremely problematic and isn’t talked about enough: he gives up in games.
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As was shown in the famed League of Legends documentary “Breaking Point”, when Dardoch gets angry at teammates underperforming he doesn’t just lash out and rage at them, as problematic as it is. He also mentally checks out, goes through the motions in game, and asks for the teammates to end the game. This isn’t just a matter of a player unleashing his frustrations on an underperforming teammate, it’s a player who lacks the mental toughness to, in the heat of a game, be a leader (or heck, even a decent follower) to mount a comeback.
“But that was years ago,” Dardoch defenders might argue. “He’s changed since then.” Yes, granted, it’s possible that he’s changed, but all the evidence indicates that he has not.
Dardoch was playing a lot of silly jungle champions (like Yasuo and Pyke) in Academy last year and there have been rumblings that he wasn’t taking the LCS Academy League seriously last year. This is the same type of behavior, giving up on games and bad teammates before they have even started. As the old saying goes, “people will tell you who they are, believe them.” We should believe this is who Dardoch is, regardless of whatever change he professes to having undergone.
“But he was playing with Academy players,” the defenders will say. “He’s not going to troll around on a team like TSM with players like Bjergsen.” To which I answer: why not?
Yes, Dardoch will likely have a lot of respect for Bjergsen, but what about the other teammates. As I noted above, is it really unbelievable that he might abandon Broken Blade or Kobbe if they underperform. Those are both very good to world-class players, but I could absolutely still see Dardoch shutting down if things go poorly.
Ironically, I do believe that these issues wouldn’t be as risky if Dardoch was on a team like 2016 TSM or current Team Liquid. Those are teams with continuity in their roster, where Dardoch would be joining as the odd man out, and veteran players who would band together to prevent attitude issues from holding them back. That does not exist in the current TSM iteration.
His skill isn’t worth the risk
So if you’re going to take a risk on a player with these types of potential problems, the payoff better be spectacular. Unfortunately, during his time in the LCS, Dardoch hasn’t shown the skill to be a spectacular jungler.
Looking at his stat line from his last full split in the LCS, Dardoch put up a 2.58 KDA, averaged 335 gold per minute and had a 68.9% kill participation and had a win/loss record of 11-9. Those are good numbers, absolutely, but they’re not mind-blowing. To put it in perspective TSM’s uneven junglerMatthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham had a better KDA and kill participation last summer when he was ultimately benched.
Dardoch has not yet proven, to me at least, that his talent is enough to outweigh the baggage he brings. Ultimately, I applaud TSM for recognizing their deficiencies and taking a risk that would address that deficiency. However, I do worry that Dardoch will prove to still be that combustible personality that can tank an entire franchise, and to me that’s not worth it.