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Q&A: Dardoch on TL’s progression, fabbbyyy and playing Reignover

Team Liquid has been one of the most talked about teams in the summer split of the North American League Championship Series, whether it’s been the two-week suspension of jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett or the change at AD Carry from Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin to Jovani “fabbbyyy” Guillen.

Either way, Liquid has struggled to build off a fourth place spring split finish that left many thinking Liquid was primed to contend with its youthful roster. With wins against Cloud9 and Team Envy in Week 5, however, Liquid appears to be getting back on its way and now sits at 6-4.

Slingshot’s Vince Nairn had the chance to talk to Dardoch last week about the team’s up and down split, playing with fabbbyyy and Liquid’s youth movement.

Vince Nairn: What’s it been like playing with fabbbyyy and trying to get him adapted?

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett: It’s not hard for me to adapt to fabbbyyy because we were on TLA together. Me and him have been really close ever since we were on TLA. I think it’s hard for him to adapt because the shot-calling on TLA is a little bit different. It comes from Goldenglue and Solo more, where ours comes from me and Matt. And then everyone’s kind of, we have to fill new roles because Piglet would call lane allocations. He had a lot of knowledge on where laners are supposed to be, and fabbbyyy doesn’t have that, so more responsibility goes on to me and Matt. So we’re slowly adjusting, but I think we’re going to be really, really good by the end of the split.

VN: I talked to Loco and he mentioned it’s kind of uncertain about Piglet. How are you just kind of handling that uncertainty?

JH: I think everyone, we had a lot of doubts because we want to keep the core of the roster, which is me, Matt and Lourlo. The rookies. The only thing was, we’re building our roster toward the future, and we’re basing our play style and our gameplay on something that’s not going to be with us forever. Piglet is nearing the end of his career, and you can tell he’s pretty tired of playing competitively and trying so hard 100 percent of the time. We’re kind of 50/50 on where the roster wants to go. Old Curse was like a bunch of older veteran players where the obvious goal was worlds. Where our roster’s like, we have the youthful talent we want to build up and sort of turn into that veteran team. We’re just like mismatching players, but adding fabbbyyy makes us solidified because Fenix isn’t very old. Even though he’s played LCS for a few splits, he’s not old and he still has that rookie mentality where he’s ready to learn and he’s working very hard. I think Piglet has a really good fit on the Challenger team because every person and the coach respects him. That’s a good environment for him because there’s no clash. I have really strong opinions. Piglet has really strong opinions. Loco does too. If we disagree on something it turns into a clash, and it takes a while for that issue to get solved. With fabbbyy and the rest of the rookies, we’re all listening to Loco. If Piglet or I disagree, then it’s like “No, I think we should do this here.” It goes longer than it should be and atmosphere gets bad if it gets toxic.

None of us has anything against Piglet. I’m still really close with him. He’s kind of like my older brother in a sense. Even though we don’t communicate that well because of the English barrier, I can still talk to him about pretty much anything. And our rooms are next to each other. I’m still really proud of the progress he’s made as a player, and I think he’s gonna do really well on TLA.

VN: Is he OK playing on the Challenger team?

JH: He really likes it. He’s been happier than he’s been in a really long time playing with the Challenger team because they’re all really open to learning from him.

VN: It almost seems maybe there’s one fewer cook in the kitchen

JH: It’s a positive for all of the team, where most of the burdens we’re getting now will help us grow into those veteran players. I have more shot-calling roles and Matt also does. I also have to solidify myself as a leader, not only on game day but also in scrims because yeah, my mentality wavers at times. So in scrims I’m prone to tilting or on stage sometimes I’m prone to tilting. But now that Piglet’s gone, I’m sort of the most experienced one. The other rookies had struggles before with nervousness and stuff like that. I have more responsibilities and I can’t afford to let my mentality tilt or waver anymore. I have to be the better example for them with work ethic and how hard I try and communication always, stuff like that.

VN: You guys have shown some inconsistency. Is that a byproduct of all the roster changes and philosophical shift?

JH: At the moment we see pretty inconsistent on stage. From my point of view I think we have a pretty firm grasp on where we are. We’re a pretty solid, middle of the pack team. We’re significantly better than the bottom half, and equal to some of the top teams. And sometimes we’re just like way worse like we were (against Immortals). I think Immortals and TSM are gonna be struggles for us. I think we just need time because fabbbyyy is still transitioning to play on stage. He went from scrimmaging Challenger teams for like seven months and now he’s scrimming top four LCS teams.

Me and Matt are still learning our roles, Lourlo is learning his role and Fenix is going god mode recently. I really am looking positively toward the rest of the split.

VN: You guys are preparing for fabbbyyy to be the starter for the rest of the split?

JH: We’re gonna make the decision after this week (Week 4), so I think we’re gonna have a lot of team talks. But I think it’s probably the better choice to keep fabbbyyy on. Piglet is much happier on TLA, so this way it’s beneficial for both. The Challenger team gets an upgrade and a team leader and someone they can rely on, and they can probably get into LCS really easily. We have a slight downgrade, but in time it’ll be an upgrade.

VN: Reignover got you again (in Week 4). You say every time you go up against him you learn a little more. What’s it like trying to go up against him?

JH: Well last split, I had some sort of animosity toward Reignover where I saw him as my enemy. Last split it was “Dardoch is the second best jungler in NA.” Because nobody could question that Reignover was the best. This split, it’s the same spot where I still feel I’m really good. I’ve improved so much as a player and as a leader, and I thought really this would be the time I destroy him. And again, he just slaps me and humbles me even more. Me and him got a lot closer. After they beat us in Vegas, me and him talked a lot, and now we talk on Skype a lot, and whenever we’re at LCS we talk a lot about jungle stuff.

VN: What are the things you need to do most to continue on this progression?

JH: I think we just need to continue to talk a lot. Recently we’ve had a lot of our coaching staff just going over what they thought was best in the meta. Sometimes people make mistakes and they’re wrong. I think if we just communicate as a whole group of like 10 people instead of just coaching staff — “and we’ll just fill in the players later” — everyone will have a pretty good grasp on the meta. I have a really good grasp on jungle meta. Fenix knows mid really well, and Sam (Lourlo) knows top really well. If we all keep communicating and then listen to Loco in post game about what’s going wrong and kind of sure up this rookie overconfidence because we’re mechanically so much better than all these people, and play the macro and slow game and just win off vision and priority and objectives, then we’ll be way better than these people for sure.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games.