Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with Counter Logic Gaming’s Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett during Week 1 of the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS). They talked about starting off with a win, switching teams again and LCS franchising.
Andrew Kim: You guys seem to be doing much better as you start the split with a win, and against Cloud9 no less. How do you feel? Was it especially good because it was Cloud9?
Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett: It feels really good, especially because it was Cloud9. Given that we already set up our expectations, and they’re very public expectations that we’re here to win the split, go to worlds and have a good performance at worlds. So starting off, and I guess not meeting those expectations because we played pretty poorly in my opinion comparatively to how well we play in scrims, but it’s still a very good start and I’m very happy.
AK: Moving from team to team trying to find your own place in terms of long term success, when it comes to making the decision of leaving one team for another, how do you reach that conclusion? What kind of calculations go into your head before you make that choice?
JH: Generally I feel on previous teams that I’ve left, I felt a sense of like we already reached our peak or our peak wasn’t good enough to get me to where I want to be, which is first, top three, whatever. I want to go to worlds. So when I feel that way, it’s kind of hard for me to agree with when the coaching staff talks about roster situations and they tell me “we can’t replace this player,” or “we can’t do anything about that,” but we also don’t have the coaching staff necessary to build these players up to make them, I guess increase their threshold of skill and make it larger. So it would give me a hopeless feeling being on a team that my effort is nullified by the fact that they’re not improving as much as I think they could. Everything just kind of spirals out of control and then it gets to the point where I ask if I can go to another team.
AK: Going off of that topic, what do you think is necessary for the coaching staff to foster that kind of growth for a player?
JH: A really good thing that I experienced on CLG right at the very beginning was we set out team goals. We sat down as a seven, and we talked about what is our goal this split. What do we want to do as a team over the next three, four months that we’re going to be playing League together? We laid out all of our goals and it was not dropping a single set during the season, winning the split, winning playoffs, going to worlds and winning worlds. Whether they’re unrealistic to some people or realistic or whatever, that’s where we want to be. We don’t want to be the team that our only goal is to win North America and then go to international competition and flop like everybody else. That was a very good thing for me because now everyone has bought in, and it makes me know that everyone else is trying extremely hard to reach those goals.
AK: One of the changes I want to ask you about is the removal of relegation and your opinions on the matter.
JH: I’ve never been in relegation tournament or have been close to it besides I guess Immortals, but we were never really expected to be in the relegation tournament. I don’t really have too much of an opinion about it. Apparently it means that we’ll get more revenue and there’ll be more options available, we’ll be more stable, pro careers will be longer, but in my opinion your pro career is as long as you’re good and valuable to a team. I think that it’s a purely individual thing. Sure, it gets harder without franchising, but with franchising if you’re a bad player you’re still going to get kicked.
AK: There are some concerns saying that the removal of relegation could lead to players getting complacent. Do you think those kinds of concerns are valid?
JH: I think teams as a whole, if that’s their thing, if they want to be known as the team that is a constant eighth to 10th place seed, I mean you can go for it. But most of the organizations, at least the owners I know, want to win badly, and I think if it’s only players feeling that way, they’ll be weeded out. There will be hungrier players in the new Challenger Series who will be eager to replace them.
AK: I want to ask you about Echo Fox’s decision to only scrim their challenger sister team, and later it was known that they’ll be signing a lot of former pros for their sister team. This seems to be a callback to the CJ Entus strategy in Korea, but do you think this could work in North America as well?
JH: I think it’ll work until a certain threshold where you have to understand the fact that, that sub roster is nowhere near good enough to win a North American LCS split. Dyrus, Imaqtpie, Shiphtur, Voyboy, and Scarra, two of them are not playing their main role. One of them has to support, one of them has to jungle. I’m not sure if that was released yet. They’re not going to be as good as TSM, Cloud9, P1. I mean, they’re probably equal to maybe a middle of the pack team, probably below, so I think it’s a good idea if you have committed strong players but I just don’t think they do.
AK: Do you think the idea itself of having strong players as practice partners could be beneficial?
JH: Like in your CJ Entus example, if that was able to be replicated, it would be very strong, but it’s hard to find top level players that are willing to just be a scrim partner.
AK: My last question is, for a player with your experience, change is not something you’re unfamiliar with. Moving from team to roster on top of whatever game changes you have to go through, what is the mentality you have when it comes to approaching these types of change?
JH: I guess the way that you’re kind of forced to deal with change is just having to hit it head on and then embrace it because in this game, industry, whatever you want to call it, hesitating and wasting time is very bad because you have such a limited time to play. If you want an elongated time to play, you want to win. So when patches come by, just play it as much as you can, understand the patch. When roster changes and stuff — like instantly, I think maybe one or two days after I signed with CLG I was already duo queue and talking with my teammates while we were still on vacation. So the grind never stops, and you just have to adapt.