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Daring Dardoch: North America's Next Great Jungler

At the beginning of this LCS split, Dardoch was a name that most North American LCS fans were probably not aware of, given the general lack of attention that the North American Challenger scene receives, but the name continues to be on the rise. Dardoch and Team Liquid recently dismantled NRG 3-0 in the NA LCS quarterfinals, in a series where he thoroughly outclassed his jungler opposition, in Moon. While TL came into the series as most everyone’s favorite to win, it is still impressive just how well Dardoch performed in his first LCS playoff series, earning himself a KDA over 10 and participating in over 80% of his team’s kills.

Dardoch’s beginnings are more humble than most know, bouncing from challenger team to challenger team, often filling out the top lane role till he qualified for NACS with Elomingle (who would become Magnetic and then Imagine) as their jungler. Eventually he found a more extended stay with the Team Liquid organization, where he would play with Team Liquid Academy and eventually be slotted into a ten-man roster for Team Liquid. His time in the challenger scene demonstrated mechanics that most North American-born players could never hope to match and gave fans of North American talent someone to be excited about.

After Team Liquid’s rodeo with Renegades in the first game, using IWDominate, it was already time to flex their ten-man roster muscles and bring in the rookie. While TL did not immediately succeed with Dardoch’s inclusion, there was a clear difference in their playstyle from day one to day two. Dardoch brought playmaking initiative that Team Liquid clearly lacked from the jungle position before, with IWD being a vision-focused, objective control jungler - He was never known for being overpowering mechanically, given his track record for being good at champions such as Skarner and Nunu, over the years.

Dardoch brought a different look to Team Liquid, being strong mechanically on the likes of Lee Sin, Elise, Graves, and Nidalee, while also being just as good on champions like Gragas and Rek’Sai. It’s especially impressive how he has adjusted his pathing and farming patterns to competitive, often not putting too large an emphasis on farming in the early game and focusing on pressure around his solo lanes. Among North American junglers, he is sixth when it comes to [email protected] minutes, dipping into the negatives at -0.62, but is third in CSPM with a CSPM of 4.2. While this is partially affected by lane swap scenarios, it is also reminiscent of Flash Wolves jungler, Karsa’s style - He ensures a solid laning phase for his teammates, specifically around mid lane, before going on his own carry escapades.

This was seen most recently in Liquid’s series against NRG, where Dardoch consistently allowed for FeniX to out-farm GBM with his early pressure. He also made it difficult for Moon to actively pressure the bottom lane, which in general, was dominated by Piglet and Matt. Liquid has always had the identity of strong laners, but never had the cog to really get them going - Now Dardoch is here to jump start the machine and really drive them home. Dardoch isn’t afraid to make the big play for Liquid and has the mechanics to back it up. Considering that North America’s last native superstar, Meteos, was more farm focused than anything (and lacking in mechanics compared to Dardoch), it is pleasant to see that Dardoch has translated his play from solo queue and challenger into competitive so easily. He clearly understands that there are carries before him in the pecking order and plays to their advantages, rather than playing specifically for his own.

A player that exudes confidence in his mechanical ability, claiming to be the “cleanest Lee Sin in NA that isn’t an import” and delivers, is one that North America has sorely needed. In a League of Legends atmosphere where imports are easily the better option, with foreign players being more motivated and ready to take a native’s spot, players like Dardoch bring hope and more importantly, excitement to a struggling region. It’s not every day that a Lee Sin builds full damage in competitive and not only pulls it off, but then brushes it off as a joke after the game.

Dardoch still has room to grow and more playoff games to win, but with all the eyes on him and and an upcoming series against reigning champions, Counter Logic Gaming, he looks to solidify himself as a North American star.

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Statistics used were taken from Oracle's Elixir.

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