Anyone who’s ever taken an interest in the Dota 2 professional scene has, without a doubt, heard of Na’Vi. Having won the first International in style against the favourites, and recently reformed, EHOME, for the next few year they went on to dominate the scene, winning or placing in almost every major LAN event held in Dota 2. Previous winners NewBee also got knocked out, along with the relatively new team Fnatic, with Mushi at its helm, and the relatively inexperienced, but still highly skilled, MVP.Hot6 being kicked out. Commiserations to all of them but, besides a brief piece of NewBee, I want to mainly focus on Na’Vi today.
Over their years of fame and glory Na’Vi accrued a huge fanbase. Naturally, at TI4 they went in with high hopes, having reached the finals of every previous International. They came a respectable 8th and, shortly thereafter, posting yet more disappointing results, Puppey and Kuroky left to form Team Secret, leaving Na’Vi without supports. Since then they have had an almost always changing roster, with supports leaving and captains returning and departing. Over the last few months Na’Vi have had mixed results. A 4th in the XMG Captains Draft was incredibly impressive, and a 2nd in the Excellent Moscow Cup 2 and 1st in Dota 2 Champion’s League showed the best of their success. Their final tournament before TI5 was the ASUS ROG Dream League, in which they achieved 2nd but, in reality, the competition was not that stiff as it was an EU only and they were directly invited rather than having to qualify. But TI5 was a chance for them to come back.
With two months off to practice, and having had 4 months before the Dream League 2nd place where their roster shuffled and they hopefully practiced, Na’Vi had a chance for a slight return to glory. They didn’t need to win, no one expected that, though they may have hoped, Na’Vi just needed to post a good result, but instead they have come almost dead last. The Group Stages saw them post the worst results in their Group and the 2nd worst across both, scoring 0-3-4 (wins/draws/losses) the only group doing worse being MVP.Hot6, the underdog of the underdogs of TI5. They had a strong first day, scoring two draws against Cloud9 and MVP.Phoenix, however, from there it was a downward spiral.
They only managed to get another draw against Fnatic, with only Dendi and Sonneiko showing any kind of style. Artstyle’s draft left much to be desired, even though I thought his play was solid. Revealing both his supports in his first two picks completely gave the game away, and he did this on a few occasions. Drafting offlane heroes who are normally supports is also something that I have my doubts about, and, to be honest, XBOCT just didn’t seem to have any heart in whatever game he was playing. I think XBOCT gets a lot of flack for what he does, but, when compared to how Dendi and Sonneiko played in this TI, it leaves a lot to be desired, as it does with Funnick, whom I don’t think ever won his lane, even when Na’Vi ran with a 2-1-2 lineup.
I don’t see Na’Vi disbanding anytime soon, but if they keep underperforming like this, because they clearly have some highly skilled players, their recent disappointment may overshadow their past success. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dendi gets some offers for new teams after TI5, and Sonneiko is the support prodigy that every position 4/5 wants to be. He is almost unparalleled in the CIS scene for his supporting, probably playing the best Winter Wyvern and Earthshaker in Europe, and, if he recovers from his unfortunate health problems Vanskor and Sonneiko are a support duo I would not want to mess with. If they together form a team with Dendi, and play at the current level that Vanskor used to and Dendi and Sonneiko play at now, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they go on to become a powerhouse of the CIS region. That said, Dendi, in my mind, might get invited by Puppey to join Secret, as I’m not sure they will want to stay together after TI5, even if they win.
But now NewBee, quickly. Having won TI4 after performing disastrously in the Group Stages and winning all their matches in the lower bracket, the stage seemed set for NewBee to repeat this feat. Having shown glimmers of incredible skill during their group matches, NewBee’s exit from the tournament was an unceremonious 35-23 defeat to MVP.Phoenix. Both teams fielded fairly standard drafts for this meta, with a slightly surprising Juggernaut pick for MVP, but it was QO who was the star of the show, playing a Shadow Fiend mid and going 15-4-18 (kills/deaths/assists) NewBee, the defending champions, come dead last with Na’Vi, another previous champion, Fnatic and MVP.Hot6. With Alliance not even in TI5, it falls to iG, Invictus Gaming, to perhaps become the first team to win an International twice. It certainly seems that NewBee, having spent all year playing RPGs, may not have chosen the best course of action over the last 8 months or so.