Just hours ago the Ukraine-based esports organisation Natus Vincere (Na’vi – latin for “born to win,”) announced that their Dota 2 roster was being disbanded. I don’t think it is surprising to anyone who has followed competitive Dota 2 for a while but, as Loda of Alliance put it on twitter “It’s a sad day for dota when Na’Vi disbands… They have been a loved part of the community.” I feel more or less the same way. I still believe that this is best for both the players and the organisation but it is always sad to see a big name fall from grace. I wanted to touch on their storied history and their unfortunate loss of status in the competitive Dota 2 scene that has been going on for the last year and a half.
Their original DotA squad contained the well-known names of XBOCT, Goblak (captain) and Mag along with now retired players Deff and Axypa, however, soon after Na’Vi DotA’s inception Dota 2 was released and Dendi, Artstyle, LightofHeaven and Puppey joined XBOCT to remold the face of Na’Vi, and remold it they did. They got their beta keys 3 weeks before the first International and went onto win it, beating out the then-dominant Chinese favourites EHOME in a 3-1 final.
Na’Vi’s dominance didn’t stop there and they reached the finals of the second and third Internationals, winning or coming 2nd or 3rd in every other event they participated in in 2012 and 2013. In that time ARS-ART joined and left the team as a position 5 player and Funnik and Kuroky joined as an offlaner and support respectively. Dendi secured his place as one of the best mid-players in the world and become, more or less, the poster-boy for competitive Dota 2. Puppey, also, became known as one of the best captains and was known for his unusual drafts, something he is still known for today. It was only in 2014, after some poor results in Star Ladder Series 9, ESL One Frankfurt, The Summit and, most importantly, The International 4, that people started to doubt Na’Vi.
The problem is that Na’Vi’s demise isn’t because they were wanting skill. Na’Vi are still good, but the game has changed and they have found it difficult to adapt. They are known for making big plays and using high-risk strategies but an introduction of a “comeback” mechanic to Dota 2 punished this heavily. I also feel like any attempt they made to adapt was sincerely undermined when they still posted some bad results as the pressure to be the best team in Dota 2, like they once solidly were, haunted them, and the fans were eager to remind them of this. Ultimately though I felt like their string of underwhelming results damaged the bonds they had as a team the most. Kuroky and XBOCT famously didn’t get along and, with comments recently made by Arteezy regarding Kuroky, it is easy to see why XBOCT felt that way, but it’s not just that. Performing poorly when you expect to do well just leads to finger pointing and, after a while, people just lose their team spirit.
With the loss of Puppey and Kuroky in late 2014 Na’Vi went though a long series of roster changes with faces both old and new coming into the mix. Some good results were posted but, for the most part, they just couldn’t quite get that return to form that they so desperately needed. It felt, for a long time, that Na’Vi were slowly dismantling their legacy as a Dota 2 team and, with their poor performance at TI5 and no invite to the Autumn Major, they have decided to hit the restart button. So what’s next for the players?
Well, there are rumours of a new team for XBOCT being thrown around. A team involving Dread, Goblak, ARS-ART and NS, though these are unconfirmed. For what it’s worth, I think whatever team they make won’t last very long if it’s with old personalities. It’s also worth noting that Goblak has made so many new teams in the past year that it has become a bit of a joke.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Dendi took the route that SingSing did and just enjoyed streaming and playing Dota 2 at the highest level without the pressure to perform. PSM will likely go back to his roots and either form a new team or try and get back with the people from Yellow Submarine, now PRIES. In an interview he said that he, luckily, is in a situation where he doesn’t have to worry about money if he is careful so he can spend his time playing Dota instead of working. Funnik, however, is a different story. Good offlaners are hard to find and, if Funnik can find his rhythm again, he will be snapped up by another CIS team. However, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Funnik retires. He got married this year and he might want a job where he doesn’t have to travel quite as much so he can spend time with his wife. I’d give either option a 50% chance of happening.
Finally, Sonneiko. I feel that, if Dendi joins a team, Sonneiko will be with him. I can’t quantify this with data but I feel that their play styles compliment each other. Sonneiko covers the most ground, out of any player in the world, in the first ten minutes of a game, and Dendi is one who likes to play aggressively so, if he has an excuse to leave the lane early to gank, then he’ll take it. However, Sonneiko may join a team of his own accord. He is the least likely to sit back and relax as he has just built a name for himself. He joined the scene at 17 and is now 19 and somewhat of a protege in his own right. He could go on to join a good many great teams if he gets the opportunity.
As far as Na’Vi as an organisation goes, I think they will find their form again. They have a great many resources and a big name to work with, I just hope they don’t get drawn into the trap of recruiting big name players in the hopes that individual skill translates into a good team, because that doesn’t work all the time. What I’d like to see is one or two experienced players along with new players. That way there is room for expansion and improvement by Na’Vi and people will, hopefully, measure their expectations accordingly. I wish all the players and the organisation the best of luck and, when Na’Vi announce their new roster, expect another post on that.