Make It or Break It for Na’Vi

After a promising resurgence during late 2017, Na’Vi’s performance during this year can only be described as lackluster. The Ukranian organization’s downfall started during ESL One Genting 2018. Despite a promising start after walking over Evil Geniuses, Na’Vi was knocked out to the lower bracket by Team Liquid. Natus Vincere managed to overcome their first obstacle in the form of Mineski, but were eliminated from the tournament by the vengeful Evil Geniuses. The North American squad decimated Na’Vi in a swift 2-0 victory, not knowing that it was the beginning of the end for the former TI champions.

Soon after the tournament, the team parted ways with their support duo of Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan and Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev. Their replacements came in the form of Serbian support Nikola “LeBronDota” Popovic and former Virtus Pro support Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk. Lil was a tested and proven player with Virtus Pro who managed to win a Major (ESL One Hamburg 2017) and a 5-6th place at The International 7. LeBron was the lesser-known player of the two but had competed in the past for Na’Vi as a stand-in.

Na’Vi roster in early February

Natus Vincere’s performance with the two new additions started out horrendously, with the team failing to qualify for the Dota 2 Asia Championship 2018. Sadly, the DAC qualifiers were only a sign of things to come as Na’Vi were knocked out of ESL One Katowice 2018 by Fnatic and Newbee without winning a single game. The only tournament where Na’Vi even vaguely shined was at the GESC Indonesia Dota 2 Minor where they managed to finish in respectable 3-4th place.

Natus Vincere during ESL One Katowice 2018

In the end, the Ukranian giants were once again looking as shadows of their former selves, and the winds of change were blowing in the air. With the team not clicking with each other, it was LeBronDota who drew the short stick. As news of his dismissal from the team spread like wildfire, an even more unknown player got a spot in the limelight of the professional Dota 2 scene. Fedor “velheor” Rusikhin was announced as his replacement yesterday, a largely unknown player from the CIS scene. Fedor is relatively new to the scene and his most notable teams before joining Na’Vi were Cascade Gaming and SFTe-sports.

Where does Na’Vi stand in the current race to Vancouver?

Things are looking tougher than ever for Natus Vincere. With their transfer coming outside of the official transfer window, the organization will have to grind their way through the Open CIS Qualifiers. As far as the Open Qualifiers are concerned, the biggest danger to Na’Vi might come in the form of CIS tier 2 teams like Double Dimensions, SFTe-sports, and the occasional pub-stacks filled with former or teamless professional players. All things considered, they’re basically a shoe-in for the Open Qualifiers.

Na’Vi’s current roster with velheor (second from the right)

The hardest step will be the Regionals. If Na’Vi makes it through the Open Qualifiers, they will have to face off against Vega Squadron, Team Empire, Team Spirit and FlyToMoon. With the CIS region looking at its weakest for the past couple of years, I can only see Vega Squadron standing on even ground against Na’Vi, but they are largely a hit or miss team. Apart from Vega, Team Spirit and Empire have both taken their fair share of games against Na’Vi, with Spirit knocking them out two times this year (GESC: Thailand and DAC 2018 Qualifiers). Despite all of that, I’d still give Natus Vincere a slight edge over all of those teams.

With the CIS qualifiers starting in just over two weeks, the East is looking wilder than ever. Considering the fact that Na’Vi missed out on The International 2017, their chances are looking slimmer than ever, but they are still considered the top dogs in the CIS region (after Virtus Pro that is). It feels like not so long ago, Na’Vi were a force to be reckoned with, the top dogs and the team to beat. Sadly, those times are looking more and more as a thing of the past as Na’Vi’s struggles over the past two years continue to haunt them.

Source: Na’Vi; ESL; Wykrhm Reddy