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Photos of the arena and booth setup at the Dreamleague Major in Stockholm Sweden.

Natus Vincere — Bounce Back

Aug 092019

It’s been a tough time to be a Na’Vi fan. Na’Vi took a beating this year, performing well in some tournaments yet struggling when it came to DPC events. But if there’s one thing you can trust Na’Vi to do, it’s bounce back. In September 2018, Na’Vi announced that Dendi would no longer be an active player on their Dota 2 squad. It was the end of an era as Dendi had been the centerpiece of the team for years so what would happen next? No one knew the answer to that question and it was time for Na’Vi to embark on a new journey, sailing - for the first time - into unknown waters.

Going into the TI9 DPC Season, Na’Vi retained only one player from the TI8 Qualifier run, Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek. A mainstay of the team since joining in 2017, Crystallize performed above and beyond expectations. With Dendi inactive, Na’Vi chose to build the new team around their star carry player. This new roster would be a mix of old blood and new. SoNNeikO, Na’Vi’s most successful captain in recent years, returned to the team and three players, new to the Na’Vi name, filled in the remaining roles. MagicaL joined from one of SoNNeikO’s previous teams, Blizzy came from the respectable Vega Squadron, and lastly Chuvash from Team Empire. With less than a week before the qualifiers for the first Major, Na’Vi were in for an uphill battle with no time to prepare. Unfortunately, they fell to the eventual qualifiers, ferzee. With another week and a qualifier run under their belt, the team looked much better going into the CIS Qualifiers for the DreamLeague Minor. They crushed every other team, dropping only a single game to Espada. They made another strong run through the Minor, even taking a 2-1 lead over Tigers in the grand finals. Sadly, it was not meant to be and Na’Vi lost the match 2-3. 


Before taking on the next Major qualifier, they went through the MegaFon Winter Clash qualifier, defeating the likes of Vega Squadron, NiP, and No Pangolier. This was a good look for Na’Vi as they were now qualified for one of the most elite tournaments of the year, facing off against the top four teams from the previous DPC season. Unfortunately, the next qualifier didn’t go quite as well. The qualifier format was changed (for the worse) to be less forgiving, leading Na’Vi to be eliminated in the group stage. 


Remember, it is always darkest just before the dawn. Dota players have another way of saying this phrase - Na’Vi is back.


The main tournament for the MegaFon Winter Clash arrived. Na’Vi did not disappoint. In a group with Secret and Virtus.Pro it was Na’Vi who came out on top. This included a 2-0 match against VP, the de-facto best team of the previous DPC season. In the playoff bracket, Na’Vi lost to Liquid but took a 2-0 win against PSG.LGD, the team who had just eliminated both VP and Secret earlier in the bracket. Na’Vi ended up losing to Liquid, but it was their best showing in years. Few teams can claim to have had success against the likes of Secret, Virtus.Pro, and PSG.LGD in the same tournament.

Their success at MegaFon did not continue to the next Major and the struggle resumed. SoNNeikO & Co. failed to qualify for the next Major in Paris, prompting a roster change. They brought in Bakyt “Zayac” Emilzhanov from The Pango to replace Chuvash as SoNNeikO’s support partner. Initially it looked like this move hadn’t paid off as Na’Vi missed out on the Epicenter Major. But lo and behold, come crunch time Zayac pulled through for the team.


In Dota 2 there is nothing that feels more intense, more like crunch time, than the TI qualifiers. Na’Vi just barely made it through the group stage of the CIS qualifier, squeaking into the playoffs from 4th place. From there it got even dicier as Na’Vi lost to Vega Squadron, sending them to the lower bracket — one match away from elimination and one match away from watching TI at home. Well, the times got tough and the tough got going. Na’Vi proceeded to win out from the bottom of the lower bracket, eventually defeating Winstrike 3-0 in the finals to secure their spot at TI9.



While Na’Vi have had a tough road to TI, you shouldn’t underestimate their potential. Throughout the year they’ve shown flashes of brilliance that most teams would find tough to match. Once they turned it on in the TI Qualifiers, they were easily a step above the rest of the competition. If they’re able to keep that momentum going into TI they could easily make a deep run.


Finally, after two long years, everyone can be happy about one thing - Na’Vi is back at TI. 


Player Highlights




Crystallize may not have been a household name of the CIS region before joining Na’Vi, but he’s certainly earned that status now. Crystallize has been the best player on Na’Vi for some time now and brings the X factor that any good team needs. He is the make or break player that will often determine whether or not Na’Vi are able to take a series. Na’Vi has formed its style around Crystallize in order to maximize his potential. He always performs his best when playing on strong fighting carries, such as Wraith King, Lifestealer, and Ursa. These heroes all have strong laning phases that allow Crystallize to get a key item up early in the game before moving around the map and taking control of the game. While these kinds of heroes are his best, Crystallize can certainly play late-game cores as well. He looks comfortable on anything from Morphling to Spectre to Sven.





If there’s one thing you can rely on this midlaner to do, it’s set up his carry. In recent years it has been very popular for safelaners to take on a “sacrificial core” role, allowing the mid player to play the real, flashy core heroes. The midlaner would go on to carry the game while the safelaner would die to create space for him. This hasn’t been the case with MagicaL. Idan “MagicaL” Vardanian has no qualms with playing his part in order to win games, even if it runs counter to his nature. His normal style lines up more with the standard, stereotypical mid player. He loves his Alchemists, his Storm Spirits, and the Snipers of the world. He has a particular fondness for Templar Assassin. He has also played a bit of Razor and Tinker, which make sense as one allows him to group with his team and continue pushing his laning advantage and the other allows him to maximize his farm and guarantee that all the lane will push, giving his team some always-needed map control. SoNNeikO will often save MagicaL’s hero for last to give him the best possible laning stage. The only times this isn’t the case is when he ends up on a hero like Razor or where a hero like Naga Siren needs to be drafted for Crystallize.




Evgeniy “Blizzy” Ree is one of the few players in the Dota scene from the country of Kyrgyzstan. Blizzy almost always plays the role of teamfight initiator or tempo-controller in Na’Vi’s lineups. While he most often plays heroes that fill these roles, such as Brewmaster and Axe, he also has a 76% win rate on his Nature’s Prophet. This is important because it means that when Na’Vi needs to switch him off of his normal teamfight-focused style, he can do so without missing a beat. When he’s allowed to play his favorite heroes, Blizzy is as big of a threat as anyone in the game right now. He’s also shown an innate ability to completely dominate lanes with his partner Zayac. When those two win their lane, you’d best bet on Na’Vi to win the game as well.





Zayac joins Blizzy as the other player from Kyrgyzstan where they are by far the two most prominent competitive players from the country. The two players have played together on multiple teams, and now often function as laning partners. Zayac loves to play heroes that enable Blizzy to win his lane and then also rotate mid when possible. His greatest success with this style has been found on Earth Spirit and Bounty Hunter, with an 84% win rate on the latter. Zayac’s hero pool is interesting because while it includes these normal position 4 heroes, he also likes to play some traditional 5 heroes as well, such as Bane and Shadow Demon (of note is the fact that both of these heroes have high-skill saves for their teammates.  As the most recent player to join the team, Zayac had something to prove. Well, a couple months and a TI-qualifier later, it should be obvious that the pickup was worth it.




SoNNeikO is one of the most successful CIS captains in recent years. Despite stints with other teams, he has returned once again to lead Na’Vi to glory. SoNNeikO is an interesting player as he is a traditional position 5 player, but he is also known for his Earthshaker and Io. In fact, Io is his most played hero by a large margin. Normally these heroes are reserved for position 4 players. After all, look at GH, Cr1t-, and fy. All of these players have found great success on Io, but always from the position 4 role. And yet, SoNNeikO has over 100 games on the hero and still maintains a win rate over 60%. Of course, his contributions don’t end in-game. SoNNeikO is the most experienced player on the squad and brings vital drafting knowledge to the table. While his drafting skills are complemented by their coach, Mag, SoNNeikO is vital to the development and execution of all of Na’Vi’s strategies.