Table of Contents
Recap and Preview
League Play Recap / Playoff Preview
A Clash of Kings
Na`vi vs Team Empire
Check out StarLadder on Liquipedia
StarLadder S4 Lan Preview
The Starladder finals are upon us once again, and it’s shaping up to be a final not to be missed. There will be three days of competition with $15,000 to split between the four teams attending.
This winter season has produced a multitude of events for us DotA fans, including the Asus Open, DreamHack Winter, and the Thor Open. These have shown us the best that Western DotA has to offer. Starladder has gained a reputation as one of the most prestigious tournaments going, and looks set to continue the high standard of competition we’ve seen over the last few weeks. The finals will see the top four teams of the competition so far battle it out, with Na`Vi, Empire, Virtus.pro, and Fnatic having made the cut.
TheEmulator’s Starladder Recap/Preview will hopefully refresh your memory about what happened in the online stage of the tournament, as well as giving us some impression of what is to come. He’s also offered his thoughts on what the outcome of this tournament will be with the Tournament Predictions.
For our feature this time around we will have our senior writer, riptide, give us an account on Na`Vi and Empire, talking about their history together through the Starladder seasons.
As usual, we hope you join us this weekend as we talk about this tournament in the Starladder LR thread. This will be an amazing event and you don't want to miss any of it.
Thank you, and enjoy!
The Venue, courtesy of Moscow Five.
StarLadder Groups Recap / LAN Preview
After weeks of grueling competition, the online group stage of Starladder has come to an end. Sixteen teams have been battling it out for a chance to participate in this season's Starladder finals. The top 4 have been decided, and here is how it went down.
The results are as follows:
|1.||Natus Vincere||13 - 2||42p|
|2.||Virtus.pro||12 - 3||36p|
|3.||Team Empire||11 - 4||30p|
|4.||Fnatic||11 - 4||30p|
|5.||No Tidehunter||10 - 5||30p|
|6.||mousesports||8 - 7||30p|
|7.||Absolute Legends||8 - 7||30p|
|8.||Team 3DMAX||8 - 7||27p|
|9.||eL'Pride||7 - 8||27p|
|10.||We Haz Asian||7 - 8||27p|
|11.||Svenhunterz||6 - 9||15p|
|12.||dd.Dota||6 - 9||15p|
|13.||XX5 Gaming||5 - 10||9p|
|14.||Pulse Esports||5 - 10||9p|
|15.||iLuminate||3 - 12||3p|
|16.||FUBAR||0 - 15||0p|
Na`Vi is still one of the most popular teams in the Western Dota 2 scene. They are the winners of The International 1, runner-up at The International 2, and three-time champions of the Starladder Starseries. Lately there has been a lot of talk about Na`Vi not performing like they once did; however, this will be their chance to prove the people right or wrong. So far in Starladder Season 4, Na`Vi have been doing extremely well, only losing two matches throughout the group stages and taking the first spot going into the LAN finals. It is also important to note that no one in the top 4 has taken a game off of Na`Vi as of yet.
Virtus.pro are a team that have been achieving great results lately, especially with their 2nd place finish at the ASUS Open 2012. At the last Starladder finals, Virtus.pro did not compete to the best of their ability, but with their lineup maintaining its stability, we can expect them to put up a great fight this time around. In the group stages, Virtus.pro ended up in the 2nd spot, with a record of 12-3.
Team Empire, just coming off of their win at the ASUS Open 2012, are looking like they could be the strongest team in Western Dota right now. Each player has been at the top of their game, especially in SL4, where they are currently sitting at 3rd place going into the playoffs with a record of 11-4. There is a possibility that we could see a mirror finals this time around if Na`Vi and Empire both make it to the final two. In all, Empire have 5 of the strongest players in the scene and have the ability to do great things.
Fnatic.eu is another team that is doing great right now, with a 1st place finish at the Thor Open and 3-4th place finish at DHW. These ex-HoN stars are currently sitting in 4th place for SL4, with a strong 11-4 record alongside Empire. With their recent big tournament win, Fnatic is now seen as a top team in Western Dota, and they have a great chance of doing well in the Starladder Finals.
A Clash of Kings
by riptide and shostakovich
It's tough being king, and if there are two teams that understand this truism better than any others, it's Na`vi and Team Empire. Just a few months ago, Natus Vincere was the undisputed ruler of the European scene. Starting with their The International 2011 win, the Ukraino-Russian lads dominated the continental DotA landscape well into 2012, and it was only in late 2012 that Empire stepped up to challenge them.
Some would say that Natus Vincere has been on the decline. Indeed, looking at the team’s results, it would be hard to argue otherwise. When a team that dominated Western DotA for over a year starts to get knocked out of brackets, they will indeed make headlines. Picks and captains will be blamed, and threads will be made that suggest the end of an empire. Then again, maybe it's time for some perspective.
A healthy portion of perspective, courtesy of Liquipedia.
Na`Vi performed consistently in the first half of the year, and played spectacular DotA at The International 2012, and that was just four months ago. Quite a long time, admittedly, in the volatile world of DotA, but the fact remains that nothing has changed for them since then. They have one of the best captains in the scene in the form of Puppey, they have a great carry in XBOCT, one of the best mid players and all round innovators in Dendi, a dependable #3 in LighTofHeaveN, and a solid support in ARS-ART. Saying that Na`Vi is underperforming at DotA is like saying Man U is underperforming at football. It's a highly subjective statement. On a bad day, this lineup will wreck just about any Western team and, as history has shown us time and time again, on a good day, they will quite easily bring Chinese DotA to its knees. Thus, let me just reiterate what other TL writers have already said in this write-up. These Starladder Playoffs will be played out in Kiev, and let's just face it – you can make as many demise of Na`Vi threads as you like, but you better believe that they are the team to beat this week. When you're playing Manchester United at Old Trafford, you take every precaution, if only because you know that, even at its very worst, it’s bloody Man U.
If any team can be mentioned in the same breath as Na`Vi at the moment, it's Empire. The team has been on the move ever since the lineup change in September 2012 that brought in Goblak, Funn1k, and Silent to complement blowyourbrain and scandal. Their first win came less than a month later, where they finished 1st in Starladder Season 3’s league play. Shortly afterward, they placed second at the Starladder Season 3’s Finals, losing 3-1 to Na`Vi, then undisputed kings of Western DotA. However, in a much anticipated rematch, the team came back to take the joinDOTA Special Masters IIover Na`Vi just a few weeks later. Since then, they have performed consistently, netting the RaidCall D2L S1 Championship and then finishing in third/fourth place at Dreamhack Winter 2012. Further, in their most recent matchup against their rivals, Empire went 2-0, knocking Na`Vi into the third place match at the ASUS Open 2012.
Finally, let's talk stats. The all time record between these two teams is 8-7 in favour of Na`Vi. However, their post-Starladder S3 (November/December 2012) record is 5-2 in favour of Empire. In short, Empire is catching up with the kings, and catching up very swiftly at that.
Dat upward trend.
If Na`Vi, then, is the team to beat in Kiev, it's Team Empire that can get the job done. It's not without reason that they are now mentioned alongside a team that was, not so long ago, all but peerless. In a sense, Empire's meteoric rise has come at the best possible time for the team and, while I do posit that rumours of Na`Vi's demise have been greatly exaggerated, I think that they are at a decisive moment in their collective career.
Starladder S4 is not the biggest tournament out there and yet, for Na`vi, it's one of the most important ones they will take part in this month. The kings of LAN will face off at home against the one team in Western DotA that has what it takes to pull the rug out from underneath them, and this is something they will be conscious of as they take to the booths later this week. In fact, in many ways, the Starladder S4 Finals are just the backdrop.
The battle here is not for the $8000 first place prize. When Na`Vi and Empire square off in Kiev, they will compete not for money, but for a throne, and you can be sure that they will both play to win.
The only question that remains is how this will be painted after the fact, with a successful usurper having deposed a feeble king, or with an emperor having smashed a premature rebellion.
The Teams participating in the Starladder Finals are:
My prediction is that Na`Vi takes the win. They have not been performing as strongly in other tournaments, but in SL4 they have been extremely solid, coming out in first place during the online stage. This is not very common for Na`Vi because they are generally weaker in online events and tend to shine during the offline stages. This could be a sign that they are starting to gel better as a team again, or that they are performing in top shape.
Fnatic is a great contender for second place. With their first major tournament win recently, they will have a huge confidence boost for the SL4 finals. However, I see Empire still having the edge over them and taking second place, with Fnatic coming in the third spot. Virtus.pro has a chance of upsetting as well, but with their recent loss to Fnatic at the Asus Open, they don't seem as strong at the moment. We would love to see a rematch of Empire vs Na`Vi though, as it would definitely be a clash of the titans.