Black and Yellow
An organization struggling to rise once more.It is fairly simple to state a lofty goal: become the best, win a championship, create a legacy. However, it takes an inconceivable amount of time and effort to actually accomplish these things. For those of us who are Na`Vi fans, the time between the departure of Puppey and Kuroky and the present has seemed like an eternity. We watched as the once beloved and feared team became little more than an overdone joke while they desperately tried to remain relevant in the vicious whirlpool that is competitive Dota 2. Many times we thought Na`Vi might have made it free of the undertow, only to watch them get sucked back under, lifeless once more.
After TI7 we saw the tides begin to turn for Na`Vi. They started to qualify for events, first reaching StarLadder and then the PGL Open in quick succession. In only a matter of days, Na`Vi had managed to outperform almost an entire year’s worth of results. The newcomers Crystallize and RodjER were off to an explosive start, but we had seen this before from Na`Vi. With both Fng and Artstyle, the team had looked promising but quickly fallen apart. Many waited for what was thought of as an inevitable fall; but instead, we saw a young team who had great potential, a team who were staying competitive with opponents that were assumed to be out of their league.
While Na`Vi did fall to Team Secret in the group stage at StarLadder i-League Invitational #3, it came after already beating them in an earlier Bo3. A loss at PGL Bucharest in the group stage once again should have been devastating; but looking closer, they had given the eventual winners, Mineski, one of their only two losses during the event. While they were failing to make it out of groups, there was no sense of dread hanging around the team. There was something that was different about this Na`Vi when compared to past iterations. They gave us a reason to stay hopeful.
I am just a part of the team, I am one out of five guys. I’m 20% and not more. So please if you chant for us chant Na`Vi!Danil “Dendi” Ishutin interviewed by SirActionSlacks at the Manila Major. June 8th, 2016.Dendi has been such a prolific player in Dota 2’s history that it can be difficult to focus on anything apart from him when talking about Na`Vi. One could argue that he is not just the face of Na`Vi, but in fact the face of Dota 2. However, it is as he says, he is but a single part of a greater whole, a single cog in the ever-evolving machine that is Na`Vi. His humility in putting his team ahead of himself is a virtue that few players seem to have. This lends itself to the team play we have seen from Na`Vi recently, where rather than aiming for highlight reel worthy plays, their strength is how well they were playing around each other.
A perfect example of this was their performance at the Adrenaline Cyber League in late November of 2017. Na`Vi found themselves up against Virtus.pro in the finals, a matchup heavily tilted (and for good reason) in VP’s favor. Crystalize and RodjER had not been on the team for long and while Na`Vi was performing admirably in qualifiers, the tournament results gave no indication that they were ready to handle a Bo5 against one of the best teams in the world.
It was during the first game of the finals that I noticed my perception about Na`Vi’s recent performance had been wrong. I thought they had just been getting lucky in qualifiers, that their failure in the group stage of StarLadder Invitational #3 and PGL Open Bucharest was proof that there was nothing more to the newest iteration of the oldest team in Dota 2. It took all of 30 seconds after the horn sounded to make me realize Na`Vi was playing at a much higher level than I had originally thought.
The first blood on No[o]ne during the first creep wave was not really anything special. It was a good plan from Na`Vi to show Sonneiko next to Dendi while RodjER came from behind to secure the kill, but it wasn’t anything you hadn’t seen before. It was both of their immediate TP rotation’s to the offlane to catch Lil that made it into something much more impressive. As Lil tried to stop General from pulling creeps behind his tower he saw Sonneiko tping into the tower, knowing his path in that direction was cut off he made the move to escape next to Na`Vi’s shrine but rodjER was already there, Lil had fallen for the trap. Something about the play made Na`Vi seem like they were all on the same wavelength. Each action they took was to set themselves up for the next move. Each rotation had a purpose, not just to try to get a kill on a hero, but to secure an objective, force a rotation, or trap the heroes who would tp in to help. Undoubtedly Na`Vi still made mistakes, but they proved they could do it, that they were not just able to win against qualifier teams but also win a full Bo5 against a world-class opponent.
At the following Major, DreamLeague Season 8, Na`Vi was able to claim the all-important Dota Pro Circuit points by finishing 4th after defeating Newbee 2-1 in the lower bracket. They followed that with another top 4 placement at MDL Macau and two more qualifier wins around the new year, one with stand-in Lebron for GESC:Jakarta.
After such a long time of lacking accomplishments you would think they would stay the course and continue to play together, at least until after TI8, but that was not the direction they chose to go in. Instead, Na`Vi made an announcement that they would be trading RodjER to Virtus Pro in exchange for Lil, the all-star 4 position who is known for not being afraid to speak his mind.
Only a few days later Na`Vi announced Sonneiko would be leaving the team as well, moving the newly acquired Lil into the captains chair. In order to replace Sonneiko Na`Vi brought in Lebron who had helped them qualify for GESC:Jakarta. This is a dangerous gambit from Na`Vi, while losing RodjER was outside of their control, losing the captain that has helped them climb their way back into relevance over internal disputes could backfire massively.
The benefit of adding Lil to the team, on top of his skill as a player, is that he brings 900 DPC points with him. The move has skyrocketed Na`Vi from 12th to 5th in the rankings, well ahead of the teams outside the top 8 who are trying to get their hands on a direct invite to TI8. With two upcoming Majors, ESL One Katowice and The Bucharest Major on the horizon for Na`Vi if the recent changes work out in their favor they could nearly secure their invite to TI8 in one fell swoop. However even if this move works out in the short term, Na`Vi might have broken apart before they were truly able to show us the full potential of the line-up that came together after TI7.
There is no doubt that Lil is a fantastic player, the few games we've seen him play on Na`Vi thus far are proof of that. However their losses in the DAC qualifier to both Team Spirit and Effect has shown that they are struggling after the early game. It is likely that the team needs time to adjust to Lil and Lebron's hero pools and play styles. The upcoming Majors will be a true test to see if they can maintain their current course, improving upon their results with their new support duo, or if they will once again be sucked into the undertow, unable to undo what has been done.
All we can do is wait and see what the future holds.