In the age of kings, the second son had nothing. No land on which to grow their sustenance, no followers to field an army, no titles with which to prove their worth. They may have been beloved, but they received nothing that was not earned. A second child who could not carry his weight was worthless. Dismissed. Rejected.
It is into this harsh reality that the players of the North American Rejects step. Adopted by one of Dota’s greatest teams, the squad now known as Na`Vi.US must prove that they are worthy of their inherited name. Furthermore, their opportunity to do so will be on the greatest stage Dota has to offer and pit them against the strongest teams in the world. To say that they are dark horses would trivialize the monumental task before them. The team hails from North America, a region generally regarded as the weakest in Dota. They formed as a group of wayward players, a Frankenstein’s monster mishmash of Dota that must now topple lineups that have fought side-by-side for years. They hail from beleaguered teams, the star members of squads destined for dissolution. To achieve victory, they must defeat knights, dethrone lords, and even transcend their older brother, the finalists of every International since the tournament’s inception.
To some, such a task would be impossible.
Na`Vi.US has already done the impossible.
No one would imagine an entirely new team would crush the competition in their debut tournament. Na`Vi.US did just that during the American qualifiers for The Summit, coming from nowhere to defeat all but Evil Geniuses, the top-performing team in the NA scene. Few would have guessed that such a team could work such magic, especially with stakes as high as those of The International qualifiers. Even BRAX himself said “We never thought that we’d be returning to TI4. [...] If you had told me this a month ago, I never would have believed you.” Yet Na`Vi.US silenced the remaining doubters with a commanding first-place victory after only losing two games throughout the entire grueling group stages and taking down Team Liquid, one of the most experienced teams in the region. While their appearance at The Summit LAN Finals consisted mostly of losses, Na`Vi.US, the most novice lineup of the event, still managed to play well against some of Dota’s scariest opponents and their future competitors for the 10 million dollar prize pool.
In April of 2014, the members of Na`Vi.US were self-acknowledged rejects, the errant bastards of NA Dota. Two months later, they are parts of Dota’s elite: participants in the largest tournament in esports history, princes in the house of one of Dota’s strongest lineages, players with apparently limitless potential. Their next steps, be they forward or back, will be taken on the battlefields of The International, where bastards can slay kings and even second sons can win the crown.
Na`Vi.US toes a strange line between beginner and experienced.
One might expect that one of NA’s newest teams was bound to falter under the spotlights of The International, but such is not the case for Na`Vi.US. No player on NaVi’US is unfamiliar with the colossal crowds of Seattle nor the pressure that comes from the stage. Furthermore, there are few teams with so much prior competitive history together. From Dignitas to Quantic, LGD.INT to PotM Bottom, nearly all of Na`Vi.US’s members have played together at some point, giving them a shortcut to synergy rarely seen from newer teams. This is most evident in the strongest element of their play: mid-game teamfights. Na`Vi.US’s execution in the immediate post-laning phases is exemplary, allowing either a few of the players or their full 5-man roster to take down their opponents, even when behind. Despite Na`Vi.US’s short history, they have had quite a few games in which they appear poised to make comebacks after impressive skirmishes.
However, Na`Vi.US’s weaknesses emerge before and after their team fighting peaks: in the laning stages and late-game situations where they seem to struggle most and show where they’re still green. While Na`Vi.US laning can be strong (especially when their roaming pays off), it is rare to see Na`Vi.US exit the laning phase with a lead, especially against the top-tier teams such as those they faced at The Summit LAN Finals (and will face in The International). This is likely a result of their yet-to-be-established team dynamics. While Fogged and 1437 remain firmly at the 4 and 5 positions, BRAX, Korok, and Sneyking vary their positions and farm priorities from game-to-game. Furthermore, Na`Vi.US will regularly switch up the more standard 1-1-3 lanes for dual mids, dual off lanes, and other “off the beaten path” strategies. A team that has perfected such play might possess a dangerous flexibility rare to most pro squads, but this remains but a potential outcome for Na`Vi.US. As heirs to the dubious legacy of NA Dota, the team also runs into trouble in the late game, where a combination of impatient playmaking and aimlessness leads to unnecessary deaths, ill-advised teamfights, and inevitable defeats. Despite their noteworthy synergy, Na`Vi.US still lacks the discipline of even more experienced teams which would help them stay calm under late game pressure and consistently execute strategies meant for that point in the game.
The consistency of the typically flexible Na`Vi.US is found in their drafts. Like most of the NA region, Na`Vi.US places high value on Mirana and picks her whenever she is available. It doesn’t seem to matter who plays the hero (BRAX, Korok, and Sneyking have all done so) or where so long as the arrow-slinging priestess casts her shadow on their side of the map. Na`Vi.US also likes to pair their Mirana picks with a 1437 Bane or Shadow Demon to setup arrow kills. When on Dire, Na`Vi.US frequently uses this combo to invade the Radiant’s safe lane jungle and snag an easy first blood on a support or squishy carry. Fogged’s Io also makes frequent appearances to accompany Sneyking’s Tiny or a rarer Io partner, such as Drow Ranger. Korok’s Dragon Knight is also a reliable hero pick for Na`Vi.US, for it is nearly undefeated over the team’s lifespan.
Coming into TI4, there are two halves to Na`Vi.US: the novice and the experienced. Their seasoned half is what brought them this far. This “new team” of veterans brings a wide range of skills to the table, as well as in-game experience against teams from all over the world. In Seattle, the novice half of Na`Vi.US could prove to be just as dangerous as the other. While the amateur status they technically possess sometimes means early game deficits and late game mistakes, it also inspires the creativity inherent to those who have not yet chosen a path. For Na`Vi.US, that strange line between beginner and veteran might be their path to TI4 victory.
JingJun “Sneyking” Wu - #1 - Carry
Originating from a HoN background, Sneyking had already proven himself to be a top player before transitioning over to Dota 2 in mid-2012. He was able to adapt quickly, forming a team with Fogged, a friend from his HoN days. They were eventually picked up by Dignitas, where Sneyking was able to start his professional Dota career.
Although he is one of the younger NA players, Sneyking has already made a name for himself in Dota 2 by being an integral part of the teams he has been on. Earning such nicknames as “The King”, he was most famous for his plays on mid or offlane heroes such as Templar Assassin or Dark Seer during his time on Dignitas. After joining Na`Vi.US, his most visible strength is his flexibility in roles, often seen switching roles with Korok to take up the middle lane depending on the situation.
When he is delegated to the carry position, Sneyking’s plays are relatively more controlled and disciplined than his European counterparts. Don’t confuse patience with passiveness though, as Sneyking gambles often in high risk situations in order to secure farm and gain an economical advantage over his opponents. But more often than not, this middle ground between passiveness and full-out insanity creates leads to hesitation, and he ultimately misses out on opportunities that could have given his team a bigger lead.
Steven “Korok” Ashworth - #2 - Core / Mid
One of the more experienced NA players, Korok has been playing Dota since its Warcraft III days, alongside veterans such as Fear, Demon and Puppey. Not able to find true success in the early years, he switched over to HoN as the NA scene entered a lull. He was an integral part of SK and EG’s dominance in HoN before switching back to Dota 2 after the first International in 2011.
Although Korok has been on many teams taking up various roles, the one consistent factor has been his aggressive play style. Popularizing builds such as the Ethereal Blade rush on Morphling, Korok has always played to dominate the enemy in the early stages of the game, opting to prefer farming heroes over creep. If Sneyking is seen as the safe gambler on Na`Vi, occasionally calling a raise, Korok goes for the all-in, all the time.
When taking on the mid role, Korok prefers to keep a tight grip on the reins on the lane, giving his teammates the time they need to come out on top during the mid and late game. The recent popularity of Brewmaster has synergized well with his playstyle, allowing him to be aggressive during the early game while staying a relevant factor in the later stages of the game.
Braxton “Brax” Paulson - #3 - Core / Offlane
Brax spent most his early career bouncing between HoN, LoL and Dota during its WC3 days, playing each games casually. Eventually settling on Dota, he was able to find a deep understanding of the game and started his professional career by playing on Quantic in 2012. Since then he has become one of the more prominent NA players, trying to prove himself both on home soil and overseas.
Although not the most celebrated player in North America, Brax is certainly one of the best captains a team could have. One of the few people that has had the experience of playing on both sides of the globe, he was able to learn from the best in the West while playing on Quantic and from the East during his time on LGD.int. With this knowledge he brings an abundant amount of flexibility to his team’s draft and strategy depending on the opposing team they face.
Initially known for his Invoker play in the past, he has since switched to the offlane position. Despite not being as flashy as some of the other offlane players, the key thing to note about Brax’s playstyle is his stability. Playing in a more passive manner, he makes sure that he is able to secure the early farm to help out his team as soon as possible. Don’t let that fool you, he will make sure to exploit any space given to him to make sure he becomes a dominating force in the late game.
Ioannis “Fogged” Loucas - #4 - Support
Similar to teammates Sneyking and Korok, Fogged was a top tier player originating from HoN. Although hailing from a different game, Fogged proved to the world that he has the skill and experience needed to win it all in Dota 2. Forming PotM Bottom with a relatively unknown roster, Fogged quickly led the to the top ranks of NA Dota and was eventually picked up by Team Dignitas. After a weak showing at TI3, he had various stints on a couple different North American teams before finding settling in what Na`Vi.US is today.
Often praised for his dedication and great work ethics, Fogged has become a pillar in most of the teams he has been on, providing excellent leadership and strategic guidance both inside and outside of the game. Although he has passed the captain role to Brax after joining Na`Vi.US, he still continues to be one of the main factors that carries his team to victory.
Having played the support role since his time on Team Dignitas, Fogged provides breathing room for his teammates by taking the helm of gank-oriented heroes. With early rotations, he is able to take opponents in the mid or offlane by surprise, giving the team the early advantage going into mid game.
Theeban “1437” Siva - #5 - Support
Proudly sporting the Na`Vi.CA tag, 1437 is the sole Canadian on the otherwise all-American team. A long time NA veteran, he is one of the few players in the world who will have attended every TI event since the beginning. Unfortunately, experience has not translated well into success for 1437, as he has yet to grab a major win with any of the four teams he was on in the past two years.
1437 has been criticized by some in the past for his relatively small hero pool, but with specialization comes excellence. Not known for his rotations or early aggression, 1437 is more known for his loyalty to his carry player, truly giving them the 100% support they need to secure a victory. He love for a dual mid was often seen in previous patches, as he opted to help out the middle lane on heroes such as Io to dominate the middle lane. He has recently been trying to diversify his play style, taking up heroes such as Enchantress to assert early map pressure.
With a team full of friends and a fresh new set of heroes and play styles to employ, this year may be the best chance for the Canadian veteran at the coveted Aegis.
|2014-06-22||2nd||GIGABYTE Challenge #5||€500|
|2014-06-01||3-4th||American Dota League Season 2||$1,000|
|2014-05-23||1st||GIGABYTE Challenge #4||$12,300|
|2014-05-19||1st||The International 2014 AM Qualifiers||TI4 invite|
All Results+ Show Spoiler +
5. Sibling Rivalries
4. With Persistence Comes Victory
3. Who’s the Best in the West?
2. North American Favorites
1. Until the Bitter End
In 2013 five players were exiled to pubs by their respective teams for a series of crimes against Dota. These men eventually pubstomped so hard that they escaped from a maximum security low priority queue and made their way directly to the qualifiers for The International 4. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune.
If you have ten million dollars, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… Na`Vi.US.
What was once a string of players cast off from their teams for crimes too terrible to describe here, the North American Rejects banded together, finding acceptance among their own kind. Like E.M. Nathanson’s Dirty Dozen, each had acquired infamy for their in-game misdeeds, their overreaching natures, their avarice, and, in some cases, their tendency to go hard-as-a-motherfucker in any and all situations. As elements of other squads, they were damned… but together?
Intelligence has assembled the following timeline:
At the beginning of April, the first movement began. Members of Na`Vi.US began to train with one another. Players came out of periods of hiding and long dormancy. According to a statement from the team’s captain Braxton "Brax" Paulson:
We never thought that we’d be returning to TI4. Every single one of my teammates were inactive in the professional scene, including myself. It took 31 days from our very first game together to winning the Americas qualifier and guaranteeing our place at TI4 to compete for 8 million dollars (and counting). If you had told me this a month ago, I never would have believed you.
On third June 2014, Na`Vi announced that it had acquired the team. Ever since then, Na`Vi.US has had the training, the funds, and the big brand recognition that they so sorely lacked before.
To this day, perhaps unable to let go of their underground roots, the team can be seen using a room on the TeamLiquid teamspeak server while they scrim. Doubtless they’ve been offered a comms channel by their new management, but habits bred of long months of guerrilla warfare die hard.
Now, facing down teams with the benefit of years practicing together, a number of questions present themselves. Will Na`Vi.US temper its players, encourage them to rein in the self-destructive tendencies that led so many teams to deem them unfit for competitive Dota? Or will they instead opt to nurture all of those qualities that other teams saw as so negative, to beat them with the very strategies they refused to recognise? Will the team be able to convert their trademark black van into a mobile bootcamp in time?
As the first all-underground-mercenary team to compete in an International, Na`Vi.US boasts a number of strengths few teams can match. First and foremost, they are an enigma. Opposing teams have played together for years, yet by the time The International 4 rolls around, Na`Vi.US won’t have been together long enough to see a full season through. There are precious few games to research, few strategies to untangle. Better still, their team-bouncing histories have beaten them into a team of flexible mercenaries.
Take, for example, the relationship between Steven “Korok” Ashworth and JingJun “Sneyking” Wu. Korok and Sneyking are effectively interchangeable, hopping between the mid and safe lanes without any regard for their opponents. Indeed, their strange flexibility extends into how they run the lanes altogether. Versed in guerrilla warfare, the team will often fall back on unorthodox formations, dispersing players across the map in ways that confuse and unbalance their opposition. Dual offlanes and dual mids are not unheard of for the team.
While impressive, these are strategies that they must try without the benefit of a year of testing in smaller tournaments. After a relatively rough outing at The Summit, they were given a taste of how top tier teams react to their eccentric playstyle. The results were less promising than their showing at the International Qualifiers, but there’s still time to lock down any loose fittings ahead of the tournament proper. Now, with the weight of Na`Vi’s funding and reputation behind it, Na`Vi.US will finally have the weight to throw itself into these unusual strategies and see how well they can be made to work.
That said, it’s not as though the team will require the same kind of incubation period as other teams. After all, the entirety of its roster has seen combat at least once before. While many have pointed out that this was a team put together for a single mission, they were well picked for the job. There isn’t a single man in the squad who hasn’t participated in an International already. These are not men who will lose their nerve at the last moment when they step out onto a stage and see a crowd of fans cheering them on, these are hardened veterans.
Moreover, thanks once again to their mercenary histories, the majority of Na`Vi.US has played with one another before. Between Dignitas, Quantic, LGD.INT, and PotM Bottom, the team has seen plenty of action together. Perhaps more important than that, though… this is a team of players that has played against one another in high-profile matches. They understand one another’s weaknesses and how they themselves would try to take advantage of them.
As well you might imagine, when things do go their way for the early game, all of this makes them a fearsome squad in mid-game teamfights. Their apparent lack of solid formation, their individual reputations, and their ability to execute in chaotic situations ensures that opposing teams are left with more than enough to chew on from game to game. Indeed, it’s all too easy to forget that this is a team formed of down-but-not-out players.
Where so many players seem too quick to accept defeat, this is a team that plays well from behind. With a game spiralling out of control and an enemy team already snowballing, Na`Vi.US takes its years of experience and its indomitable spirit and buckles down to try to turn things around.
Sneyking “B.A. Baracus” Wu - #1 - Carry/Fool Pitier
Elected to play the carry position because of his incredible strength, Sneyking has a long history in esports. Originally rising to prominence in the foetid swamps of Heroes of Newerth, his reputation was strong before his transition to Dota in mid-2012. Fortunately, he has always been swift to adapt, and Dota came quickly to him. Before long, he had formed a team with one-time brother in arms Fogged.
Now, Sneyking’s reputations is beyond reproach. He was famous for his ability to wring advantages from his control of the offlane with heroes like Dark Seer and Templar Assassin while he played with Dignitas.
Clearly suited to carrying, Sneyking’s control and discipline ensure that he makes the safe plays while others might feel the need to try something flashier and more impressive. Indeed, he is very much a “function over form” player, who prefers not to take unnecessary risks. This ensures that he farms well where possible, but can bite the team when they need him to make a snap decision on whether or not to enter early fights. Aside from engineering wins from the safe-and-midlanes, it is Sneyking who is the team’s literal engineer, performing all necessary modifications to the Na`Vi.US van each week.
While he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, Sneyking has been quick to point out that he gives them his pity. It is this pity that his critics point to as his greatest in-game weakness, leading him to hesitate in teamfights. Moreover, much has been made of his out-of-game weakness in a distaste for travel. Many have questioned how well Sneyking will perform at TI4, given the distance he’ll be required to drive to get there. While the team has worked hard to persuade him to fly, sources close to Na`Vi.US report that he has replied to the effect that he, “[...] ain’t gettin’ in no plane, fool.”
Korok “Howling Mad Murdock” Ashworth - #2 - Core/Mid/Ace Helicopter Pilot
It’s never been quite clear whether Korok is genuinely mad or highly accomplished at simulating it. Fortunately, the two are largely indistinguishable to opponents and teammates alike. Korok’s history runs right the way back to the Warcraft III days. He stands alongside other old hands like Fear, Demon, and Puppey. Finding himself without any major results, he eventually moved to HoN, where it’s been speculated that he and Sneyking may have played a series of black-ops pubs together, though neither has ever commented on it. Back then, he served as part of elite SK and EG squads, before eventually switching to Dota 2 shortly after The International in 2011.
Korok’s explosive nature allows him to take control of the midlane, pressuring the enemy mid until he’s ready to make his trademarked switch from farming creeps to farming heroes. This usually happens early enough in the game, whether he’s really ready to go for it or not. As luck would have it, Korok is well-served by the chaos that comes with a well-played Brewmaster, and in the approach to TI4 Brewmaster is looking strong.
For Na`Vi.US, Korok provides two things. The first is that he acts to balance out Sneyking’s slow-and-steady approach to the game. The second is that, when the Na`Vi.US van has been converted into a mobile command centre and bootcamp, Korok pilots the Na`Vi.US helicopter (he also helps to administer the cocktail of drugs required to get Sneyking into an aircraft).
Brax “Hannibal” Paulson - #3 - Core/Offlane/Fearless Leader
For years, Brax drifted between HoN, League of Legends, and Warcraft III DotA, but without the dedication of a real soldier. When the time came, he fell into step with Dota, developed his skills, and joined Quantic in 2012. Since then, he has been deployed repeatedly, though perhaps most notably as part of the LGD.INT that appeared in last year’s International.
Despite his status as national hero, Brax seems not to have garnered notoriety in his homeland. Indeed, it seems that too many of his previous missions flew under the radar of media coverage, leading many to underestimate the sagacious Na`Vi.US captain. Given his years of operation on both the Eastern and Western fronts, Brax has a flexibility and understanding beyond that of many other captains. Moreover, he has seen combat against top-tier squads using both the Western and Eastern strategies. This knowledge allows him a depth of understanding available to few captains of teams so new.
Brax rose to prominence for his abilities as an Invoker player, but now he prefers to sit in the offlane. While some would argue that he lacks the panache of other, more spectacular offlaners, Brax is always stable in the hard lane, acting as an anchor for his team. He is not afraid to play passively until opportunities present themselves, and is always ready to exploit any weaknesses the enemy shows.
Seldom seen without his trademark cigar, Brax leads the team from the front line. Despite his distinctive looks, he is also a master of disguise, capable of flitting through even the most hazardous of laning phases almost unacknowledged.
Fogged “Faceman” Loucas - #4 - Support/Scrounger/Confidence Trickster
Playing position four for Na`Vi.US, Fogged is another player who made his name in HoN before transferring to Dota. He made waves when he first burst onto the scene with the rag-tag bunch of misfits he called PotM Bottom, shooting directly to the top of the NA Dota most wanted. While the team would eventually be picked up by Dignitas, they did not achieve an awful lot at TI3. After that, Fogged hopped from one team to another before finding Na`Vi.US, where his skills could be put to good use.
Fogged is known for his dedication, great work ethic, and for being the best-looking player on Na`Vi.US. His ability to make something out of nothing, as well as his capacity to fall into a leadership role as necessary, has made him an invaluable member of the team. While he is not the captain, he is a strong second-in-command to Brax.
Having supported since his days on Dignitas, Fogged helps to determine the pace of the game by playing ganking supports. He moves well and moves early, catching enemy troops in the mid and offlanes off guard, securing more gold for himself and an early advantage for his team.
Having assembled PotM Bottom from nothing at all, Fogged has more than earned his reputation as the team’s scrounger and confidence trickster. If Na`Vi.US needs anything, they know they can turn to Fogged for it. If the whole team is stricken down in the days before the International, the odds are that Fogged will be able to put together a replacement team just in time.
Fogged is also the team’s ladies man, being easily the most handsome man on the team.
1437 “Amy” Siva - #5 - Support/Field Reporter
1437 has always been just a little different. Jumping into the game with an immediately recognisable Na`Vi.CA tag, 1437 is the sole Canadian member of the otherwise all-American squad. Don’t let that tag fool you though; he has spent years in the North American DotA scene. Unfortunately, all that experience hasn’t brought him success at any major tournaments in the last two years.
1437 takes up the position five role that is so often something closer to “field reporter” or “embedded journalist” than anything else. Indeed, he has come to be known for his relative passivity in game. Not for him the ganking rotations of Fogged, nor the non-stop aggression of Korok.
Instead, 1437 falls into the role of the hard support, ensuring that his team has the vision that it needs to ensure victory. He has also been known to fill out the odd-ended role of dual-mid support, securing an advantage for whoever happens to be in the mid-lane at the time. Recently, he has made the effort to broaden his skillset, now venturing into using heroes like Enchantress in an effort to exert more control on the game in its early stages.
Alright, let’s be honest here. We ran out of A-Team members, but the squad’s spiritual fifth member (for season one and the first half of season two, at least) was Amy Allen. Still, it was Amy who brought the A-Team word of situations they needed to get involved in, just as it is 1437 who plants the wards that keeps Na`Vi.US informed on the state of the game. If this muddies the metaphor for you, feel free to imagine 1437 as the Tawnia, Tia, or Eddie of the group, depending on your preferred A-Team assistant.
|2014-06-22||2nd||GIGABYTE Challenge #5||€500|
|2014-06-01||3-4th||American Dota League Season 2||$1,000|
|2014-05-23||1st||GIGABYTE Challenge #4||$12,300|
|2014-05-19||1st||The International 2014 AM Qualifiers||TI4 invite|