The first big international tournament post-Shanghai Shuffle didn’t disappoint. Day one in Kiev started off with some great series, though through the first three the stronger teams all prevailed: Alliance and LGD won easily, and Chinese legend Fy-led new squad Vici Gaming Reborn took down an MVP Phoenix team that has been on the decline lately. The big upset came on the last match of the day, as hometown squad and fan favorite Natus Vincere took down Frankfurt Major champions OG 2-1 while showing off some very versatile picks and uncharacteristically measured aggression. Dendi looked as good as ever but the play of relative newcomers Ditya-Ra on carry and General on the offlane, as well as the return to form for old timer Artstyle, were the biggest standouts for the series.
Navi continued their run through the next rounds, defeating VG.R 2-0 in an impressive display, using General’s Beastmaster to provide vision and lockdown for a global gank strategy with Ditya-Ra’s Nature’s Prophet plus Sonneiko’s Wisp, followed by a strong fight into push lineup pairing the BM with Lycan and Vengeful Spirit. They would move on to crush LGD 2-0 in the winner’s bracket final, once again showcasing the strength of the Beastmaster and Lycan pairing in Game 1 before switching things up in Game 2 and putting General on the Nature’s Prophet for an all-ranged physical damage buff strategy of Drow, Vengeful, Wisp, and Windranger.
China DOTA, however, would prevail. After their failures at Shanghai and the subsequent player and team shuffling it would seem the Chinese have finally gotten some new (old?) blood into their scene. VG.R, playing with two relatively new core players and using their 30-year-old coach Mikasa as their stand-in mid player, came roaring back from the loser’s bracket, first eliminating OG from the tournament and then taking the last two games of the loser’s bracket finals from LGD after going down 1-0 for a re-match with Na’vi.
Game One Recap –
VG.R Bans: Wisp, Chen, Lycan, Batrider, Invoker
VG.R Picks: Beastmaster, Gyrocopter, Lion, Queen of Pain, Earthshaker
Navi Bans: Doom, Sven, Broodmother, Witch Doctor, Dark Seer
Navi Picks: Enchantress, Nature’s Prophet, Faceless Void, Earth Spirit, Death Prophet
VG.R learned quickly from their earlier matches. Starting game one of the grand finals Fy decided to focus on removing Navi’s comfort heroes, banning out the Wisp, Lycan, and Batrider while taking the Beastmaster and Queen of Pain. Navi still managed to eke out a win with Artstyle’s Enchantress and Sonneiko’s Earth Spirit creating an early lead for Navi. VG.R brought the game back to even with stellar play and farm from VG.R.End’s Gyrocopter, but the great start for Artsyle allowed him to transition into a core damage dealing role, and the Pure damage coming out from his Impetus attacks proved too much for VG.R to handle.
Game Two Recap –
VG.R Bans: Wisp, Beastmaster, Nature’s Prophet, Death Prophet, Vengeful
VG.R Picks: Chen, Lion, Windranger, Gyrocopter, Lone Druid
Navi Bans: Doom, Sven, Broodmother, Bat Rider, Faceless Void
Navi Picks: Enchantress, Bounty Hunter, Lycan, Puck, Invoker
VG.R once again removes most of Navi’s best heroes, taking out the Wisp, Beastmaster, NP and picking the Chen themselves. Enchantress once again secures the first blood for Navi but the early success would be short lived as End, once again on Gyro, secured an early level 6 and started roaming across the map, hitting multiple heroes with every single Call Down (Gyro ultimate). His movements, along with some incredible Shackle Shots from Mikasa on the Windranger, created enough space for VG.R’s Lone Druid to get his radiance and ultimately out farm the Bounty Hunter lineup of Navi. Navi kept the game close with Track gold trades and split push from the Lycan and Enchantress but their lack of AOE teamfight and wave clear allowed VG.R to brute force the first two sets of Radiant barracks, effectively ending the game.
Game Three Recap –
VG.R Bans: Wisp, Beastmaster, Lycan, Vengeful, Death Prophet
VG.R Picks: Gyrocopter, Bounty Hunter, Bat Rider, Queen of Pain, Witch Doctor
Navi Bans: Doom, Sven, Broodmother, Enchantress, Lion
Navi Picks: Nature’s Prophet, Chen, Oracle, Faceless Void, Windrunner
Notice a common theme yet? Navi is once again denied the Wisp and Beastmaster, with VG.R picking up the QoP and the Bat for themselves. VG.R stayed one step ahead of Navi in the laning phase too, moving End’s gyrocopter to the offlane against the NP securing him an easy lane. VG.R.Yang also gave General a taste of his own medicine, showing off the incredible laning strength of the Bat Rider. Both of their lanes, however, were won by the incredible roaming of Fy on Bounty, getting first blood on the bottom lane and salvaging two extra earlykills on top lane as well as sniping out the Radiant courier. Navi kept the game close with some good counter kills and great mid play out of Dendi on the Windranger, but the incredible AOE damage from the Gyrocopter and Queen of Pain secured VG.R the first big teamfight at the 11 minute mark. From that point VG.R just brute forced Navi down with Track gold, winning every equal trade and gaining even more from won fights. Eventually End’s Gyrocopter became too large for Navi to deal with, taking the first Radiant barracks at 37 minutes and ending the game with an emphatic Queen of Pain triple kill at the 41 minute mark.
Game Four Recap –
VG.R Bans: Wisp, Chen, Bounty Hunter, Lycan, Ember Spirit
VG.R Picks: Enchantress, Vengeful, Juggernaut, Puck, Night Stalker
Navi Bans: Doom, Beastmaster, Broodmother, Sven, Dark Seer
Navi Picks: Batrider, Witch Doctor, Earth Spirit, Queen of Pain, Gyrocopter
With the tournament on the line, Navi surprisingly bans out the Beastmaster, favoring the Bat Rider for the laning potential. VG.R with their own surprise picks up the Juggernaut for End over the Gyrocopter, finishing up with an offlane Night Stalker. Enchantress and Night Stalker secured the early game for VG.R, getting multiple kills in bottom and mid lane. Navi struggled to find the big multi-hero Gyrocopter and QoP ultimate combos that had been so successful against them the prior game, but General and Dendi were able to get multiple solo pickoffs to keep it even against the immense farm of End’s Juggernaut. The game then devolved into back and forth overextensions and pickoffs, with Navi winning one fight, then VG.R, then Navi again.
With the game going later than any other in the series and their tournament lives at risk, Ditya-Ra went Divine Rapier on the Gyro with the Aegis of the Immortal for a final high ground push. The choice would prove to be Navi’s undoing when Ditya-Ra got swapped into the base and used his Satanic before he died the first time, bringing him back up just to be killed again and putting the Aegis into the hands of VG.R’s big damage dealer Juggernaut. With the 12,000 gold swing, VG took down the barracks and forced out the final GG.
Despite their undoing in the finals, fans of Navi should be fairly satisfied with their performance. This once proud and decorated squad spent nearly two years as a tier 2 team after the departure of Puppey and Kuroky, Navi once again looks like a top team with strong leadership from supports Sonneiko and Artstyle. Once they branch out a little further from their Prophet/Beastmaster/Lycan drafts they will be an even stronger force to be reckoned with. VG.R also clearly is a promising squad with lots of talent, and it’s clear now why Fy, one of the games legendary players, left the all-star team of VG to create his own roster. Chinese DOTA needed something new and different and they’ve got at least one team that fits the bill.
No Patch? Mr. Lizard!
As of April 20th at 1:54 PM MDT there is still no word on 6.87. With ESL One Manila starting in one day and the Manila Major open qualifiers next week, time has already run out for a smooth transition to 6.87 in the pro scene. While 6.86 has been one of the better patches of recent memory, with quite varied play styles and picks, many feel it is time for a change.