Natus Vincere left the EPICENTER: Moscow 2017 LAN finals after losing every match in the group stage. CyberSport.ru examined the reasons for the squad’s poor performance at one of the main tournaments of this summer, and what we might learn from looking at the team’s picks.
EPICENTER was the first LAN tournament for Na`Vi's new roster. Despite having been put together almost six months ago, the team had been unable to qualify for a championship. An experience of playing together in a LAN tournament is important to a roster, and a bootcamp is no substitute for a real event. This is especially critical when playing against a team that has such experience — and most of the competitors in EPICENTER: Moscow 2017 were prize-winning regulars at LAN tournaments.
Twice over six months, Natus Vincere found themselves only a step away from a tournament spot: in the Kiev Major 2017 qualifier, the team lost against Virtus.pro in the grand final, and reached the losers bracket final in the SL i-League Invitational #2 EU qualifier. In May, the team qualified for The Summit 7.
Natus Vincere had neither been invited to the tournament nor qualified for it. The team was voted into the event by its fans. Notably, other teams that ran in the poll had a better recent records, but less fans: for instance, Team Faceless has no social network presence as a team at all. This situation raised doubts about Na’Vi’s eligibility to compete, regardless of their second place in the qualifier. In the end, the difference in team caliber was evident. Another important point was made in a recent interview by Vitaly “v1lat” Volochay, who questioned whether going to Moscow to compete in the “group of death” was the optimal choice for Na’Vi: “Perhaps they’d altogether decline to come if they could”.
Natus Vincere players make a lot of mistakes. And they aren’t just teamplay mistakes, which can be written off to this being their first LAN: there are individual misplays, too. Jokes are already going around about the moment in the match against Team Secret when Danil “Dendi” Ishutin walked into an enemy Chronosphere. Or another typical mistake when the players attacked Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann’s Bristleback, but misjudged their strength, and Team Secret members hurried in to kill the aggressors. Several important ultimates were wasted in the process, the mid- and offlaner died, while Bristleback returned to base. The Na’Vi players had been aware that Khezu’s allies were near — they were pushing the top T2 tower in the meantime — but that didn’t help the team make the right call. The tower was soon lost as well. And it all happened only a minute after Team Secret killed Roshan, when one would think it was time to play passive.
Natus Vincere often uses teamfight-based strategies. However, due to the frequent mistakes, they are less efficient than in the case of other teams such as Virtus.pro. When everything is going well for Na’Vi, they can win back 25K gold from OG with neat combos and a Roshan turnaround, or fight Team Secret as equals. But in most cases, Na’Vi play quite passively, trying not to fall back in gold in the first 20–30 minutes, after which they lose several important teamfights and are no longer in control of the match. The game against Team Secret which the Bristleback video comes from was a good example of this. With a lineup of Dragon Knight, Warlock, Sand King, Night Stalker and Slark, the team was unable to score either teamfight kills or ganks (Na’Vi made six kills in the first half-hour of the match), or push. Team Secret only lost three towers in that game. However, Per Anders “Pajkatt” Olsson and Dendi were farming actively, eventually taking the top two ranks on last hits — in a lost game, no less.
Warlock was the team’s most preferred hero, picked four times. A greedy and passive support that is strong in teamfights, it fits well with Na’Vi’s current understanding of how Dota should be played. Other than that, the team tried to not be repetitive in their picks: Dendi and Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev played seven different heroes in eight games, while the rest of the team played six each. Notably, the team rarely used heroes that did well at EPICENTER: Bristleback, Treant Protector, Faceless Void, Earth Spirit, Sven, Crystal Maiden, or Invoker. Nearly all of these were picked frequently and had a winrate of over 75%. Pajkatt only picked Sven, Crystal Maiden and Earth Spirit once, ignoring the rest, even though there were players on the roster who were experienced with these heroes.
Other teams have a good understanding of how Na’Vi play. This was why Magnus, a great choice for teamfights, was banned early by Na’Vi’s opponents in seven out of their eight games. Particular attention was also paid to Queen of Pain, Io and Juggernaut. However, with the ideas and execution that Na’Vi showed in Moscow, even their staple heroes would’ve been unlikely to decide the outcomes of games.
Text by: Yan "Wintermute" Chernyshov