Even if you’re not regularly following the Dota 2 scene, you probably have heard of Na`Vi, the Ukrainian powerhouse that won the very first International. Na`Vi is short for Natus Vincere, which means “born to win” in Latin.
During The International 2012 and 2013, they placed second both times, losing to Invictus Gaming and Alliance in the Grand Finals respectively. The International 2014 was a different story, however, as the team started to fall off with a disappointing 7-8th place finish.
The month after The International 2014, two key players — Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi and Na`Vi’s team captain, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov — left to create Team Secret. Even though Na`Vi quickly picked up Ivan "VANSKOR" Skorokhod and Artsiom "fng" Barshack to replace them, the change in the roster had a decimating effect on their performance leading up to the new year.
In October 2014, Na`Vi qualified for ESL ONE New York, but failed to make it past Vici Gaming in the first quarterfinal round, resulting in a last place finish. The same thing happened at Starladder Star Series Season X just a couple weeks later, where they were eliminated in second last place after losing to Evil Geniuses in the winner’s bracket and Cloud9 in the loser’s bracket.
Apart from a singular success at the Dota 2 Champions League Season 4 where took first place by defeating Team Tinker 3-0 in the Grand Finals, Na`Vi had fallen far from where they once were.
Momentum has started to build, however, with the team’s latest roster change. In March of 2015, Na`Vi replaced Vanksor and fng with Akbar "SoNNeikO" Butaev and Ivan "Artstyle" Antonov. Although the team has only had one LAN performance since then, they have shown improved performance with their second place finish at ASUS ROG DreamLeague Season 3 where they lost an intense Bo5 series against Virtus.pro in the Grand Finals.
Na`Vi: Old Faces, New Blood
Alexander "XBOCT" Dashkevich is Na`Vi’s safelane carry. At age 24, the Ukrainian player has been with Na`Vi for almost five years. Although his most played hero is Lifestealer (with an incredible 74.42% win rate and 5.09 KDA over 129 professional matches), XBOCT has been recently favoring Gyrocopter as his go-to hero. He is known for his extremely aggressive playstyle, which sometimes gets him in trouble.
Danil "Dendi" Ishutin is Na`Vi’s solo mid player and is the most famous Dota 2 player in the world. The Ukrainian player has been with Na`Vi since the end of 2010 and has been the face of the team since then. His outgoing and off-the-wall attitude along with his high risk/high reward playstyle has earned him many fans from around the world.
Dendi is famous for his Pudge play, but there is almost zero chance of him picking that hero during The International 2015 as it is not competitively viable in the current meta. His strong mid lane mechanics allowed him to use heroes such as Puck, Magnus and Queen of Pain to outplay his opponent’s in one-on-one scenarios. As with the rest of Na`Vi however, he is prone to over-committing to aggression which often results in disaster for the team.
Gleb "Funn1k" Lipatnikov is Na`Vi’s offlaner. The 22-year-old Ukrainian player has been with the team since 2013. He is most famous for his devastating Batrider, which has a 65.93% win rate and 4.18 KDA over 91 professional matches. Even though Batrider is no longer part of the current meta, teams will still respect ban it due to Funn1k’s proficiency on that specific hero. Recently, he has been playing a lot of Sand King and Dark Seer in the offlane.
Akbar "SoNNeikO" Butaev is Na`Vi’s most recently-aquired support player. The 18-year-old Russian player has only been in the competitive scene since the end of 2014 where he previously played for Power Rangers. With the addition of Winter Wyvern to competitive play, SoNNeikO uses the hero effectively and helps keep his team alive during their chaotic team fights. He is also known to play Io if his team manages to pick Tiny along with it.
Ivan "Artstyle" Antonov is Na`Vi’s position 5 support. The 26-year-old veteran was originally on Na`Vi during their first place finish at The International 2011; he was soon after removed from the team in October 2011. After almost four years, Na`Vi realized they wanted him back on the team after losing Puppey and Kuroky.
This was a good decision by the team, as Artstyle has been playing extremely well since rejoining the team in 2015. He has an extremely diverse hero pool with his most recent games playing Earth Shaker, Dazzle and Shadow Demon.
Na`Vi’s main strength is their team fight ability. They are able to see past the clutter and focus on the task at hand. Although before SoNNeiko was on the team, their high risk/reward playstyle might have previously backfired on them, they are now able to commit to a teamfight while still having a backup plan, allowing them to disengage safely.
Here’s an average Na`Vi teamfight, which somewhat jokingly showcases XBOCT's tendency to overcommit and SoNNeikO's ability to keep him alive.
The team’s over aggression also continues to catch their opponent’s off guard, even against Russian teams such as Virtus.pro. In this clip, you can see Na`Vi diving past their opponent’s tier four towers before the five minute mark as if this was something they had practiced regularly.
When the team over-extends, what was once their strength can often turn into their weakness. The team is often too fancy for their own good — especially in the current patch where more tanky, front line carry players focus on five-man push strategies.
The team seems to take their matches not as seriously as others, especially Dendi, who seems to take any opportunity to make an impressive play. Hopefully he won't feel obligated to impress the crowd in Seattle as he often makes mistakes when thinking only of himself.
Although Na`Vi is currently on an upward trend, I feel they will still fail to meet their fans high expectations at The International 2015 as the current meta still doesn’t reward their playstyle. If the team is lucky, they will finish 5-6th place, however with such strong Chinese and Western teams attending, they will be hard pressed to make it even that far.
Connor Dunn is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow him on Twitter.