At the beginning of the season, the Natus Vincere Dota 2 looked very promising. After The International 2019 the club did not begin to make drastic changes: the organization decided to strengthen the position of the off-laner and invited an experienced Pavel 9pasha Khvastunov of Virtus.pro… On paper, the roster seemed promising, but in reality it could not “shoot”, even at the level of the CIS. A year later, not a single player from the original five remained in the starting lineup. Cybersport.ru understands what prevented the NAVI Dota 2 roster from performing well this season and who is to blame for the team’s defeats.
Where are you, captain?
A big problem for our entire region is the small number of strong and experienced captains who are able to put the team on the game and lead it over a long distance. Alexey Solo Berezin, Artem Fng Barshak, Akbar SoNNeikO Butaev, and, in principle, that’s it – the calculation is over. Butaev and NAVI have a rather strange relationship: the esports player was already in four different rosters of the club, but he was invariably kicked, often due to internal disagreements. Many people in the community said that SoNNeikO has a difficult character, but for a good captain this is not a problem – Clement Puppey Ivanov, for example, he generally offered his players to solve issues in fistfights, but the majors won anyway.
The captain, even if he is difficult to communicate, takes on the burden of making difficult decisions in and outside the game, thereby removing responsibility from teammates, allowing them to focus on their own gameplay and better open up. SoNNeikO’s departure put the players in an unenviable position. NAVI did not show anything cardinal new for the season. The team has not developed its own unique style, and all the players have noticeably slowed down in their professional development. We have seen a similar picture more than once: the arrival of SoNNeikO refreshed the team, the captain set up the game and pulled up team interactions, then something happened that remained behind the scenes, Butaev left, and the roster went down to the level from which he started. The same thing happened recently in NiP, which also, for unknown reasons, decided to abandon SoNNeikO’s services.
NAVI said goodbye to Butaev at the end of October 2019 – at a time when most clubs had already completed their rosters and it was difficult to find an adequate replacement. In Dota 2, unlike CS: GO, it is the captain, not the coach, that matters most in the design and management of team play. Therefore, entering the new season without a helmsman, thereby dooming oneself to the need to build a team game from scratch and not having experienced specialists for this, is an extremely controversial decision, which later affected the team.
What happened to 9pasha?
9pasha moved to NAVI as the strongest offlaner in the region. The fans had the right to expect that he would undoubtedly strengthen the lineup and create an excellent combination with Bakyt Zayac Emilzhanov… A couple of days after the transfer of Khvastunov, the team coach Andrey Mag Chipenko noted that 9pasha brought freshness and interesting ideas to the team. Yes, the offlaner could add new ideas to NAVI, but still he was used to playing with a strong captain who controls the whole process. After SoNNeikO left, such a leader disappeared, and 9pasha and Zayac had to take on this task.
When Emilzhanov left the team, Khvastunov was left alone – in a team that was different from the one he moved to after TI9. 9pasha was forced to take on more responsibility and duties, but he simply did not pull them due to the lack of the necessary experience. Against this background, his personal performance also deteriorated. Virtus.pro often focused on teamfights with massive ultimates: team interactions in that roster were brought to the highest level, so it was easier for 9pasha to show himself and give the perfect spell on Dark Seer or Tidehunter. In NAVI, especially after Emilzhanov left, there was no such team chemistry, which means that it was difficult for the playmaker in the person of Khvastunov to implement his heroes in a quality manner.
In NAVI, the 9pasha pool has also changed significantly. His signature heroes – Dark Seer, Brewmaster, Slardar – almost never appeared in the drafts of the team. Naturally, this was largely due to changes in the meta, but it should be noted that over the past six months, 9pasha has played these characters only three times. Much more often he could be seen on Pangolier or Mars, and on them Khvastunov’s win rates are not impressive – 25% and 30.77%, respectively.
Virtus.pro destroyed NAVI?
In early 2022, Virtus.pro’s decision to renew its roster, replacing Save- and epileptick1d on the gpK ~ and Zayac, caused a huge outcry. Many accused the Russian club of foul play and an attempt to weaken competitors. It is unlikely that VP’s management thought about other teams – the priority was still to strengthen its own team. However, indirectly Virtus.pro really hit its direct competitors hard: gpK ~ even though it did not leave Gambit Esports, but the overall results of the team began to decline, and then the roster completely stopped joint performances, and in NAVI there was a gaping hole in fourth position.
After TI9, Zayac was considered almost the strongest “four” in the region. As 9pasha admitted in a recent interview, his transition to NAVI was partly due to the desire to play with Emilzhanov. Both esportsmen spoke well of each other and quickly managed to find mutual understanding in Dota itself. In addition, after the departure of SoNNeikO, it was this pair that took over the leadership functions. According to the CEO of NAVI, the unexpected transfer of Zayac to Virtus.pro hit the morale of the roster hard. The team showed a decent game on DreamLeague Leipzig Major, where she even took first place in the group, and then again had to look for a replacement for one of the key players in the roster.
Forever young, forever promising
Vladislav Crystallize Kristanek spent three years with NAVI. The silent and calm player quickly won the love of the fans. He was considered one of the most promising carries in our region – if we take it out of the brackets Roman RAMZEs Kushnareva… No matter what the squad leapfrog happened in NAVI, Crystallize was inviolable. He played at a decent level, and for a long time few fans could blame him for the team’s defeats. However, as time went on, Kristanek remained in the role of a stable and promising carry. He did not succeed in reaching a qualitatively new level.
During this time, the “scapegoats” in NAVI have already managed to visit Dendi, Lil, GeneRaL, SoNNeikO (once again) and MagicaL… However, over the course of the current season, the community and analysts increasingly began to pay attention to the cons of Crystallize. For example, after the defeat of NAVI by Alliance in a match on OMEGA League Yaroslav NS Kuznetsov stated that it is simply impossible to win with a carry like Crystallize. Yaroslav NS Kuznetsov made an emphasis on how Kristanek finishes off creeps, or rather the opposite – too often he does not finish off. However, if you look at the situation more globally, the problem is not only creeps.
Over the past six months, Crystallize has the lowest KDA (3.95) among other carries from the top CIS teams – iLTW (5.42), V-Tune (6.4), epileptick1d (7.17). Such results cannot be reduced solely to unsuccessful performances by NAVI, since all four teams played unstably and with recessions. In addition, Crystallize did not act as a seven-carry, as iLTW sometimes did, to which they took Bristleback, Dragon Knight, and in rare cases even Omniknight or Visage. Kristanek is used to playing late carries: Specter, Medusa, Phantom Lancer and Terrorblade, except for Riki. At the same time, on the rather popular Slark and Morphling, Crystallize has a very sad win rate over the past six months – 0% and 16%, respectively.
Crystallize has definitely slowed down in its game development. His style remains unchanged: he just AFK farms in the late carry, and, as NS noted, not always successfully. He doesn’t show anything extraordinary from the point of view of personal performance or team interactions. At the same time, the number of defects and minor mistakes has noticeably increased – an impermissible luxury for an esports player around whom the team builds the game.
During the year, NAVI lost not only SoNNeikO and Zayac: before the current roster almost completely disbanded, three more replacements were made in it. This policy is in itself quite controversial. Let’s put aside the fact that the losses of SoNNeikO and Zayac are also miscalculations of the club’s management (after all, creating a healthy climate in the team and normal contracts is its duty), and focus on the remaining permutations.
Coming CeMaTheSlayeR to replace Zayac was quite logical – a player with a lot of experience, including a desire for leadership. In NAVI he showed himself well, however, as the club’s management said, he failed to establish intra-team communication. Therefore, we had to say goodbye to CeMaTheSlayeR – the decision was received ambiguously in the community. Alexey Bafik Bafadarov, for example, said that he did not understand the transfer policy of the organization at all. Krivule came to replace so bad… For most NAVI fans, this was not the most obvious choice. So bad performed well in qualifiers for TI9 when Vega squadron sensationally skated through all the opponents in the group stage, but in Team Unique looked less impressive. In addition, the cybersportsman did not have much experience playing against tier-1 teams, and he could not take on the role of captain in full.
The experiment with so bad failed, and a more experienced one was called in to replace it. Immersion… However, if this replacement suggested itself, then MagicaL’s kick was unexpected. There were also enough questions for the NAVI mid-lancer during the season, but it was difficult to call him the weakest link, because sometimes he could pull out the game in solo. In addition, instead of MagicaL, they called a young and not very famous young G… After leaving NAVI, Vardanyan once admitted on stream that he was most upset with his successor in the situation with the kick. Indeed, replacing MagicaL with a conditional gpK ~ would have looked logical, but the resulting exchange did not look like a big success and a boost for the club. And so it happened: young G sometimes played good games, but was not remembered for anything remarkable, except for the scandal in matchmaking.
The choice in favor of the young mid can be justified by the fact that in the absence of majors and The International, the club wanted to take a risk and look for undisclosed talents. However, the bet did not work, which probably affected the general emotional background of the team and its results. As a result, this led to the fact that at the moment there are no players left in the main NAVI roster who started the season in it.
In the failures of NAVI, one cannot look for one or even two specific “scapegoats” on which one could, with a clear conscience, throw off all the blame for a failed season. The problems of the roster began from the very start and then overlapped one another like a snowball. Internal disagreements and the departure of SoNNeikO became the beginning of this avalanche, which eventually demolished the promising NAVI roster. This snowball exposed a number of club problems at once, ranging from the carry-over and ending with the management, who lost their stellar “four” due to contract errors. The main question is what conclusions all participants in this story will draw for themselves and whether NAVI will be able not to step on the same rake in the new season.