Natus Vincere were an almost complete no-show during the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit season, but with an incredible last-minute run, Na’Vi is heading back to The International after a three-year absence.
After making the decision to move on from the face of their Dota 2 team for the last eight years, Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Na’Vi put all of their resources into a rebuild. Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev was promoted to captain and began an attempt to lead this new Na’Vi squad through the DPC.
It didn’t work very well, though. The team failed to qualify for a single DPC Major or Minor this season, with their top placement coming at ESL One Mumbai, where they finished third.
Due to the lack of top-level teams in the CIS, Na’Vi was still invited to the closed regional qualifiers for TI9 and barely survived the group stage with a 4-3 record. That put them in the immediate hot seat as they faced Vega Squadron, the hottest team in the region that also eliminated the favorites, Gambit Esports.
It was a tight competition, but Vega moved on after a 2-1 win, putting Na’Vi into the lower bracket and just one more series loss away from elimination. They managed to take down Team Empire in a very close three-game series in which all of the games finished under 30 minutes. That set Na’Vi up to play Vega once more after Winstrike Team pulled off an upset to knock them out of the upper bracket.
Losing to Winstrike clearly shook Vega’s confidence, and Na’Vi used that to push Vega into a tight game one loss and then a 45-minute victory in game two. Game three is when it became clear Na’Vi was going to be moving on, though. Both Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek and dan “MagicaL” Vardanian stepped up big time to seal the 2-1 win and secure a spot in grand finals against Winstrike.
That impressive display of judgment and skill was shown again in the next match as Crystallize again went deathless and, combined with MagicaL, proved to be too much for Winstrike.
One series away from TI9, Na’Vi played their best Dota of the year and destroyed Winstrike’s hopes of beating them. In the game one win, Crystallize wasn’t killed once and constantly caused issues for Winstrike.
Winstrike came out extremely strong after their loss, but Na’Vi turned things around at about the 31-minute mark. A Roshan kill later, and all Winstrike could do was watch as their lead evaporated and Na’Vi claim the CIS regional win.
This win will send Na’Vi to their first TI in three years, and with hopes that they can shock the Dota world and outplace their 13th place finish at TI6.
Na’Vi will now have a little over a month to prepare for The International 2019, which begins on Aug. 15.