Worldwide fan favorite Dota 2 team Natus Vincere is undergoing a roster change, just three months before this year’s iteration of The International.
The former International champion squad announced the release of Nikola “LeBron” Popović earlier this morning on their website. The decision to remove LeBron from the lineup came after “a string of unsuccessful performances” from the team, according to the press release.
The furthest that Na’Vi got in a Pro Circuit event with LeBron on board was fourth place at GESC Thailand—a Minor tournament that took place in March. Since then, their results have been very mediocre, with a 12th place finish at Epicenter XL last week being their most recent misstep.
LeBron will be returning to Elements Pro Gaming, the team he last played for in 2016. He was the hard support player for Na’Vi prior to his release from the squad.
As a result of this move, Na’Vi will be forced to play through the TI8 CIS-region open qualifiers. This is due to a rule that states that teams who change their rosters after the roster lock will be ineligible for a direct invite (regardless of how they are positioned in the Pro Circuit leaderboard), as well as for an invite to their region’s respective regular qualifier.
“Next week, we will gather for a short bootcamp in Kyiv, after which we’ll be going to China for a weeklong bootcamp in preparation for the Supermajor,” said team manager Igor “caff” Sydorenko. “Upon the returning from China, we will go back to the training base in Kyiv again, and will be playing TI8 open qualifiers from there.”
Na’Vi is also withdrawing from ESL One Birmingham, a Major event scheduled to take place on May 23. Instead, they will focus their efforts on bootcamping for the China Supermajor, which is scheduled for June.
To replace LeBron, Na’Vi is bringing in Russian support player Fedor “velheor” Rusihin, who last played for fellow CIS-region squad SFTe-sports. Velheor ranks within the top 500 Divine-ranked players in the CIS servers, according to his Dotabuff profile, though his rather bare pro record means that Na’Vi is taking a serious gamble with him.
Nevertheless, we can expect to see them make it through the open qualifiers and into the regional stage without too much difficulty.