The fan favorite organization navigated a crowded CIS qualifier field, surviving a treachorous trip through the lower bracket, in order to punch a ticket to Shanghai. They earned their spot with an impressive sweep of Winstrike Team in the grand finals.
The first game was looking like a rough one for Na’Vi. A strong laning phase from Winstrike mid Zaur "Cooman" Shakhmurzaev saw the Russians advance to an early lead. Their excellent wave clear prevented Na’Vi from even touching towers. When the laning phase ended however, Winstrike was uncoordinated and sloppy in both their team fight initiations and disengages. This allowed Na’Vi to bridge the gap and eventually take the game back.
Though Winstrike let game one slip through their fingers, they never actually had a hold on game two. Both teams played slow, gold-focused Dota 2 in the early goings. But with Vladislav "Crystallize" Krystanek on Sven and Idan "MagicaL" Vardanian on Ember Spirit, Winstrike was unable to match Na’Vi’s fast farming potential. That forced Winstrike into fighting, and when they couldn’t come out on top in skirmishes they slid to 0-2 in the series.
Winstrike was in an awkward position, having to reverse sweep their way into TI9. But they looked ready to get that ball rolling in game three as they pulled away to another early lead. But once again, that advantage was squandered. Disorganized team fights from Winstrike and limited tools to deal with MagicaL’s Sniper allowed Na’Vi to even the score and chip away at Winstrike’s structures. Winstrike fell further and further behind and, once Na’Vi took two lanes of barracks, the series was called 3-0.
The series was equal parts impressive work from Natus Vincere and sloppiness from Winstrike.
Natus Vincere entered the qualifiers looking shaky. The team started the season strong and have been up and down in the months since. They survived the group stage with a 4-3 record but were sent to the lower bracket in the first round by Vega Squadron.
Na’Vi seemed to kick into gear once they were on the edge of elimination. They took out Team Empire to stay alive and got revenge on Vega Squadron to advance to the grand finals.
By comparison, Winstrike has struggled with roster issues and poor results throughout the season but the team seemed to hit its stride after adding former Virtus.pro support Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk in May. They performed ably in the qualifier’s group stage but exploded at the start of the playoffs by beating Team Empire and a surging Vega Squadron to advance to the grand finals.
The team was operating at a high level when the grand finals kicked off but the wheels just came off once they were on the brink of heading to TI9.
That said, few fans will mourn for Winstrike.Natus Vincere remains a fan favorite brand in Dota 2, despite falling off in relevance and parting ways with legendary players including Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, and Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi. Longtime supporters will no doubt be excited to see the black and yellow return to The International for the first time since 2016.