Nigma upset by Fighting PandaS at WePlay! Bukovel Minor

Steven R. January 9, 2020

Nigma underwhelmed in its live event debut.

The team led by Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi played its first game in an offline setting since its split from Team Liquid in 2019 at the WePlay! Bukovel Minor. Despite being heavy favorites to win the event, they sustained an upset loss at the hands of Fighting PandaS to open their run at the tournament.

Nigma went with a somewhat strange draft in game one, choosing a lineup almost entirely comprised of high damage and low HP heroes, with no actual tank to speak of.

It worked out brilliantly early. Playing as Lina, Aliwi “w33” Omar absolutely rocked Jonathan "Bryle" Santos De Guia’s Shadow Fiend, killing him three times in the first eight minutes. That made w33 an unstoppable force early, as he was able to comfortably roam around and score kills any time Laguna Blade was off cooldown. All this gave Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi ample room to farm on his Arc Warden.

The late game took an inexplicable turn, though. Miracle- built Scythe of Vyse on Arc Warden while Ivan "MinD_ContRoL" Ivanov built Radiance for his Nature’s Prophet. That itemization made little sense for the direction the game was heading in, and when Fighting PandaS finally started capitalizing on Nigma’s mistakes, it saw Nigma lose two lanes of barracks. Bryle regained his footing and scored a comeback win with help from Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao’s Drow Ranger.

That prompted Fighting PandaS to go back to a Drow Ranger composition in game two, but things didn’t go nearly as well. EternaLEnVy was rocked in the top lane by MinD_ContRoL while Miracle- got off to a strong start. This allowed Nigma to close out the game with little trouble, with the final kill tally standing at a lopsided 39-10.

Nigma went for a shock Clinkz pick for Miracle- in game three. It was a surprise move from the team, and one that drew questions from about the hero’s viability in pro play from the casters.

On the whole, Miracle- did fairly well with the hero thanks to some potent early game harassment. His damage fell off hard in the mid game as Bryle’s Storm Spirit began to take over and Nigma’s theoretical counter to him, Underlord, wasn’t as effective as the team had likely expected.

Bryle transformed into a global threat as the game went on and Fighting PandaS even had a better late game lineup thanks to EternaLEnVy’s Phantom Lancer. As a result, Nigma sputtered en route to a 2-1 series loss.

Nigma’s WePlay! Bukovel Minor loss a cause for concern

Nigma was a massive betting favorite to win the WePlay! Bukovel Minor, standing far ahead of the rest of the pack. That alone would’ve made this outcome a surprise, but it becomes a little bit worrisome after Nigma’s unimpressive showing in the DreamLeague Season 13 major qualifiers.

The team went 4-4 in the group stage, dropping games to unheralded squads in Ad Finem and Team Singularity, and being swept by the new Team Liquid. That was still good enough to advance to the playoffs of the qualifiers, but they were forced into the minor from there after dropping series to Team Liquid and Alliance.

Though Nigma is still regarded as an elite team, they continue to fall short of that expectation against strong competition.

This doesn’t knock Nigma out of the WePlay! Bukovel Minor, but they now find themselves in a do-or-die elimination series. They will face the loser of Gambit Esports vs. Furia Esports.