Steven R. January 11, 2020
Nigma weren’t in peak form in the WePlay! Bukovel Minor group stage, but they were still good enough to lock up a spot in the playoffs.
The ex-Team Liquid squad finished the group stage with a 2-1 record. After dropping their first game at the event to Fighting PandaS, Nigma rebounded with a win over Furia Esports. They advanced to the next stage of the event by taking a 2-1 win in a rematch against Fighting PandaS.
The elimination series was in many ways defined by the double-edged sword of Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao at the lead of the Fighting PandaS. All five players on the team are proven talents, with many members playing as captains or serving as coaches in the past. Despite that savviness, the team occasionally has a lack of coordination that can be disastrous.
Game one saw this manifest in the form of a devastating throw. Despite owning a significant gold lead through 30 minutes, the team ended up getting wiped with no buybacks available. This started a string of events that ultimately cost the team the game.
Game two initially looked to be heading in the same direction. Flying PandaS found themselves with an advantage over Nigma, but found their backs against the wall thanks to their effortless wave clear and ability to constantly push around Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi’s Terrorblade.
A measured and patient high ground defense from Fighting PandaS eventually allowed them to keep their base intact. Nigma went for the killing blow, but a single mistake in the form of an ineffectual WInter’s Curse from Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi resulted in a team fight loss that allowed Fighting PandaS to steal the win.
Fighting PandaS fell behind early in game and quickly ended up in survival mode. Once again, Nigma struggled to get through Fighting PandaS’ high ground defense as the Canadian squad pinned its hopes on Jingjun "Sneyking" Wu’s Legion Commander.
They dragged it out for nearly an hour but never really got into a position to take the game back. Nigma controlled the map, built up the farm advantage, and locked things down to secure the 2-1 win.
Nigma face uphill battle in WePlay! Bukovel Minor
Nigma entered the WePlay! Bukovel Minor as huge betting favorites, but they haven’t really lived up to those expectations at the event thus far. They struggled mightily against Fighting PandaS in both series and didn’t post the kind of emphatic victory one would expect of an International grand finalist against an unheralded South American squad.
They’ve had a very hard road to this point in the WePlay! Bukovel Minor and things aren’t getting any easier from here. Nigma’s first matchup in the playoffs will come against Royal Never Give Up. The Chinese competitor has an excellent lineup and looked scarily good against Geek Fam and Team Spirit, beating the two teams 2-0 in just 97 minutes of total game time.
Nigma will need to return to peak form if they want to advance in the tournament. They’ll have a bit of a safety net with the double-elimination format, but there are no easy outs remaining.