The runners-up from The International 2019 sealed up a first-place finish at the tournament with a 3-1 victory over Royal Never Give Up. This gives the team $72,000, 140 Dota Pro Circuit qualifying points, and a spot in the DreamLeague Season 13 major.
The series was a strong showing from Nigma, but was an arduous affair.
Royal Never Give Up was a force early in game one, scoring kills on Nigma and putting Nigma on its back foot early. Nigma rebounded from that deficit with a wild play by Aliwi “w33” Omar on Huskar and Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi on Abaddon, which saw Nigma turn what should have been a clean gank into a triple kill in the opposite direction.
That allowed Nigma to leverage Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi’s Alchemist and amass a net worth advantage, but that didn’t last long. Royal Never Give Up had an incredible amount of crowd control and catch, with Outworld Devourer, Centaur Warrunner, Shadow Demon, and Treant Protector. Nigma had very little by comparison, which allowed RNG to break off from any team fight they didn’t like and chase down Nigma if they were feeling confident.
RNG managed to close the net worth gap and take over the game. When Nigma went all-in on a team fight around the top outpost to try and regain the momentum, RNG handled it with ease and took the opening game from there.
Nigma went back to some of their comfort picks for game two, locking in heroes that they’ve thrived with during the WePlay! Bukovel Minor. Maroun “GH” Merhej played his signature Earthshaker, w33 went to Windranger, and Miracle- picked up Phantom Lancer.
Their familiarity and strength with the heroes was immediately apparent as Nigma racked up kills during the early game. That didn’t actually translate into a gold lead however. Numerous skirmishes in the mid game break even, which gave way to RNG’s cores peaking.
Nigma ended up taking Roshan and looked to close out the game, only for RNG to hold high ground and push back. This allowed RNG to push and take out two lanes of barracks, but Nigma stayed resilient and eventually forced them back. Nigma roared back themselves soon after, taking a significant chunk of the Chinese squad’s base and forcing something of a prolonged stalemate.
Nigma controlled much of the field, enjoying outpost XP boosts and Roshan, but RNG protected their Ancient even against mega creeps. The top-tier neutral items eventually started spawning and Nigma went for the killing blow. Buybacks flowed in but Nigma found the kills and w33 found the opportunity to attack the RNG Ancient to even the series.
Game three started off quite similar to game two with Nigma finding loads of early kills but Royal Never Give Up finding strong farm in spite of it. This time, Nigma managed to take control in the mid game. Though the initial battles were competitive, Miracle- once again flexed with Phantom Lancer, finding an early Diffusal Blade and using it to drain away the mana of Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong’s Storm Spirit.
Though Royal Never Give Up had demonstrated strong high ground defense throughout the tournament, Nigma had little trouble sealing up the game and moving to match point.
Game four saw momentum swing hard in the other direction. While the early game was fairly even, RNG exploded in the mid game around an early radiance on Du “Monet” Peng’s Spectre. Nigma quickly found themselves bottled up in their base.
RNG grew up their gold lead and sieged high ground, but had to fight for every inch under Miracle-’s Drow Ranger. They took out two lanes of barracks, but Nigma initiated a team fight that forced out multiple buybacks. Despite being 40,000 gold behind at one point, Nigma suddenly had a win condition. They charged down the mid lane, quickly took down RNG’s tier-four towers, and ended up bursting down the ancient to steal away the victory, sealing up the series 3-1.
Nigma won the WePlay! Bukovel Minor, but didn’t necessarily overwhelm their opponents. Every single series saw them struggle on some level, even in victory. That makes it hard to feel especially confident as Nigma heads to the DreamLeague Season 13 major, where they will face even tougher competition including the likes of Evil Geniuses, Team Secret, and TNC Predator.
That said, the ability to overcome adversity is one of this team’s biggest strengths. Their second-place performance at The International 2019 wasn’t all that different from their showing in Bukovel. They might be in for a tough journey in Leipzig, but they tend to look best when they’re on a rocky road.
An early exit feels like a real possibility for Nigma, but so does a run to the championship.
DreamLeague Season 13 is set to kick off on January 18.