SoNNeikO returns to Natus Vincere for TI10 qualifiers

Kenneth Williams • May 29, 06:04

No matter how many times he leaves, Natus Vincere can’t stay away from Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev for long.

On May 25, Na’Vi’s Dota 2 squad emptied out AS Monaco Gambit’s roster for SoNNeikO and Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko. This is the fifth time SoNNeikO has joined Na`Vi. The move comes after a disappointing sixth-place finish in the ESL CIS Dota Pro Circuit League’s upper division. The transfer was finalized ahead of WePlay AniMajor and will allow him to compete for Na’Vi in The International 10 Eastern Europe qualifiers.

SoNNeikO is one of the most experienced captains in Eastern Europe. He first joined Na`Vi as a temporary player in 2015 before the squad was let go after failing to qualify for the Boston Major. He rejoined four days later. SoNNeikO’s captaining prowess is highly valued by Na`Vi, as he’s left the team four times in the past. Career highlights include Na’Vi’s surprise qualification for The International 2019 and Na’Vi’s strong 2016, which was arguably the team’s best year since dropping Clement “Puppey” Ivanov in 2014. 

SoNNeikO is famous for his incredibly quick and precise camera control. It’s an odd skill to specialize in, but it plays a big role in his mobile defensive style. Even an experienced Dota 2 player can feel bewildered watching his player perspective. 

Natus Vincere made the controversial decision to replace off laner Viktor “GeneRaL” Nigrini with Russian super-star Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev in April. The carry-turned-offlaner is known for taking an active role in his team’s leadership. Considering SoNNeikO’s history as a traditional support captain, it will be interesting to see the team’s strategic development.

Natus Vincere’s DPC performance didn’t earn them a slot at the $500,000 WePlay AniMajor. Instead, the CIS region will have Virtus.pro start in the playoffs, Team Spirit debut in the group stage, and AS Monaco Gambit look to fight through the wildcard stage with two stand-ins. 

Na`Vi will compete against a number of other teams in a closed qualifier for The International 10. The event’s $40,018,195 prize pool is the biggest in esports history. The tournament was scheduled to take place in 2020 but was indefinitely postponed along with the rest of the Dota Pro Circuit. The Dota 2 yearly finale will start on August 5 at the Avicii Arena in Stockholm. 

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