The first edition of Starladder i-League Dota 2 Invitational told the story of great comebacks and fresh restarts at the same time.
Both finalists in Kiev, Ukraine had a spectacular run throughout the tournament, with Na’Vi reaching the finals stage undefeated while Vici Gaming Reborn was forced to play their first ever LAN event with their coach as a stand in.
With the first draft of the best-of-five grand finals series Vici Gaming Reborn focused their bans on comfortable picks for Na’Vi which forced the Ukrainians to go with a bit of a creative hero lineup that emphasized the early to midgame potential.
A draft that worked like an charm for Na’Vi who scored the first two kills in VG.R’s safe lane courtesy of Ivan ‘Artstyle’ Antonov’s Enchantress and her Troll and Centaur combo. Continuously ganking Tong ‘Mikasa’ Junjie’s Queen of Pain and Yang ‘zyf/END’ Pu’s Gyrocopter, Artstyle snowballed through the laning phase and completed a Dragon Lance at the nine minute mark.
On the back of their great start, Na’Vi were able to group up and make the most out of their pushing draft and took tower after tower, but their momentum was suddenly shut down with a completely missed Chronosphere from Victor ‘GeneRaL’ Nigrini near the Roshan Pit, 26 minutes into the game. That mistake alone allowed VG.R to quickly kill the Faceless Void and Earth Spirit to safely claim the Aegis for themselves.
With the transition into a mid-late game scenario, Na’Vi’s dominance started to fade away and their only hope for superiority in team fights was a perfect Chrono. As the miraculous Cronospheres didn’t happen, Na’Vi had to rely on Danil ‘Dendi’ Ishutin’s skill to outplay and outlast his opponents until two lanes of Na’Vi’s barracks were gone.
Around the 50 minute mark VG.R went for a final push with an expiring Aegis on Gyrocopter, managing to force three buybacks from Na’Vi.
Despite having both Nature’s Prophet and Earth Spirit to defend their base, zyf/END felt confident enough with his Satanic and Aegis to take down the tier four towers alone. He overextended the push to the point where Dmitry Ditya Ra Minenkov simply kited him in the base using the sprout on cooldown until the Aegis expired, which coincided with the entire Na’Vi squad respawning.
The last few minutes of the game were a full display of force and determination. With the full support from their hometown crowd, Na’Vi composed themselves and made an incredible last effort to wipe out the Vici Gaming Reborn which started with a brilliant three men Chronosphere in the midlane. Right after the kills were drawn, both Dendi and Ditya Ra made all in purchases of Refresher Orb and Aghanim’s Scepter respectively, going straight for VG.R’s throne.
You take a game from us, we will take two from you
The ingenious drafting of Natus Vincere hit the next level with the second game of the series when they choose to go with both Puck and Invoker with hopes for a better control of teamfights. But as they went with yet another push-oriented lineup, Vici Gaming Reborn answered with a push lineup of their own featuring Chen, Lone Druid, and Windranger.
Despite VG.R’s extremely behind Chen, and the same explosive start that supports Artstyle-SoNNeikO usually deliver, zyf/END found three solo kills in the top lane at the seven minute mark and was able to start joining teamfights. The game drastically turned in the favor of the Chinese, and with continuous Roshan control, VG.R equalized the game score in a dominant manner.
The same story happened with the third game. Na’Vi went back to Faceless Void and were allowed to first-pick the Artsyle Chen. Early aggression and early push were emphasized, without the use of any other strong lock down spells.
Given Vici Gaming Reborn’s more flexible lineup, the game was extremely intense with a lot of action happening all over the map. Each team fought for an advantage on the back of repeated pickoffs. The difference was made by fy’s Bounty Hunter and the Track kills along with the much better overall teamfight setup that VG.R was able to create. Na’Vi was forced to play a do or die last game in front of their fans.
With their backs against the wall, Na’Vi drafted a line-up with strong lock downs and control spells for the first time in the series along with the late game option of Gyrocopter for Ditya Ra. But their Flaming Lasso into Gyro’s ultimate combo was negated with a last pick Night Stalker for Yang.
Again Na’Vi benefitted from a very good start in spite of Dendi’s death by gank in the first night cycle. A ten minute Blink Dagger for Batrider came with a hefty number of pickoffs for Na’Vi, most of them happening on Mikasa’s trailing Puck.
Playing on the Dire side of the map for the fourth time, VG.R played an objective-based Dota on the Roshan spawns and refused to take any big fights without a secured Aegis.
At the 27 minute mark they made the first high ground attempt with Juggernaut in the front lines, but Na’Vi was able to mimic the incredible defense from game one and wiped out the entire Chinese team. Determined not to repeat the same mistakes from previous games, both teams taunted each other from time to time without fully committing.
Around 43 minutes into the game, VG.R went with the entire team to catch Na’Vi in their jungle, but without proper vision they initiated on the first hero found. Dendi’s Queen of Pain was able to survive and turn around the fight with a four man Sonic Wave. Vici Gaming was again wiped out, and Na’Vi claimed the Aegis-Cheese Roshan kill for themselves.
Determined to end the game there, Ditya Re bought a Divine Rapier and marched with his team to demolish the enemy base, but he activated his Satanic while being initiated and lost his life twice, serving the Rapier to an already overfarmed Juggernaut. Ten minutes later Na’Vi was defending against mega creeps and had to make the GG call.