I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay up til 8am watching Dota. My mind was willing, but my body is weak and frail and far too pale to surrender sleep to the day. And so I’ve been relegated to watching replays, like some sort of plebeian. Regardless, this is it, the game that we’ve spent the last week looking forward to. The last year, really. Natus Vincere against Invictus Gaming.
And yes, that is a bit of deja vu you’re feeling. They’ve already played one another, and Na’Vi gave pulled out all the stops to show them exactly why you shouldn’t pick Naga Siren against them. A sublime Juggernaut ruined their day, and send iG down into the Loser’s Bracket, where they had to dispatch of DK, and then LGD, before getting another shot at last year’s Champions.
Watch the matches here. Or read the words. Read the words. They’re below.
Na’Vi had the energy advantage here. Despite throwing everything they had at LGD, they’ve still had four hours to relax, get in the zone, and rejuvenate themselves like an ailing hero stumbling upon a regeneration rune. (Bit of Dota simile for you there). iG, on the other hand, have just had to slog through LGD for three hours, and heading into the booths, they looked businesslike, and poised. A certain world weariness, but certainly not looking exhausted. Focused.
The picks in the first game, on the other hand, were all over the shop. iG went with Leshrac, Broodmother, Rubick, Nightstalker and Templar Assassin, aiming to dominate the mid game while Ferrarri’s TA farmed up.
Na’Vi responded with Chen, Queen of Pain, Dark Seer, Shadow Shaman and, with a bit of tongue in cheek humour, Naga Siren. As if to tell the Chinese team that while they don’t fear her, they know how to use her, and after Xboct did so phenomenally well with a whole range of carries, from Juggernaut to Faceless Void, it didn’t seem like an empty boast.
And, for everything that happened in the match, it wasn’t. Xboct outfarmed anyone in the game, getting last hits and kills where there just didn’t seem to be anything. The only problem was the rest of his team faded behind him, while iG only seemed to get stronger and more coherent. After an early first blood for Templar Assassin, the wheels on the massive steamroller of iG’s game started to turn, speeding up more and more over the half an hour.
Then a teamfight went their way. Then another. And Na’Vi were on the ropes, grouping up together to push towers, grouping up together to jungle. It was a defensive tactic, but they were on the back foot, unable to flourish, and close the gap in Xp and gold. So when iG came for blood, pushing down Tier 2 towers before assaulting the base, they were focused down one by one, Templar Assassin tearing through them with a Desolator.
GG. Na’Vi concede the first game, and get straight back into it. It’s a best of five, so they’ve got another two chances, at least.
Game two. Na’Vi go for Dark Seer, Chen, Naga Siren, Leshrac and Dragon Knight, putting Dendi on that last, to the dismayed cries of a crowd that so desperately wants to see him play Pudge. iG go for Templar Assassin, Night Stalker, Broodmother, Lina and Rubick, rounding out the slightly warped mirror image of the previous game. But for one hero on each side, it’s exactly the same lineup.
And what a difference two heroes can make. Zhao on Broodmother heads top, and gets punished for it over and over again, with Naga Siren and Leshrac grabbing first blood, then second, and third, netting Siren a killing spree before five minutes. Templar Assassin manages to get a single gank on Dragon Knight when Rubick and Lina smoke up and come in, but that’s about the extent of her easy ride in this game.
With Xboct on Naga Siren, Na’Vi were in a position early on in the game to get the combo they tried so desperately to get off last game in play, where Naga would put the enemy team to sleep while Dark Seer vacuumed them into a nice cluster for all the high damage low area of effect spells to hit everyone at once. Again and again iG’s team was melted by Dragon Knight’s flame breath, then Leshrac’s Split Earth, leaving them desolated.
Eighteen minutes in, Na’Vi took one, then two sets of barracks, and iG threw out GGs, knowing that they’d miscalled this one. It was time to mix things up.
So they went for Enigma, to dominate their teamfight. They went with Dark Seer, so set up the Black Holes with Vacuum. They went for Queen of Pain to be a strong mid laner, and Lone Druid as their heavy carry. As for Support? Well, that’ll be Disruptor, thank you very much. Just what the Doctor ordered.
Na’Vi responded with, again, Naga Siren and Dragon Knight, apparently convinced that the constant defeat she faced at the hands of both Chinese powerhouses wouldn’t trip them up. Then there’s Nature’s Prophet, Shadow Shaman and Rubick.
From the start, this was a different game. Slower, more considered. Both teams playing conservatively, knowing that going in all guns blazing would determine the winner quickly, but it would leave more up to quick reflexes than grand strategy. It’s the kind of game that favours Na’Vi, but they seemed content enough to avoid it for the moment, aiming to farm rather than gank.
But Lone Druid was playing a sublime game, sitting happily on top lane to farm while his bear went down to bottom to interfere with Shadow Shaman and Naga Siren, making sure they couldn’t have an easy time of it. And Disruptor was playing a hilarious strategy, glimpsing anyone who TPed in to help defend, and generally living up to his name.
Na’Vi were never out of it, though, and they fought incredibly hard to make sure that iG never got a solid gold and experience advantage. Twenty minutes in and things were neck and neck, both teams pushing towers, both teams coming out bloodied but not down in team fights. In the end, it was the Lone Druid that turned it, with his bear forcing Na’Vi to focus it down, only for it to be resummoned and heading in after Na’Vi had blown all their strongest spells.
Throw in a Vacuum, and then a Black Hole, and Na’Vi were forced into their own base to defend, bleeding out from a fatal blow that they never recovered from. Forty minutes and they GGed, leaving iG one win away from a million dollars, and themselves with an uphill struggle ahead of them.
iG know what works, and they know their heroes well. Tidehunter, Naga Siren, Templar Assassin, Dark Seer and Keeper of the Light are their picks, looking eerily like that set of picks that turned the tide against them during the Semi-Finals.
And, to that end, Na’Vi go for Rubick, and Juggernaut, and Leshrac, and Nyx Assassin, with Lone Druid as their carry. Enigma was banned outright by iG, showing they’ve learnt from their mistakes, but that Juggernaut pick was still key to Na’Vi’s victory on Saturday.
The game starts, and it starts out relatively slowly, again, with iG and Na’Vi focusing more on farming than they are on kills, and while Keeper of the Light does a great job of making a nuisance of himself with Illuminate, Xboct’s Juggernaut is a farming machine, keeping pace with Naga Siren and keeping Na’Vi well and truly in the game.
Only iG start to creep ahead, getting the farm and the kills they needed, and widening the gap between the two teams. It’s not until the ten minute mark when they stumble, losing a teamfight and giving Na’Vi a foot in the door to stay in the game.
And, for a little while, they stayed in it, keeping iG on their toes and forcing them to duke and feint, never really engaging. But it was tiring out an already drained Na’Vi team, having thrown everything they had at first iG in the Semi Finals, before LGD in the Upper Bracket Finals. These are the best of the best, and Na’Vi had pulled every strategy they could think of to counter the incredibly strong Chinese game.
But iG knew those strategies now, and they knew how to counter them. Every time a teamfight started, Rubick was dead before he hit the ground from Ravage, neutralising that return Ravage from Spell Steal. Without that massive AoE, Na’Vi’s team crumbled, with both the kill gap and the experience and gold gaps rapidly increasing, until Na’Vi could do nothing but desperately defend.
It wasn’t going to be an easy GG, and they’d make iG fight hard for it, but by the half an hour mark, things started to have a sense of inevitability about them. iG were just too strong, and too far ahead, and after two successive teamfights in their base going the way of iG, there was nothing to do but bow out gracefully and take their $250,000.
iG, though? They get four times that. A million dollars to take home with them, as well as the Tournament title. Congratulations, iG, you’re this year’s winners of the International.
It’s been a pretty incredibly weekend, but there were definitely some highlights. And not all of them involved Na’Vi. Zenith vs CoL, as well as EG vs iG pop to mind immediately, but everyone’s got favourites. With so much Dota, I even missed some games, especially in the Loser’s Bracket. Any highlights? Let us know in the comments.
But that’s it for this year’s International. See you next year.
I'm going to go lie down now.