Perhaps the best-loved Dota team in the world disbanded this month, with the squad saying goodbye to Andrew “PSM” Dunaev and long time member Oleksandr “XBOCT” Dashkevych. While many have been mostly disappointed by the team since former captain Clement "Puppey" Ivanov and long-time player Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi left in order to form Team Secret after TI3, it’s still something of a shock to see the band breaking up, so to speak, and got us fondly remembering their greatest moments.
Having been involved with Dota 2 right from the start, the Na'Vi Dota 2 squad, across its many rosters, has always maintained a large fanbase who have enjoyed many highs, along with quite a few lows. So as this new page opens in the Na'Vi history books, we take a look back at the team's most impressive and memorable moments.
1. Winning the first four StarLadder events
Throughout 2012 Na'Vi were arguably the strongest team in the west. They had consistent top-three placings in top tier tournaments and managed to win the first four StarLadder StarSeries events. No team has ever managed the same feat, or even come close to winning four of the same premier events in a row. The victories not only show how consistent the Na'Vi squad once was, but looking closer at the results it shows just how good they are on LAN.
Across many of the early StarLadders they had average results during the online stage, sometimes only just making it to the LAN, but once the offline finals began they turned it up a notch and always looked dominant. While they were eventually dethroned in season five, a run of four successive victories is an incredible feat and one that is unlikely to be matched any time soon.
2. Fountain Hooks at The International 3
Pulling out a pocket strategy in a professional Dota match is always risky, but doing it in the upper bracket semi-final of the biggest ever Dota tournament at the time is what some would call crazy. But that’s exactly what Na'Vi did at The International 3, when they faced TongFu by using the now patched-out fountain hook technique.
Drafting both Chen and Danil "Dendi" Ishutin’s signature Pudge, the squad used an exploit that would send both Pudge and any opponent that he hit with his Meat Hook ability back to the Radiant fountain, thanks to Chen’s ability to send allies back to base. This strategy netted Na'Vi a tonne of kills in this key match and eventually saw them come out on top, dumping TongFu into the lower bracket.
The strategy has since gone down in history as one of the most memorable International moments. If you ever mention fountain-hooking to any Dota fan, they will instantly think back to that game. It’s the Cruyff Turn of eSports. The sheer confidence of the Na'Vi team to pull it out in such an important match combined with the comedy aspect of seeing heroes yanked from one side of the map to the other, knowing their death is inevitable, make this one of the best Dota moments of all time, let alone one of Na'Vi’s best.
3. The Play
While fountain-hooking was a well thought out and executed strategy, The Play shows just how good the Na'Vi roster at the time was mechanically. It may have since been overshadowed by the million-dollar dream coil and the six-million dollar echo slam, but The Play was the original game-winning play on the biggest stage of them all.
Facing off against Invictus Gaming at The International 2, Na'Vi grouped up to push the bottom tier two tower. Aware of their movement, IG smoked up to attack from behind and initiated with Naga’s Song of the Siren ability. At this point things look dire for Na'Vi, but as the song ends Dmitriy "LighTofHeaveN" Kupriyanov hits a four-man black hole as Dendi steals Ravage with his Rubic and uses the spell against IG to take out four of them. A quick chase later and Wong "ChuaN" Hock Chuan falls on his Lina – Na'Vi have successfully wiped out IG after being in what looked like an unwinnable position. One for the history ebooks.
4. The International 3 Final
The International 3 was an entertaining tournament for Na'Vi fans to say the least. Not only did we get to see fountain hooks and more than a few games where Dendi played Pudge, but we also saw Na'Vi face off against Alliance, in what is generally considered to be the best TI final ever.
Unfortunately for Na'Vi fans the million-dollar dream coil prevented them from becoming the first ever two-time International champions, but what we did get to see was some incredible Dota between what were clearly the two best teams in the world at that time. Not only that but it was incredibly close: with a few small differences Na'Vi could have come out on top, after giving what was arguably the performance of their lives. For many die-hard Na'Vi fans it will always be a reminder of what could have been, and ultimately a disappointment, but for the majority of fans it remains one of the best Dota 2 matches in history and by far the best TI final ever.
5. Winning TI1
Just 25 players can claim to have won The International, but back when that number was only five, all of them played for Na'Vi, after the organisation won the inaugural Dota 2 competition at Gamescom in 2011.
Winning TI is an impressive feat in and of itself, but to win the first, with the game not even being easily available yet, was incredibly impressive. At the time eSports was still growing and the age of the MOBA was in its infancy, but Na'Vi came in, just weeks after getting access to the beta, and blew everyone else out of the water. They not only cemented themselves as the best Dota team in the world, but also brought eSports to a whole new audience thanks to the massive (for the time) prize pool and the fact they did it at Gamescom.
Time has since made their achievement look slightly less impressive, but it is still the crowning glory of the Na'Vi Dota 2 squad, easily their most important achievement, and is something that can never be taken from them.