Since winning the very first Dota 2 International tournament, which had a then-unbelievable $1.6 million prize pool, Ukrainian eSports team Natus Vincere (or Na'Vi), as they're known, haven't had the best years. They came in second the following year, but have never risen to true success since then, and 2016/17 have been no different.
Their most recent blunder came when they failed to qualify for the 2017 Dota 2 Asia Championships. For context, Na'Vi also failed to qualify for last fall's Boston Major tournament, which had a $3 million prize pool and a ton of prestige behind it. While a lot of people point to something like the supposed "International Curse," if that's the case, this curse has certainly lasted a disproportionate amount of time for the once-beloved team.
I think, in the bottom of our hearts, Dota 2 fans still think of Na'Vi as a favorite. We want them to do good, buy they've also been making it hard to root for them. Their new roster obtained after fallout from the Boston Major qualifiers was supposed to imbue new life and hope into Na'Vi, but another disappointing showing has us wondering if or when we'll see Na'Vi back to true form.
What might be their biggest and best opportunity, though, is right around the corner at the Kiev Major. Taking place in Kiev, Ukraine, this major is Na'Vi's first huge "home event," as the team pointed out on their website.
It's a strange phenomenon in any competitive environment, be it sports or eSports: sometimes the stars align at just the right time. Qualifying for the Kiev major is a must, but performing well while they're there is another issue entirely. While a qualification and a decent performance (perhaps actually in the money this time) will likely be enough to keep the team's morale and buy Na'Vi some more time, they could really make a much bigger statement.
Imagine it: Na'Vi, a team whose best days everyone says are behind them, pulls out a huge win or maybe narrow defeat at a major tournament held on their home turf. It would instantly propel Na'Vi to a household name once more and set them up for even stronger performances at subsequent tournaments this year.
A failure to qualify, as has been par for Na'Vi's course, on a big stage at their home turf will lead to more talks of the Dota 2 team disbanding, and, this time, they might be true.
There will, of course, be tournaments after the Kiev Major – more Majors and The International, to name a few – but if Na'Vi really wants people to pay attention again, it's the only tournament that matters.