Why EG vs Na'Vi Matters
Two familiar faces are fighting for a spot in the Grand Finals of The Defense. Evil Geniuses and Na'Vi are no strangers to each other, often meeting the other late in tournaments. This match is very important for the competitive scene, not only because the winner will earn a spot on the Grand Finals, but because of the history and the rivalry between the players themselves.
On Febuary 26th, EG and Na'Vi will face each other in the Winners Bracket Finals of The Defense. And this game matters a lot, not only because it'll give the winner a place in the Grand Finals. These players have a long history, and a long rivalry.
A quick look into the past of the reveals how long these players have been competing. On Na'Vi's side, we have players that once belonged to Say.Plz, Virtus.Pro, DTS, WolkeR Gaming and Ks.int, to name a few. On EG's side, we have players from coL, MYM, Nirvana International, fnatic and even the first incarnation of EG itself. Just how many times have these guys played against each other with prizes on the line? Think back to the old MYM Pride tournaments, where these players were always fighting for first place. It's hard to recall all the occasions where these players have faced each other with tournament victories on the line, but it's easy to realize that they've been rivals for a long time.
EG and Na'Vi played against each other earlier in The Defense, with EG winning after repelling the push coming from Na'Vi. However, this win doesn't necessarily mean anything for the Winner Bracket Finals. First of all, now there's a lot of money on the line, and more pressure on the players. Mistakes will not cost only towers or barracks, but also money, and this alone is enough to change the atmosphere around the game, leaving both teams in a difficult situation: on one hand, they're always trying to outsmart the other team, trying new things to catch the opponent off guard; on the other hand, it's always risky to run non-standard strategies, and defeat means less money. Additionally, both teams can use a variety of strategies and lineups, making any effort at prediction challenging.
One thing we can say for sure is that both teams will be prepared for it. Recently, EG defeated not only Na'Vi but Quantic with a convincing 2-0 in the second round of the Winners Bracket, with DeMoN back in the team and performing really well. After some bad results in the Infused Cup, Na'Vi is back on track, with beautiful play in The Premier League and other tournaments. Na'Vi loves their 3 minute timing for destroying side lane towers, while EG excels at executing split pushes. None of these teams will base their picks on the metagame: they'll pick whatever they need to win. In the end, I believe that the loser will be whichever team makes the last mistake.
The Defense Winner Bracket Finals have the potential to make a mark on the Dota 2 scene. Lots of tournaments have been played over the better part of the last seven months, and a lot of teams have come and gone. Others have reinvented themselves - nevo, who became monkeybusiness, SK-Gaming, DD and are now Quantic Gaming - and some have become major forces almost overnight. Wild Honey Badgers, now mTw, won DreamHack almost immediately after their foundation, and Natural 9 - now Absolute Legends - and FIRE - now Complexity Gaming - both rose rapidly to the top as well. Finally, a select few have remained relatively stable over this whole period; most notably, Na'Vi.
With the dust from so many changes settling, as fans we're left craving strong rivalries. During The International, all eyes were on Na'Vi and their rivalries with EHOME and MYM. However, with the latter two disbanding soon after, Na'Vi stood alone, though not necessarily unchallenged. Though several other teams tried staking their claim to the top spot - some with success, including aL and mTw - ultimately Na'Vi have remained, if not undefeated, then at least not ever defeated twice with the same tricks.
Then along came Evil Geniuses. Hugely skilled individually and with histories as long as anyone else's, they mostly came from the disbanded MYM and OK.Nirvana squads. They quickly drew comparisons to LeBron James's Heat and the Galacticos of Real Madrid for their tremendous but overlapping talent, noteriety within the scene and possible synergy issues. However, with the additions of Maelk and Lacoste, they overcame initial doubters and began to post great results, especially in The Defense, where they have an 11-2 record.
In a game where metagame dictates the flow of matches, players in matches like these can almost singlehandedly develop new metagames. Remember ArtStyle's Pudge against EHOME in the finals of The International? Not many would have thought of seriously using Pudge in a game like that, but even though it brought Na'Vi's only loss, other teams tried it and had success. Normally, teams pick whatever works best in the current metagame, but this isn't an ordinary series. Teams pick to their strengths and their opponent's weaknesses. It's personal this time, and I can't wait to watch.
EG vs Na'Vi may well be the most intense Dota 2 series we've yet seen. As cool as EHOME vs Na'Vi was, EHOME was never at home playing Dota 2. More than anything else, that's what the game needs right now. The hype surrounding the series and the familiarity of the players will bring fans from everywhere to watch. Hopefully, this series can spark a rivalry for months and years to come, polarizing fans and making the sport more entertaining to cast, watch and play.
Here's some numbers on both teams, based on data collected from the tournaments already played, dating from The International until today.
| Windrunner (10-3)|
Shadow Shaman (7-3)
| Windrunner (11-2)|
Ancient Apparition (12-0)
Vengeful Spirit (10-2)
From their favorites picks, we can see two things: both teams appreciate pushing power and versatility. Both teams have very good records on Windrunner; especially Na'Vi. LightOfHeaven has played it 9 times, winning 8. What really caught my attention is his overall participation with kills and assistances: only .46 (meaning he's scored a kill or assist on 46% of his team's kills). You really need to watch him play to understand this. The Indigo Child plays his Windrunner like he plays Broodmother: he exerts a big pressure on the hard lane and constantly forces the opponent to deal with him, creating openings on the rest of the map, because his opponents can't be in two places at the same time. In a way, LightOfHeaven is Na'Vi's clock; by the time he has Mekansm and Force Staff, Na'Vi is ready for the final push. Both teams have stellar Windrunner players, and both teams can also perform with varying tactics. Of all players, only Maelk has the smallest hero pool, but still he has yet to lose a match with Chen.
Enigma is also a favored pick for both teams, especially for Na'Vi. Puppey's Enigma has always played a decisive role in Na'Vi's games, both by joining the quick pushes to the first tier towers and by landing Black Holes on multiple opponents. Puppey's Enigma is so good that Na'Vi hasn't lost when he handles it; they're 8-0 so far. EG also has great players to handle Enigma: Fear, Lacoste and especially DeMoN (now that he's back on the team) can play a beautiful Enigma.
It's very hard to predict what will happen, and there's no draw option for an easy escape. Both teams are on good form right now and can definitely win this best of three. Because I need to make a prediction, I'll call Na'Vi 2-1 EG, but I wouldn't be surprised if EG pulls a win here. I would only be surprised with any team winning by 2-0.