Na`Vi comeback in Star Series VII opener
The first series of the StarLadder Star Series VII LAN Finals opened up the competition with back and forth fighting and high levels of play, as Team Empire put Na`Vi to the test over the course of a full three games.
While Empire stunned and delighted with their high level of play in the first game of the series, in the end it was Na`Vi who showed off exactly why they are considered the favorites for this particular LAN event, earning themselves a spot in the winner bracket finals, which will be played on Saturday, as well as guaranteeing themselves at least a third place finish.
Meanwhile Empire is now only one series away from elimination, as they drop down into the lower bracket. They'll play again tomorrow after the other first round match between Alliance and RoX.KIS, which will kick off at 12:00 CEST.
The first game of the series kicked off with the teams going into slightly unconventional lanes, as Empire put their Abaddon and Luna on the bottom lane against Na`Vi's Dark Seer, while Na`Vi lined up Nyx Assassin and Weaver against Doom and Crystal Maiden, leaving Enigma in their own jungle and letting Batrider and Elder Titan duke it out at mid.
The lanes worked out well for Empire at the start, with all three main heroes finding good farm as well as ALWAYSWANNAFLY on the Crystal Maiden finding the first blood at just shy of 5 minutes against XBOCT's Weaver. Na`Vi retaliated soon after on the bottom lane with a rotation that connected in order to kill Luna, which opened it up for Doom to get a second kill on XBOCT up top. This lead to back and forth trading, with Empire keeping slightly ahead, opening up a 6-3 lead by 11 minutes, along with having the top 3 net worth heroes.
While Empire kept on widening their lead, following up their three Tier 1 Tower pick offs with the first Tier 2 tower of the game at the 18 minute mark, Na`Vi was yet to destroy a single one. In addition, the Ukrainian team was going for the questionable decision of completing most of what was a secondary Mekansm on the Dark Seer after Enigma already had his done. By the 20 minute mark Empire got themselves an Aegis for Luna and went down pushing the bottom lane, taking their second Tier 2 and making it 12-4 in kills, with Na`Vi in a lot of trouble.
At 25 minutes Empire took out the middle Tier 3 Tower and began their siege of the Barracks, claiming 7 kills over the next minute and a half and forcing Na`Vi to expend several buybacks before they were able to force the enemy out, after a big Black Hole from Puppey, barely getting Empire low enough for the rest of the Na`Vi squad to finish them off at a heavy cost, but still holding on to their Barracks.
This was of little comfort, and even Kuroky sniping the Dire courier with a Gem on it a minute later didn't help to offset the fact that Empire just walked right up the high ground and claimed the Barracks they had left behind in their previous engagement, following it up with giving Silent a second Aegis for his Luna, leading to Empire lining up at the top lane at 33 minutes in, looking to end the game.
The one hope of Na`Vi was the recently picked up Blink Dagger from Puppey. As Dendi jumped in and drew the attention of Empire, Funn1k kept them in place long enough for Puppey to engage and drop the Black Hole, catching most of the Empire squad but missing out on Silent, who was able to interrupt the channeling and turn things around in the face of Na`Vi, who no longer had the means to stand up against the Dire forces, looking on as yet another set of Barracks fell, making it 24-10 as the focus shifted to the bottom lane.
37 minutes in Na`Vi made a final desperate attempt to engage onto Empire but to no avail, as they threw their bodies against the unyielding rock, going 0-4 before calling the 'GG', giving Empire the lead in the series.
For the second game of the series both teams fell back on more conventional laning, which caused a lot of attention from both supports and offlaners going towards the mid match-up, where Dendi on the Troll Warlord was able to slowly edge out Scandal's Elder Titan, while XBOCT's early Hand of Midas on Lifestealer allowed him to slowly get ahead of Silent's Spectre. Transitioning into the first tower push for Na`Vi at 9 minutes in, the Ukrainians took the lead in the economic war.
But all it took was a slight overextension from the Vengeful Spirit to allow Spectre to Haunt in and claim the first blood of the game at around 11 minutes, which set him on the path to a 12 minute Sacred Relic, only to give up a Track kill to the Na`Vi gank, delaying him ever so slightly.
By 15 minutes Na`Vi went for the first Roshan of the game, getting it without much contention, and gave it to the Lifestealer who was heading up the farm by a considerable margin. He held a steady one and a half times the net worth of Spectre and Troll Warlord, who were neck and neck in second and third place.
As the final Tier 1 Towers fell on either side of the map at 22 minutes, Na`Vi took the kill lead to 6-4, only to have Empire pressure up the top lane a moment later. They evened out the kills again while the Mag on the Nature's Prophet slowly caught up with the Troll and Spectre, but to the chagrin of Empire XBOCT kept on getting further ahead, finishing off his Abyssal Blade and the Assault Cuirass by 25 minutes, along with Dendi picking up an Aegis for himself.
This caused Na`Vi to force the high ground at the bottom lane, claiming the Tier 3 after using the Vengeful Swap to kill off the Rubick, only to have Elder Titan and Spectre come in and turn the fight around, claiming four kills as both the Troll and Lifestealer melted at a moments notice. However what Empire gained Na`Vi took back a few minutes later at the mid lane. With Dendi picking up a triple kill and making it 15-11, backing off for a bit before engaging again, claiming the middle Barracks and half of the bottom set before being forced out, Na`Vi make it 18-15 in their favor as they opened up a 20,000 gold lead.
Na`Vi came back soon after at 35 minutes for the final push of the game, destroying all opposition and claiming a further six kills without giving up a single life of their own, forcing a deciding third game.
Na`Vi started out with Funn1k using Firefly in order to clear the trees up between the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Dire Towers, denying the enemy Clockwerk the use the jungle trap to ensure that they got the edge early on between the offlaners as the Batrider headed into his own jungle, splitting it with the Enchantress.
While Empire managed to find the first blood at just shy of 6 minutes in on the Batrider, Funn1k made up for it soon after claiming two kills at mid and helping Na`Vi claim the Dire courier. At the tail end of the fight the Viper bought back, returning to the fight just in time to get a kill on the Razor with the help of the Cogs, making it 2-2.
The big concern for Empire was once again the farm of XBOCT, who hit 10,000 net worth at 14 minutes in, nearly doubling up Silent's Troll Warlord even after Empire claimed the games first Roshan kill. By the 16 minutes mark XBOCT completed his Assault Cuirass, while they still lacked the Mekansm in order to truly start the tower pushing. They were behind on map control, one tower to the four that Empire had killed.
With the strength of the Alchemist Na`Vi were able to split up the map and fight on both top and bottom lane, coming out on top of both fights at 20 minutes in, going up 11-5 in kills by the time they returned to their own side of the river, having made good use of the openings the kills afforded them by picking off all outer towers of Empire.
By 25 minutes Empire tried to contest Na`Vi in the Roshan pit, with once again the Flaming Lasso pulling Clockwerk out of position and allowing Na`Vi to pick off enemy heroes like lambs to the slaughter, going 5-1 and forcing out the 'GG' call.