After releasing SoNNeikO from their roster in the last minute, it seemed like the drama would never end. It did though, just hours before the roster lock deadline for the Dota 2 Pro Circuit.
The Ukrainian fan favourite replaced their captain, Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev with a Serbian hard support player Nikola “LeBronDota” Popović. SoNNeikO was released due to ‘unresolvable internal conflicts’ just days before the roster lockout. This was the second time he was part of the team, and apparently things haven’t changed and the management wasn’t satisfied with the interpersonal relations in the roster. Most experts and fans didn’t expect LeBronDota to enter the team, and speculated that the team will remain CIS-only for the foreseeable future. The team spotted him while playing in the semi-public FPL league.
This is LeBronDota’s first break into top tier teams. He has no A-team experience, having placed for Team Doggie, Double Dimension, Elements Pro Gaming and Spider Pigzs, with whom he won the ProDotA Cup Europe #6 in 2016. Since then, he has participated in various minors and qualifiers, but was unable to break into the top competition level, until now. The 29 year old hard support has a lot of potential that Na’Vi spotted and will try to utilize. In a sense, it is a heart-warming story as Nikola reported that Na’Vi was the team that motivated him to begin playing esports games in the first place. If he manages to prove himself, it might be a dream come true.
Earlier this month, the team also exchanged players with Virtus.pro, by swapping Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan for Virtus.pro’s Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk. Lil has stated on several occasions that playing for Na’Vi has been a longstanding dream of his. In the transfer, Na’Vi also got 900 points that belong to Lil, which bumped Na’Vi up to 5
The final roster therefore consists of four Ukrainians – Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek, Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini, Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk and one Serbian player, Nikola “LeBronDota” Popović.
The team is expected to begin with its training efforts in their Kyiv bootcamp where they will prepare for the Asia Championships qualifiers. LeBronDota will debut right after the ESL Katowice tournament held on 20 February. Serious results are expected from the team that has been in a slog lately, winning only a single Major for $65,000 in the entire 2017 (Adrenaline Cyber League). The team also failed to qualify for The International 2017, ending up fifth placed in the CIS qualifier round robin stage, without even advancing to the play-offs. They are obviously out to change that, so we can only wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours. Who knows, we might soon return to the distant glory days of 2011-2013 when they reached the finals for three consecutive years.