Hands up if you ever thought you’d ever see Ilya ‘Lil‘ Ilyuk be a part of the Natus Vincere Dota 2 roster? Most people would’ve never imagined Lil to ever don the black and yellow. Not when he has expressed his dislike for Natus Vincere so many times before. Especially not when Virtus Pro seemed to be doing okay — they’ve won two Pro Circuit tournaments so far, which has propelled them to the Top 3 of the season leaderboards for much of the season. But, that’s exactly what happened, and we’re now left to wonder, why?
At first glance, the trade truly doesn’t make sense. However, if you take some time to think about it, you’ll eventually see why this trade makes sense for the betterment of the Natus Vincere Dota 2 roster and that of Virtus Pro’s.
Natus Vincere Gets a Battle-Hardened Captain
No offence to Akbar ‘SoNNeikO‘ Butaev, because he was a good captain; very rarely do you find someone who’s relatively inexperienced as a captain and drafter taking the reigns of a team as experienced as Natus Vincere and guiding them to a berth at The International 6. Unfortunately, since returning to Natus Vincere in the middle of 2017 and reassuming the role of captain once Per Anders Olsson ‘Pajkatt‘ Lille left along with Malthe ‘Biver‘ Winther, SoNNeikO has been underwhelming, to say the least.
Maybe it was the shift to the position 5? Lest we forget, SoNNeikO did first make a name for himself as a position 4 player. Either way, his replacement, Lil, isn’t exactly the most experienced captain — the last time he captained a team was with Polarity, which didn’t really amount to anything — but he is a battle-hardened Dota 2 player who has played under some of the best captains in the CIS region in Alexei ‘Solo‘ Berezin and Artsiom ‘fng‘ Barshack.
Losing Vladimir ‘RodjER‘ Nikogosyan stings, especially when it’s followed by the departure of SoNNeikO, but the losses should not hurt as much with Lil — and a boatload of Qualifying Points — coming to the team.
Virtus Pro Gets an Upgrade
Is RodjER a better Dota 2 player than Lil? That depends on how you look at it. As far as sustained excellence goes, Lil has had a much better career. He’s appeared in more TIs and has made deeper runs than RodjER. The stats even favour Lil, although they’re not exactly that reliable; Virtus Pro have had a more successful season by far compared to Natus Vincere, after all.
So, how exactly is RodjER an upgrade?
Maybe, just maybe, in terms of playstyle. Solo often plays as a lane-supporting position 6, which is a fictional role where a player takes in as little farm as possible. In fact, it’s not unusual for Solo to finish games with no more than a Boots of Speed and a whole bunch of gold spent on wards, smokes, and dusts. Though Lil can soak up the farm and can be greedy if need be, he doesn’t exactly disrupt lanes. Or at least, that’s not his main priority. He also has a tendency to defer at times, or farm very little for him as well. This isn’t exactly always good since you’ll end up having two very poor supports as the game goes late.
As for RodjER, his main focus as a player seems to lie on ganking and disrupting lanes. He’s also a hell lot flashier. Although this has come back to haunt him (and his teams) on more than one occasion, especially when his early-game rotations fails to produce results, his playstyle should work better now he’s with Virtus Pro since he no longer needs to contend with another support that likes to farm like when he did with SoNNeikO in Natus Vincere, so he has a much better chance of catching up if he falls behind early on.
Only time can tell if ROdjER really is a better fit, but in theory, he should be.
They Gave LebronDota A Chance
— Natus Vincere (@natusvincere) February 6, 2018
If there’s one thing we’ve learned in Dota 2 this season, it’s not just young players in the up-up who can make headlines when given a chance with a more stable roster or team. For years, Marcus ‘Ace‘ Hoelgaard would play in Tier 2 or Tier 3 teams, very rarely achieving anything, and we all know how instrumental he has been to Team Secret’s success so far this season.
Nikola ‘LeBronDota‘ Popović could very well follow in Ace’s footsteps.
From FPL Family to the Pro Circuit….Good luck in @natusvincere
Waiting for the next one. pic.twitter.com/dYYWuClese
— FPL (@FPLCircuit) February 5, 2018
Save for his successful stints with Natus Vincere in the past, LebronDota also once topped the Faceit Pro League back in 2015. So there’s no doubt that he is a talented player, it’s just that he hasn’t had much of a chance to show it. Paired with Lil’s versatility, LebronDota’s unique playstyle as an aggressive, roaming position 5 support player that doesn’t need much farm could give Natus Vincere the boost they need to get back on top.
Both Squads Get a Fresh Start
It’s not always about replacing players with someone better; sometimes, teams just need to hit the reset button and move on with a different player/s. This may not be as necessary for the Natus Vincere Dota 2 roster as it is for Virtus Pro, but the point remains.
Two years ago in Dota you'd almost never see a player who was top 5-10 at his position get kicked. But in the NFL and NBA you often see superstar players traded because they don't fit the team's playstyle or plans to grow. IMO Dota has reached this level of competition. 2/2
— Nahaz (@NahazDota) February 5, 2018
A Win-Win Trade for Both Teams
Both teams came away from the trade with a win. For Virtus Pro, they got the change they needed. Meanwhile, the Natus Vincere Dota 2 roster gained two players who are surely itching to prove themselves. They also got a huge chunk of Qualifying Points, which arguably could become their ticket to receiving a direct invite to The International 8.
So far, it’s still too early to determine how well each of the team’s rosters will mesh together. But, one thing is for sure, and it’s that the CIS region just got a whole lot more interesting with this trade.
How better off do you think the Natus Vincere Dota 2 roster is with the trade? Do you think Virtus Pro will improve even further with the addition of RodjER? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.