After their shaky start of the Dota 2 WePlay! Bukovel Minor, Nigma managed to find their stride, put their talent on full display and made an incredible comeback to claim the title of champions and a ticket leading to DreamLeague Season 13: Leipzig Major.
Nigma entered WePlay! Bukovel Minor as heavy favourites to go the distance as many esports bookmakers and analysts saw them as a team to beat. That on its own is not surprising, considering their star-studded lineup, which features Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi, Aliwi "w33" Omar, Ivan Borislavov "MinD_ContRoL" Ivanov, Maroun "GH" Merhej and their captain Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi. All players were formerly members of Team Liquid, which finished TI9 at fourth place, so it's easy to see why Nigma were travelling to Bukovel with huge expectations on their shoulders.
Despite all the star power, however, Nigma failed to look as dominant as many would have expected. The European organization started their Minor venture with a 1-2 defeat against Fighting PandaS in the opening match of Group B, however, managed to bounce back and defeated FURIA (2-0) in an elimination match and avenged their defeat against Pandas in the decider match (2-1) to edge their way into the playoffs.
In round one of playoffs, Nigma lost to the Chinese Dota 2 powerhouse Royal Never Give Up (1-2), who pushed Nigma into the lower bracket, where they got their last chance to impress. Following a very shaky start of the tournament, Nigma put their heads together and seemingly found the winning recipe. With a changed approach to their drafts and overall strategy, Nigma made it through Gambit Esports (2-1) and Geek Fam (2-0) to secure themselves a rematch with RNG in the grand finals.
RNG were the force to be reckoned with at Bukovel Minor, where they started off hot and defeated both Team Spirit (2-0) and Geek Fam (2-0) in the group stage, to which they added two victories over Nigma (2-1) and again against Geek Fam (2-1) in the playoffs, meaning they dropped only two maps en route to the grand finals.
In the Bukovel finals, things were looking up for Du "Monet" Peng and co., who out-drafted Nigma with a better late-game composition, which allowed them to secure the first win of the series. Monet's Drow Ranger pick proved to be a great counter to Miracle's Alchemist, which was also Nigma's only late-game pick and sadly not enough for the Europeans to overcome the aggressive Chinese roster.
Following a fairly easy win in game one, RNG were set to make it 2-0, but things did not go as they planned. Nigma entered game two hungry for a win and quickly took the reins of the match into their own hands. Thanks to Miracle and his Phantom Lancer pick, they managed to secure a substantial lead in the early minutes of the game, but as soon as the game reached 30-minute mark, they met with RNG's resistance, who were not ready to admit defeat just yet.
Despite their strong start, Nigma fell off in the mid-late game, where it was RNG who were setting the tempo, yet failed to close out the match. The teams went back and forth for 80 minutes, and while it seemed like RNG would win the second match of the series, they made a few too many mistakes which Nigma did not hesitate to take advantage of. Slowly but surely Nigma closed the gap and got themselves in a lead, but unlike RNG, they managed to seal the deal and tie the series at 1-1.
Unlike the first two fixtures, game three was a landslide win for Nigma, who turned on their jets and completely decimated RNG. Miracle and w33 both had an amazing performance and played a crucial role in pushing Nigma to the series point.
Nigma opted for a more late-game oriented draft for game four, which ultimately meant they lacked any serious firepower in the early game. For that reason, they struggled to keep up the pace with RNG who were slowly gaining a substantial lead and it all seemed like RNG are well on their way to win their second match of the series. At 37-minute mark, however, GH hit a massive Echo Slam with Earthshaker, which allowed Nigma to decimate RNG's roster and disrupt the flow of the game.
Nigma were trailing RNG for the entire match, meaning they were well on their way to losing to Chinese roster, so it was now or never for the ex-Team Liquid squad, who decided to put it all on the line and made one last push. Their risky strategy, in the end, paid off, as they managed to seal the series and secure the title of Bukovel Minor champions.
With that, Nigma won $72,000 in prize winnings, 140 DPC points and a ticket for the DreamLeague Season 13: The Leipzig Major, which is set to kick off on Saturday, January 18, at Leipziger Messe in Leipzig, Germany. There the ex-Liquid roster will compete against 15 other Dota 2 teams for the largest slice of 15,000 DPC points and $1,000,000 prize pool.
Written by KrajnikT
Tit Krajnik (KrajnikT) is an esports writer for onlineesports.com, where he reports news, features and writes other content related to the players, teams, industry and the esports scene as a whole.
He has previously worked as a news and betting-related articles writer in the "traditional" sports scene but later opted to turn his attention to esports, where he managed to combine his love for video games and the growing esports industry with his work.
Krajnik has started his journey as an esports writer by covering Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends, which he also played since its launch, but later broaden his skill-set to include other major esports titles including Dota 2, Fortnite, Apex Legends, Overwatch, Rainbow 6 Siege and Call of Duty.