It’s been a long and hard journey for Team Nigma to reclaim a second Aegis – and this year may be another bust.
In the nine iterations of Dota 2’s most prestigious tournament, The International, there have only been two players that managed to participate in every single one. The first is Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, one of the most popular figures in the competitive scene and currently the captain of Team Secret.
The second, Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi, is also the captain of Team Nigma, a storied team with a fantastic roster and a detailed history. This upcoming TI10, however, may see Puppey be the only player to participate in all iterations of The International, as KuroKy and Team Nigma find themselves in one of the most grueling qualifiers for Dota 2’s biggest event.
The last TI was remembered mostly because it produced a two-time consecutive champion for the first time; OG, having won the previous year before against Chinese powerhouse PSG.LGD, beat Team Liquid at TI9 in a 3-1 series. Following this second-place finish, the current roster of Team Liquid — consisting of team captain KuroKy, carry Amer “Miracle-’ Al-Barkawi, mid laner Aliwi “w33” Omar, off laner Ivan “MinD_ContrRoL” Ivanov and support Maroun “GH” Merhej — announced their departure from the team with the idea to form their very own organization. This decision gave birth to what is now known as Team Nigma, and the beginning of a very promising restart to its hopeful players.
Things were looking good for the rechristened Team Nigma at the start, with their first notable finish happening during the WePlay! Bukovel Minor 2020, which gave them 140 Dota Pro Circuit points for their first-place finish. The team also managed an amazing upset victory over Puppey’s team, Team Secret, during the WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Mad Moon, to take home first-place and a hefty $130,000 prize pool. Their next big tournament win came from their participation during OMEGA League: Europe Immortal Division, as Team Nigma managed a third-place finish just behind OG and Team Secret.
Coming into 2021, Team Nigma presented a solid performance during the Season 14 of the DPC, managing another third-place finish and securing a Wild Card place for the upcoming ONE Esports Singapore Major plus another 200 DPC points. It is in this Major, however, that the team’s performance started to crumble around them. Perhaps due to the heavy competition at the Wild Card stages that includes the new Team Liquid roster plus Chinese heavyweights PSG.LGD and Vici Gaming, Team Nigma only won a single match in their ten games, one of their worst showings since reforming the team after TI9.
w33 inactive, unsure future
The fallback from their disastrous showing at the first Major of 2021 was hefty, and resulted in a very significant roster change. On April 6, 2021, the team announced that mid-laner w33 was moving to Nigma’s inactive roster. The announcement was a very roundabout way of saying that the Romanian/Syrian player was dropped by the roster, and many took it to confirm that one of the core members of Team Nigma has been kicked from the team.
We may never know for sure if this decision came directly as a consequence of the team’s performance — especially w33 — during that Major. What we do know is that four days from w33’s departure, a significant roster change will occur for Team Nigma, and that it should bode very well for the team’s future.
Enter iLTW, Miracle- back to mid
On April 10, 2021, a week before their first match in the DPC Season 15, Igor “iLTW” Filatove joined the Team Nigma roster, but not to fill out the void left in the mid lane. Instead, he takes the role of carry while Miracle- goes back to his roots as a mid laner, a role which he shared frequently with Lasse Aukusti “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen during their early days in Team Liquid. The announcement was overall received positively, with many fans believing that the team will play better as Miracle- is much more notable in that role, even compared to w33.
The results spoke for themselves, and Team Nigma once again achieved a third-place finish in Season 15 of the DPC to advance to the next Major’s Wild Cards and earn 200 points. In the WePlay Animajor, the team made a very strong showing during the Wild Cards and Group Stages, finishing second place in both and beating out strong teams like Team Liquid, EEU’s Team Spirit and China’s Vici Gaming. This leads them directly to the Upper Bracket, where Team Nigma pulls off an incredible upset in the first round against CIS online superstars Virtus.pro. Sadly, this is as far as they would come when it comes to wins, as the team suffers a massive defeat against PSG.LGD at the UB round two, and against Evil Geniuses at the Lower Bracket.
The toughest challenge — TI10 Qualifiers
The team did not fare much better during the ESL One Summer 2021 tournaments, dropping to the Lower Brackets early from losing to Vikin.gg and only managing to win against Team Secret in an exciting three-game series. Afterwards, they meet once again with the other TI9 finalists OG, now also bearing a new carry player in Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan. After three grueling matches, OG gets the better of Team Nigma and knocks them out of the tournament entirely.
With a region so packed with former TI champions and rising stars, it’s hard to see whether or not Team Nigma will stand a chance in the coming qualifiers. If anything, the team’s performance has significantly improved, and they pulled off great drafts and plays to get the better of very strong teams. iLTW as a carry is consistent for the most part, and Miracle- is still a very strong playmaker with a lot of versatility under his belt, but come July the team will need to be at their very best if they’re to win this single coveted spot for a chance to once again hold the Aegis of the Immortal in September.