A look at NikoBaby's career: Can he carry Alliance to victory?

posted by Liightsdota,
Today we take a look at one of rising stars of the Dota 2 scene. Nikolay 'Nikobaby' Nikolov had an impressive performance at The International 2019 and continues at the first tournaments of the season. What makes him so strong? Though he may not have started the 2019 season as a household name, Nikolay 'Nikobaby' Nikolov is certainly making a name for himself on the new Alliance squad under Adrian 'Fata' Trinks’s captaincy. With Alliance’s proven support system and under Jonathan 'Loda' Berg’s coaching, the future looks bright for this star carry. Today we look back at the beginning of Nikobaby’s DPC season, and his quick rise to top-level status.

The International 2019

After flying under the radar for much of the early 2019 season, Nikobaby’s name was on a list of players being considered by Mineski in June to carry their team through the notoriously bloody SEA qualifiers for TI. Nikobaby’s aggressive playstyle meshed well with the team, and combined with Kam 'Moon' Boon Seng, Damien 'kpii' Chok, Ryan Jay 'raging-potato' Qui, and Michael 'ninjaboogie' Ross; the Mineski squad was ready to begin their journey to The International 2019.

Closed qualifiers proved to be as fierce as anticipated, and Mineski had to battle through many of the region’s top teams. At the end of the group stage, Mineski finished third with a 4-3 record. The newly formed squad rallied together after groups, and won all their playoff matches, culminating in a brutal 5-hour long series that they narrowly took against Team Jinesbrus to secure their ticket to TI.

TI Group Stages rolled around, and this Mineski team quickly proved that they deserved to be on stage with the world’s best. Nikobaby made a name for himself on his Wraith King, which proved to be his hero of choice for crucial matches during most of the tournament. This scrappy SEA team managed to take games off some of the tournament’s biggest threats in Team Liquid and Team Secret.

Mineski’s many draws during the group stage led them to a 6th place finish in their group, which seeded them into the sudden death loser’s bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Nikobaby’s trusty Wraith King crushed Natus Vincere’s tournament hopes during the first round, before the Mineski squad fell 2-1 to a Team Secret lineup - in an incredible series - that looked like the best team in the world for much of the 2019 season. Though this can be counted a disappointing result for the newly formed squad, Nikobaby proved to everybody that he was a carry that could compete with the best in the world.

New Direction

After his strong individual showing at his first ever Valve event, Nikobaby attracted attention during the post-TI roster shuffle, and was snatched up by the newly formed Alliance squad. Backed by two duos that have experience playing together in previous seasons, Niko fit smoothly into this new roster.

Fata and Neta '33' Shapira spent much of last season together on PPD’s Ninjas in Pajamas squad, while Limmp and Handsken have history going back years to when they were playing HoN together. Nikobaby was the relative newcomer to this group, but proved quickly that he was the stable carry that this experienced core could rally around.

This Alliance squad immediately had something to prove as they entered the European qualifiers for the first major of the season, MDL Chengdu Major. The group meshed instantly, and made a very successful run all the way into qualifying for the major. Niko displayed his prowess on Faceless Void and Bloodseeker, showing restraint at the right times and finishing seven of the qualifier games with no deaths. Alliance was going to be playing at the major, but thankfully we could see them on LAN before then!

DreamLeague Season 12 Rotterdam

Fans of the new Alliance roster didn’t have long to wait to see them on LAN, two weeks after the team joined their sponsor we saw them hit the ground running at DreamLeague Season 12. It seemed this new team had found something special, as they blasted through the whole event, making it to the finals undefeated.

Though they dropped the first two games of the Bo5 against Demon Slayers, this fresh Alliance roster showed grit and tenacity as they battled back to win the whole tournament. Nikobaby displayed his versatility, using a wider range of carries than we saw at TI, notably expanding into a very threatening Gyrocopter which continues to be a top pick in this patch.

DreamLeague secured Alliance’s first tournament win of the 2019 season, including an important win against the Liquid squad who played under the Alliance tag before them. This was the ideal start for a newly formed roster, and Niko looked hungrier than ever playing with his new team behind him.

ESL One Hamburg - group stages

Following some unfortunate visa issues from Geek Fam, Alliance were announced to be standing in as their replacement for ESL One Hamburg 2019. The new lineup started the group stage well, picking up solid 2-0 victories against beastcoast as well as the strong new lineup on Fighting PandaS.

Nikobaby was back on Faceless Void for many of the matches, with his threatening Gyrocopter soaking up many opponent’s first phase bans. Alliance were able to take games off of Vici Gaming and Virtus.pro, cementing their status in the top half of their group which placed them into the winners bracket.

ESL One Hamburg - Winner Bracket

In the first round of the winners bracket, Nikobaby ran into his old Mineski teammate kpii, along with his hot looking TNC Predator squad. Niko’s classic Faceless Void and Wraith King weren’t quite enough for him to come out on top against his old teammate, and Alliance dropped to the losers’ bracket. They await the winner of Friday’s match between Virtus.pro and Ninjas in Pyjamas to continue their losers’ bracket run in the event.

Even if this means the end of their run in Hamburg, this new Alliance squad have been playing extremely well and have proven to be the team to beat in this young DPC season. The pieces have clearly all come together around their star carry Nikobaby, and this new squad is performing better than anyone could have hoped. With their qualification locked for MDL Chengdu, we’ll see plenty more Alliance Dota very soon.

Do you think Nikobaby is a MVP candidate for the new season?

Photo credit: DreamHack - Alex Maxwell