Natus Vincere’s 2021 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive season has started on a strong note at the BLAST Premier Global Finals, after an early stumble to Team Liquid in the early rounds.
After rampaging through Complexity and G2 Esports — the latter of which they brutally dispatched 2:0 — Egor “flamie” Vasilev and his teammates have the opportunity to avenge their early loss against Liquid.
Before that game, and the potential games against rivals Astralis and Team Vitality, Inven Global caught up with the player regarding his time before joining the team, how boombl4 and Perfecto eased into the system, the contributions of coach Andrii “B1ad3” Gorodenskyi, and their aspirations for 2021.
Let's talk about how you grew from your times on HellRaisers.
It's a long, long road. My first team was dAT Team, and we played against HellRaisers when s1mple was playing there. It was the beginning, for both of us, in esports. After this, I went from dAT Team to HellRaisers, and s1mple went from HellRaisers to another team because he had an ESL ban and he couldn't play. I was there for two months before I went to Na'Vi.
It was a big shock for me because I didn't expect it to happen so fast, but it was kind of a dream. It's the same now: for each kid, it's a dream to join a team like Na'Vi to get a chance to play with top players. For me at that time, it was the chance to play with Zeus, Edward, and I was like "Oh my god, what?!" When I joined, I thought it was my chance, and that I needed to show that it was a good choice for them to pick me.
"I got a lot of hate, but I understand, and I can fix this and get back at the top level. I know that it's possible."
We started to win, and my hope was to be one of the best players on this team. I saw how my potential grew in game. Year by year, my game was improving, but at some point, I think the CS meta changed. For example, Zeus left. And I understand that my game isn't perfect [now] and that I need to work on stuff which I didn't need to before, but I thought it was good.
After B1ad3 came to our team, for me as a player, it was really nice to have him as a coach because he could teach and show every mistake you're doing, and he can explain why [a play] is not good and why you did the mistake. That way, you can improve your game fast and fix these mistakes as fast as possible.
It's been a long journey from the beginning to this, and I'm happy that I'm still part of this team, and I'm working a lot to compete at this level and to play better and better. I hope my game will be better than it was last year because it was kinda shaky for me. I got a lot of hate, but I understand, and I can fix this and get back at the top level. I know that it's possible.
There are two things that I would like to approach from here: one of them is B1ad3. You spoke about how he helped you when he joined. Could you tell me more about how things were when he did, and in what ways he has helped you?
Yeah! It was already my fourth year in Na'Vi when he joined.
The funny thing was that my first team, dAT Team, was with B1ad3, and he was playing. We played together [back then.] I didn't expect him to join [Na'Vi] because we didn't have the best relationship when I left: I didn't leave in [a good way]. I told [dAT Team] that I would probably stay with them, but I decided to quit one or two days later. It wasn't good. But it was five years ago, it doesn't matter what happened before.
That comes with being young, to be honest.
Yeah, I was 16. HellRaisers, then Na'Vi, invited me at the time, and something [got] to my head: I needed to try this. I wanted to try this.
Now for the second part, you spoke about how you were the young player being helped by Zeus and the lines, and you got to be that player for some of the newer recruits. Let's talk about one of them, boombl4. I'm wondering how you guys helped him adapt at the time.
He joined when we removed Edward. His adaptation was quite fast because everyone knows, and everyone sees, that he's a really funny guy and he's nice to talk to. If a person is like this, it's a 100% chance that his adaptation will be easy because he's easy to talk to. He's a guy who really wanted to play with me especially — I don't know why, it was his dream.
For me, personally, to get a young player with whom I was playing a lot of funny games— some FACEIT, some scrims between friends —was something new for me to get my friend to the team, and a friend that plays really well. He became the in-game leader and adapted really well to this role even though it was his first big year. He was a rifler when he joined, but later he swapped to IGL. I think it's going well, and he has a good relationship with B1ad3: they work together a lot before games, two-three hours together to prepare for the game, then tell us everything later.
[His swap] happened after Zeus decided to quit CS:GO. We didn't have any IGL, so boombl4 swapped to it, and we picked Perfecto.
"It was a hard year for everyone. We did fine, not the best, but we know that we can be the best."
From what I recall, Perfecto kind of came from B tier and you guys had to surround him and teach him, kind of what happened to you way back when you joined Na'Vi?
I think it's a bit different. When I compare 2015 levels of Counter-Strike to 2020 levels, it's much harder right now than it was in those days. Right now, there is so much competition for one spot. Back in my days, there were fewer players, just a couple of players that were shining.
But if I take the full situation, it's kind of the same. When he joined, the guy didn't expect to join a team of Na'Vi's level that fast, just as I didn't expect it [in 2015], so the situation is the same. He's a really nice player, and he showed really nice performances straight when he joined—he could clutch and play well. Of course, he didn't have much experience on this level, and he sometimes made mistakes, but it's affordable for the player who just came to the pro scene.
Everyone on our team, and himself, saw growth. Boombl4, Perfecto worked so much with B1ad3, and I think our understanding of the game is improving a lot — especially Perfecto, he's playing so smart. He's got a really fast micro, fast movement in-game. I'm happy that I'm playing with a teammate like this, he grew up a lot this year. I think he'll be even better [in 2021.]
"We went to the bootcamp, and we didn't see each other for five months because of COVID before. We wanted to spend more time together as a team than we wanted to play Counter-Strike."
Overall, 2020 was pretty good for Na'Vi — not necessarily with trophies, but consistency was there other than that one IEM Cologne.
Yeah, we went from a one-month player break, that impacted us. We went to the bootcamp, and we didn't see each other for five months because of COVID before. We wanted to spend more time together as a team than we wanted to play Counter-Strike.
But it was a worthwhile tradeoff: it might not have worked out well for IEM Cologne, but when you look at the other tournaments... If Astralis didn't exist, maybe you would have won trophies!
We could have won, yes. Especially this final, we were 2-0 and leading 12-6 on the third map on Nuke. We lost that round 16-14, then we did this comeback from 14-3...
Overall, this year was good for us because a lot of teams had a drop in the level of their game from LANs. Fnatic and mousesports had a tougher year than our team, but usually, they show good results on LAN.
You had good results before it all went online, but you were able to carry it on—though I won't dive into this topic since it's been mashed over and over and over. But what I would like to ask: BLAST might be the first tournament of 2021, but after all that happened last year, I don't know how much of a break you had before, but what are your expectations?
We always expect to win the tournament. But especially after we lost so many finals last year.
For this tournament, we went back a lot further than other teams. Officially, the player break ended January 14, but we [ended ours] on the 4th. We didn't really have much rest because of COVID and people not going much outside. I hope for a great tournament.
It's always tough games against Team Liquid, but we will see what happens next. I really think and hope that we will break the finals curse from last year and win the tournament.
It's not just Team Liquid: Vitality and Complexity are also around the corner. Especially when I look at Vitality I go: Yeah...
It's always good games against them. Last year, we lost a lot of games, especially against Vitality, Complexity, and Astralis. It's always tough games against them, but I hope we fixed all of our mistakes, and that we're finally gonna beat them all and win the tournament.
Not sure if B1ad3 spoke to the team before last year...
Before the end of last year, we had a team talk and some messages on WhatsApp on our team chat. We did a great job last year. We had so much work, had to adapt to a lot of stuff. It was a hard year for everyone. We did fine, not the best, but we know that we can be the best. If we continue to work a lot, we'll fix our mistakes—mistakes which you cannot do over and over.
Natus Vincere are two wins away from winning the BLAST Global Final championship. At 16:30 CET, they play Vitality in the lower bracket final. If they win, they will face Astralis in the grand finals at 20:30 CET.