A look at the teams for ESL One Cologne: Part 10 – Natus Vincere.
Natus Vincere is a team that have been just outside the top 4, but in the recent months they have shown that they are a team that can beat teams in the top 4. Their increase came after longtime player starix stepped down as an active player due to poor results, and they secured the services of the young talent flamie. Although starix stepped down he instead stepped into the coach role, and as far as coaches go in CS:GO he appears to be one of the most impactful and looks like he has a part in their recent success.
The first tournament with flamie was at StarLadder StarSeries XII, but as it was a little more than a week after the addition of flamie so while they did come 5-6th they have had too little time to adjust to the change.
At ESL Pro League 1 they first met Dignitas, who they lost 11:16 (Cobblestone), 16:2 (Mirage), 12:16 (Inferno), in the elimination match they faced Virtus.pro who lost 16:5 (Cache), 4:16 (Mirage), 9:16 (Inferno) to Natus Vincere. In the last group stage match they met Dignitas again, who they this time decimated 16:4 (Mirage), 16:3 (Cobblestone). In the semifinal they faced EnVyUs who aside from the first map fell easily to a well-playing Natus Vincere 19:15 (Inferno), 7:16 (Overpass), 12:16 (Cobblestone). Titan was waiting in the final, but Natus Vincere proved too strong finishing the event with winning 16:12 (Mirage), 7:16 (Cache), 16:13 (Cobblestone), and it was a good tournament for flamie.
The good results from ESL Pro League 1 didn’t continue over to FACEIT League 2015 Stage 1 Finals, where they faced Team SoloMid, and lost 16:14 (Overpass), 13:16 (Cache), 8:16 (Mirage), their next opponent was eLevate who they beat very convincingly 16:11 (Cache), 16:1 (Mirage), and this meant that they again had to face the Danes from Team SoloMid, who they again lost to 16:6 (Overpass), 8:16 (Cache), 13:16 (Mirage). While Natus Vincere didn’t get out of their group it was not due to a poor performance, as they only lost to Team SoloMid who went on to win the tournament, but also had reached a new dominating form.
GFINITY Masters Spring 2 they faced a wide variety of opponents starting with Liquid, who surprisingly won Overpass against Natus Vincere making the score 16:2 (Dust2), 11:16 (Overpass). Then they faced a FNATIC in peak form, where they lost 13:16 (Mirage), 10:16 (Overpass) to the Swedes. They then went on to lecture Vox Eminor on how to play CS:GO by beating them 16:3 (Cobblestone), 16:1 (Inferno), before beating the four Swedes and a Finn from Ninjas in Pyjamas 16:12 (Dust2), 16:9 (Inferno). In the semifinal they met Virtus.pro who edge out a win in two very close matches 19:17 (Train), 25:22 (Inferno). Most people would have expected such an outcome as both Virtus.pro and FNATIC was regarded as stronger teams at that time.
At Fragbite Masters Seaons IV they faced FNATIC, and despite flamie putting up a fight the star AWPer GuardiaN had no impact on the game, and the Swedes won 16:13 (Dust2), 16.11 (Cobblestone). In the lower bracket they faced flamie’s old team HellRaisers who they beat 16:13 (Train), 16:8 (Mirage), and they were rewarded with Team SoloMid who despite an impressive performance by Zeuz on Inferno lost 17:19 (Overpass), 17:19 (Inferno) to the Danes, who also won the tournament.
DreamHack Summer 2015 was the next event where they first beat the newly formed Kinguin lineup 16:9 (Mirage) with GuardiaN putting on an amazing show. Ninjas in Pyjamas was waiting, but in spite of allu doing everything in his power Natus Vincere proved victorious 16:13 (Cobblestone). In the semifinal they faced Titan where not even a hard hitting kennyS could take more than one map ending the match 11:16 (Cobblestone), 16:11 (Overpass), 16:7 (Inferno) to Natus Vincere. In the Grand final they faced FNATIC, who again proved to be a too big challenge winning 16:9 (Mirage), 16:14 (Train).
At StarLadder StarSeries XIII the Natus Vincere squad faced FlipSid3 in the semifinal, and they made quick work of the FlipSid3 team ending the match 16:4 (Cobblestone), 16:5 (Inferno). The Grand final was a Bo5 which was against EnVyUs, and it was a close match which in the end Natus Vincere proved to be the victors by 16:14 (Cobblestone), 10:16 (Dust2), 16:4 (Overpass), 25:23 (Inferno).
They failed to qualify for ESL ESEA Pro League, this makes ESWC 2015 where the only real challenges would be EnVyUs, Cloud9 and Ninjas in Pyjamas if everything just synced. In the group they beat SK Gaming 16:8 (Overpass), a horrible playing Titan 16:2 (Mirage) and Luminosity Gaming 16:7 (Inferno). In the quarterfinal they breezed through Renegades 16:8 (Overpass), 16:5 (Train), and defeated quite easily FlipSid3 with Hiko 16:9 (Mirage), 16:1 (Inferno). In the Grand final they faced Cloud9 who they played close on two maps, but closed out the match 16:3 (Inferno), 14:16 (Dust2), 16:14 (Overpass) and while the last two maps were close, it could just as well have been a 2:0 or a 1:2 as both teams had several players underperforming on Dust2 and Overpass.
FACEIT Stage 2 Finals at DreamHack Valencia 2015 was where Natus Vincere had an opportunity to get revenge against FNATIC and Team SoloMid, who also had fallen some in their level of play.
Virtus.pro was their first obstacle which they dealt with 16:12 (Overpass), and then lost in a close map against Cloud9 16:14 (Cobblestone) in no small part due to Skadoodle playing extremely well. In the group decider match they played Kinguin, who had just added dennis instead of SKYTTEN, but Natus Vincere won the Bo3 due to seized showing that while GuardiaN and flamie are considered the stars of the team he can play at that level when needed, and the result being 16:9 (Dust2), 11:16 (Inferno), 16:6 (Overpass). In the semifinal they faced Team SoloMid while they smashed the Danes on the first map the Danes woke up and won the last two maps very convincingly ending the match 6:16 (Mirage), 16:5 (Train), 16:5 (Dust2).
CEVO Season 7: Professional was not a stacked event with only Natus Vincere, Cloud9, mousesports and Virtus.pro to attend of the top10 teams. Their first match was against Luminosity Gaming who they beat 16:3 (Overpass), 16:8 (Dust2), then facing the Poles from Virtus.pro they lost 15:19 (Overpass), 5:16 (Train), and their last group match was against Tempo Storm, which ended up being a closer match that most would have expected with Natus Vincere winning 16:13 (Mirage), 22:25 (Inferno), 16:8 (Cobblestone).
In the semifinal they played mousesports who fell to Natus Vincere 16:9 (Overpass), 16:14 (Dust2). Viruts.pro was waiting in the Grand final and as with most of the two teams’ matchups it ended up being a victory to Virtus.pro with 16:8 (Overpass), 16:11 (Cache), 7:16 (Cobblestone), 19:15 (Mirage). While it was an impressive performance from Virtus.pro who at FACEIT Stage 2 had looked like they were having some internal problems, they came out with their fists raised and played as a team, which was something that Natus Vincere was not doing very well.
There is no doubt that adding flamie for firepower, and having starix move to a coaching postions, has helped Natus Vincere move forward and become a stronger team. Natus Vincere was long regarded as one of the more tactical teams, and their late executes with 20-15 seconds left on the rounds they were able to make work against all logic. However, since the addition of flamie they have approached a more duel heavy way, as they now have flamie who is an excellent entry fragger, and it works against a lot of teams which you can outaim, but against FNATIC, Team SoloMid and Virtus.pro they are not out skilling their opponent, and this approach becomes less successful. Furthermore, before they relied heavily on GuardiaN to get out his AWP and either entry or being a turret of destruction as CT, and while GuardiaN also is a solid rifler he is by far one of the best players with the AWP, but they have lost quite a few matches recently due to forcing as CTs with a couple of famas’ instead of saving an extra round an giving themselves a better opportunity to succeed with the tools they have e.g. GuardiaN. One of their problems when playing with starix was that if GuardiaN was having a poor game it was very unlikely that the rest of the team was able to make up for that, but flamie can do that and it gives the team a higher success chance, but against the top teams they both needs to be on point with either Edward or seized playing above their average. My personal theory of why they have adopted the more duel focused approach is because most teams have figured their playstyle out by now, as in if you haven’t had contact for 20-25 seconds are you reach the 30-35 marker you know they are setting up for a push, and if you push out aggressively you might be able to either find players with smokes in their hands or get the information that it is not this bombsite they want to enter.
In terms of map pool I would say that their strong maps would be: Mirage, Overpass, Dust2, and with Inferno, Cobblestone being decent for them. Their weakest maps would be Cache, as they have for the longest time vetoed, but depending on their opponent and their strengths you can little afford being bad on a map, and while some of their matches on it has been close it has been due to a massive performance from an individual, and that is not something you can count on. Train is another map where their track record isn’t good, which is not something I would have thought as it is a map where a world class AWPer can shine, and also a map where a more strategical approach would have made it a strong map for Natus Vincere, but they do not look comfortable playing it.
The results that Natus Vincere have had since the addition of flamie is impressive, but the only top team of the top 4 that usually play close and have beaten was the old EnVyUs lineup, and their new lineup is an improvement. Against the other three top teams FNATIC, Team SoloMid and Virtus.pro have they lost most of their matchups, and there is no doubt that Natus Vincere is one of the top teams in CS:GO, but they are not at the top yet. I do expect them to win against Titan, however, unless there happens to be some crazy upsets or FNATIC, Team SoloMid and Virtus.pro plays well-below their average level then I do not see Natus Vincere reach the Grand Final, and even if they did I would expect their opponent to be either FNATIC, Team SoloMid, Virtus.pro or EnVyUs and I would put my money on one of them. Partly because I think their overall skill level is above Natus Vincere’s, but also that with the matchup on maps I think they are in a much better position.
Links taken from HLTV.org and Liquipedia.