Na’Vi is one of those teams that have been around for a long time in the CS scene, starting in cs 1.6. In CS:GO, their best form currently stands with their current lineup, as they are regarded the third best team in the world, with a decent chance to even win the next major.
In this article I’ll try to explain how come this team, that was hardly a competitor for the top 6, suddenly became one of the best teams.
Having a strong lineup is one of the most important things in cs:go.
One of the main reasons why Na’Vi, back when they had Starix in the lineup, was not able to win events or get in the top5 was the fact that their lineup consisted of too many “old” players. For example, while everyone can agree that Edward is one of the most iconic players in the counter-strike franchise and was a mad-fragger in cs 1.6, he had already reached his peak, meaning that while he still is a good player overall.Yes, he did have a good map or a half but he wasn’t consistent enough to actually carry a whole series against a team like Fnatic. For example, at ESL one Cologne quarterfinals against Fnatic they started very strong on the first map (inferno), going up 9-1 but ending the half 9-6; then they had no chance on the T-side, as Fnatic was almost as their peak in terms of CT-side dominance and the Na’vi style of play did not help them at all, so if you don’t have at least two players who can just kill everybody, you couldn’t win against a team like Fnatic on the T-side.
THE ROSTER CHANGE
Because it became pretty clear that their lineup probably won’t win a stacked event, they brought in Flamie, a young but unproven CIS player, and moved Starix to a coaching role.
The big advantage, and, in my opinion, one of the main reasons why Na’Vi went on such a strong streak of top 4 finishes is because when Flamie first started to play on LANs with Na’Vi he was playing like a legit star, top-fragging with guardian almost every single time. However, as time passed it became clear that Flamie, while he still is a very solid player, he need more time to basically learn how to play at the top level. You could see at this CEVO event that he didn’t know what to do on Overpass against Virtus.pro in the group stage, sometimes going aggressive at an inappropriate time and getting killed, and this forces Na’Vi to spend a lot of resources on just keeping him in check so he doesn’t do a bad play.
However, Flamie is still very young and I feel like if Na’vi invests enough time into improving his play, and once he goes to enough lans and gathers the required experience to understand what to do and when to do he has the potential of being a real superstar, and assuming Guardian still remains as good as he is now by the time Flamie develops, they could finally become a real top1 contender with the likes of Fnatic and TSM; because right now they are admittedly very good and definitely a top3 team in the world, but I wouldn’t bet on them to win the major, for example, as their wins up until now came from beating the likes of Titan and Envyus, who are very good teams but they have been on the downfall for quite a while, while their most legit win was against Cloud9 at ESWC
in the finals, as the north americans have been on a very strong streak of good results and looked like a dangerous team.
In terms of strategy, everybody knows the typical T-side Na’vi style, here they basically play passive for the first 30-40 seconds of the round, waiting for the opponent to make an aggressive move in order to get some information of where the T’s are, and they usually get an early frag onto him. Then, they proceed to slowly get as much map control as possible, using Guardian’s AWP to try and get another frag. If it all goes according to plan, by the last 40 seconds they have pressure on both sites, and a kill advantage, which forces the ct’s to play a 2-2 setup, because they have no info on where the T’s are coming from, which leaves Na’vi to choose where to attack from, using a full execute onto one of the sites.
For example, a typical Na’vi T-side round on Overpass looks like this: they either send 4 guys in the B sewers, trying to get early pressure onto the B site and then go through the connector onto the A side of the map or send 2 people park, 2 people connector and one guy in monster, to get the map control. If guardian gets an entry, they wait until 40 seconds left and four of them prepare for an A execute, while the guy in Monster applies pressure onto the B site, forcing the CT’s to stay and defend, as the execute comes in onto the A site with smokes and flashes.
However, this strategy is very risky, because it relies on you getting the early frag; but if they don’t it becomes much harder to take control of all of the map. Also, if you don’t get the frag the CT’s can just place three guys on one site, making it much harder to take over the site. And, because you lost one minute trying to get control over the map, you only have 30 seconds to get the bomb planted; so If the planter gets killed you are pretty much screwed. Still, a thing to admire from Na’vi is the fact that, even if they don’t get the frag and the CT’s see the execute coming, they are very good at using the smokes and getting the frags anyway, which makes them a very difficult opponent.
One way to shut down Na’vi when they are on the T-side is by playing passive-aggressive at the beginning of the round, not peeking onto Guardian’s awp while still holding the angles in the middle of the map, so they can’t get map control easily (for example cotrolling the toilet area on Overpass), because once Na’vi realizes that you have players pushing aggressively they need to check every corner to make sure no one will surprise them with a flank, which takes a lot of time, especially since they are a team that goes slowly anyway.
I’d say that a very good strategy against Na’vi is going for aggressive popflashes in the middle of the round, because Na’vi expects aggressive play early in the game, and might not be paying attention to the sites mid-round, as they need to check all corners. Going for fast skirmishes when they are not fully paying attention might give you an early frag and slow them down even more, which will help you win the round.
As for the CT-side, Na’vi are pretty consistent in how they handle it: they usually go for a passive-aggressive playstyle, trying to control as much of the map as possible, just as they do on the T-side. They focus on taking control of the middle of the map as fast as possible(connector on Overpass or mid on Duts2, Cache) using Edward and Seized, while Guardian usually holds the Long area of maps alone with the awp, and Flamie plays defensive on the smaller site. Once Guardian or Edward get the first frag, they usually go back to a default defensive play inside the sites, using the smokes and the nades and waiting for the opponent to commit with a one man disadvantage.
However, I feel like a big weakness for Na’vi is in the smaller site, where flamie is holding. As I said before, while when he first started playing in the CIS lineup he was playing like a star, but, as expected, his level has dropped down a little bit and his inexperience at the pro level is sometimes exposed, as he will try to get an aggressive peek at an inappropriate time and he gets picked off, opening the site for the enemy team.
Another weakness might be taking the mid control first and trying to get trade kills onto Edward or Seized, as this will weaker their CT side considerably. I don’t think that going for the awp battle with Guardian is a good idea, since he is definitely the best awp-er in the world at the moment, so challenging might be useless.
However, Na’vi can also change their style by going for an aggressive play (for example pushing mid and banana on inferno), but this is less likely to happen.
In terms of how they execute their CT-side, Na’vi has always seemed to me like a team that will rather invest time in perfecting their own style and executes, rather than try to counter what the enemy is doing, which is not necessarily bad, but might be troublesome against teams like Cloud9, where Sean’s style is based off counter strating everything you do.
In terms of their map pool, I feel like Na’Vi actually has a pretty good advantage. Yes, they did lose to VP on Overpass at CEVO, but vp was really playing out of their minds and they were able to abuse the fact that Flamie struggled on the B-site in order to win, which i think Na’Vi will fix. They still are one of the best teams on Overpass, and I think that picking it against a team like Fnatic or TSM might not be a 100% win, but it would still give them a pretty good chance.
As for the other maps, Na’vi is not really the best on any map to be honest, but they are rather notorius for being able to upset any team on any map, as they are rather good on all of them: they managed to demolish Fnatic in the group stage of ESWC 2014 on mirage, a map that was considered Fnatic’s home map; they are very solid on Dust2, where they were always able to upset any team, especially Envyus, as they can use Guardian’s insane reactions to get an early frag at the doors area. On train, the problem is that many people thought that they are one of the best teams on this map, but their results aren’t actually that convincing, they got demolished by VP in the group stage of CEVO on it, and they even decided to gamble and play Cache, a map that Na’vi almost never plays on LAN, instead of Train, which i think speaks of their confidence on Train. As for inferno, it’s not like they are a bad team on it, but there are a bunch of teams that are just better than them, like Fnatic and TSM, who are the top2 teams in the world, so if they want to beat them inferno is definitely not a good choice.
On cobble, they are actually pretty solid, i like the way they handle their CT-side, by having Edward either close up in the corner of the B plateau or staying behind the tree inside the site. It is also a map that gives Guardian a lot of space to breathe and many possibilites to play with the AWP; like the long area or inside the wooden hut on B-site; and they are also very good on the T-side too, where they usually pressure B early and try to get control of the Skyfall area.
Overall, i expect Na’vi to remain in the top3-top4 area that is able to win an event that has teams ranked lower than them, but not be able to actually win a fully stacked major, as they need all of their players to be on form in order to do this.