Natus Vincere are hands down one of the favorites to win the BLAST Premier Spring Final, perhaps just below Gambit, the No. 1 CS:GO team in the world right now.
Na’Vi, though, are coming into the $425,000 tournament after a disappointing run of results at the EPIC League CIS Regional Major Ranking (RMR) tournament where they lost to Akuma, Team Spirit, and Entropiq, thus failing to replicate their performance from DreamHack Masters Spring in May where they swept Gambit 3-0 in the grand final.
Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, Na’Vi’s superstar and one of the best CS:GO players in the world, said in an interview with HLTV that CIS teams are more prepared to play against them than any other team. The EPIC League CIS saw underdog squad Akuma beat Na’Vi and Virtus Pro, two of the region’s giants, to book a playoff spot. But the tournament has become quite controversial, especially after several clips of Akuma’s actions in matches surfaced. In particular, some of their players seemed to be looking at the radar a lot in clutch situations. After the EPIC League CIS ended, 14 of the 16 teams that attended the event, including Na’Vi, wrote an open letter in which they asked Valve to launch an investigation into Akuma’s cheating allegations.
S1mple, on the other hand, doesn’t want to believe that Akuma were cheating.
“I always say that I don’t want to believe this because they’re all from Ukraine and if they did this to all teams without any anti-cheat, it would be really disrespectful because it’s the year 2021 and everything should be at the next level of competition,” the 23-year-old said. “It would be sad if it was true. I don’t think they had some radar hack or anything, but I heard that they had some matches without GOTV delay, and I think maybe some of them used this. But probably not all of them know that some of their teammates used it.”
Na’Vi have always been a team that’s capable of winning tier-one championships. But somehow, they’ve never managed to do it on a consistent basis like teams such as prime Astralis and SK Gaming in the past. Sometimes, they’ve won a big tournament and just went unnoticed in the next one, displaying poor tactics and cohesion despite having s1mple and Denis “electronic” Sharipov, one of the most deadly duos in the competitive scene.
The Russian squad’s opening match in the BLAST Premier Spring Final will be against FaZe Clan today at 9am CT, a team that’s going through a slump and just added Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer back to the roster to replace Marcelo “coldzera” David. S1mple said he doesn’t know what to expect from FaZe from a strategical point of view but will try his best to perform, even though he isn’t focused on winning the MVP award, and help his team to win the tournament.
“The most important is to show what we have practiced for the past two weeks,” s1mple said. “We just want to show that we can win tournament after tournament, that’s our main goal now. Because as you can see we win one tournament, we lose something, then we win again, we lose… It’s really tiring when it happens.
Na’Vi will once again be playing with Valeriy “B1T” Vakhovskiy, a rifler from the academy team who took over Egor “flamie” Vasilyev’s spot in the main lineup in April after spending months as a sixth man. The 18-year-old has averaged a 1.05 rating since then, according to HLTV statistics, and is progressing fast, according to s1mple.
“I think he has incredible aim, that’s his strength, but his weakness is communication, sometimes he can’t properly explain some information,” the superstar said. “Now we’re working on that so that he gives more fast information and understands where the enemies are hiding. He’s progressing, he’s learning, but he still needs more time because I think it’s a new level for him, he’s supposed to play against tier-one teams all the time except at RMR tournaments.”
The BLAST Premier Spring Final will be the first tournament where Na’Vi will have the opportunity to play Ancient, the newest map that replaced Train in the Active Duty map pool in early May. The map has been fairly accepted by CS:GO pros and it was played six times at IEM Summer, the first tier-one championship that included Ancient in the map pool.
Ancient seemingly brought a breath of fresh air to s1mple, who’s really enjoying the map. But he said there are a lot of things that Valve could change on the map.
“I enjoy Ancient, I really like it,” the Ukrainian said. “When you join practice and it’s Ancient, your motivation gets so much higher because you want to learn everything new on the map, every spot, every nade, every timing. For example, on Dust II, you know that you need to throw a flash at 1:49 on long to not die from the AWP, but right now we’re just learning this on Ancient and it’s interesting for all of us. Of course, there are a lot of things that Valve need to upgrade and change on this map as they did with Vertigo.”
Although Na’Vi haven’t played an official match on Ancient yet, it seems like they may come up with some unseen strategies. It’s unclear if any teams will have the audacity to pick Ancient against them, given that s1mple is also pretty confident in his skills on the map.
“We’ve seen how other teams play Ancient and we understand why teams are getting destroyed 13-2,” s1mple said. “They still don’t understand how to do this and we’ve already found a way to play this map, so I’m just looking forward to this tournament to test the map. I’m confident in my individual performance on this map because I already know a lot of stuff. I didn’t play a lot of Ancient before we started practicing, but I was progressing really fast for three days, just consistently playing the map and getting in some FPL practice on it.”
The Ukrainian superstar is once again in the race to win the title of best CS:GO player in the world after being named the MVP at the BLAST Premier Global Final in January and DreamHack Masters Spring in May. But for now, s1mple will turn his attention toward today’s showdown with FaZe.