After roughly a year of poor results, Natus Vincere—the most accomplished team in Ukrainian Counter-Strike: Global Offensive—seems to have finally regained some of their confidence.
Having recently welcomed back their original in-game leader, Danil “Zeus” Teslenko, Na`Vi put on a solid performance at DreamHack Malmö from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3. The squad made it to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Swedish favorites NiP.
Despite their result in Malmö, both Oleksandr “s1mple” Dashkevic and Denis “Seized” Kostin seemed optimistic about the team’s future during a press conference on Sept. 6, prior to the ELEAGUE Premier.
“It was a great experience for us in our first tournament [DreamHack Malmö],” s1mple said, adding that the team had as little as three weeks worth of practice with Zeus.
The re-addition of Zeus came almost one year after he was removed in favor of s1mple. Despite leading the team to several top two finishes, Na`Vi seemed to always fall just an inch short of the finish line. On Aug. 4, 2016, the team appeared to be tired of the recurring trend, and brought on s1mple as a replacement, shifting the in-game leader duties over to Seized. Less than two months after the roster change, Na`Vi won its second LAN-title of 2016 at ESL One New York against Polish favorites Virtus Pro. The added firepower of s1mple, aided by resurgent Russian youngster Egor “flamie” Vasilyev, looked unstoppable, and the team was expected to become one of the best in the world.
Instead, they proceeded to put on worse and worse performances—which finally culminated in a top 14 finish at the PGL Kraków Major in July. This means that Na`Vi will have to re-qualify for the Valve Major circuit for the first time in three years.
As Na`Vi’s woes continued to escalate throughout the year, Zeus gradually improved his new team, Gambit, to such a degree that they took home the PGL Kraków Major in emphatic fashion.
On Aug. 9, Na`Vi announced that Zeus would once again be donning their famous black and yellow colors, something that has s1mple excited, as he has been adamant about getting as many games in with the legendary captain as possible.
“We have a lot of potential in our team,” s1mple said. “I believe in a couple of months, we will become much stronger. We just need time.”
With the return of Zeus and departure of former Na`Vi superstar AWPer Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács, both s1mple and Seized have undergone role-switches: s1mple is now the team’s dedicated AWPer, while Seized has relinquished his in-game leadership.
But s1mple, who thought his transition would be easy, has found it hard to fully adapt to his new role. “I thought playing primary AWP was going to be easy, but learning so many new angles and positions from pro players, it’s hard,” s1mple said.
On its own, it sounds as if the 19-year-old has looked uncomfortable wielding the big green gun—but at DreamHack Malmö, he consistently looked as if he had never left the role to begin with, until their exit in the quarterfinals against NiP.
But for Seized, the return of the veteran in-game leader has provided the rifler with a welcome change. “Of course Zeus is a better in-game leader than I am,” Seized said. “He has much more experience than I have.”
Seized, who was cast into the in-game leading role following the addition of s1mple, struggled to provide the same leadership as his predecessor and expressed dissatisfaction over his own performance in several interviews.
With the veteran back in this role, however, the 22-year-old said that he’s now free to play in a way that suits him, giving him more room to focus on his own individual performance. “The biggest difference is that Zeus works with a much looser style in his rounds—where I was a lot more focused on specific tactics,” Seized said.
As the team prepares itself for the first week of games in the ELEAGUE Premier, Na`Vi shares its group with FaZe Clan—which acquired legendary players Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and former Na`Vi AWPer GuardiaN in the previous offseason. But despite having competed alongside GuardiaN for nearly three years, Seized feels no pressure going up against the team’s former star. “I don’t feel anything special about playing against FaZe,” Seized said. “It doesn’t matter who’s playing for them.”
Na`Vi will begin their run in the group against G2 Esports on Sept. 9 at 6:15pm CT, where we will see if the team will continue its upwards trajectory back to the top of CS:GO.