NAVI’s S1mple shares his thoughts on the team’s performance, the recent changes to the AWP and M4 and more.
The BLAST Premier World Finals is the final event of the year and features some of the best CS: GO teams in the world. For many of these players, this event marks the end of the season before they head into a break ahead of the new year. For NAVI, however, this season was a tough one. After a dominant performance throughout 2021, NAVI’s 2022 has been underwhelming, but it’s underwhelming because of the high standards they set for themselves the previous year.
On the BLAST Premier Media day before the start of the first matches, Esports.gg and other press got an opportunity to speak with NAVI’s superstar S1mple. The 25-year-old Esports Awards PC player of the year shared his thoughts on the team’s progress, how the Academy program has helped the CIS teams, and the recent patch. But one of the more dawning realizations comes when S1mple reflects back on when NAVI’s ‘downfall’ started this year - IEM Katowice. It was the day after the Russia-Ukraine war, a war that still continues to date wreaking havoc on the lives of millions of people in the region.
Six Months of victories to end 2021
Let’s look back at NAVI’s 2021 - a year that saw the organization win its first Major in CS: GO. Despite being a familiar name in the scene for more than a decade and having come tantalizingly close on multiple occasions, NAVI had never won a CS: GO Major. Before the PGL Antwerp Major, NAVI had two Grand Finals appearances, both of their losses. There were multiple occasions where the team was the favorite, only to be unable to finish it out when it mattered the most.
But the team was the overwhelming favorite going into the PGL Stockholm Major. Their dominance can only be highlighted by the fact that they did not lose a single map throughout the CS: GO Major.
Them being the favorites was not a surprise. Before the Major, the list of their accomplishments would rival some of the most dominant eras in Counter-Strike. They won IEM Cologne, picking up the Intel Grand Slam Season 3 trophy
as well. They followed it up with victories at ESL Pro League Season 14, BLAST Premier Fall Groups 2021, and a second palace finish at Intel Extreme Masters XVI - Fall: CIS.
While some teams see a drop in performance after winning the Major (2017 Gambit is a prime example), NAVI’s went on to win the BLAST Premier Fall Finals as well as the BLAST Premier World Finals with a 2-1 victory over Gambit.
I still believe that because of the war, our team just crashed. Only because of the war. Because before we lost our first LAN event, it was against G2, at Katowice, the war started the day before. It's pretty sad. When you're trying to make an era, you are winning a lot and not because you kicked some player or something happened in the team, it's just because of the war. When you think about this - you wonder why, about why it happened with us.
Their first big event of 2022 was IEM Katowice and just one day before their match against G2 esports, Russia invaded Ukraine.
Thoughts on NAVI in 2023
But despite the fall in performance, S1mple is hopeful of a strong 2023 for the PGL Stockholm Major winning team. They have had roster changes and now field a six-man roster, so adjustments are often required. But there is still no doubt about the raw skill of this team.
“I think everyone just needs to step up to the next level,” S1mple said on what the team needs to improve on for 2023. “Everyone needs to always work. There's a lot of work to do. I think we're losing our confidence because of individual performances. For eg, I know if b1t played bad, he will be really sad for the next games as well. He needs to work on his mental (strength). It's like new paper. When you change one player, it's like new paper.”
“I keep telling my team you should forget about old victories,” he continued. “I told b1t that we are not Major winners. We just need to forget all those results. I keep telling my team that we should start from the beginning because now everyone is playing at a much better level than one year before. And the next year, teams are going to play better than before. And you should always progress.“
He also spoke about the team’s bootcamps reminiscing how bootcamps in 2021 were longer. They also had more bootcamps in 2021 compared to 2022, which gives the players a better environment to improve their in-game synergy.
"We just need to practice as much as possible. Last year, we had just two bootcamps, I think, for ten days. In 2021, we had 5-6 boot camps which were two weeks even. It's totally different preparation for all tournaments."
Npl -The 6th man
S1mple and npl. Image Credit: npl Twitter.
NAVI is the first CS: GO team to feature a 6-person roster on LAN. While having more options increases your firepower and possibilities, it also brings with it a set of problems. These problems - mostly surrounding synergy, roles, and playstyle - take time to resolve. And time is quite often the most valuable resource in the packed CS: GO esports schedule.
He surprised me with how he played.
s1mpl on npl
BLAST Premier World Finals
features the NAVI 6-person roster and Npl made his debut for the team against Vitality. The youngster played one map with a 17-24 K/D. However, S1mple has high praise for the youngster.
I think he has a lot of confidence in the game. I think he has very good aim and his understanding of the game for example is better than b1t had when he joined the team. He's very cold in game. He never shows emotions. Even in life, he's just focused on his play and he's trying to learn a lot.
Npl is one of the several players to have emerged from the strengthening of the Academy system in the CIS region. With the WePlay Academy League and other smaller tournaments playing a pivotal role in the development of young players, organizations are investing more time, money, and effort into growing young talent.
When NAVI created (a team) in Academy, I think they did it first with Astralis together. They expect that in two years, they are going to sell some players, and add some players to the main team. And they actually had a really good system. Andrii (npl) had a workaround with NAVI Junior, now Andrii (npl) has higher responsibilities in NAVI. And he is still helping them. I think all the young players, really want to go to the main roster, visit some LANs and improve themselves. It's like football and I'm glad that other organizations are doing the same with Academy rosters.
Thoughts on New Patch
A few weeks before the CS: GO Major, Valve released a patch. While the update looked like a small update on the outside, it has had a tremendous impact on the professional scene. First, there’s a new map, Anubis, one that was added to the Active Duty and came as a surprise to many pros. Secondly, the update also brought about small changes to the M4
and the AWP, both of which have had a direct impact on players’ gun preferences and playstyle across the map pool.
I actually like Anubis and my teammates love this map as well. But Valve should fix a lot of bugs. There are around 15 molotovs that you can throw on the map. So some teams, maybe like Outsiders may do some interesting stuff. There are just a lot of molotovs. It's weird you know. In some tournaments, it's a lot like Ancient molotovs. In some tournaments, Valve bans this. For eg. in BLAST, it was always allowed. But yeah, I like this map.
S1mple didn’t think the changes to the AWP should affect gameplay a lot.
"I think the AWP changes to Five [AWP] bullets, I think it's fine," he said on the AWP changes. "You still have chances at the beginning of the round to do some wall bangs and you can easily reload and it's good that there are 35 bullets in the magazine. For example, in VALORANT you have 5/15 I think and it's worse than what we have in CS. Overall it's a nice update.
Does Cloud9 need a roster change?
There have been some rumors
about Cloud9 possibly replacing Timofey "interz" Yakushin on their CS: GO roster. The potential move which has received a lot of criticism from the community and some notable members
of the scene is still just a rumor. However, several pro players, including S1mple feel Cloud9 do not need a roster change. S1mple goes on to add that Cloud9 simply needs to play more events to gain LAN experience.
"I think they don't need to change anyone," said S1mpl on Cloud9 roster rumors. "I think he's doing good and overall their team is doing a good job - I don't know. They need to sign some contracts. They need to get some partnerships to attend some tournaments. Because it feels like they miss some LAN experience. They have a huge LAN once in 3-4 months and it's hard. You can just easily forget this feeling when you're on stage and in front of people. And I think they are still a strong team after all that. [...] I would be sad, if I was in Cloud9, not to attend other tournaments."
Previously other players such as FaZe KarrigaN
have also expressed similar opinions about Cloud9’s roster change.
NAVI’s opening match at the BLAST Premier World Finals saw them lose 0-2 to Team Vitality. They will face off against Heroic in a Group B elimination match today.