Can NAVI defend their position as the best team in CS: GO? Or will some other team pose a challenge to the CIS dominance?
BLAST’s year-long circuit concludes with the World Finals where 8 teams battle it out for a million-dollar prize pool. With NaVi coming in on a hot streak, the main storyline is of course the start of their era, but will someone step up to the plate and stop them?
Is it the NaVi era?
Many fans and community figures have been discussing whether it is time to crown the CIS super-squad as the next era team. Let’s take a look at their numbers in contrast to the last era team we had, Astralis.
Astralis(April 2018 – March 2019)
- Events Attended – 12
- Finals Appearances – 11
- Event Wins – 8
- Eliminated by – NaVi, Faze, Liquid, North
- Notable Achievements – 2 Majors, 1 Intel Grand Slam
Astralis is considered by many as the Greatest Team to ever play CS:GO. While they had a mini resurgence in 2019 we will not be counting those events in this discussion for the era as their era had already ended when they went on a BLAST-only Vacation dubbed “BLASTralis”.
Natus Vincere (May 2021 – ? )
- Events Attended – 10
- Finals Appearances – 9
- Event Wins – 7
- Eliminated by – Gambit, Entropiq
- Notable Achievements – 1 Major (First Ever Flawless Major), 1 Intel Grand Slam
Natus Vincere is clearly the most dominant team we have had since Astralis 2018. Despite the caveats of online events, they are a step above the competition and despite attending two fewer events, they have won 7 events already in a timespan of only 7 months compared to Astralis’ 11. Their Major run was a masterclass of dominance that exceeds anything that Astralis has shown at a Major. With such a resume of results, it is undeniable that the NaVi era will be solidified if they win the Blast World Finals if it isn’t an era already.
On top of this, NaVi has the best player in the world in S1mple, surrounded by two players who are putting up MVP level numbers in every event they play. The individual prowess of players like B1t and electronic is so high that both of them at PGL Stockholm 2021, put up numbers that exceed any previous Major MVP.
They are already one of the strongest teams in CS:GO and if they win this event they should receive the plaudits of being the next Era of CS.
While NaVi has no true rival, there are two teams that have pushed them to their limits recently. Let’s take a look at the main Contenders.
By far the strongest team that can challenge NaVi is Vitality. Powered by the only challenger to S1mple in ZywOo, they are a threat. Online, Vitality gave NaVi the most competitive finals so far, taking them to all 5 maps. At the Major, they kept the games ultra-close despite Kyojin playing less like a bombsite anchor and more like a ship anchor. At Blast Premier Fall Finals, Vitality finally broke through the impenetrable fortress that was NaVi’s Nuke. And it wasn’t a grind-out victory, they came in and blew the doors off the palace. But in the end, NaVi still looked unphased as they dusted the French squad off on Mirage.
Now Vitality has proven that they are the best of amongst the rest, taking the trophy at IEM Winter. And the rookie duo of Kyojin and misutaaa have got their reps on LAN, they have the best chance at taking NaVi down. Sadly for the fans of the French, despite having the best shot at it, their chances of winning are still bleak.
NaVi not only has the firepower advantage by a country mile, but Vitality has also improved NaVi. As mentioned in interviews, the Nuke streak was adding pressure onto NaVi as they tried everything to maintain it. But now with Vitality’s victory on the map, NaVi no longer has to worry about keeping the streak going. I think Vitality has the potential to pick up a map, but it is unlikely that they beat NaVi outright unless Kyojin has a purple patch of form we have not yet seen.
G2 has been at the receiving end of NaVi sweeps for 2 years straight. Starting at IEM Katowice, they have consistently gotten closer to winning a map, but have always fallen short at the final hurdle. At Cologne, they pushed NaVi to almost all the rounds in the 3 maps they played. At the Major, they had the win in the palm of the hands, before the echoes of NiKo’s missed Deagle left everyone heartbroken.
Similar to Vitality, G2 has a top 3 player in the world. NiKo may not be an AWPer like S1mple and ZywOo, but he can still keep up with them on the server. But this time G2 is coming in weaker than ever, having just played an event with KennyS standing in for nexa. Surprisingly they looked strong even in the absence of their IGL, a result that puts nexa’s values into question.
With limited practice on this current roster and a surprising loss to NIP in the semis of IEM Winter, they don’t come in as strong as if this was right after the major. But G2 will surely bring their A-game to the table if they face off against NaVi. Will they finally win a map?
The Young Princes
Next, we have two teams that were in the top 3 for the first half of the year. But realistically neither has a chance to defeat NaVi, mainly because of their inexperience on LAN. Let’s discuss our Young Princes who are still waiting for their time.
The No.1 team in the world for the first half of this year, Gambit is having their “Welcome to Tier-1” moment a bit later than most teams. With their win at Katowice, they established themselves as elite contenders and their continuous streak of top-4 finished cemented them as the team to beat in the first half of the year. But when the LAN-lite of Cologne took place, they showed signs of worry.
Getting out called by Karrigan and crumbling under pressure, was not a good look for the team talking about establishing their own era. Since then they have made the top 4 at the Major and won a smaller LAN trophy at the V4 Future Sports Festival. They also made top-6 at the most recent LAN-lite IEM Winter, losing to their long-time kryptonite in Vitality. While they have looked stronger as they gain more experience, in my opinion, the time hasn’t come for Gambit to ascend back to the top.
There’s a reason why our elders always tell us not to run our mouths too much. When you look at some of the statements Heroic has made in the public, it just shows their Naivety. Saying that a match has huge bragging rights, only helps if you win it. They are not only inexperienced in terms of LAN play, but they also show that they haven’t realized how far out of their depth they are. Comments about how they are the only team that can beat NaVi are fine if you get the shot, but when you get eliminated by Faze and Godsent they make you look foolish.
While still a top team in terms of in-game, they are mentally quite fragile. The PGL Stockholm Major gave everyone hope that Heroic might be a top team still, but they just haven’t shown up to the LAN events they’ve attended. This event is the last chance for them to prove they can compete at the highest level. Unluckily, they won’t have their star rifler Stavn to power their campaigns, with B0rup standing in for the youngster.
With the top 5 teams all in attendance, the event is already one of the strongest fields since the Major. But unfortunately, Blast needed 8 teams to attend the event, so they picked up the next best-partnered teams they could find. NIP, Astralis, Liquid are all looking shaky at best coming into this event and are likely not going to do much except beat each other.
Ninjas In Pyjamas
The Ninjas have just made a finals appearance at IEM Winter. That should mean that the team is improving and is better than ever. But the fact that they looked better against G2 with phzy than they did with Device, just puts the whole team into question. If the team was functioning properly, they should’ve gotten much worse when their superstar player had to leave the server.
But the fact that they looked better means the team wasn’t at its peak when Device was playing. If they all pop off they have a chance to beat one of the better teams. But the number of times they show up together is so rare that realistically they don’t have a chance to do much at this event.
The stark contrast between the 2018 Astralis that I used as the comparison for NaVi, and this Astralis that got blown out by Team Liquid is crazy. After having a honeymoon run, bolstered by the extremely biased Copenhagen crowd, Astralis went into IEM Winter looking strong. But now that we’re on the other side, the flaws are apparent. Lucky still looks dreadful, and the moment K0nfig and BlameF went off the boil, the team got eliminated pre-playoffs.
They are also no longer using Gla1ve on the AWP, instead opting for a 5-man rifle setup. This experiment is looking like a failure, despite the promising start. If Gla1ve commits to the sniper role, I believe he can be a competent tier-1 AWPer. But as it stands, this team is dysfunctional and the Lucky-Xyp9x duo is dragging them down. With the crowd’s absence, they aren’t capable of making a dent at this event and should go out in last place.
The other end of the Dead Team spectrum is Team Liquid. While Vitality has gone on a superb run of form cementing themselves as the 2nd best team in the world, Liquid has stalled, accepting their fate and waiting for the roster changes. Despite having players like Elige, NAF, and Stewie2k, the team seems content with whatever placement they get.
At the last two events, they have lost to the top teams they have faced like Vitality and G2. And even their games against the other teams in this category have been a toss-up. They beat NIP at Blast but lost to them at IEM Winter, and they ended the losing streak against Astralis but got eliminated the very next game.
They have the firepower to be good, but with a lack of professionalism and work ethic, they aren’t going to do anything at this event.
NaVi should be establishing their era after winning this event, while Vitality look to go out in a blaze of glory at their final event together. Stay tuned to esports.gg to keep up with how the Blast World Finals unfolds.