NaVi won ESL Pro League Season 14 with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Team Vitality. The team also joins Team Liquid and Astralis as the only teams to have won the Intel Grand Slam.
Na’Vi and Vitality are the two grand finalists at the ESL Pro League Season 14, it is a rivalry that has CS:GO fans jumping in excitement. A ‘S1mple vs Zyw0o’ matchup is exciting as it is, but when it is the Grand Finals of a $750,000 tournament, the stakes are just too high.
ESL Pro League Map Veto
1. Natus Vincere removed Vertigo.
2. Vitality removed Ancient.
3. Natus Vincere picked Dust2.
4. Vitality picked Inferno.
5. Natus Vincere picked Nuke.
6. Vitality picked Overpass.
7. Mirage was left over.
NaVi win Dust 2, start Series with a Bang
Vitality started off with a pistol-round win (and the subsequent round), but the team failed to put up any offense in the next few rounds. NaVi’s strong CT defense and quick rotations saw the CIS squad march ahead to a 7-2 lead. Vitality clawed back a few more rounds to finish the half with a 5-10 deficit.
However, Vitality’s strength was on the T-side and the French squad showed why they are a team to be feared. The second-half was relatively even as both teams had a streak of rounds. But NaVi’s strong CT half meant that an equal split of rounds is advantageous to them. NaVi won Dust 2 with a 16-12 score, taking a one-map lead in the series.
Electronic was in fine form during Dust 2 as the 23-year-old finished the map with 29 kills leading the way for NaVi. His score was miles ahead of any Vitality player, where the highest number of kills was 19. He also held the record for most damage and most entry kills.
Inferno: Flawless French CT Side!!
After NaVi won its map pick, we move on to the map pick of Vitality. The French squad has been extremely comfortable on Inferno, a map that allows teams to have a mixture of aggression as well as fakes. Vitality focused heavily on the A bombsite in the initial rounds, amassing a 7-1 lead. But NaVi was always inching closer to figuring out Vitality's strategy. The NaVi squad made educated estimates of Vitality's plans for the rounds and often came out ahead.
One of the highlights of the first half came on the 13th round. As Vitality confused NaVi's A defense, eliminating two playyers, b1t and S1mple, going A was an easy choice. It was a 5v1 contest, with only electronic holding the fort on the A bombsite. The chances of electronic eliminating all five players were always minimal, but he had time in his favor. With only a few seconds remaining, Vitality took the fight to electronic. He got a few kills, just enough to delay Vitality's chances of planting the bomb in time. Vitality lost the round as they ran out of time, an unfortunate outcome of some amazing plays all around.
We were a bit surprised because they picked Inferno instead of Overpass. We didn't actually practice this map, just two or three times before the event.
Plays like Shox's Grenade usage that allowed him to bamboozle his opponents simply show the level of preparation for the French squad.
The first half ended with a 9-6 lead for Vitality. The French squad continued with its momentum to win the first three rounds on the second half. NaVi tried different approaches to win a round, but Vitality were unfazed, taking the score to 14-6 off some exciting plays by Zyw0o. The player had 25 kills compared to the next-best of 14 kills on his team. He was ready to win and it showed in his game. The French squad won the map with a 16-6 score off the back of a flawless CT side that took the momentum out of NaVi's game.
Nuke: electronic vs Apex on Outer Nuke
Both teams looked extremely strong on their map picks and Nuke was no different. NaVi started the CT-sided map with a 5-0 lead on the T-side. While Vitality won a few rounds here and there, NaVi, at one point, commanded a 10-2 lead. The half ended with a 11-4 score and NaVi looked poised to take their second map win of the series.
One of the key duels on Nuke was the consistent duel between electronic and Apex on outer. Electronic would often come out ahead and secure a man advantage very early for NaVi in the T side.
As we moved into the second half, Vitality won the pistol and followed it up with three more rounds. Still the score was just 8-14 and there was little room for error for the French squad.
But it was always going to be a difficult task to stop NaVi from winning any CT rounds. Natus Vincere finally clinched Nuke with a 16-11 score. NaVi were just one map away from winning the championship after Nuke.
Overpass: Over in a Jiffy
Vitality's next map pick was Overpass. The French team is well-known for its dominance and the variety of tactics on this map. NaVi won the pistol round and all was well and good. But after that, the CIS squad simply did not find its footing. Vitality ended the first half with a 12-3 score with shox and Kyojin leading the charge.
NaVi had a few standout performances, but that's all they were - standout. Vitality ended the first half with a 12-3 score and after this, it was only a matter of time before they won Overpass.
NaVi tried to make a comeback, but the lead was simply too big to overcome. Shox and Kyojin were the top fraggers in the server with 25 kills apiece. With the series tied at 2-2, we move on to Mirage, the final map in the series. The winner of Mirage would win the tournament. If NaVi win, it secures them the Intel Grand Slam Season 3, with a storyline fit for the ages.
Mirage - NaVi has the lead in the first half
But now we were on familiar territory for NaVi. The match proceeded to Mirage, where both NaVi and Vitality have been extremely potent and secured wins. NaVi had a great early start to the map, securing five rounds in quick succession. Vitality managed to win the next three rounds and were on course to win the fourth as well. But an impressive play on the B Bombsite by B1t allowed NaVi to steal a round from Vitality.
That round win proved crucial as it allowed the CIS squad to continue its momentum into the rest of the half. Electronic secured an Ace in the very next round.
NaVi won the second pistol despite some heroic headshots by Shox. But Vitality won the next five rounds and we had a game on our hands. None of the maps in the series so far had been close, it was either NaVi dominating or Vitality crushing NaVi. But by the looks of it, Mirage seemed to bring an extremely competitive series, a fitting end to the ESL Pro League Season 14.
An aggressive move by Vitality, to push two players through underpass, proved costly. NaVi had the numbers and took the round, a welcome reprieve for NaVi fans from the string of Vitality round wins.
Vitality kept it close, they were always keeping NaVi's economy in check and won a series of rounds. But with max loss bonus, NaVi allowed itself to make a force-buy and then Rush B to win its 13th round. The teams continued trading rounds towards the end of Mirage, it was extremely close and the map could go either way. But ultimately, NaVi took the win on Mirage, a map that went the distance of thirty rounds.
With this victory, NaVi won ESL Pro League Season 14 as well as cements its name in the history books with the Intel Grand Slam Season 3.
Featured Image Credit: NaVi.