Navi are the favorites to win IEM Katowice. But recent roster shuffles have created two worthy contenders in Vitality and G2 esports.
IEM Katowice is one of the biggest CS: GO tournaments of the year. With a live audience at the Spodek arena, this year's event holds special significance for participating teams. There have been many roster changes post the Stockholm Major. Teams changed rosters, adding more firepower to defeat the one player and the one team that has dominated them throughout 2021: S1mple & Natus Vincere.
But Navi are still the favorites to win IEM Katowice. It is a LAN event, where S1mple believes his team thrives and performs at its best. Esports.gg got an opportunity to speak with the Navi players ahead of their first match at IEM Katowice 2022.
NAVi won the BLAST Premier Fall Finals 2021 after a 2-1 victory over Team Vitality.
Q: Now that Zywoo and Niko both have strong teams around them, do you think this will be an exciting year for CS as a whole to see the best players competing at the high level now.
S1mple: It definitely helps them to become better. Maybe not now, maybe in three months when we see their full potential. Because right now, when you have a new superstar team, usually at the beginning, the team has a high motivation period and they start playing without any pressure and without any conflicts. They just start to play together with each other. Maybe in the beginning everything will be fine. It's more interesting to see what's going to happen in three months.
Because I remember when we invited B1t to our team, when he started to play in the main roster; it was so easy for us. But after we started to go through whole maps, we started to see new mistakes, we started discussing the mistakes, it was a totally different amount of work.
Boombi4: We need more time to see these teams on LAN. I think everyone can be dangerous at the start of the season on the first LANs. We will see what happens after these LANs. We will see who will be the most dangerous teams for us. Right now, I can't choose anyone.
Q: How do you feel about not keeping m0NESY in Navi. He said in an interview that his goal was to be on the main roster in a year or two. Now he's at G2 esports.
S1mple: Right now, we don't care about m0NESY at all. He has no role in our team. He has no experience on our team. Our team is winning so why should we keep him? What's the point?
This was the first time we had such a long break and it was hard to get back to when we were winning and crushing everyone
Q: Were your struggles at the BLAST Spring Groups a reflection of the way that your season ended because it was such a long and draining season for you guys? Did you want to take things slow also knowing that with a couple of losses, you can still make it through to the Spring Finals, which is exactly what happened.
S1mple: I think all of us have never stopped playing. This was the first time we had such a long break and it was hard to get back to when we were winning and crushing everyone. So of course we need some time.
Also it was online. Our team likes to get in better shape on LAN from game to game. I think we are getting better and better and improving our level of performance.
S1mple is one of the best players in the world. The 24-year-old has dominated the CS: GO scene for several years now and is one of the key components for Navi's success so far. Despite being an organization that has fielded multiple teams in CS: GO, since the first Major, Navi had not won a single Major till date. All that changed with the PGL Stockholm Major. Not only did Natus Vincere win the $2 million Major, they did so without dropping a single map.
S1mple puts up some crazy stats on the server, but he's not all about just firepower. The Navi star contributes immensely in the team's strategies and playstyle. Sometimes he helps the team in developing a new strategy. But does that mean he might consider a role as an IGL? Not just yet.
"I think all IGLs of NAVI are crazy and I don't want to be crazy. (smirks and looks at Boombi4) Right Boombi4?"
On a serious note, he says leading the team is a very difficult job. It requires a lot of time and a massive amount of effort and this is something where that he has words of praise for Boombi4 and B1ade (team coach).
"I think when I will lose my individual skill from age, I might think about it. But it's very hard, it's very hard because the players on our team know how much time Boombi4 works with B1ade and how much time he spends playing individually. He needs to do both the things. He needs to play and he needs to always talk and communicate with the coach. It's very hard. You have extra time to put which nobody from our team expects Boombi4 and B1ade has."
Thoughts on the combination of the CIS-EU RMRs?
I am happy cause it's a chance for CIS teams to get more experience against European teams
S1mple on Valve's decision to merge the CIS-eu rmr.
Recently, PGL announced Valve's decision to host three RMR events combining CIS and EU into one region. The total number of slots remained the same, but the combination of the RMR events meant CIS teams could directly compete against EU teams for a slot at the Major.
For me personally, it's very good. First of all, when it was 2020 and it was all online, I don't know why HLTV gave MVP awards for Europe RMRs. Is it because they are better teams or what? CIS destroyed everyone last year. Only after that did they start to give MVP for RMR tournaments. It's one of the biggest mistakes ever in2020.
S1mple on Valve's decision to combine the CIS-EU RMR.
S1mple is happy with the recent changes combining the EU and CIS RMR events. He gives an example of a team like Entropiq which has produced good results. The team has had some success recently including a top-two finish at the Funspark ULTI 2021 as well as qualifying to the main stage of the Elisa Invitational Winter 2021: Main Swiss Stage.
"I am happy cause it's a chance for CIS teams to get more experience against European teams. For example, teams like Entropiq, they did good on LAN. But they never had a chance of playing RMR against teams like Fnatic, Vitality, Astralis,"
"They can get this experience only from LAN tournaments. But now, not only Entropiq but also other teams will get an opportunity to get experience against European teams."
"I think about what would happen if NiKo gets the Deagle kill from Heaven. What would happen on the third map ... you never know."
For many fans, this is the Navi era. The CIS squad has dominated tournaments and leagues over the past year and capped it off with victories at the Stockholm Major and the BLAST Premier Global Finals. There are have been several eras in Counter-Strike Global Offensive. NiP had an unbeaten run in the early years, we saw Fnatic, SK and very recently, Astralis dominate the scene. For many, the current era is the Navi era.
But reaching the top and maintaining your position at the top are two different matters. During Astralis' reign, we saw the Danes skip a few tournaments to get their players adequate rest and time to rejuvenate. Talking about their preparation for different tournaments, S1mple outlined the team's mentality going into an event.
When we play on LAN of course, we will start slowly because it's a LAN. It's about emotions.
S1mple on players' resting for big tournaments
S1mple: "Usually, we just see a tournament and discuss with each other. If it's some big tournament or a Major, we discuss that we need to do a Bootcamp. So our preparation will be much better and we will change something in our game. But when we play on LAN of course, we will start slowly because it's a LAN. It's about emotions. For example, when we played BLAST we had some issues after the break." said S1mple.
"But year, overall before any big event we set up goals that we try to win 100%. Of course we try to win every game, but if we understand it's the most important tournament (like the Major last year), we spend as much time as we can in preparation.
And all of us know that it's our biggest goal and because of that you get extra motivation and you start doing extra work and you understand it. After every win, I think about what would happen if you lose this particular play. What would happen if NiKo gets the Deagle kill from Heaven. What would happen on the third map, you never know. When you start to see it, that you would lose this if that particular play didn't happen, I personally try to do much more work.
When you win a tournament, you try to imagine any bad situations that could happen if you didn't win. And when you see this situation, you start thinking you don't want to be in this spot of losing."
Finally, S1mple's feeling much more confident now, going into IEM Katowice 2022. The team had a rough restart after the player break, but they are getting in stride.
"As I said, we are getting better and better during games on LAN. For example, in the group stage we will play like this and in the quarterfinals, we will play much better. But overall, our preparation is much much better than it was at the start of the year. Because after our vacation, some of us forgot some strategies and hopefully we show our S-Game."
Navi will play in Group B of the IEM Katowice 2022 tournament. They are the favorites to win the whole event, but they face stiff competition from the likes of Vitality and G2 esports.