Last week’s announcement that Oleksandr “s1mple“ Kostyliev had joined Natus Vincere to replace Danylo “Zeus“ Teslenko seemed inevitable.
In many ways, this has always been the end team for s1mple: The one he wanted to join the most. It is based in the CIS with all of the best players from that region. And, perhaps more importantly, as a team it has one of the highest chances of winning a tournament of anyone in professional Counter-Strike, which is what s1mple values the most. That alongside allowing him to live at home makes Na’Vi the dream team for s1mple. Yet the road to get here was not simple at all.
In many ways, the single most important person in s1mple’s career has been Spencer “Hiko“ Martin. S1mple has always had the potential of a godlike player. Even when he was bouncing around on lower level teams, he could show up to a LAN and dominate. His skill and talent eventually got him noticed by higher level teams like Flipsid3 and HellRaisers, but he never fit.
S1mple at his core is an extremely competitive person, so he lashes out at everyone if they can’t follow his standard of excellence when it comes to skill and practice ethic. Flipsid3 had a great tactical play, but no one was as skilled as s1mple, and when the months dragged on, they couldn’t bare to have him around anymore and were happy to force him out. HellRaisers was much the same issue, as though the team was more skilled, it didn’t have a realistic shot at winning, which eventually made s1mple lash out when he couldn’t get the results he desired in spite of playing amazing himself.
By the time he was done with those teams, s1mple had stranded himself on an island. He was an amazing player, but the positives could not outweigh the negatives, and no one wanted to deal with it. No one except Hiko.
Hiko saw the rage first hand when he played as a standin for Flipsid3. He understood what he was going to get into if he asked s1mple to join. But unlike the rest, he also saw the mass of untapped potential. This wasn’t a player who should be in the dregs of Counter-Strike competition. He had the skill and firepower to be playing against the best in the world. On that fateful day, the player who ended up saving s1mple’s career was Hiko. Without Hiko, s1mple could still very well be nowhere.
Even when Hiko got s1mple onto Team Liquid there were challenges. Many of them over s1mple’s homesickness, his conflicts with other players and constant shuffling of the roster. Even when Liquid made the semifinals of MLG Columbus, it wasn’t enough, and s1mple was benched again.
And again Hiko went to bat for s1mple. And for one last time they played together in a legendary run at ESL One Cologne, where Liquid made the finals of the Major. That was the big one. Columbus could be seen as a fluke. Liquid beat FaZe and Fnatic in best-of-ones. They beat Counter Logic Gaming in the quarterfinals and then lost to Luminosity. In a way, Liquid was lucky it lost to Virtus.Pro in groups at ESL One Cologne because it forced them to take the more difficult road. Liquid beat EnVyUs, mousesports, Na`Vi and Fnatic. That run proved that s1mple wasn’t just potential; he was the real deal.
And it made all the downsides of s1mple more bearable. Na`Vi didn’t know if it was worth the pain and risk of bringing him on. But that run showed s1mple can perform at that level and that he can fight head to head against the best in the world without issue.
Yet the questions still remain. Can Na`Vi tame s1mple? Can they deal with someone so competitive, so emotional, so polarizing in their ranks?
Flipsid3 failed with s1mple because it didn’t have enough skill. HellRaisers failed because it didn’t have the system. Liquid barely succeeded, as Hiko could deal with all of s1mple’s antics fine and coach Luis “peacemaker“ Tadeu was unafraid of yelling right back at s1mple and treating him completely differently from the others.
The entire burden of this will fall on Na’Vi coach Sergey ‘starix’ Ishchuk. He has already proven he can do it with his work on Egor “flamie“ Vasilyev, but s1mple is the hardest man to deal with in current competitive Counter-Strike. But if he can get this to work, we could see the birth of one of the strongest Counter-Strike teams to date and in instant foil for SK Gaming, the world’s undisputed best team.
In an article, s1mple’s former teammate Josh “jdm64“ Marzano said that s1mple had it in him to be the best in the world. He also said he had never see anyone get as angry as s1mple. S1mple is the world’s most explosive player in and out of the game, and if starix can reign him and the rest of the team in we could see the most explosive team CS:GO has ever seen. If he fails, this could be the CS:GO’s biggest explosion.
We will now have to wait with baited breath to see what happens next.
Cover photo: Photo by Adela Sznajder/Dreamhack