Go back a little over a year and Natus Vincere was undoubtedly one of the top Counter-Strike teams in the world, but failing to reach the finals of both ESL One Cologne and ELEAGUE Season 1 last year resulted in a pretty significant roster change. Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko was out and in came Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, the young upstart from the CIS region who had made a name for himself playing with Team Liquid. It was expected the extra fire power would truly lift Na’Vi among top three teams in the world, but things didn’t go to plan.
Na’Vi has had a rough 12 months by their high standards, and rumors of a roster change have hit them a lot over recent weeks. But that didn’t seem to phase the team, as at ESL One Cologne last week they made the top four and looked pretty good in doing so. With the PGL Krakow Major just around the corner, Slingshot’s Mike Stubbs had a chat with Denis “seized” Kostin to see how he expects to do in Krakow.
Mike Stubbs: Things have been going pretty well for you so far this week, how has the tournament gone in your eyes?
Denis “seized” Kostin: Tournament is going pretty well for us. We’ve just won our quarter final. Tomorrow we’re gonna play our semifinal. Everything is going perfect right now.
MS: You’re doing well on LAN but online you’ve had a bit of a poor run by Na’Vi standards when playing online. So how different is online playing compared to playing on LAN?
DK: The balance is really different because online you have to play with sometimes big ping. Some have better ping to some servers. For example, Germany has ping 5 so when you’re playing against them, you have 50, 60 and they have 5. It feels like they are playing on LAN and you’re playing with big ping. Online, some players can’t be so focused on their game because they have some stuff outside the game, like someone is screaming at home, they need to do some stuff before the game, or something like this. That’s the main difference
MS: A lot of players talk about how much they have to travel for the job and all the different LAN events, and you mentioned that playing online has its issues. Would you rather the tournaments like the Pro League and ECS go for the ELEAGUE model where you go to ELEAGUE for a week and play the group, or do you like having the online format?
DK: I like the LAN format. I’m playing CS because I like this competition when you’re traveling with your team, you have fun, you’re playing for big crowds, big stages. I like it the most. I don’t like to play online, to be honest at all. I prefer to play on the LAN.
MS: The Major is coming up and you guys seem to have found some form just at the right time. What are your hopes? Do you think you can go out there and win it?
DK: To be honest, I came to this tournament like boot camp before Major, because before this tournament we don’t play it a lot. Because GuardiaN has his wedding, so we just came to boot camp with four people, without him for four days in Moscow. We played as much as we can, and after we have a three day break because everyone needs to travel home, pack their stuff, and then go out to GuardiaN’s wedding. Also we have two, three free days including travel days to his wedding and back here. So we were not playing I think five or six days before this tournament, so we decided not to focus on the results of the tournament, just use it like good practise, official matches. Every day when we finish our official game, we are going back to practice area and practicing improving our games. We want to show our best face in Major, and we will try to do our best for this.
MS: The major is the biggest event of the year. Do you think that the major prize pool is at a good stage, or would you like to see the prize pool kind of boosted? Because obviously, other tournaments have bigger prize pools…
DK: Yeah of course everyone wants to have a bigger prize pool because they can win the more money, but I think it’s fine. It might be too minimum. For example this competition, which you have is so many good things, no one can know for sure who is going to win. So I think everyone prefers bigger prize pool, but we don’t need a tournament like The International because it’s going to be this kind of tournament going to kill chemistry of other tournaments. Everyone will be like, there’s only one tournament that is fed, all those just have less, so it’s one big thing.
MS: With the Majors there is of course the stickers aspect. So how profitable does that stuff turn out for you guys? Does that bring in extra money, like quite a bit of extra money? Or is that just a little bit on the side.
DK: Yeah it’s good extra money for us.
MS: So is qualifying for a major a big difference in payout just purely of sticker money?
DK: It’s not only about money, it’s about prestige of tournament. Those Majors are most important tournaments for every Counter-Strike player. And everyone want to play this tournament. We didn’t miss any major, especially me. I am playing for Na’Vi on all Majors so I am only one player left in the all Counter-Strike history of Majors who is playing only for one organisation in all Majors.
MS: It’s quite the impressive stat. Do you think that you’ll be on Na’Vi for the next say, next five majors?
DK: I hope so.
MS: So you have no plans to sort of call it a day any time soon. You’re happy playing?
DK: No one can know what’s going to be in the future, but I hope everything is going to be OK with us and we will stay together and keep achieving our goals.
Cover photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, illustration by Raphie Rosen