Natus Vincere has been on a steady rise since its last trip to Atlanta.
Three months after going out in the semifinals of the ELEAGUE Season 1 playoffs, Na’Vi has returned to Atlanta to play in Season 2’s Group C (which begins at 6 p.m. Friday and airs on TBS at 10). The biggest change for Na’Vi has been adding Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, and the result has been a steady rise that has brought Na’Vi back in the conversation among the best teams in the world.
Slingshot’s Vince Nairn had the chance to catch up with Ladislav “GuradiaN” Kovacs to talk about Na’Vi’s recent form, incorporating s1mple and what to do about all the tournaments.
Vince Nairn: A lot has changed for you guys since the last time you were in Atlanta. How would you describe your recent form?
Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs: I would say it’s very good. We won ESL New York, so we had successful weeks with the new lineup. So now we’re just working to get better and keep it up.
VN: What has it been like adding s1mple to the team?
LK: I would say s1mple is kind of still a young player, but he’s maybe the most talented player in CS history. It’s hard to work with him sometimes because his ego is pretty high. He is like wild beast.
VN: Na’Vi has had this infrastructure for so long. How have you guys tried to get him to buy into that?
LK: Bringing in s1mple is kind of, it’s a risk because he’s a youngster. We have to calm the player down when he’s going crazy and rage mode and stuff like because of his ego. There’s me and Edward and our manager to work with him. We’ll continue to do that and see how it works.
VN: How has the new coaching rule affected you guys?
LK: The coaching rule change hit us pretty hard because we had (starix) as our in-game leader, so we had five players playing our game. Now it’s been seized doing that role. He’s young and lacking experience. It will take some time for him to become a good in-game leader.
VN: How has that affected the rest of what you guys have to do in your individual roles?
LK: We had to change a lot of stuff in our game, since seized was secondary AWPer before. Now we changed oi s1mple, so it’s quite logical. We had to change our game pretty much. It worked out at ESL New York, and hopefully it will work out at this event. We have a lot to work on. It will take some time.
VN: What do you think of the new format for ELEAGUE compared to Season 1?
LK: I would say it’s much better to play only a few days. Playing one week straight, it’s not really good because we will lose focus on the game and we will get too relaxed and chilled. I think playing in two or three days is much better than playing in one week.
VN: Some players said Season 1 seemed to just drag on a lot. Is it better this way to have it all kind of condensed, where if you make it out of the group, you would be back here in two weeks for playoffs?
LK: I would say for us it’s pretty bad because now we have (IEM) Oakland after ELEAGUE. So we stay here for like three days, then Oakland, then after Oakland we have ELEAGUE. I think it’s not so good. But what can we do? It’s our jobs. I think it’s up to the organizers how they feel.
VN: Yeah, overall what do you think about the number of events and whether or not there’s an over-saturation?
LK: I would say it’s up to the teams. You can decide not to play some events. We didn’t start playing (ECS). It can be a lot of online games with the ESL Pro League. We left FaceIt to just do ESL Pro League. So it’s up to the team to decide. It’s not the fault of the organizers.
VN: How would you sum up the year as a whole in Counter-Strike?
LK: I would say the players are evolving. Players are getting better and better. It’s pretty hard to say who the top team is at the moment. For me it’s quite good because the competition is much higher than it was. It’s hard to say if the other teams are getting better or if some teams are getting worse.
VN: There’s been some talk recently about if the Major qualification process needs to be changed, with six of the current top 10 needing to qualify for the Major. Would you change anything about the process? If so, what?
LK: I wouldn’t change anything. I think you have a lot of chances to qualify. To say six of the top 10 teams are in the qualifiers, it means they failed and not the system failed. I would say it’s their fault for not making the top eight of the major. I’m quite fine with the online qualifiers and stuff. They have to qualify.
VN: What is the one thing you are looking to do to make yourselves stronger going into the end of this year and start of next?
LK: I would say my team was missing me in the past month. I didn’t play very good. It felt like they were playing 4-v-5, and that was quite true. Now that we’ve felt like we had two weeks of practice, I feel better. I had a lot of stress in my personal life. It’s out now and I can focus on CS. We have everything we need to do well. If nobody will ruin the game for the team, then we will be good.
Cover photo by Patrick Strack/ESL, eslgaming.com