How Na`vi and S1mple made the major winning squad
Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev has done it. After years of toil, he has finally won a CS:GO Major, the biggest trophies in the CS:GO circuit. S1mple has had every accolade thrown at him and is by general consensus, considered the greatest player in CS:GO history. However the Major has eluded him as the timing was never right. He either wasn't mentally prepared, his teams weren't strong enough, or he competed in the Astralis era. After years of work, the greatest player of all time has finally won his first Major. This is a story of his greatness and how Na`Vi built a squad around him to become the best team in the world. A story five years in the making.
The beginning: ESL One Cologne 2016
The story begins in the quarterfinals of ESL One Cologone 2016 Major. S1mple was playing his last tournament with Team Liquid and faced off against Na`Vi in the quarterfinals. Na`Vi was once a great team, but was slowly declining over time. This was the tipping point as s1mple and Liquid upset Na`Vi 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
The direct confrontation and loss to Liquid convinced Na`Vi that s1mple was the future. After the Major, Na`Vi recruited s1mple to replace Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko. The initial plan was to have an all-star lineup of: s1mple, Ioann "Edward' Sukhariev, Egor "flamie" Vasilev, Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovacs, and Denis "seized" Kostin. The team should have theoretically worked as coaches could in-game lead at the time and Serhei "starix" Yschuk had already proven his skills as that type of caller.
Soon after though, Valve came in and banned coaches from in-game leading. Thus the tribulations began. For one year, Na`Vi had brilliant firepower, but lacked any kind of leadership or cohesion to make them an actual team. As for Zeus, he went onto Gambit and eventually led them to win the PGL 2017 Krakow Major.
That victory convinced Na`Vi to bring Zeus back on and while there was a stronger sense of unity in the team, they now lacked the firepower to truly compete against the best in the world.
At the time, there were three CIS stars that people theory-crafted should play with s1mple.
They were: Dauren "AdreN" Qustaubaev, Abay "Hobbit" Khassenov, and Denis "electronic" Sharipov. AdreN and Hobbit were the two stars of Zeus' Gambit line-up and both were playing at an incredible level. AdreN was a legitimate top five player during the peak Gambit period with an all-around game that could have complemented s1mple without any role-clashes. Hobbit was a rising star with a clutch mentality that propelled Gambit in the finals of PGL Krakow Major.
As for electronic, he was a rising young talent in Flipsid3. At the time he was playing under Andrii "B1ad3" Gorodenskyi's structured system. It was a highly tactical and regimented system and while Blad3 rightly gets praised for the tactical prowess of his teams, electronic looked like he had the potential to become a future star in the world.
Eventually Na`Vi settled on electronic. That choice has proven to be fortitous as electronic proved to be the best player among the three candidates. Electronic started out his time in Na`Vi as an aggressive play-maker and lurk entry who could create space on the map. Throughout the years, he has evolved a more all-around game to give more space to his other teammates, but he still continues to be the secondary star in the Na`Vi squad who can almost do it all.
S1mple has consistently called electronic the best player he has ever played with and the two of them are the best duo in CS:GO history.
The final crusades
In the beginning of 2018, HLTV reported that s1mple and flame could have potentially joined the SK trio into making a super Brazilian-CIS squad.
In the end, s1mple stuck with Na`Vi as he believed that the organization could make the moves to eventually create a number one team. Na`Vi has certainly made good moves as they had brought back Zeus after Zeus led Gambit to a Major and got electronic from Flipsid3.
For the next two years, Na`Vi were a top team, but they were always a step or two behind the best teams in the world: Astralis and Liquid. During that period, s1mple and electronic built the resume that eventually made them the best duo in CS:GO. However both Astralis and Liquid are historically great squads. Astralis during that time period was the greatest line-up in history. Liquid in 2018 may not have the trophies, but if Astralis didn't exist we could be talking about Liquid as one of the most dominant teams in history as they consistently beat every team in the world except for Astralis. Liquid in early 2019 added more firepower and that changed helped them speed run the ESL Grand Slam. Liquid's success in turn reawakened Astralis from their slumber.
All of this left Na`Vi in a strange limbo. Zeus was the best leader in the CIS region, but his individual skill was getting worse over time and everyone knew time was running out. Na`Vi needed to plan for the future and they finally made a change in leadership.
The director and his SMG
In 2019, Na`Vi made two additions to their team. They got Blad3 as an esports director and added Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov as a player. The message was clear, Zeus was gearing up for retirement and it was time to move onto the next stage. Blad3 was in position to eventually take over as coach and director of the Na`Vi CS squad and Boombl4 was his chosen leader for a new type of Na`Vi.
Blad3 described his new vision of Na`Vi in his HLTV interview: "The thing is, the most important part of the system is to give a lot of freedom to all our players at specific moments of the game. They play like 60% structured and 30-40% with freedom... To emphasize that, you need to give players freedom at the exact moments of these situations to win. If you analyze them properly and win these situations on the map, you can win most of the rounds."
Blad3 continued on to talk about why he thought Boombl4 was the perfect leader for this new vision: "He [Boombl4] always tries to play from what he sees in an exact moment, he doesn't try to play by a script. That's how he sees the game, that's his vision".
As a player, Boombl4 is an aggressive space-maker. On the CT-side in particular, he is one of the best players at using the SMG. The gun synergises with his playstyle as it gives him faster movement speed, and lets him take more aggressive info plays to take more space and coordinate faster rotations for the Na`Vi defence.
Boombl4's playstyle was certainly a fit for Blad3's vision, but it would take years for his calling to match up. In the meantime, Na`Vi tried to tinker with the roster by adding on potential AWPers and move s1mple to a hybrid role. While the experiment failed, Blad3 and Na`Vi did eventually find the two right players that completed their Exodia.
The perfecto pillar
The trio of s1mple, electronic, and Boombl4 created a massive amount of aggressive potential in the team, but what Na`Vi needed was a luxury fifth. A role-player who could consistently do his job, take the harder spots, free up the others, and also have the ability to win any 1vX he happened to be in.
In essence, Na`Vi wanted the CIS version of Andreas "Xyp9x" Hojsleth or Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson. In 2020, they found him, Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy. Perfecto is everything I described. A perfect role player that can hard entry, passive lurk, anchor the hard-sites, play smart, consistent, and can win any 1vX situation you put him into.
Na`Vi were a top team once again, but there were strange inconsistencies in the squad. Boombl4's calling wasn't on point with the others and there was a strange static jerkiness that slowed the entire machine down. On paper, they firepower was incredible, but in practice it was often too s1mple reliant. Electronic was still great, but the nature of his roles made it impossible for him to be consistent.
At the end of 2020, Na`Vi bit the bullet. They replaced flamie and added the final piece of the puzzle, Valerii "B1T" Vakhovskyi.
The last bit
Prior to joining Na`Vi, b1t had been playing on the Na`Vi junior acadey. Like every player before him, B1ad3 recognized the talent and got b1t into the squad. B1t fit in perfectly as a a high fragging entry play-maker. B1t took on more of electronic's classical roles of specializing in more entry, lurking, and play-making. As for electronic, he took on a more all-around role. On some maps, he retained some of his classic spots (like yard on Nuke), in others he moved to a rotator role, lurker, or entry, depending on what the team needed.
The move worked out perfectly and as Na`Vi moved into 2021, they became the best team in the world. The only team that could compete with them was Gambit and that was only in the first half of 2021.
Na`Vi had finished their Exodia and Blad3's vision of the game had finally come to fruition. In 2021, Na`Vi won the BLAST Premier Global Final 2020, DreamHack Spring Finals 20201, got 2nd at Blast Premier Spring Finals 2021, won the CIS RMR 2021, ESL Cologne, the Grand Slam, EPL 14, and now the PGL Stockholm Major.
To truly understand the majesty of this Na`Vi, we'll examine a few rounds from their Major run.
60% structure, 40% freedom
First we'll take a look at Ancient. This is the 25th round against G2 in the finals of PGL Stockholm.
In this round Boombl4 quickly rushes towards short, s1mple and Perfecto play a two-man game towards ramp, b1t holds towards A main, and electronic holds back a little as he controls middle. Boombl4's space creation and Perfecto's support gives s1mple the sapce he needs to go for opening picks, which he does.
The structured aspect of Blad3's system has done its job, now it's up to the individuals to understand the situation they are in and make their plays.
Na`Vi now have three lurkers on the field: b1t, electronic and Boombl4. Both b1t and electronic realize that the CTs are in a 5v4 situation and need to make a play or gamble rotate. As for Boombl4, he knows that he just needs to hold his position. So b1t and electronic go for individual lurks towards A main and mid. If they win their duels, Na`Vi is in a 5v3. If they don't, they get the info about the setup which gives Na`Vi the all-clear to hit the B-site hard.
In the end, s1mple and Perfecto rotate over to hit the A-site, but they run into G2's setup. Realising that G2 had rotated, the are in position to use their two other lurkers and make a mid-round call to hit the B-site with electronic making a deep lurk into mid and Boombl4 already holding the space they need to hit B.
In the end, G2 eventually win the round, but this round is emblematic of Na`Vi's playstyle. They use some structure in the beginning of each round, get their players into specific zones on the map, and then have them make individual plays and reads across the map. While Na`Vi lose this round here, they do the same style of attack in the 27th round and win the game.
The greatest duo vs NiKo
This style of play is fantastic, but it comes with a high prerequisite. Namely that the players in the system all have a high level of individual skill and knowledge. By having so many individual players take up so much space, a team increases the chances of a round going wrong as there is less trade guaranteed trade potential across the map.
The final map of the Major was on Nuke. I could talk about the theory, strategy, smokes, and interweaving tactics of each side, but all analysis comes down to this. G2's best tactic has NiKo break open yard as an entry or lurk on both sides of the map. Na`Vi's T-side has s1mple and electronic break open or defend yard. The finals rounds of the map came down to the greatest duo in CS:GO history fighting against NiKo, one of the greatest prodigies in CS:GO history in an individual firefight to the finish.
The war started in the 25th round and lasted all the way into double overtime.
In the end the s1mple and electronic duo prevailed and Na`Vi won their Major.
Winning the major
PGL Major Stockholm was a historic event. It was the first Major since the pandemic and one of the biggest events in CS:GO history. It is a culminating event for Na`Vi, Blad3, and s1mple. Na`Vi have spent the last five years building a Major winning team and now have the best team in the world. Blad3 was the head of that change and every player in the Na`Vi squad was at one point scouted and recruited by him. The current Na`Vi is Blad3's fantastic five and his philosophy is ingrained in the system and style they play.
As for s1mple, he is the axis of everything. He is the greatest player of all time. Against all odds he hasnot only kept his peak skills up for the last four years, he has reached even higher levels of skill. He has topped all of his individual rivals: Marcelo “Coldzera” David, NiKo, Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut. He has outlasted some of the greatest (in Astralis case the greatest) line-ups of history.
His patience, work, and endurance has paid off. Na`Vi are the best team in the world, he has the best teammate in electronic, one of the greatest coaches, and his first Major victory.