Since late 2017, the duo of s1mple and electronic has shined bright and had its lows. Now with a new look Na'Vi, it's time for the duo to ascend once again.
In the last quarter of 2019, Na`Vi tried a bold gamble of moving Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev from the AWP to a hybrid player. The move didn’t work out as Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs was unable to regain his former star form. Going into 2020, Na`Vi moved forward by adding Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy to the lineup and having s1mple pick up the AWP once again. The move has revitalized the s1mple and Denis “electronic” Sharipov combination and they are the best CS:GO star duo in the world.
A Difference in System
Before we can take a look as to why s1mple and electronic are the best duo in the world, we need to look at the context of the system they are currently playing under. From 2017-2019, Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko was the leader of Na`Vi. During that time he ran the classic Zeus tactical style. They focused on structured map control, ran down the clock, and then executed in the last seconds of the round.
Once Zeus retired, the Na`Vi system changed. The mastermind behind the new Na`Vi system was Andrey “B1ad3” Gorodenskiy. He scouted and brought in Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov to be their entry-fragger and eventual in-game leader. B1ad3 wanted to run a completely new system that utilized their star individual players by giving them a lot more freedom in the action. He described it to HLTV, “the most important part of the system is to give a lot of freedom to all our players at specific moments of the game.”
B1ad3 wanted to create a more flexible, in the moment, system where the players could analyze what was happening in a round and make a call mid-round. It was a brilliant idea theoretically, but in practice it was going to take a long time to build the mental protocols and structure needed to make such a system possible.
So where Zeus’ system emphasized a structured and was more macro-oriented towards the entire half, B1ad3’s system focused more on the individual skill while building a similar foundation of CS:GO principles within their players and burgeoning leader.
This is critical in understanding the increased tactical burden that s1mple and electronic have to carry in modern day Na`Vi. In 2018, there was always a tactical fallback plan for Na`Vi as they could rely on Zeus’ calling and executes to win the round if they failed to get into a power play scenario.
In current Na`Vi, the backup plan is weaker. Na`Vi don’t have a plan for the entire half and their executes at the end of the round are less effective. So while the current Na`Vi drains the clock, the thrust of their strategy is different. Zeus wanted his team to take map control and then use that map control to get a strong hit at the end of the round. Boombl4 has the team use their utility to take map control to try to win duels. They then hit a site once the time runs out if they fail to get the duels they are looking for.
So in terms of tactical considerations, the s1mple and electronic pairing is even more important now than it was back then as they are also the engines that make their T-sides work. Having said all that, it’s worth noting that the overall burden on the pair was far higher in 2018 considering the weak individual form of Zeus and Ioann “Edward’ Sukhariev at the time.
Understanding how Star Players synergize, the SK 2017 example
One of the reasons why the s1mple and electronic pairing is so potent is that they have disparate roles that allow both of them to impact the game the entire round. To understand what I mean, let’s first look at an example of a classic star duo pairing: Marcelo “Coldzera” David and Fernando “fer” Alvarenga.
In 2017, the Coldzera and fer duo was the best in the world. The reason they were so successful was because their specialties had no overlap with each other. Coldzera liked to play the mid to late rounds while fer liked to go take map control, go for early aggressive duels, and find openings as an aggressive lurker. So on the T-side, fer got to dictate the pace of the game and then when SK called their hit, they pocketed Coldzera and gave have as much room as possible to work his magic. SK used a similar approach on the CT-side with fer being the best CT-side entry player of that year. Fer usually won his duel, got traded, or got map information. Coldzera then used this map information to setup his side of the map to clean up the round, whether he was defending his site as an anchor or moving on on the retake.
Their duo made a lot of intuitive sense as Fer was an extremely aggressive player who wanted to break open the rounds while Coldzera was a more passive player who wanted to close the rounds. This meant that there was no overlap in terms of where each star wanted to impact any particular round.
s1mple and Electronic’s Role Synergy
What makes the s1mple and electronic pairing so interesting is that in terms of impact, they have a lot of overlap. Both players want to win aggressive duels in the opening rounds of the game, both of them want to make mid-round plays, and both of them want to close the rounds in the 1vX situation. When players have overlap in terms of where they want to impact a round, conflict and discord can arise. At the end of 2017, this happened to Astralis. Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen and Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjaerybe both wanted to be the impactful entry player. This situation never resolved itself and this was one of the potential reasons why we saw Astralis try to shift dupreeh to the AWP for a short period of time to try to defuse the situation.
For s1mple and electronic though, no such conflict exists. While both players want to have an impact on the round at all times, their actual roles have no actual overlap. Actually, their roles synergize with each other and bolsters the other star player.
In Electronic’s case he plays the entry-fragger into late-round lurker. Entry-fragger in this case means that he is the rifler who takes control of key areas of the map. On Nuke he takes yard and secret, Dust2 mid and short, or ivy on Train. At the same time, s1mple is the AWPer. He goes for early picks that and can either hold an area or join the main pack in getting map control.
Once the mid-late round starts, Electronic becomes the lurker as he tries to outflank and outmaneuver the defense. S1mple in contrast joins the main pack and the rest of the team tries to pocket s1mple. It’s a bit similar to how Vitality use Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut, but the personal flair is different. S1mple is far more likely to take up aggressive and dangerous positions to create space for the rest of his team. Once the post-plant happens, both s1mple and electronic are in prime position to close the round. Even in situations where s1mple is playing the rifle, the two players don’t have much overlap as s1mple can either play a flank or help electronic take map control early on.
The CT-side is a similar story with Electronic and s1mple being Na`Vi’s aggressive opening duelists. What’s interesting is that the two of them work together in tandem more than on the T-side. On maps like Inferno and Dust2, they are the two players who often take aggressive map control together. This creates explosive openings for Na`Vi that makes them hard to deal with in the early or mid-round. On Nuke for instance, teams like to use yard smokes around the 1:00 mark to take control of the outer yard and deny AWP picks. S1mple and electronic then use a basic flash play that is often perfectly timed to catch the other team off guard.
What’s more, the two of them seem to sync perfectly when they are playing away from each other. Electronic will often go for mid-round aggression to try to find map information. S1mple in turn will then make rotations based off of what he’s found. For instance, if Electronic goes for a mid-round play into popdog or T-main, s1mple knows that he can rotate over to the B-site. In cases where Electronic dies, s1mple then gets the choice of how he wants to respond. His decision seems to be positionally based. If Electronic dies going for an aggressive push for T-main on Mirage, s1mple can play passive if he’s close to ticket, take control of mid with his AWP if he is playing near window or short, or push B halls to take some map control. We can see an example of this in Na`Vi’s recent victory over Astralis at BLAST. On the eighth round in Nuke, Electronic was pushed up close to the T-side of yard and was killed by Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander.
Given how little map control Astralis had on the map prior to this point, s1mple decided that the best course of action was to push up and find a revenge frag. While he was able to get one, gla1ve traded him soon after. While the play failed in this particular instance, it often works out for the CS duo.
This dynamic seems to empower both players. Electronic has one of the biggest green lights for an opening duelist and this is in part due to having s1mple as backup. S1mple is so consistent that he can cover any holes that Electronic might leave open if he fails. S1mple in turn has knows confidence that Electronic can win any duel he gets himself into and can use that information to secure the round later if he doesn’t.
Doing the Unimaginable
The final reason why the two players are the best duo is because both players often pull out individual plays that let them steal rounds. While I’ve talked about Electronic’s ability as an entry at length, he’s also brilliant as a defender and clutcher. One of the best defensive plays was his famous pop flash he used to defend pit against Astralis at ESL One Cologne 2018. A more recent example of his brilliance as a clutcher was his map against Vitality on Inferno at BLAST 2020. Electronic was stuck in a 1v2 situation at banana and smoked out. After a Vitality player faked the defuse, he spammed the smoke and the other players counter-spamed. He intuited where the player was based on the fire and where the bomb was planted and did a spray down that got him into a winnable 1v1.
S1mple in contrast can take up positions that are impossible for any other player in the world. I’ve seen him hold Overpass connector without any help and then kill two of the four players swarming him. When Na`Vi hit the site, he can play the standard AWP angles or he can take an aggressive open spot where he has to rely on his game sense and reflexes to get the kill. In the finals of ICE CHallenge 2020, s1mple played the lurker with his AWP. He got an opening around the 0:30 mark, which prompted Na`Vi to hit B. s1mple then moved to short where he dropped down to hit the rotating players from the back.
The Best Duo in CS:GO
As it stands now, s1mple and Electronic are the best duo in CS:GO. Their synergy together is some of the best we’ve seen of any duo in the game. S1mple has the highest ceiling we’ve seen of any player and his return to the AWP seems to have revitalized his peak form. Electronic’s level of performance is the highest we’ve seen from him since his breakout in mid-2018. Both players can impact the round at any moment, win impossible entries or clutches, and have fantastic game sense when things fall apart.
As 2020 goes underway, Na`Vi’s success will likely be determined by the success of the s1mple and electronic duo. Their system relies on their individuals winning duels and parlaying that into tactical advantages across the map. Right now, no one other duo is as impactful for their team as s1mple and electronic is for theirs. That is why they are the best star pairing in CS:GO.
Images via Starladder.