There is no doubt that 2021 will go down as a pivotal year for many teams, if only for the simple fact that the online era dragging on for the past fifteen months is about to come to an end. NAVI themselves are at one of the biggest turning points in the history of the CIS powerhouse.
The boys in black and yellow have clawed their way back into being one of the world’s very best, despite the online context and the never-ending stream of tournaments jammed into a tightly packed schedule. It’s been no easy road, the hardest moment being their lackluster finish at ESL Pro League Season 13, which seemed to have been a tipping point.
Indeed, it’s right after this tournament that the team decided to field Valerii "b1t" Vakhovskyi as a permanent fifth on the roster. The NAVI Junior player had been stepping in for Egor "flamie" Vasilev here and there, but never for an entire event. This gave him a taste of the level of play he would have to rise to should he move up the Counter-Strike ladder. And rise he did.
The Valve ruling related to RMR points forced the team to make a more definitive choice between the two players, and NAVI decided to trust the youngster for DreamHack Masters Spring. This was thus his first tournament that he played from the beginning until the end, and it culminated in the squad grabbing the trophy and getting revenge along the way.
They fell to Gambit early in the group stage only to beat their CIS rival in a dominant 3-0 sweep in grand finals. It was their second big win in 2021 - and a long awaited one too, since the first was the BLAST Premier Finals back in January.