Absent from nearly all the first tournaments of the year, Natus Vincere make their return to top tier competitive CS with the Major. In January, whilst teams were either fighting for a spot at the Major in its qualifiers, or making a few sorties at medium-sized tournaments, Na’Vi chose to mostly rest and practice ahead of the first landmark tournament of 2019.
One of the key aspects that they would have to figure into their preparations for Katowice would be how their results varied so much since the last Major. While their Summer run was nothing short of great, their Fall campaign suffered some tough losses and early exits, among multiple top finishes which included a trophy at Blast Copenhagen. However, this mixed bag of runs should not overshadow the fact that Na’Vi have always brought their A-game when it mattered most. In London at the FACEIT Major, they rampaged through the opposition, and were inches from claiming the title, only dropping three maps overall, and all of them to a peak performance Astralis — a commonality between them and many teams facing the Danish titans in 2018.
There is a sense of resilience that also surrounds the CIS squad right now, as they’ve become one of the longest standing juggernauts in the scene, staying together for a little over a year. No matter the hardships, they remained resolute and bounced back from any setback. When Gambit sent them packing in New York, we saw them come back stronger at Epicenter and grab a silver medal. When they suffered a top 16 exit at IEM Chicago, then a top 6 finish at the ESL Pro League Season 8, they made up for that in Lisbon.
While it would be easy to dismiss that as inconsistency, it brings to the spotlight an approach relatively rare in the scene today. Na’Vi bank on longevity and long term meshing, in an environment that often leads to player changes in the face of hardships. Longevity is beneficial for Na’Vi, and one of the main reasons for that is Denis “electroNic” Sharipov. It’s quite easy to forget that 2018 was his real debut year in a top team given that he cemented himself as one of the best players in the world. However, this is only the beginning for the young Russian. It’s quite vertiginous to think he can still reach higher peaks, and that there’s still much for him to possibly learn under the leadership of his teammates.
Walking in the footsteps of prodigy Oleksandr “S1mple” Kostylev, yet with a style of his own, electroNic is also surrounded by veterans and notably one of the father figures of CIS Counter-Strike, Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko. It’s not hard to see how he could still improve under their guidance. In a team that already boast the undeniable best Counter-Strike player, and one of its greatest leaders, it’s hard not to imagine Na’Vi as the team that could lift the Katowice Major trophy in March, and it’s not hard to imagine electroNic giving a world class performance while they do it.