be_ixf;ym_202205 d_29; ct_50
Photos of Navi CSGO at DreamHack Masters in Stockholm, Sweden

Zeus - Writing History with Navi

Sep 112018

After reuniting with his former teammates a year ago, and the addition of Denis “electronic” Sharipov to the team a few months later on, Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko and his squad have steadily shaped up into one of the best teams in the world. During the run-up to the FACEIT Major, they’ve established themselves as a powerhouse again, with the potential of winning every tournament they enter.

For Zeus, this was a homecoming. Na’Vi is, and will be associated with him for a long time. He has seen it all while waving the black and yellow flag of the venerable CIS organization. Well, not exactly, though. He made headlines in 2017 by winning the Krakow Major with Gambit, in a spectacular story. This resonated immensely with the tweet he made when Na’Vi decided to release him, where he promised himself to win a Major in his career. Yet there’s one thing that would make his career complete, more than anything else, and that is winning a Major with Na’Vi.

Whether it be reaching the top of the world with Gambit last year, or with Na’Vi during their 1.6 golden year in 2010, Zeus knows what’s needed to win. He’s been doing this for years. So when given young, blazing, powerful guns such as Oleksandr “S1mple” Kostyliev or Denis “electronic” Sharipov, you have to consider that this one has good chances to be his. Na’Vi proved they could beat anyone in the last few months. All that’s needed is to string everything together and deliver at the most important tournament of the year.

As Na’Vi are about to make their entrance into the Major New Legends stage, we sat down with Zeus and discussed about his current situation and the team’s, his wishes and plans for the future, and notably the book he’s close to releasing. This last one is only fitting, as he’s just hours away from attempting to write one of the most important chapters of his careers at the FACEIT Major.


Where has the team seen the most progress in recent times? Was there a turning point for improvement for the team?

There has been three specific moments. The first thing has been the arrival of electronic in the team. He gave us firepower in-game. When he joined the team, we started to play much better than before. The second was the situation where S1mple and flamie could have left the team, but instead decided to stay, and at that point the team was kind of reborn into a new form. Finally, the first win at StarLadder, when we beat NRG in the finals, that had a great impact on us and we started winning multiple tournaments after that. So three points, the arrival of electronic, the S1mple and flamie situation, and finally our first place at StarLadder.

You’re clearly in a group of elite teams now, what would you think is necessary for Na’Vi to establish complete dominance over the scene?

Our era already begun when electronic joined the team. We are already moving to the top of the world, and are doing our best to become the number one team. Our main goal, our main challenge, is to keep this roster for a long period of time. As we know, a lot of teams can have troubles with their rosters sometimes. If we keep our roster, and continue playing with it, we can become a legendary team. This is the main challenge, keep moving with this roster no matter what’s happening.

Coming back on the S1mple and flamie situation, how did that make the team stronger, more tightly knit?

When this happened, we already knew that any team could get in that sort of situation at some point, with the roster falling apart. When this happened in Na’Vi, the players decided to remain together, and afterwards everyone realized that this situation could repeat again, and that it all depends on us. It all depends on each individual in the team, and that everyone should train more, everyone should work hard and keep improving to win tournaments. If everyone does this, then the team becomes stronger with time. After this situation, every player moved on and worked harder and harder with each passing day.

You’re leading a squad with three young and very skilled players, S1mple, electronic and flamie. They are three young CIS stars. They’ve all had similar paths, and notably played with B1ad3 who’s been praised as a good mentor. Do you see similarities with flamie, S1mple and flamie, when it comes to B1ad3 influence? Do you think the same of B1ad3 as a mentor?

I would say that the most influenced players from B1ad3 mentorship is electronic. I wouldn’t say S1mple and flamie got much experience from him, because that was a long time ago and they didn’t play for long under him. They definitely got some experience from him, but nothing crucial, that they got later. For example S1mple got his most important experience in Liquid in my opinion, whereas flamie became a great player only in Na’Vi. It’s mostly electronic who came to Na’Vi as an experienced player and ready to play games against the top. B1ad3 is a good leader but I would say that only electronic showed the traits of that mentorship.

Continuing with this trio, they’re all young, all very skilled in their own way. They all rose in the CIS region and joined Na’Vi. It feels like there could rivalries between them to be the undisputed CIS superstar, especially between S1mple and electronic. Yet they’re on the same squad. Does it materialize within the team? Is there some sort of competition between them?

Of course there’s a healthy rivalry in our team between S1mple and electronic. flamie is more reserved as a player but he also plays very well and will probably earn MVPs at tournaments. For now electronic is really excited about this, about trying to reach the level of S1mple, but as of now S1mple remains more skilled. electronic may become the same kind of player in the future, earn his MVPs, and he’s doing his best to achieve that and earn his rewards. And this is normal.

Do you feel you had a specific role to play with S1mple and electronic? They are extremely competent, but what was necessary to bring them in order to accelerate their development and help them bloom as the best players in the world?

Counter-Strike is a team game obviously, it’s all about playing for the team and with a winning mindset. Landing headshots and creating some highlights, it’s not a big deal at the top level. Even winning one tournament is not that big of a deal. The hardest part is to keep on moving forward and to keep on winning. It’s all about mental work. It’s all about your weaknesses. When you get to the top, you need to keep working on your ego. You need to work on things like laziness, rage control, and notably managing your ego in game. The latter means acting more for the team, not for yourself, not just for getting more frags, but to act as a unit. If they continue to work on this, they will become the greatest. Everyone needs to fight against their weaknesses, and focus on playing for the team.


You’re now one of the most seasoned players and IGL in the scene, having played for more than 15 years. And you’re still playing and show no intentions of stopping anytime soon. Could you share your expectations on how much you think you may continue playing? What are the main challenges you face as your career gets longer and longer?

I don’t think age matters in my player career. For now, we reached the top level and we can still win a tournament, beat any team and be the number one team in the world. As long as this continues I’m not going to retire. In the past during the CS 1.6 age we were the best team in the world for one year. We haven’t been that in CS:GO yet. One of the huge challenges I still have is making Na’Vi become the best team in CS:GO as well. For now, I’m doing my best to reach that goal. We’re getting there. So why should I stop?

You have a quite unique duo with Kane, Na’Vi’s coach. You kind of look as a package with him, and it sets you apart from many teams and IGLs. How did that come to be, and what’s the main advantages you gain from this seemingly unique relationship?

It’s not a big secret, we started playing together 17 years ago, we played in the same team. From that time we played a lot of games together and spent a lot of time together. We have the same vision of the game, we are friends, and these are the main reasons we can work together. We’re longtime friends, we have the same vision of the game, and we’re trying to find compromises in difficult situations.

Looking at the CIS region, we can think of the high profile in-game leaders, such as you, B1ad3, starix, hooch. Many of these players are close or past their 30. How do you think the next generation of CIS IGL will shape up? Who do you see in it?

Unfortunately, I can’t see any really good in-game leader in any team right now. I don’t know why, they’re not super great, and I don’t notice them. Maybe some are good players but not good IGLs. For now, I can’t name anyone.

Is that a reason that motivates you, for example, to post the comms of some of your matches or to share your experience and advices, notably in your upcoming book? So that others can realize what’s going on in the team and learn from it?

To become a great leader, it’s not just about playing good CounterStrike, it’s more about your mindset, about leadership and charisma, so you can lead the team. I would like to share this experience in my book. I give some advice for players and future in-game leaders in the book. You need to understand that playing good CounterStrike, reading the opponents, etc. are really important but not the most important things, which is to have a personality that makes others follow you. You should be someone that can lead the team, the team can listen to you, follow your orders, understand and agree with your vision of the game. These two combined make you a great in game leader. You need to combine them somehow in you. For now, there’s not many in-game leaders in the world that can combine them. One needs to know how to play, but also have charisma and the right mindset.

Continuing on the book, it’s currently been finalized. It’s about your career, yet you’re still playing and you’re adding more chapters to it, so why did you think it was a good time to write a book know, instead of for example when your career is complete?

The idea to write a book came to me a long time ago, but I didn’t have enough time to do it. When I was released from Na’Vi and went to Gambit, I found that time and I started to write the book. For now, I have 350 pages written, in draft version. They’re going to be edited soon, and then I will release it. It’s almost over. The main idea was to write a book up until that point in my life. It’s a test, it will be released and we will see if it becomes a success. If this is the case, I plan to write a second part, a second book with the rest of my story, when I retire.

It’s not very common to see pro players writing a book, using that format. Do you think more should do that?

I don’t know, really. Why not? My book has two parts, my biography first, and secondly my experience and how to become a champion in the game. Maybe someone could get the idea and write his biography, or share advice the same way. We will see!

Talking about potential futures, you revived the pro100 tag a while ago. Would you say that team owner is a career path you would like to follow after your player career?

I like the idea to connect my future life with esport. Being a team owner is a great idea for me. I like what I’m doing now, and I want to remain in the industry.

If you would end up with a potential choice in the future about whether to remain in esports or branch out of it, what would impact the decision? How would you decide?

Hard to say, hard to see what else I can do as good, so I’d think I would stay in esport. I became a five-time world champion here. It’s a really great achievement. This is just cool! So I think I will remain in esport.

This is it for me, do you want to add anything?

This is pretty uncommon for me to do an interview in English. But I know that I have a lot of fans in Europe and in the United States that have been supporting and cheering for me for a long time, and I would like to thank them because of their long time support. This is really important for me, and I appreciate it.