After a chaotic off-season, the dust has settled and many popular teams have gone through a roster revamp. While some teams like Heroic, FaZe Clan, and Team Liquid made headlines with their roster move, what surprised the fans was Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev’s departure from Natus Vincere, one of the most recognized names in Counter-Strike.
S1mple is arguably the best Counter-Stike player, who helped shape NAVI their legacy that we all know today alongside Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov and Denis “electroNic” Sharipov. He helped the team win many prestigious CS: GO tournaments, most marble The Intel Grand Slam Season 3. Now that the Ukrainian legend has decided to take a break from competitive play, one question looms over the future of the team: Will NAVI shine in 2024 without s1mple? To answer this question with facts instead of theory, let’s take into account the team’s performance in the recent event.
NAVI’sperformance without s1mple:
After the significant change, Natus Vincere’s first official competition was the BLAST Premier: Fall Final 2023, where they had a mixed bag of performances, finishing fifth-sixth overall. The team’s chemistry and tactics underwent major adjustments throughout the competition, most notably as a result of Ihor “wonderful” Zhdanov‘s debut as a stand-in for the sample.
Image Credit: ESL
NAVI’s campaign began with a 1-2 loss against Cloud9, which featured three players who were part of the original NAVI roster. Subsequently, the squad rebounded to defeat Ninjas in Pyjamas (2-0) but lost to Complexity (1-2) in the quarterfinals. w0nderful, stepping into large shoes, had a strong start with a 6.4 rating, and set the stage for a tactical change in NAVI’s gameplay with his passive sniping approach.
The team entered the World Finals with a similar approach and despite dropping the opening game against Vitality they maintained their composure. The team first outplayed ENCE led by Danish IGL Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander before taking down the star-studded G2 in the Quarterfinal to book a rematch against Vitality. It was clear that the team had switched to a more aggressive strategy, taking advantage of the opening that w0nderful’s passive sniping had provided. NAVI was able to participate in faster rounds as a result of w0nderful’s arrival, which increased the number of trades and clutch wins.
While fans were hoping for revenge, the team failed to get past the French defense and conceded a 0-2 defeat in the Semifinals. Valeriy ‘b1t’ Vakhovskiy and Aleksi ‘Aleksib’ Virolainen performed just above average, while w0nderful and Justinas ‘jL’ Lekavicius appeared to have lost their momentum against Vitality.
Can NAVI dominate without S1mple?
Although NAVI had great potential, they had trouble controlling their emotions and maintaining composure in high-pressure situations. Furthermore, there was a clear lack of team bonding, which might be attributed to the fact that this was their first event with the new roster and they had little time for boot camp. They showed their ability to compete with top-tier teams, winning against lesser opponents and losing only to the most prominent, save in a few situations.
Additionally, since no member of the NAVI roster has reached his professional peak yet, the young team is hungry for victory. The impact of IGL Aleksib’s approach appears to be growing stronger at each event, and the young players are gradually reaching their full potential.
In my opinion, despite losing s1mple, NAVI seems to be a solid team that is capable of putting up a tough fight against any top-tier team. The question remains to be whether they can ever win that fight. Even if we believe that NAVI doesn’t appear to be contending for a title yet, the team’s current trajectory suggests a bright future with positive growth and stable playoff appearances.