What's next for GuardiaN and Na'Vi
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Natus Vincere is one of the most decorated organizations in Counter-Strike. In 2018, they fought to grand-finals ten times, winning four of them. While a 40% win-rate isn't great, they were still at least making it to the top of the competition consistently throughout the year. Then, 2019 came around and Na'Vi couldn't replicate the success of the previous year.
Na'Vi's roster at the beginning of 2019 consisted of Egor "flamie" Vasilev, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, Denis "electronic" Sharipov, Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev, Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko, and Mykhailo "kane" Blagin(coach). This roster started the year off fairly well with getting second at their first event of the year, GG.Bet Ice Challenge, and first at the StarSeries & i-League CS:GO Season 7. But, the slippery slope that is competitive esports put Na'Vi on their backs for the rest of the year. After three extremely poor performances following their first-place finish, Na'Vi decided it was time for a change.
The Edward trade
Edward was traded for Kirill "BoombI4" Mikhailov from Winstrike Team on May 29, 2019. Now, the question Na'Vi fans were asking after this trade was, "How can BoombI4 be the IGL?" BoombI4 was a young talent in the CS:GO community came onto the scene in 2016. How could he know more than the veterans surrounding him? I believe Na'Vi was going for the long play in his acquisition. Rather than picking up a CS:GO veteran set in their ways, why not pick up someone for their core squad that they could mold into the IGL they wanted? It was known by Na'Vi and the community that Zeus would be retiring at some point in the year. Why not use his knowledge to help make BoombI4 a long-standing member of Na'Vi rather than obtaining an older veteran that could potentially clash with the star players in s1mple and electronic or retire in a short amount of time? They would see more immediate success this way, but as I stated earlier, I don't think that was Na'Vi's plan.
Zeus retirement; kane leaves
Na'Vi now had a little less than two months to prepare for ESL One: Cologne on July 7, 2019, with their new IGL in BoombI4. I didn't expect Na'Vi to just start winning tournaments now that they had such a young player calling the shots. Not that BoombI4 would do badly, but that he was new to the role on a team of veteran players. So, as expected, ESL One: Cologne didn't yield a high result for Na'Vi, but a 3rd-4th placing wasn't terrible either. They were knocked out of the event by Team Liquid, who go on to win the whole thing.
Three more events go by with Na'Vi still having moderate to low placings. Na'Vi announced that kane would be leaving at the conclusion of the Blast Pro Series Moscow 2019. Then, Zeus also announced his retirement from competitive CS after the event. Na'Vi and fans knew Zeus's retirement was coming and, I'm sure, had a list of players in mind to replace the Ukrainian legend. But, the replacement didn't seem to be quite what people had expected.
GuardiaN rejoins Na'Vi; B1ad3 moves to coach
Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy moved from his role as esports director with Na'Vi to get closer to his roots and coach the CS:GO roster, and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Gorodenskiy signed as the fifth player to fill out the roster. I doubt that I am alone in being shocked at the announcement of GuardiaN joining Na'Vi. Na'Vi already had the best AWPer, and arguably best player, in the world in s1mple. Why pick up a main AWP?
This change meant s1mple had to move to a rilfer/second AWP role and would change the entire dynamic of his place in the team. Maybe they thought he could adjust to the rifle well, and he did, but other player options existed that would leave s1mple in a role he was dominating in. GuardiaN was not a dominate AWPer at the time of this trade. He wasn't doing horribly like he is currently, but he wasn't doing great either. This is where I start being unable to understand what Na'Vi's plans were following this change.
Where are we now?
Na'Vi would go on throughout 2019 with more poor placings, some being the lowest we have ever seen from the organization. s1mple continued to put up stellar performances, but GuardiaN in the main AWPer role crumbled. His differential since joining Na'Vi is -88 and he struggled to get more than 15 kills a map. The AWP is the most powerful, and expensive, weapon in CS. It has to be placed in the hands of someone who will take over the map and make key kills with the weapon. I desperately want to understand GuardiaN's struggles. He is a legendary CS AWPer that we have seen make incredible plays and dominate other teams with his weapon of choice who now can't seem to find 15 frags a map.
The Na'Vi versus Evil Geniuses series from EPICENTER 2019 helped me understand some of what was happening with GuardiaN and why he struggled so much in the series. When you compare his positioning to that of Tsvetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov, you quickly see a massive difference in how the roles are being played. GuardiaN feels like a support player in his positioning and what he is doing on the map while CeRq is walking up cat on Mirage and getting a 4k. I know that is only one example, but the entire series felt like that. GuardiaN's presence on the map doesn't exist. Teams are allowed to do what they wish without the threat of the AWP shutting their plans down.
I don't want to be one of the pitchfork wielders, but something has to change on the Na'Vi roster if they hope to compete for championships. Taking s1mple off the main AWP felt bad at inception and the results are proving that change to be unfruitful. If that is the only role GuardiaN can have within Na'Vi, then he needs to be removed. s1mple is performing as a rifler, but he can take over games with the AWP in his hands, so give it to him.