NAF: "It feels good that we beat Astralis, that we can do this now"
We sat down with Keith "NAF" Markovic for the second time in two days after handing him his HLTV MVP by betway trophy for his performance at his team's first event this year, iBUYPOWER Masters 2019.
Liquid lifted the trophy in Los Angeles, the first one of the year, after beating their arch-nemesis, Astralis, in a best-of-three grand final at the Avalon in downtown Hollywood. Following the final, NAF was handed his fourth MVP medal of his career.
In the interview, NAF goes over beating Astralis in the final, some of the issues with the tournament and how that affected the results, the title match itself, and winning another MVP medal and what that means to him.
First question. How does it feel to finally beat Astralis in a final?
So, yeah! This is our first time beating Astralis in any best-of-three, I think [laughs]. There will obviously be people in the community that will say that this tournament wasn't top, and there were so many delays, but I think in the end both teams played their hardest and luckily we came out on top, so I'm very happy!
Would you say the final was at least legit, compared to some of the rest of the mess, or was it still kind of rough?
It was pretty legit, we even got soundproof headsets. I'm not sure, but I heard Astralis got those or something, so shoutouts to them, that obviously helped a little bit so we could hear better.
Wait, what was the question?
The tournament having its ups and downs, the final...
Oh, yeah, I remember! It had its ups and downs and there were a lot of delays and stuff like that, we were running late all the way to the final with both teams fairly fatigued. I think neither of us played our A game, so I have to give them that, they weren't at 100%, even we weren't at ours. Maybe they made some mistakes they normally wouldn't make, so...
Yeah, overall it kind of takes away a bit from our win, the community will see it like that, and even I see it a bit like that if I'm completely honest, but it feels good that we beat Astralis, that we can do this now, and it's the first time playing with Stewie, too. Even though the tournament had a lot of issues and all of that, winning was a huge part inside our minds and for our heads.
Walk me a bit through the match, you started on Inferno...
I think it was 4-16... It was a blowout.
I think on Inferno we still have a hard time to how Astralis rotate and how they work. Like sometimes device is AWPing lane, sometimes he's in B alone, we still have a hard time and they pick up on it and they aggress and exploit our open holes. Like device will just walk lane, pick someone off, then we don't know what to do...
Honestly, it's just a map we're stuck on against Astralis. We're pretty good against any other team, but just the way they play it, they play it really well. Props to them, they played amazing, but yeah, it's just very hard for us specifically against Astralis.
But then came Dust2. What I'm curious there is with your CT side. Astralis going on the offensive on Dust2 could have been deadly, but you managed to keep them at bay. Tell it to me from your perspective.
Once we got on the CT side on Dust2, even myself in the back of my mind, I was thinking "oh, it's going to be like New York" because you can't do much on the CT side, it's kind of just like Cobble, where aggressing is very hard. You'll most likely die if you go for aggression, so you really just need to hit your shots, make sure you're playing well, and you have the proper rotations and make the proper gambles. For example, we started doing something we didn't really do in the past, where we started 4 A instead of 3-2 so we could fight long. We did that against fnatic as well, so yeah, we're kind of switching it up a little bit. The practice and all of the tough losses are really coming out and our Dust2 can really become something great.
Finally Overpass came, which you didn't win easily, but in the end it was a fairly solid 16-11... before you got into it, were you feeling good?
No, not at all, Overpass is a great map for Astralis. We were down 8-0 on the T side, but I think a great thing that we overcame, which we had issues with in the past, is that if we would have been down 8-0 before we would have thought that it's impossible and we can't do it, at least in our minds, but now we just kept trying and didn't give up. We thought we could figure stuff out and they started to make mistakes, I heard my teammates saying that they were whiffing some shots and messing up rounds which kind of gave us an entrance back into the game.
We started stringing some rounds together and then they got some back, but we were able to bring it up to 6-9. Going into the CT pistol, that was a huge pistol that we needed and we won it, so we kind of had the momentum going there. We lost a round to a forcebuy B execute, but honestly, on the gun rounds, we were feeling really confident. We were stopping a lot of their plays, and we were just calm. We just wanted to win. Even though, coming back to the whole thing about the tournament's issues, no matter what we just wanted to win. We just wanted to beat Astralis. It's something we've never done, we needed to make it happen, and tonight was the night.
Do you think there's a bit of a Stewie effect or an adreN effect?
I like the way Stewie plays the game, he talked a lot about how MIBR plays and he gave us his ideas, but we were like, "hey, we also have solid ideas on how to play our style." And it's completely different, they play slow and methodical while we're fast-paced and fighting as much as we can, so it was nice to bring someone from a different world to our team, and I like Stewie a lot as a teammate...
We talked yesterday, and you said this was a LAN to get to know each other and so on... Has that happened, have you learned a bit more about each Stewie and adreN?
Honestly, not so much. Of course we learned a bunch about them, but there's plenty more I can find out about them and how they are as humans both inside and outside of the game, so there's still a lot of time, but it was fun to pick up Stewie and adreN and get a win, it gives you this very confident feeling. It kind of starts the pace for us regarding how we go into the future and how our mindset is, so we're happy. We're very excited and the Major is just around the corner, and we're going to win that too! [laughs]
To close it off, you got a personal award, you're the MVP of the event... You got one of these before, but how does it feel to get it today?
You know, when I get an MVP it's nice because I feel like I did my job. Honestly, out of all of the players, I play the most "star" role. Like, I bait pretty hard... I play very slow, I let my teammates make the play, and I literally just watch to see if they get flanked and stuff like that. I lurk a lot in some maps and I'm on my own... So yeah, being MVP is nice because it tells me "hey, you're doing a good job, so keep it going."