Zeus: "It feels like we're treating the Major like just another event"
Natus Vincere finished in second place at the ICE Challenge, the team's first event of the year, following a 0-2 loss to North in the grand final. The Ukrainian roster had avoided elimination by beating AVANGAR and Heroic in the lower bracket, but fell short against Casper "cadiaN" Møller's troops despite strong individual displays from their big guns, Denis "electronic" Sharipov and Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev.
Following the team's victory against the Kazakh side we sat down with Zeus to discuss the team's current state, his motivation levels as a player and expectations going into the imminent Katowice Major.
What sort of expectations are you guys going into the Major with?
As of late we haven't been playing particularly well, perhaps because we had an extended break, where we practiced exclusively online. Maybe that's one of the reasons. It feels like we're treating the Major like just another event, there's no massive eagerness and, as such, I can't tell people to await some sort of an amazing result from us. Considering the current situation, securing top eight at the Major would be a decent result. I can't say that we've done more than others to be #1. What happens, happens, so let's see what comes, but we need to sort out our relationship issues. If we don't resolve this, then #1 is out of the conversation.
Dust 2 isn't a map that’s really associated with Na'Vi, seeing as you don't pick or play it very frequently. Nevertheless, you managed a victory against AVANGAR on their own pick. What went your way in map two?
We had a great feel for the map - we controlled Mid on the offense, and generally had a good performance on the T side. Despite initially losing 0-3, we managed to pull through to a 9-6 half after securing a good deal of rounds. As for the CT side, the key to our success was a pistol round victory and basically finished them off after that.
You never know in the end, so I can't really say that this particular map is outstanding for us and that some other map is weak. It just happens to be the case that these sorts of situations are frequent in Counter-Strike - someone gets luckier than their opponent, pistol rounds, crucial economic rounds. If you secure these rounds, the game goes your way and you can close it out quite confidently. It's what happened against us last night [opening match against Heroic] - we lost a few key economic rounds in which the opponents made good plays, and we just lost maps with pretty significant round disparities. Conversely, on a different occasion, we could play much better Counter-Strike.
As for Dust 2, I can't really say we've always been outsiders. We've won the map against Astralis, and they're quite strong on it. In general, we've won the map against top teams, so I think things work out in that regard.
Stepping away slightly from ICE Challenge and the Major - at BLAST Pro Series: Lisbon 2018 you did an interview with us in which you mentioned you were looking to conclude your career in 2019. At the time you didn't mention any specific details - have you settled on anything concrete as of today?
At a certain point I lost the motivation and desire for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it's because it has become more difficult to compete at the age of 31. The pro scene has two people who are in top teams at this age, and those individuals are probably Edward and me.
It's becoming progressively harder to compete; nevertheless I think this might not even be the main reason. The main reason is that I have stopped enjoying our communication and relationships. It's like we're in some sort of a rut and I don't fully understand how we make our way out of it. There are individuals, and they have personalities - these personalities haven't changed and it will take years for any change to take place. Personally, I have no interest in raising these people, or working on relationships - I don't have the strength or willingness to do it anymore.
The game itself brings me enjoyment, I like Counter-Strike, but I'm a creative person and, honestly, I want to create things, improvise and enjoy myself. As of today, I've been experiencing a lot less of this with our team, comparing to the initial period, for example. Obviously, when you're not deriving enjoyment from the experience, the only things that might hold you are good conditions, perhaps money - to a degree these are motivating factors, of course, because this is my job and it's my income. If we had great relationships and everything was fine, then, in all honesty, I could motivate myself to play for longer, but because this isn't happening my motivation is dwindling.
Everything will come down to how our relationships develop. Initially, I was set to play out the year - I have the strength and energy to pull it off, but the morale component just isn't in its best form.
In the same interview mentioned previously you noted that in 2019 the team would be more selective in regards to tournament participation. Many questioned your presence at the ICE Challenge, particularly considering the fact that the Major is mere weeks away. Wouldn't it have made more sense to focus on preparation for it, as opposed to competing here?
Well, initially we had no intent of coming to this tournament. To be honest, Na'Vi said we needed to go and asked us to participate because it was important for the organisation, so we obliged.
If we look at it from a professional perspective - we don't need this event. From a different point of view, judging by our results, maybe the event could be of use to us before the Major, in that we'll play a few official matches after an extended break. It's definitely not the end of the world, but I'll repeat myself in saying that I don't see the team prioritising the Major in the new year. We're treating it like a usual event, and in the upcoming six months we've already planned for around ten tournaments. There are times when the team sets serious priorities, and really commits to a tournament, but I can't say that we've done the same for the Major.
In conclusion, I wanted to pick your brain on the team's map pool - currently you're not playing very much of Cache and have struggled on Inferno and Nuke. How do you plan to address the map pool issues prior to the Major?
We've swapped around positions, made new ones and started playing more on maps that we were weaker on. We're working on the map pool, but as I've mentioned before, everything has to be sound in a team, we have to have zeal and motivation to perform. If we manage to achieve this, then we'd be ready to develop our map pool to be able to play all seven maps.
Currently things are hazy, so we'll play out the Major and things will become clear after it. As of right now we have this event, and in the next three to four months we have a lot more coming. I've already mentioned our approach to the Major, maybe for some events we'll prepare new maps, we'll see. We still have some time left, so we'll use it to train and improve our game.