B1ad3: "I didn't have a lot of belief in the previous lineup because I saw the problems, but now we have really good discipline"
We had an in-depth talk with Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy during DreamHack Masters Malmö, finding out more about how Natus Vincere evolved during the year with him as the esports director and what his vision for the new lineup is now from the position of the coach.
B1ad3 had originally been signed to Natus Vincere with a title of the esports director at the end of March, but less than half a year later he found his way to work much more closely with the CS:GO team, transitioning into the role of the coach after the retirement of Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko and Mikhaylo "Kane" Blagin's departure.
In an extensive interview with the Ukrainian veteran, conducted shortly after Natus Vincere topped Group B to advance to the semi-finals, we asked the former FlipSid3 captain about what his previous role in Na`Vi entailed and how much it allowed him to advise the previous roster before the switch happened.
B1ad3 also shed more light on a variety of other topics, such as the thought process behind the signings of Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, the vision for the new lineup and his first impressions, and his four-year-old history with Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev.
First of all, let's go back to what your first position in Na`Vi was as an esports director. Can you tell me what that job entailed and what your responsibilities were?
My job was mostly to control all disciplines, to control transfers, the managers of all our squads. The priority was to create Na`Vi junior, the Na`Vi esports camp project, and also to help other lineups with structure in everything, in training, outside of the game, so that all lineups would be more professional. Proper bootcamps, a proper schedule, all that stuff.
I'm sure CS:GO was the closest to your heart, as that's where you came from - how closely were you working with the team before becoming the coach?
I was trying to create a better atmosphere to improve the progress of the team. I knew that we had problems in the previous lineup and I was trying to get rid of some hurtful factors that prevented us from evolving as a team. I didn't have a lot of belief that that lineup would win a Major or something because I saw the problems in the team, but at least I was hoping to create a better atmosphere, a better approach to practice, a better approach outside of the game, to be more friendly and disciplined outside of the game, which was hard to do because not all the players wanted to do this. But now it's much better, we have really good discipline and all players listen to me and to our manager, and I think we're on a really good path now, on the proper path.
Can you tell me about how the transition from that role to coaching went? Did you always want to go back to that role?
When the team was practicing, when the team was bootcamping, I was at all of their bootcamps. The main goal for me was to know what the problem with this lineup was and if we had to make any transfers in the future, how we should do everything properly. Of course, I wanted to help and advise the team, but I didn't want to ruin the vision of our previous coach [Kane] and of Zeus, so I couldn't tell the guys 'let's do it like this.' I think my vision didn't fit the vision of our coach and Zeus, that's why I didn't try to rebuild everything. I was just trying to advise the team, and sometimes they listened to me and sometimes they didn't.
Speaking of transfers, I take it you were involved with the lineup changes, especially after Zeus left - what led you to add GuardiaN out of the options you had?
First of all, we added Boombl4. We had a feeling that, at some point this year, Zeus could leave the team because he was talking about that a lot. That is why we needed a new in-game leader much earlier than when Zeus left because we could have been left in a really stupid situation, in which I had been with Gambit when we couldn't find an in-game leader.
After that, we tried to get some really good AWPers. We were thinking about different scenarios of who we could pick among all the players. GuardiaN fits this team really well because we have a really young lineup and he is much older than the other guys. We needed an experienced player because we didn't know how it would turn out without that. You can't rely on a fully young lineup because, even with me as the coach, sometimes they need a lot of experience in the game. GuardiaN was playing in FaZe and Na`Vi and played in a lot of finals, he has a lot of experience.
As an AWPer, he is really good at positioning because when you play similar situations 100 times you understand how to play in the most efficient way. Some young AWPers don't have that experience and sometimes they play too aggressively, they don't know how to take advantage of some positions, while GuardiaN knows how to use his positions to have an advantage. That was the main reason why we picked him. Also, he played in Na`Vi before and all the players know him, we were afraid that a new player could find it hard to come to the team and feel comfortable when the four other players communicate at the best level and one is like the outcast. These factors are why, his experience and that he has known our players for a long time, they actually communicate really well, like friends, and I like that.
You were talking about your vision for this team. What is that vision and how much of it have you been able to implement now that you are the coach?
If we look at how it is now - I think we had like four days at the bootcamp and one day of online practice - I can see that this team can be really strong in the future. That we could find our game in such a short time shows to me as the coach that we made the proper changes and we put our players in the proper roles. The main vision I had for my team was to have one vision, one system of analyzing, for everyone. In the game, it's always important to understand the situation very quickly and on the same level. I would like the team to understand the game on the same level, and to reach that level we need to discuss a lot, to analyze games together a lot. We started to implement defaults at the bootcamp, little details in the game that will help us in the future, so we started from the fundamentals to create this system that I want.
From what I see now, we can be really strong if we keep progressing like this because all of the players are really motivated and they listen to me a lot, which is something that I was missing before because not always were the players listening to everything I was trying to tell them. I see that these players are really skilled and analyze situations really fast, which they use to create space in the game, and to further improve this we just need to give them more knowledge. We're trying to give them more knowledge about CS because they make mistakes in fundamentals, they're trying to play a lot of important situations individually, not relying on each other, not relying on teamplay and what the game gives them. Before I came, they didn't utilize everything the game can give them. Every detail of the game, nades, team play, map control, tactical depth, we need to get all the aspects of the game on the top level. We will be really strong in the future if we do that.
Can you tell me about how you dealt with s1mple's transition to the rifle? Does he have absolute freedom now that he isn't AWPing anymore, or is he limited by the system?
The thing is, the most important part of the system is to give a lot of freedom to all our players at specific moments of the game. They play like 60% structured and 30-40% with freedom, which changes from opponent to opponent because we need to change our playstyle based on that. If we play a specific opponent, we need to give them less freedom and for others, we need to give our players more freedom. The most important thing is that the players always have freedom - not that they can go YOLO and do everything they want, they have a gameplan. There are always similar situations on the map, the teams play almost the same tactics, and, if you analyze the map and the matches, you can see that there are timings in which if you win an important situation, you get a huge advantage and win the round really easily. To emphasize that, you need to give players freedom at the exact moments of these situations to win. If you analyze them properly and win these situations on the map, you can win most of the rounds.
So, we don't want to play by a script like a lot of teams, when they play stuff from freezetime and not a single player can try something that he finds in the game. The main thing is not to play like that, we try to get into the round, get some information, analyze it, make a call, and play with this new information, not from what we get in the previous round or what we get in the freezetime, but information that we get mid-round in specific zones. That is very important because, in that case, it will be very hard to predict and antistrat us because we will be really flexible. That is why we give freedom to our players in specific in-game situations, and we discuss these situations with the players all the time, that they need to be really aggressive here, really passive there, and so on. If we make the same analyzing system for all players, they will understand the game almost on the same level and they will communicate faster, they will understand situations faster, and decision-making is the key thing in CS:GO.
Do you think that puts more or less pressure on Boombl4 as, still, quite an inexperienced in-game leader? How is he dealing with that type of system?
That is why we picked Boombl4 in the first place. He fits perfectly in this system. His brain, his mind is made for this. He always tries to play from what he sees in an exact moment, he doesn't try to play by a script. That's how he sees the game, that's his vision. At the moment, I see some mistakes in his calls, some mistakes in macro control, he doesn't anticipate and doesn't react to all the important things on the map, and that's why he can sometimes make a false call, but I'm absolutely sure that he will be much better, he just needs some experience.
You have quite a lot of history with s1mple, playing with him in FlipSid3 all the way back in 2015 and earlier before that partnership came to a rather heated ending. What do you make of his evolution as a person and player since then?
I think he evolved when we were in FlipSid3, even before when were in Courage, I started to teach him a lot of important things from that moment. When he returned to me in FlipSid3, I can't point out specific things that changed him, but together with him I always tried to fix his attitude towards his teammates. He always tried to use his aggression to argue with his teammates and I was trying to use his aggression in the game, to channel it in the game towards his opponents, not to our teammates. We started with full structure with him, which didn't work very well because he needed a lot of freedom. In the end, we started to make a lot of tactics where we gave him full freedom and we had scenarios based on that. For example, if he got a kill and gave us space in some spot, we had this scenario. In the end, we couldn't play with any other system, we could only play like this because it was impossible to play otherwise.