NAF: "I think it was for sure an Astralis year, but this was an amazing year for North America"

While at BLAST Pro Series Global Finals, Keith "NAF" Markovic spoke at length about Liquid's long-standing rivalry with Astralis and their upcoming matchup against the Danes in Bahrain.

The Canadian star had a lot to say on the topic of Astralis and Liquid's many matches against them, focusing on their latest loss to the Danish powerhouse at ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals and their upcoming encounter in the opening round of BLAST Pro Series Global Finals on Thursday.

Despite the poor track record, NAF enjoys the Astralis matchup

NAF also spoke about the rivalry as a whole as he looked back at the entire 2019, admitting that their long-time nemesis' two Major triumphs put the Danes at the top for the year, with the North American side following as a close second on the back of a historic year for their region according to him.

Let's start with the campaign at ESL Pro League and especially the one-sided quarter-final series against fnatic, can you tell me about the whole tournament and how it went?

We obviously had a tough time getting to Odense, we missed our flight because our ECS final went on too long and that turned our travel day into 24 hours. Once we got there, we lost our luggage, we got to the hotel and only had like 20 minutes to shower, do whatever we needed to do and get ready, and then we put on the same dirty clothes and went to the venue to play North.

Luckily, we started off the tournament really strong and then we went up against Astralis, we started off really strong and we won the first map 16-14. We went into Nuke and I'm not entirely sure what happened. We know that they're very dominant there, we studied their Nuke a lot and we tried to find ways to play, but our playstyle on Nuke doesn't really work very well versus them. Astralis in general to us is kind of like how we are versus Na`Vi, especially last year, where it's almost like kryptonite in playstyles. Even us versus mouz, it tends to be close, but we beat them all the time. It's just like us versus Astralis, we can't really do too much versus them. It's just the way we play the game. But overall, the game was really tough on Nuke and I remember we had a chance on Dust2. I feel like we definitely should have won that BO3 on Dust2, I think we all knew we should have, we kind of just lost to ourselves. We started to feel a little bit of the pressure towards the end because we had always struggled to beat Astralis, everyone was like 'oh man, it's coming close, we can do it, we're right there' and we fell at the last hurdle. It was really tough.

Going into the bracket stage, we had fnatic. We beat them at ECS, but the games were really close. I think going into the quarter-final fnatic just had a better preparation. When we played them, it didn't feel like we were playing the previous team we had played at ECS, they came in with a different gameplan. We knew the maps would be the same, Overpass, Inferno, Mirage, which they were, in the exact same order. We went into it thinking we were the better team, so we thought if we would just prep and play our game, it would work, but, unfortunately, that's not how it worked at all, and fnatic played really well. I know Golden and those guys are really smart, like flusha, and even Brollan, he was playing amazingly at that tournament. I think he's going to be a superstar next year for sure.

Do you think it hurt the confidence that nitr0 was talking about back at ECS, or do you look at it as a result of the travel issues?

I don't want to come up with excuses, I don't want to say it's travel, jet lag, and all that. I'm not going to say that's an excuse or anything. Our goal when we came back from the player break, we just had such high expectations of ourselves, that we just need to win everything, but I think over time it just went down, where it got to a point where we just need to set a small goal, like making playoffs, and then the next goal would be making finals. Everyone wants to win, we're all thinking about winning, raising the trophy, but I think we just need to start from scratch again. Before our big tournament run, we always took it step by step: make playoffs, make finals, work on it each time. Each time it was always different for us in finals, we kept learning new things, how to keep our team environment strong and all that. Coming back now, I think we realized that we aren't really No.1 anymore and we just need to accept that and work harder. If you want to be No.1, you need to work harder than anyone else and that's what we've been trying to do and that's what we're going to do in 2020.

Going back to the track record against Astralis, it has been one-sided again in this second part of the season, and it's reminiscent of your 2018 rivalry in the amount that you play them, too, as you've met them at every single event you could since the Major. You've touched on the mentality against them, the pressure, but does it feel like the 2018 rivalry or is it better because it's closer now?

Sure, it's better for the fans, for the show, for people to watch, because before in 2018 it was just like 'they're just going to get blown out,' everyone knew what to expect. But we have been playing really close and that motivates us more, that we're getting a better understanding of how they play. But it comes back to the kryptonite. In playstyles, we're just a team that relies more on our aim, although we do have teamwork. I see people say 'there's the team that has really good aim but not too many tactics,' but we obviously do, we go into a lot of details, in-depth into a lot of things, and we try our best to come up with different ways. But we also have a foundation of what we like to do. And, honestly, maybe that's not good enough. Maybe we need to get out of our comfort zone and start trying new things because what we're doing against Astralis doesn't really work too well. We are getting a little closer, but I think it's just due to us changing things up bit by bit. I think next year it'll be different, for sure, especially versus Astralis. We're tired of losing to them. (laughs)

Astralis have been in Liquid's path every step of the way since the player break

You're going to play them here again and you have played some veto mind games with them, picking Vertigo back at ECS, then Inferno at EPL. How do you look at the upcoming match, having played them so many times?

Playing them so many times, honestly, it's been really fun. Even though we lose a lot, it's really fun. We always see each other, sometimes in finals, we always meet them somewhere, we always say hello, so we have that unique friendship bond going on a little bit. Although we lose, it's always fun to play them because you always know it's going to be hard Counter-Strike and it's going to be a challenge. That's honestly the fun thing about playing Counter-Strike, just being a challenge, how competitive it is, and how good others are, how much they want to be the best, and they just want to be better than you. I always have a fun time playing them.

Here in Bahrain we play them first and I think it'll be another interesting matchup, and obviously our goal is to win. I would love to just end the year with a win versus Astralis, finally, to get that feeling that I finally got one best-of-three win on them or something (laughs). Hopefully, we can get a rematch for the final and we can say who's going to be the best at the end of the year.

As we're coming up to the end of the year, it's time to think back and look at who the best team of the year was. You had your stretch, while Astralis had two Majors even if not as many wins, do you think this event is important to that storyline? If you win here, could you call yourselves the team of the year?

It's tough to say, but I honestly think, at the end of it, this was yet again another Astralis year. They played great, two Majors, that's huge. Even when they were in a dip of form and they knew the Major was coming up, they just played their A-game, they played so well. It's a spectacular thing to see that they can dip and just know that (claps) 'it's game time, this is the big one, we need to do it, we need to win,' and they do it. Whatever they do, they're doing something right. gla1ve is leading them really well with zonic, props to them for being such a consistent powerhouse for two years, just straight consistency.

I think it was for sure an Astralis year, but for us in North America, this was an amazing year for North America. No team has had a consistent string of events where they won so much, we had multiple top placings, as well, it's something NA hadn't really seen. But no matter what, at the end of the year I'd still probably say Astralis, but I'd like to say we were a close second.

Canada Keith 'NAF' Markovic
Keith 'NAF' Markovic
Rating 1.0:
Maps played:
2019-12-12 04:29
2019-12-12 04:30
United States sorcrcrc 
2019-12-12 04:31
woxic | 
Thailand mongboon 
NA better than France LUL
2019-12-12 06:30
Ahahahaha France 2 major
2019-12-12 13:07
Australia IamthekinG 
even i have the entire kingdom, even my name is shining (bling bling) even everyone love me as they should do, even i am the king. i am not happy, not happy, not happy i feel lonely (lonely lonely lonely) all those negative feeling towards to one thing. I have no Queen! Queen! here I sing, and please together sing with me come, my queen, come to the king come, my queen, come to me. the King aka IamthekinG
2019-12-12 05:01
TLDR: Im a virgin weeb
2019-12-12 06:59
2019-12-12 10:43
Australia IamthekinG 
How do you know my bro
2019-12-12 15:36
oBo | 
Korea Moms_touch 
-stew when
2019-12-12 04:33
Hopefully soon.
2019-12-12 04:37
never expected from no scene
2019-12-12 05:16
Finland KuKkaa 
- stew incoming in 6 months
2019-12-12 07:09
2019-12-12 07:33
2019-12-12 08:03
imaging making changes in the most dominant NA roster ever
2019-12-12 10:17
France LeDiplomate 
Imagine keeping Squidward2k.
2019-12-12 13:56
fan of vitality LOL
2019-12-12 18:02
France LeDiplomate 
Imagine being from or fakeflagging Ethiopia
2019-12-12 20:14
what’s wrong with ethiopia?
2019-12-13 00:28
United States sorcrcrc 
2019-12-12 04:31
Australia IamthekinG 
2019-12-12 04:32
Canada ZHF 
Liquid and EG gave NA hope again! now please don't go back to being shit
2019-12-12 04:32
Kazakhstan tomik0 
No pleas being shit
2019-12-12 04:35
Kazakh talking omegalul
2019-12-12 05:28
Indonesia urutosiar 
2019-12-12 06:04
NAF | 
United States HAWT9 
2019-12-12 08:53
Kazakhstan tomik0 
2019-12-12 09:32
device | 
Denmark bebm 
kazakh 0.6 major :)
2019-12-12 14:45
Ukraine labl3 
2019-12-12 09:51
Finland Trashsports_2 
2019-12-12 10:28
NAF | 
United States HAWT9 
Gembit russkiy organizacija
2019-12-12 11:58
Malaysia Level1Cam 
UK 3 major NA 1 major then
2019-12-12 12:46
Indonesia urutosiar 
You forgot Gambit? Lul
2019-12-12 12:34
Kazakhstan tomik0 
Whatever no country cs 🤭🤭
2019-12-12 09:37
Im american 😎😎😎💪💪💪🔥🔥🔥🔥
2019-12-12 14:29
Brazil ZerongBr 
nice hope 16x0
2019-12-12 05:24
Uzbekistan preimz 
MiBR has gotten 16-0’d like 10 times dude lmao
2019-12-12 06:42
Mongolia bozgor 
and they are shit 👌😎
2019-12-12 06:47
Brazil ZerongBr 
mibr 2019 totally agree with ya sk 2017 nope
2019-12-12 17:36
Brazil ZerongBr 
im not calling them the "brazilian's hope" lul
2019-12-12 17:34
bruh brazilians have been 16-0d too many times for you to talk. As for my opinion about EG, check bio
2019-12-12 06:53
Brazil ZerongBr 
what does it matter? im not saying they are the brazilian's hope lul
2019-12-12 17:35
Thailand MAced 
2019-12-12 04:33
2019-12-12 04:41
2019-12-12 06:04
true NA had good year since poland and french scene is pretty much dead.
2019-12-12 04:34
french scene dead? g2 def top 10 material and some changes to vitality like navi did will make them a top competitor again instead of basically 2018 navi but without the combo of s1mple and electronic just s1mple
2019-12-12 05:58
only top5 matters m8
2019-12-12 12:47
lmfao have you seen all the teams in top 10 rn? there isnt room in top 5 you retard
2019-12-12 20:04
exactly my point, frnech and polish dont deserve to be near top5 idiot
2019-12-12 21:38
not exactly your point, there are too many good teams rn to just say top 5, i guess vitality holding top 5 almost all year classifies them as dead too, youre a literal retard that only looks at top 5 and probably doesnt even watch the matches
2019-12-12 22:18
i watch it and they are shit.
2019-12-12 22:29
Ah so Vitality, Faze, 100t, and navi are all shit i suppose
2019-12-12 23:56
astralis just took a break then reclaim no.1 spot easily
2019-12-12 04:35
Astralis looking to win blast finals too
2019-12-12 04:39
what? noo, fazeup mens))))))
2019-12-12 04:42
Faze inconsistent af mens, astralis may win this and I didn't said that astralis will win but they can win
2019-12-12 04:45
He obviously made a joke
2019-12-12 04:52
Ok zonic
2019-12-12 06:20
ok xizt
2019-12-12 11:13
NAF | 
Russia necrooooid 
Ok ocean
2019-12-12 11:41
United States hobbitender 
Ok Dosia
2019-12-12 18:05
2019-12-12 05:29
Great interview. Hope to see Liquid improve in the new year!
2019-12-12 04:46
Ok ok
2019-12-12 04:46
United Kingdom Fizzhaz 
5 to 6 ???? majors kek
2019-12-12 04:56
Qatar PrisMcsgo 
Humble naf
2019-12-12 05:08
Finland Smoonah 
Crickey! The only picture known to exist as the NAF is here smiling; such a soulless creature giving emotion is extra ordinary!
2019-12-12 05:11
What I heard was work ethic. I hear things like “player break” and if it’s more than 2 weeks I just wonder if they realise this is their job. At this level they don’t work a 9-5 as well as play right? I can make a lot of observations but I only see the competitions. I just know Stew acts like an idiot and none of the other 4 scream like retards. I remember this year stew saying in comp “they’re so bad” and then they lost the map. I think they need a roster change, some kind of shakeup. Create a honeymoon period to shake the pressure. Their psychologist obviously isn’t making a big enough impact team wise.
2019-12-12 05:24
Iran CEO_of_mens 
Shouldn't they be changing their psychologist then, in the first place?
2019-12-12 06:28
Psych doesn’t really work that way. They could, before the roster. Humans are weird. See: religion, superstition
2019-12-13 05:52
Iran CEO_of_mens 
oh well
2019-12-13 13:29
Taiwan zhcwhite 
you're right
2019-12-12 05:24
2019-12-12 06:38
humble :D
2019-12-12 06:43
Netherlands dabadpad 
2019-12-12 07:09
This was a great year for NA CS, for most of the parts it was just NA vs Astralis with this end of the year being more competitive with other EU teams going into the brawl.
2019-12-12 07:23
2019-12-12 07:28
if the CS scene wasnt such a mess Astralis probably would have won most of the events they attended.
2019-12-12 07:50
What does that mean?
2019-12-12 14:26
it means there is tournaments every week... teams are going from the final straight into another event 1 day later
2019-12-12 21:48
thats literally only happened from ecs to epl
2019-12-12 21:49
hello Astralis playing in Blast right now
2019-12-12 21:50
but they had time inbetween?
2019-12-12 21:51
time inbetween LOL nt
2019-12-12 21:51
Astralis players had even 1 day at home. then travelled there, and had time to prepare there too faze, liquid and nip went 1 day earlier there, had 2 days to prepare
2019-12-12 21:52
one day at home = time inbetween nt
2019-12-12 21:53
yes it is wtf do you expect 1 month between tournemants? especially in december?
2019-12-12 21:54
dude you are clueless. You think 4 days between events is time off LOL so how are these guys supposed to fix mistakes and prepare for other tournaments when they are literally finishing a final and flying to the next event. You are literally clueless, every pro wants a change to the schedule because its a joke. Why do you think more and more teams are now picking and choosing events all year
2019-12-12 21:57
African Union mikecool 
Flashes of brilliance, but nothing long term. NA needs to work on consistency, but it definitely is improving fo sho.
2019-12-12 08:31
United States RULE34TRACER 
Agreed! Also NAF has been playing great lately!
2019-12-12 08:59
How is a guy like stew in tl? Naf is so humble but if they would have Interviewed stewie it would have looked like this : "WOOOOOO LIQUID GOATEST ERA U SO BED WOOOO"
2019-12-12 09:06
Name checks out
2019-12-12 10:26
Europe Nomarosa 
cry is free
2019-12-12 12:09
Russia Islademuerto 
5 big events vs 7 big events, excuse me wtf, NAF?
2019-12-12 09:48
Yeah iem sydney lets goooo Liquid won 2 events with no competetion. Astralis won both majors thats 💯 astralis year
2019-12-12 14:28
Russia Islademuerto 
Astralis still won less lmao +Liquid won IGS
2019-12-12 14:48
so what astralis won more prestigous events? beat liquid like 6 times or more this year 100% astralis year
2019-12-12 16:11
Russia Islademuerto 
IEM Chicago 2019, ESL One Cologne 2019, EPL Season 9, DHM Dallas 2019, IEM Sydney 2019 vs IEM Katowice 2019, Starladder Berlin Major, IEM Beijing 2019, ECS Season 8 Finals 5 vs 4 in terms of prestigious events. Only your second argument stands and even then it could be attributed to a bad match up for Liquid in the same league as the times when EG fucked Astralis several times earlier this year. No one is going to say EG is better than Astralis just because they beat them a few times because we all know that is bullshit. Same for Liquid, except now Astralis are indeed better, the key word being NOW and not for the most of the year. What Astralis are doing right now is too little too late as this year is firmly in Liquids hands because of their summer run, IGS and Astralises inconsistencies throughout the year outside of the majors.
2019-12-12 20:35
IEM SYDNEY PRESTIGIOUS OMG there was no single top5 team there haha dallas 1 top5 team chigago only 3 top10 teams 2 majors > IGS
2019-12-12 21:41
Russia Islademuerto 
it is an IEM event Every event which counts towards a grand slam is prestigious
2019-12-13 00:08
A fucking major is prestigious Not a iem sydney or iem chigago
2019-12-13 05:59
Russia Islademuerto 
Still Cologne plus EPL plus DHM Dallas + IGS > Than 2 majors
2019-12-13 13:01
Portugal YANRAZA 
Especially for clown9. Great year.
2019-12-12 10:04
2019-12-12 10:37
Turkey deepblack12 
Even na confess that Astralis is the best :)
2019-12-12 11:02
United States gtmaniacmda 
definitely since the player break
2019-12-12 12:00
Germany alspex 
same thing with astralis when they took a break, Liquid suddenly top1 briefly
2019-12-12 13:37
United States gtmaniacmda 
it’s not like Astralis didn’t attend tournaments, they attended a few, and Liquid beat them there people like to forget that
2019-12-12 18:48
Germany alspex 
-Bot2k pls
2019-12-12 11:31
2019-12-12 15:03
Spain elskio 
2019-12-12 11:42
Europe Nomarosa 
Great interview
2019-12-12 12:10
Finland BilluBauli 
bullshit mens na = trash
2019-12-12 12:36
Indonesia ZaiDacE 
-nitr0 i think Stew IGL?
2019-12-12 14:26
Indonesia ZaiDacE 
-nitr0 i think Stew IGL?
2019-12-12 14:26
United States freiheit 
2019-12-12 15:00
Great interview. NAF is such an important player for liquid. Always performing vs the top teams and he’s definitely 2nd best clutcher after xyp. I do think that if they replace stewie they could definitely be the best team of all time. Stewie just doesn’t have the aim to compete at the top. Nice to see NAF is very humble and respects his opposition. If NAF keeps up this crazy form they have a solid chance beating Astralis in this BO3 today.
2019-12-12 15:02
He's right.
2019-12-12 16:18
2019-12-12 17:36
World memyselfandI 
Elige hates him right now, NAF burst his illusions.
2019-12-12 19:06
United States jay_320 
The obvious fix for Liquid is to bring in a real IGL. It's not like they don't have firepower. They have more of that than anyone at least if you take their top 3 players as a monolith. The only close team is Astralis. But who the fuck you gonna get is the problem. I would have totally brought in Karrigan when he was available. That dude with a chip on his shoulder at that. Would have been a beautiful thing. My hope is that Nitro uses what's left of the year/early 2020 to really hone the tactical side of Liquid (along with Adren of course). Don't think a player change is needed yet. Worst case you probably could buy like Ethan out from EG and put him in a similar role to Stewie. He'd probably go to. Course EG just spent like two million dollars so that'd be an issue but anything is possible.
2019-12-13 00:40
NAF | 
Netherlands Ramskis 
NAF mens)))
2019-12-13 08:50
yeah it was clearly astralis year
2019-12-13 08:57
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