Boombl4: "We are not yet a top contender; there are instabilities in our game because we are still developing"
Natus Vincere are set for a rerun of their opening match in Moscow against Heroic after losing to Vitality in a three-map series in the group's upper bracket final. The match against the Danish team, who just came off a one-sided match against EHOME, will decide which of the two will secure a higher seeding heading into the quarter-finals.
In a deep dive interview conducted in Russian, we spoke about ESL Pro League Season 10 takeaways, followed by a detailed breakdown of the squad's series in Moscow so far. After these tournament-specific questions, we discussed how Boombl4 has been finding the in-game leader role and some of the influences that have helped him progress. Concluding the conversation, we asked him about the recent criticism towards Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács and whether he feels it is justified.
Before we get into EPICENTER, I wanted to get your thoughts on the results the team achieved in Odense. What were the general takeaways from Denmark?
We came to the conclusion that we are not yet a top contender like, for example, Astralis. There are instabilities in our game because we are still developing. We had a productive bootcamp that was approximately 12 days long. We traveled to the tournament, and even when we had matches, we still tried our best to practice before them and during our days off.
Similar to all of our events, we tried to fix our mistakes online, but unfortunately, we were unable to get practice after we arrived from Denmark. First, we had internet issues that forced us to cancel practice, then Ladislav (GuardiaN) was hospitalised with 39-degree angina. We planned to show a stable game because our form was decent at EPL and we couldn't have forgotten everything in such a short space of time. We put in a lot of work and it should last us longer than a single event. We try to be a stable team and outperform tier two teams, gradually gaining form with the experience that we obtain at events.
Talking about EPICENTER, your first series was against Heroic, where you put up a very convincing performance on Inferno and Nuke, taking them down without a single map going to double digits. It was apparent that you had a solid idea of what they were going to show, what sort of preparation did you go into the opening match with?
Our preparation for that series was pretty standard. We had enough time, we knew our opponents and B1ad3 watched some demos, we knew the maps that we would pick. We picked Inferno specifically because we were confident on the map against them and we wanted to face them on it. Generally, everything went to plan and, individually, we were performing well.
I thought they came into the tournament in poor form because if we look at what they had done at StarSeries Season 8, they had really shown up and brought their game. Perhaps we played on different maps, I think we played Train back then, maybe they're weaker on these maps, but I felt they were in weak form. We had a serious approach to the match, played our own game and everything worked out, we were dictating the pace. This is how we achieved a one-sided result.
The series against Vitality went the way of the Frenchmen, and it actually turned out that you lost both Inferno and Nuke to your opponents, despite having confident showings beforehand. Could you explain why you struggled so much against them?
From what I recall, we lost all of the pistol rounds on Inferno against them and we didn't manage to grab a single pistol round on the third map either. They started snowballing and gained confidence, despite losing the first map, which was actually their own pick. We didn't really talk about it in the moment, but maybe we relaxed a little after the first map because you get this feeling when you're up 1-0 where internally you don't really clasp for every round. As an example, it's the opposite of a situation where you're 15-14 and you understand that it's the final round and you do your utmost. Perhaps we relaxed a little, but generally, our Inferno isn't fully prepared, it's probably our fourth-best map. We beat fnatic on it at EPL, and against Heroic we were confident on the map.
Vitality said they had a long period of preparation, a solid bootcamp, and that they're ready to take the tournament. They were a mystery team for me and things went their way. They had a double AWP setup, broke our game consistently and things didn't seem to work out for us. They started every round with an advantage, or we had a lacking economy and simply lost vision of the game. That made it really difficult to come back from a 7-0 deficit. We had a few really disappointing rounds because our morale was hit, especially rounds where we had a 4v3 advantage, or the A retake round that we simply shouldn't have given away. We were just afraid of taking action, like the situation when we were 5v3 or 5v4 with pistols on B, we had good positioning and we just lost the round because people froze and no one communicated. In the second half of the map, we felt lost and scattered, which led to a lack of confidence. No one took the initiative, myself included. I think that call-wise, the map was a failure because I wasn't entirely sure how to act; they never smoked off Middle. Having said that, we've actually broken down a lot of our mistakes on the map.
As for Nuke, I think the fact that we gave away Inferno with such a lop-sided score had an impact. A similar situation had happened at DreamHack Malmö, where we played against them and convincingly won their pick, Nuke, then on the third map, Overpass, they destroyed us 14-1, which gave us some flashbacks. We kicked off on the T side, and, again, didn't win the pistol round. They started snowballing and it was as if we were experiencing a continuation of the second map. It felt like they were prepared for our T side on Nuke, they had an idea of what we were going to do and what rounds we had prepared. Teams generally have a pretty wide pool of specific rounds on the T side of Nuke, and they play them out, so it's difficult to shine individually because the CTs have a positional advantage. They were definitely ready positionally, for example how ZywOo played in Hanger controlling our rounds when he usually plays Main.
We felt that they were well prepared, and, to reiterate, we didn't feel very confident after the second map, because at the end of the day it was our map pick, and it was one of our strong maps. Perhaps not one of the best, but still, it had an impact on us and we spiraled into the abyss, so to speak.
Let's catch up on more general topics. You mentioned you had moments where you weren't sure how to act during the match as an in-game leader. Since some time has passed now, could you give a gauge of how comfortable you feel in the role?
With every day of practice and every match that we play, I gain experience both as an individual player and as a captain. At the moment I am trying to understand the T side from a macro perspective, so things like how the CTs position themselves. Andrey (B1ad3) helps me a lot with this. It allows me to control the CTs' movement by forcing our game onto them, which in turn means that I can understand where they are positioned. This is done so that we can exploit areas of the map where there are few opponents or where it's simply awkward for them; we want to stretch out the defence. I can't say I have an understanding of this dynamic on all of the maps, perhaps I've more or less developed some understanding of how to use this on Nuke. If teams prepare for us, which most teams do, it obviously harder to play.
In the game versus Vitality I experienced an issue where I struggled to adjust when they understood what we were doing. They had adjusted to us, but I wasn't able to adjust to counter it, and it became difficult to get back into the game. We didn't have rounds we could latch onto. Of course, we had some moments in the match, but I find it difficult to adjust, maybe I need to find a different approach. When the opponent understands what you're doing, while you're sticking to the same thing, it just doesn't work out, and that was a real struggle for me. Adding on top of this was mounting stress because we had had such a great performance on the first map. It was very difficult to come back on Nuke.
B1ad3 is a recurring figure in your answers and we learned from flamie in Odense that he spends a great deal of time working with you individually. Talk about that interaction and how he has helped you with the role of the in-game leader.
B1ad3 helps me in all aspects, because a captain is responsible for everyone when you play on the T side, and there are also maps where you need to control everything on the CT side and have an understanding of the macro perspective, things like where the opponents have a weak spot or where we are feeling a little shaky. Counter-Strike is largely based on advantages, and B1ad3's main objective is to show and explain where we have advantages and how to utilise them; he does a lot of work all around. Even when I suggest certain rounds, he explains to me why we shouldn't do certain things because there are risks associated with that decision. We try to build our game in a way where eight out of ten times there are no risks, for example. We take a risk-averse approach because we need to develop a steady game.
Otherwise, as I said before, we work a lot on the macro aspect of the game to develop an understanding of how the defence works when we're on the T side, and how to gain information as the CTs. This is done to develop an immediate understanding of their positioning, even if it's a single player that we have information on; it also helps to understand what kind of round we should expect. We work on all existing aspects of the game. I feel like with every tournament my understanding develops, but at this point, it's not enough and there's definitely a lot of room to grow. I hope that we continue to gain experience and start grabbing victories.
In the period of time that you spent with Zeus before GuardiaN's arrival, how different was the in-game approach compared to what you have developed now?
When I arrived in the team it was a really big deal for me because I really wanted to work hard. I understood that I joined the team that I had dreamed of joining, it's the best team in the CIS region. Everyone assisted me in understanding how I needed to play and fulfill my role, electronic really helped me a lot.
Our current game is built differently than when we played with Zeus. He had more of an individual approach where we would move towards a certain area of the map, he would have a gut feeling and would explain the move to make. Currently, I think we have a smarter approach to the game, playing off of the advantages that we discussed earlier, as opposed to an intuitive approach. We try to make correct decisions so that there's more stability to our success.
With Danya (Zeus) there was a degree of instability, which we still have now, but comparing the time frame that we played in, with Danya (Zeus) I played for around six months, whereas with Ladislav (GuardiaN) we've been together for around three or four months. It's all a matter of development, some teams have been together for a whole year, and we just need more time.
Recently there has been a lot of criticism towards GuardiaN and his individual performance from both the community and pundits, an example of which would be Thorin's recent video. What are your thoughts on the criticism and the situation as a whole?
Honestly, it's unpleasant to hear this directed at any player. There's the example of HUNDEN, who used to play for Tricked, now he's part of MAD Lions. People would write "GOD HUNDEN" as he had bad stats, and I think in an interview he mentioned that at some point he stopped reading comments. In reality, I think that if people keep saying things like "kick him" or "he's bringing you down", it will have an impact on the player, even though they might not read about it, they'll hear about it either way.
Hate has always existed, and there's no way of getting rid of it, unfortunately. I would just like for people to read this interview and stop because there really is no point to it. Personally, I just have an approach to life where I try to have more positive moments than negative ones. I just don't understand the point of it, a person finds it important to express their opinion even though they aren't professional players and don't understand a lot of the aspects behind why a certain play was made, etc. I disagree with it.
When I joined Na`Vi I got a lot of hate as well, but I tried to abstract myself from it because I understood that it would happen. It was a new level of play as I had joined the top tier of teams and I needed to get used to it. I still haven't gotten used to it, I haven't played enough events. To me, this whole thing is totally new, to a point where certain teams study me and try to adapt to how I play individually. It's strange in that when I first arrived, in a way, it was easier to play because opponents didn't know what to expect from me.
Honestly, I avert my eyes when it comes to these sorts of things, but I think that subconsciously, even though I may abstract myself from the hate towards myself, it might have an impact on Ladik (GuardiaN) and the whole team, but I guess it's an individual thing that varies from person to person.
Concluding the interview, I wanted to pick your brain on some of the things you feel have changed in your understanding of the game since you arrived from Winstrike. How has your overall comprehension of Counter-Strike changed?
I've started to understand more of the intricacies of the game. When we constructed rounds in Winstrike, for example, I would just watch demos of top teams and emulate them, but I didn't understand why they did certain things. Now, at the top competitive tier, I understand that a single round can affect the outcome of a match. It's an improvement in understanding, and I have got to play a lot more LAN events against tier-one opponents.
I'm gaining experience as both an in-game leader and a player, and at this level, players explain why things are done and the thinking behind it. My understanding of the game has changed since I joined, my vision of it is different. Things that used to confuse me have now become clear as day.