B1ad3: "There's a risk of burnout, but in order for us to become the best in the world we have to work every single day"
We spoke to Natus Vincere's coach, Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy at ICE Challenge, where we discussed the addition of Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy, and Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's return to AWPing duties.
Natus Vincere have advanced to the semi-finals of ICE Challenge after topping Group B with victories over GODSENT and OG. The team are now enjoying their second day off before returning to action on Wednesday against the winner of the quarter-final clash between Virtus.pro and Kevin "kRYSTAL" Amend's side.
In a candid interview with B1ad3, we discussed the recent roster adjustments, with the departure of Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács and the signing of Perfecto from Syman. The coach also explained why Evgeny "FL1T" Lebedev was the team's first choice, and spoke about how their new rifler is adapting to the squad and s1mple's transition back to a sniping role.
2019 was a turbulent year for Na`Vi, with various roster changes and the instability brought by the uncertainty of Zeus' retirement. You now have a fully-functioning roster with Perfecto - have you set a timeframe in which you'd like to show results, and what goals have you set as a team?
I definitely see that this roster can be very strong. The timeframe probably depends on the work we put in and our free time. We have a lot of tournaments going on, and if we had, for example, two months free, we'd gain as much form as we possibly could and would go into tournaments with it. Seeing as we don't have this time, we're forced to work in a really compressed time and, as a result, in a stressful way, which means we'll have to analyse things at events, work on maps and fill in the gaps during matches. There's a risk of players burning out when you work like this, but in order for us to become the best team in the world, we absolutely have to work every single day, particularly considering the circumstances. We don't have the opportunity to organise a month-long bootcamp as Astralis did way back in 2018 when they just assembled the roster with a new player.
As a whole, we aim to win the Major and show our maximum output at all of the events that come before it. Personally, for me as a coach, I would look at the roster with some sort of expertise after Katowice. After Katowice we will have the opportunity to train a lot online before the EPL group stage. February for us is ICE Challenge, BLAST Spring Premier, four days of rest, five days of bootcamp and then Katowice. So, in all, we'll have about five training days and what we manage to do here. We really need time to practice, but after Katowice, I think we'll be able to go into our next tournament in very good form.
Let's touch on the previous roster. In a recent interview with s1mple, we learned that he felt GuardiaN was unable to shine in the team due to psychological issues. As someone who observed the squad from the side, what did you feel stood in his way?
It is definitely the case that the best person to answer this question is GuardiaN himself because only he can look inside and understand why certain things in the game worked out and why some didn't. Whichever way I look at it from the side, whatever tips I might give him, it's all subjective in the end. In my opinion, the problems with communication in critical moments during matches against very strong teams were very difficult, not only for him but for us as well. The speed of our communication was impacted, and it is very important at this level. This is probably more the reason why we decided to make roster adjustments.
As to why he wasn't able to shine and had a slowdown, I think he, as a player, had a drop in terms of in-game performance. These things happen, and a lot of players experience these situations where they're playing well, they're in form and then, at a certain moment, they have a dip in performance. This drop needs to be outlasted in a proper way in order for you to emerge as a stronger player because pure energy comes through perseverance. I think that when he manages to persevere past this drop, he will become even stronger. I really believe in him as a player, and I'm confident that everything is in his hands. He needs to pull himself together and understand that any drop in performance or confidence, or a missed shot, are just frames that the player drives himself into. He just needs to gain confidence in a new team.
Before you signed Perfecto, the team had its eyes on FL1T. Why was he the team's first choice?
It's because in the CIS region we don't have very strong tier-one riflers, someone like electronic, Magisk, Brehze, Brollan, EliGE and so on. Whichever way you look at it, these players need to be fostered and developed. Seeing as this is the case, s1mple can easily become one of these players. I still think that the hybrid role is ideal for him, it's just that he had been AWPing for over five years, while he had only assumed a hybrid role for three months and he still showed really good results. He was able to dominate maps at certain points in time but he still didn't understand how to fully display himself. When he wanted to commit, he wasn't confident that a specific move would be the most effective, while with the AWP he is, which makes it easier for him. This is why our choice fell on FL1T, it's because he can become a good tier one rifler if someone does productive work with him. He has the foundations of a solid rifler, and that's why he was our first choice.
I can also add that Ilya (Perfecto) has every chance of becoming the same type of rifler, and that also serves as the reason we chose him. We signed him because of his fast thought process, his playstyle, and his character.
Perfecto's and flamie's in-game roles overlap in a few ways. How did you work around this in order to incorporate him into the squad?
You might notice that until September, flamie played a different role in that he would secondary AWP and he was pretty good at it. Right now he will have to adjust from a B anchor role, and generally, from the anchoring role to a more functional one.
As it stands, we are in an experimental state on certain maps. We are still testing positions, for example, on Train we made adjustments live in the match against GODSENT. We took timeouts and swapped players around because it was apparent that we had not yet established a comfort zone. There are maps where it's quite difficult to play on the defense; at a bare minimum that's Train, where it's unlike a typical map with the A and B sites and Middle, like Dust2 or Mirage. It's a different map, where you need a more structured approach to the defense and it's difficult to frame the role of an A anchor on Train.
In any event, he has to be multifunctional in that position, and as such, we're currently testing him in the role he assumed before September, effectively the role he had before our first roster adjustment. We'll see how he does, I still think that he's an anchor player, but Denis (electronic) pointed out that Egor (flamie) is a really good defensive AWPer, and if utilised correctly, he can cause a lot of damage and get a lot of kills. We'll see how it goes and how he plays. I work with him every single day to ensure that he adapts as fast as possible. I don't rule out the possibility that Egor (flamie) will once more be an anchor player, while Perfecto will assume a supportive role.
From past interviews, we know that NaVi, as a team, are very warm and welcoming towards their recruits. It's still early days, but how do you feel Perfecto's integration has gone? Do you see immediate chemistry?
I think it's a natural process. When a new player joins the roster, everyone does their best to treat him with the utmost friendliness and support. What's the point of bringing in the player and bashing him around? The process is flowing naturally, it's difficult to say because we only played three or four days online [before ICE Challenge]. We played out our maps to the max, just to get a feel for each other and understand where our strengths and weaknesses lie. From a psychological standpoint, I think he's still in the process of adapting. New people, first LAN event - he definitely needs more time. I'm confident he won't have any problems adapting to the team, he perfectly fits our team and I'm very happy about this.
Lastly, s1mple is now taking on the main AWPer role. Do you personally feel he will bring more impact to the roster than he did in the hybrid role?
I think that s1mple has a lot more experience playing with the AWP than in the hybrid role. With this in mind, I think he will bring more impact faster than he did [as a hybrid player]. Had he played the hybrid role longer and made progress on a daily basis, I think he would have become a more impactful player than with the AWP. However, in order for this to have happened, we would've needed time, maybe six to eight months of productive training and analysis, and he would've achieved the level equivalent to his current AWPing.
Considering that we didn't have the time and we wanted to quickly return to form, we reverted him to the AWP, and today, his impact on matches will be higher than it was over the course of the past three months because this is his role, he played it for four years or even longer. We need to play around six to eight officials for him to fully return to the role because while he plays it a lot in FPL, he hasn't played much of it in a team setting. Those are two completely different environments, the timings and decision-making are different. He just needs time to play as many matches as possible in order to get into his comfort zone.