m0NESY: "I'm sure that I'm ready for tier 1"
One of the game's hottest prospects sat down with HLTV to talk about his meteoric rise to fame and him being ready skill-wise for tier 1 Counter-Strike.
The CIS scene has produced many talented players throughout the years. Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, Denis "electroNic" Sharipov, Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov - these are only a few names on top of a huge list. They all had the skills required to achieve success in the early stages of their careers, but none of them got recognized as fast as Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov.
m0NESY was just 14 when he joined Natus Vincere as a part of their academy project. Everyone was surprised that a player as young as he was could perform on such a high level, and that helped the Russian prodigy amass a big following on social media accounts, with over 387,000 people following his Twitch channel only.
During the WePlay Academy League S2 LAN Finals in Kyiv, we had the chance to speak with the man himself. The 16-year-old answered our questions regarding the early days of his career, improving under the supervision of a storied organization such as Natus Vincere, and his inevitable move to the upper echelons of the CS:GO scene.
In the interview, m0NESY admitted that he lacks some LAN experience, but he was sure that he could make up for it in his skill set. In his opinion, not every tier 1 player is as capable as he is right now.
This goes in hand with the recent report from 1PV and Dexerto, according to which the youngster might be on his way out of NAVI Junior as the organization showed a willingness to negotiate a permanent transfer. s1mple, who appeared on the HLTV Confirmed podcast on Monday, also commented on a potential move, stating that the club would not deny m0NESY the chance to go to a bigger team as they "always help the players."
Your name is synonymous with NAVI Junior, and it seems that you were always ready for media activity. You give interviews, you are always well-spoken. Does it come naturally?
I've never practiced giving interviews, I think it just comes naturally. I'm never nervous. It just happens that I always have something to say.
My very first interview was on LAN, I was attending HardCup, which was my first LAN tournament with a team. I was playing with RuFire (Aleksei "RuFire" Burakov), he invited me to that team, and I proved myself at that tournament. I was noticed, that's how Amiran (Amiran "aMi" Rehviashvili) got to know me. You can say that my career started with that LAN event.
Have you ever thought you became too famous too early? Most players in the CIS scene never become as famous as you already are at 16.
I've heard it too many times from different people and fans, seen it on social media. Maybe it's true, but I try my best to not get consumed by bad thoughts. It doesn't have any negative impact on me. I keep it to myself and try not to think about it. I realize that I've achieved a lot so early, I was invited to this team, FPL-C, and FPL. But despite the fact that many possibilities opened to me, and that I was given many chances to prove myself, I kept performing on a good level, met a lot of players who supported me. Their support helps me a lot.
Do you spend a lot of time away from home? Just like you're doing now in Kyiv.
I live in Russia. We came together for a bootcamp, barely went outside, played lots of CS, and prepared for the LAN finals.
In general, yes, I miss home. I've been in Kyiv for two months now, and it's a lot for me. Amiran wanted me to come to Kyiv, so we could play from the office, practice in the office, sit together and watch demos, analyze games. But to be honest, yes, I miss home very much, I've been abroad for two months. I'm going back right after this tournament.
If it was needed, would you be able to live here for half a year?
Half a year is tough. Not very tough, but… Of course, I could, but if I had to discuss it with my parents… They would miss me so much. So I doubt [it would happen]. Two months are enough to spend some time here and go back.
In one of your previous interviews, you mentioned that you wanted to go to college to esports management faculty. Can you tell me more about it?
I'm a professional player, so it's important to me to be able to spend lots of hours playing. And when you play a lot, you miss classes. I missed a lot of classes in school, but I had a class teacher who helped me a lot. I would say to her that I have a tournament and I need to prepare, and she would cover me up, say that I'm sick, and so on.
So yes, I went to esports management faculty. This faculty… People understand what I do very well, so I'm able to miss some classes. To be honest, I haven't attended a single class yet. I've been in Kyiv for two months, so I just couldn't do it. I and my brother were looking for a college that would suit my needs.
Frankly, I don't really need education. It's more for my parents, they are worried about me getting an education. But they also understand my stance on it.
Tell me what has changed since you joined NAVI. It will be two years soon since the announcement.
When I joined NAVI, I wanted to play badly, I had a fire in my eyes. At first, I was a substitute, because they already had a roster, the core of which they built during the Summer Camp. I wanted to play, I was streaming a lot and trying to qualify for the FPL. Rodion (Rodion "fear" Smyk) helped me out with an invite to the FPL-C. The admins were very surprised, but then they realized that it wasn't for nothing. I participated in qualifiers, and I was doing great. I averaged 31 kills per game and a 1.7 K/D Ratio in two qualifiers. Everyone was shocked, and shortly after I was invited to the FPL.
Now I'm basically doing the same. And I think that it doesn't matter if you are over 20 or… You need to put in the same effort as you did at 16 or 17. You have to keep going.
This LAN tournament, WePlay Academy League, will help me in the future. I'm gaining experience, LAN experience. Everyone's shouting, and this can put pressure on you. But it doesn't affect me in any way.
Have you changed as a person?
As a person? Probably not. I have a lot of fans, so some might think that I have a big ego now, but it's not the case. I keep talking to people who I was friends with before I became famous. I would even say that I became stronger from a psychological point of view.
In one of his recent interviews, Amiran said that you are not ready for tier 1, that you have some weaknesses. Do you know what he was talking about?
Theoretically, yes. To be fair, right after this LAN tournament… I think it will give me a great boost because it's a LAN, first and foremost. I've put in a lot of individual work in the last two months so I could improve. After this LAN event, I would probably be ready… Not even probably. I'm sure that I'm ready for tier 1.
After Egor (Egor "flamie" Vasilyev) joined us, he said many times that tier 1 teams don't play the way tier 2 and tier 3 teams do. But I do think that I'm ready, I just need a bit more time. I think I have a good aim and understanding of the game, not every tier 1 player has that.
You didn't qualify for the LAN finals in the first season, but you stole the show with a 1.64 Rating in 18 maps. Did anything happen before the tournament so you could find such impressive form?
I just played my own game. I wasn't nervous, we all were at the bootcamp. Sure thing, we made some individual and team mistakes, and we had some disagreements, but I just played my own game. I could also feel that the players that I faced off against weren't that strong. I could outperform them, best them in clutch situations, and so on. They were making mistakes, while I capitalized on that.
Speaking about the rating - I don't know. I didn't put much thought into it. Sure, I saw that I was the tournament's top performer, and it gave me a morale boost.
However, we fell short in the lower-bracket final; we lost too many rounds with a man advantage. Overall, that was our biggest mistake - we failed to convert man advantage into round wins. We lost too many clutch situations, 4v2, 5v2, and eventually it decided our fate. That's why we didn't qualify, we didn't use our advantage. But there were other issues, too. Some of our players felt stressed. Daniil (Daniil "Synyx" Mazur), pogor3lov, they were really nervous because of the stats, they were "in red". Sometimes they played well, other times - not so much. That wasn't their fault, they were just not ready. If they played on LAN, it would have gone differently.
What has flamie taught you in the last couple of months?
He is very funny. We talk a lot to each other, watch movies together. In general, he shares his experience and helps us during matches. When someone makes a mistake, he will point it out but in a calm manner: no tilt, no toxicity. He transfers his knowledge back from the days in NAVI's main team, everything that they taught him. He can also cheer us up before matches, which is also great of him.
Do you think that he could still gain form and perform in NAVI's main roster?
Egor is a really strong player, really strong. It just happened that when they decided to make changes and Valera (Valeriy "b1t" Vakhovskiy) came in, it affected him psychologically. He started worrying too much because a young player joined the team and replaced him on one map. He also noticed that they were doing great with him in practice, that he himself performs well and makes the squad stronger. The pressure was too strong to bear, and I think he couldn't handle it anymore and gave up a bit. He kept playing, but there was no way back due to his psychological state.
You said that fear is your best teammate. Tell me how your friendship began and whether it affects what you do on the server.
I and Rodion were introduced to each other right after I joined the team. I added him to my friend list, we stayed in touch. He also helped me with an invite to the FPL-C, and that gave me a boost. Before that, I would just play PUGs with my friends, not taking the game seriously, but in the FPL-C I started paying attention to my individual growth.
As for Rodion, he is a great teammate. He is always there to help and speaks highly of you. Sometimes he can be strict inside the game, especially when we lose track and start playing not according to our plan, and he makes sure that we remember what we need to do. He doesn't mind going in first, getting trade kills, dropping grenades if you need some. He is a good team player.
Let's also talk about B1T, who you are friends with as well. During his first year on the big stage, he won the Grand Slam and a Major. Do you think that you can have a debut as successful as he had?
It is what it is, Valera had a great year. He won DreamHack, BLAST, IEM Cologne, Grand Slam, Major. There is little chance that someone will repeat his success in the next five years. It's too much. I'm even jealous of him to a certain extent. Very few players can join a team and improve it so much right off the gate, win as many titles as the scene's veterans did.
Can I do the same? I don't know, time will tell. Maybe I will be even luckier than Valera.
But I think that Valera is a very strong player. We played together in NAVI Junior, and we were a powerful duo. We were good friends with him, spent a lot of time talking to each other after practice. We could destroy teams as we had a great dynamic. But then he joined the main roster, and after that you could tell that something was off in our team. If we reunite, I'm sure that we will be a fearsome duo in the future.
You've mentioned many times that Astralis are the team you like to learn from. What do you think of them now? Are they still as good?
I think they are not. zonic left, dupreeh left, device left - the core had played together for five years. It broke apart, and now I think it's not the same team it used to be in the past. Yes, I liked studying their demos, device's demos in particular. He was great at moving around the map with the AWP; he was always where he was needed. If someone peeked him, he would always get a kill. He was a very consistent AWP'er, everyone was looking up to him. That's why people would watch his demos more often compared to Sasha (s1mple). Sasha… He just does crazy things. He can do something that doesn't make sense, but it will work. While device plays much more carefully, and it's paying off for him.
Speaking about device now, is he as good as he was in Astralis?
I don't think he is as good as he was. There were rumors that he would go back to Astralis, but it's unlikely to happen. He said that he doesn't enjoy playing in Sweden, in NIP, and that he wants to go back to Denmark. We will see, can't say anything specific about device. But he is a really good player.
You've repeatedly said that Vertigo is your favorite map. What about Ancient? How much time did it take to get used to it?
Honestly, when new maps are released, I immediately launch the game and start studying them. I look for some bugs, grenade lineups, tricks, etc. I like the process a lot. When an update comes out, I want to test it out. And when Ancient was added, I liked the map right away.
When a new map is introduced, not many players or teams want to play it, and you can use it to your advantage. You can pick it in matches and beat these other teams.
As for Vertigo, yes, it's still my favorite map. I've always performed well on it and I keep doing it. Of course, I had some bad games, but we don't count them (chuckles).
You also said that you want to remove Mirage. Do you have any maps in mind that you see as good replacements?
Cobblestone. It was a cool map, everyone loved it, but then it was removed. I want them to bring it back because it was my favorite map.
Do you want to bring it back in its current state, or some adjustments are required?
I don't remember how it looks now. I tried it out in Wingman and probably in matchmaking, but it's not the same.
When it comes to Mirage, it's overplayed. Everyone plays Mirage, everyone knows how to play Mirage. Some teams don't pick it - it's their first ban - and play the rest of the maps. But yes, everyone knows what Mirage is. The same about Dust2. I think Mirage should be removed and replaced by some other map. Maybe Cobblestone, or they could bring Train back.
I read your interview with WePlay, where they asked you to name your dream team. There were two players that drew my attention: ropz and rain. Why did you pick them?
rain and ropz… I think that ropz is the best anchor in the world. He performs really well in his role, and he does things his own way. Sometimes he can even leave his spot and help you out in a different setting. He is a well-thought-out player, and he is always on point no matter what he does. I think that he is a really good anchor, I would like to play with him on a team. The same applies for rain. I remember him back from the Kinguin days. I really like him, and my teammate fear likes him a lot as well (chuckles).
To close it out, who do you think are the top 5 players right now based on individual skill?
B1T, s1mple, electronic… Everyone from NAVI (chuckles). I think refrezh should be on this list, he's been doing well lately. And ropz.