s1mple: "Maybe I will take a break; I need to set up my life, not travel with the same bag for six months"
In a catch-up ahead of BLAST Premier Spring Final, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev spoke to HLTV.org about adding sdy as a stand-in, Denis "electroNic" Sharipov taking over the in-game leader role, and his expectations at the tournament in Portugal, where Natus Vincere are placed in group B with OG, BIG, and ENCE.
The Ukrainian also talked about Natus Vincere's future, revealing that they "still need to decide if we will stick together or if we should do more changes," as the AWPer himself might be taking time off.
However, before that, there is a job to be done, as s1mple says that the "most important thing is to not let FaZe win the Grand Slam."
I think it fair to say it has been a turbulent period for NAVI, since the Major, and even before that, going back to Katowice. How are you personally feeling right now, ahead of BLAST?
It is an interesting feeling because we have something new, we haven't changed a player for a few years, since b1t came in. And we changed roles so it is going to be interesting to see how it is going to work.
Do you feel extra motivation or is it perhaps frustrating, the position you are in right now?
I don't know, we still didn't decide who we are going to play with, but it is something new to try, a new player, new setups, new spots, and of course, new IGL. On one side it is better for us because, in terms of individual skill, I feel we became better, but from the IGL perspective, we still need to play more games to understand how electroNic is going to in-game lead.
Let's talk about that when you mentioned it, why was electroNic selected to IGL?
I think because no one else can do what he can do as an IGL. I need to focus on my game, b1t is a young player, he is just clicking headshots, there was some thought between electroNic and Perfecto but I think Perfecto said he didn't want to do it in the end. Overall electroNic has one of the best understandings of the game, he can easily read opponents as well and he is really calm in pressure moments when you need to make a good call, so I think it was the easiest decision for B1ad3.
Should we expect a different style of NAVI or is it going to be more of plugging electroNic into how Boombl4 was calling, with B1ad3 setting the foundations, and continuing in a similar way?
In terms of strategies it is going to be the same, but maybe in terms of mid-round calls we will make much faster ones. Maybe they won't be better, but they will probably be much faster because electroNic, as I said, reads opponents really well and he understands faster than Boombl4 where he can find a gap in the CT side.
Let's talk about sdy. Obviously, he is a stand-in and what was said by NAVI is that how he plays here could decide if he is maybe going to stay. But why was he the player you went for initially?
That might be a question for B1ad3 because he usually watches demos and how other teams play. The most important thing about sdy is that somewhere he has similar roles to Boombl4 and in other places he can easily change spots with electroNic who can take Boombl4's roles. We don't know if he is going to stay with us, we don't know how he is going to play on stage or in this tournament, but from practice, he played well. In terms of individual skill, he showed a really good performance. In terms of understanding the game, utility usage, and overall understanding of how we all play as a team, he still needs time to work. But everyone who works with B1ad3, at least one or two hours per day, will become better as a player in one, two, or a maximum of three months.
You touched on the roles, is the idea to adapt sdy and electroNic, those are the two players that will be adapting, and the rest of the team will stick to what they have been doing?
Yes, yes. When you become an IGL like electroNic, sometimes you need different roles on the map. Because there are some roles, especially on the T side, where you need to be together with your team. You cannot go first, you cannot be a lurker on the other side because you need to see the whole picture in the game. When you are trying to lurk, get some info, come from behind them, or when you go first and die — I think that is wrong. B1ad3 understands this and electroNic understands this as well. So he is trying to be somewhere between the two sides of the map to see what is happening, to understand and listen to all information we have.
Turns to b1t: "We've only changed roles for electroNic and sdy, right?
Oh yeah, yeah, there are some interesting spots for b1t as well. (laughs) He needs to practice these spots I feel.
What does this event mean for your team? The Major finished, Cologne is coming up, and this event is kind of in the middle. How important is it, what makes it important for you?
The most important thing is to feel each other once again, especially with a new player. And to decide what we are going to do next with our fifth player, we need to see how sdy is going to play, how he will deliver, how he is going to react in pressure moments.
As a team, I think the most important thing is to not let FaZe win the Grand Slam, if we are talking about Cologne and other events. But overall we want to get better form and decide who we want to play with because it is really hard when you have to play with a stand-in. You can win one tournament with a stand-in, like FaZe did, or like... FaZe did a few years ago as well when they had Xizt and other players, but if you want to win 2-3 tournaments in a row like we did before, we need to build form, we need to play better individually, and get this synergy in the game.
You mention the Grand Slam and FaZe. You were the team that won the Grand Slam, won the Major, but going into this year it was more about building into something more, building into an era. Does it feel disappointing, how things ended? That you didn't really get a chance to play out the whole year with that roster?
Yeah, it felt like Putin decided to remove all CIS teams from winning tournaments and disband them, you know? Because that is the most important thing that happened, when the war started we were mentally destroyed, we even got to the semi-finals [in Katowice], we lost to G2... I mean, G2 who still can't win tournaments. We lost to ourselves the first time, after that we had no preparation [for Pro League] and we lost again, and then at the Major it felt like it could be our last hurrah because we knew something was probably going to change, and we failed again.
Overall, things happening in the world... we just lost to ourselves. Maybe it feels like an excuse and that we could play better and we could win, but I think that is the main reason why there is no NAVI era right now. But still, it gave us a lot of experience, as people.
You had a cryptic Tweet recently, "Still thinking about my decision, 2BC." Was this connected to the team situation?
Yes, yes. It is about deciding what to do. I don't know what is going to happen with the organization and all the players. We still need to decide if we will stick together or if we should do more changes. Because maybe I will take a break because I need to do things in life, like I need to move, I need to get a lot of documents... when you have a tournament after tournament you just have no time.
I understand, these kinds of things are why I'm not in Lisbon right now, everything takes time. Is this something you are looking to do after the player break?
I don't know, I don't know. I said I would play Cologne so FaZe wouldn't win the Grand Slam, but they failed Dallas. So what do we do now? (laughs)
Turns to b1t: What do we do b1t? We take a break for six months? (laughs) No?
It is the same as with you, you have a new flat (Editor's note: reference to a pre-interview conversation) and you cannot visit a tournament because you need to set up everything. For example, I don't have a flat right now or a house where I can always live, that is the main problem. I need to set up my life, I want to play and stream and not worry about other things, not travel with the same bag for six months. My teammates live with family, b1t is in Spain right now with his mom and dad, sdy lives in Kyiv but he has permission to go to tournaments. I live everywhere, just traveling and traveling, and I have become mentally tired of this.
To wrap it up, you are in a group with BIG, ENCE, OG. How do you see yourself there, are you still favorites to top the group?
I think yes, we can still easily beat all of these teams. I don't know why we are in third place, we should be second. Why ENCE is above us I don't know (smiles). I hope this gives them a bit of anger to play against us if we meet.
But overall I think we are much better as players and as a team, we have more experience than all the teams in our group. BIG did a good run in Dallas, but they lost a close game to Cloud9. They always have great runs, like FURIA, but in playoffs they don't have something, they miss some detail. OG with a new roster, I was actually surprised by it, but OG usually does some weird things, in DOTA and CS, and usually, it works out. It will be interesting, we need to be focused against these players.
About ENCE, I saw this topic on HLTV, "It is time for ENCE to get this trophy, it is their best chance," but I don't know, I don't feel like they are individually ready to beat other teams. As a team, yes, I think they have a really good mood, I think they have a good IGL and motivation to win this event, but it feels like they need a bit more time, especially on stage.
Anything you want to add at the end?
I hope we win this tournament, and I hope when we pass the group stage all Portuguese fans will cheer for our team and our organization.