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IEM Rio Major profile: Natus Vincere

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In the landscape of competitive Counter-Strike, few organizations come close to matching Natus Vincere‘s legacy. From the 1.6 version of the game to Global Offensive, the brand has been synonymous with one thing: consistency. The same can be said about Natus Vincere when it comes to the CS:GO Majors, as it is the only organization to have competed at every single iteration of the Valve-sanctioned tournament since the very first one, DreamHack Winter 2013.

Out of the 17 Majors Natus Vincere have competed in, their achievements include 14 playoff appearances, three top-four placings, five trips to the grand final, and the PGL Major Stockholm trophy. The CIS squad’s accolades don’t stop at the Majors, however, as they have spent a significant amount of time atop the world ranking since 2020, are multiple-time champions in Cologne and Katowice, and are also the winners of the $1,000,000 Intel Grand Slam Season 3.

After a dominant end to 2021 NAVI have found a new rival in FaZe, with whom they have traded the No. 1 spot on the ranking throughout the first half of 2022. While their post-break performances have been a step down from their earlier form, highlighted by a disappointing performance at ESL Pro League Season 16, Natus Vincere are still among the favorites to go all the way in Rio and make their case for a second Major title.

An organization born to win

Natus Vincere‘s record of attending every Major is unmatched by any organization and is equalled by just one player, four-time Major winner Peter “⁠dupreeh⁠” Rasmussen. Their team was composed of experienced players from the previous iterations of the CS franchise who have since become household names in the competitive scene, such as Ioann “⁠Edward⁠” Sukhariev, Danylo “⁠Zeus⁠” Teslenko, and Ladislav “⁠GuardiaN⁠” Kovács.

Success didn’t always come for Natus Vincere, however, as the CIS squad’s first two outings at DreamHack Winter 2013 and EMS One Katowice 2014 ended in the group stage. Their fortunes changed at the next Major, ESL One Cologne, where Natus Vincere broke into the playoff stage for the first time before falling to eventual grand finalists fnatic in the quarter-finals. From then on, the organization would only fail to reach the playoffs on one occasion, the PGL Major in Krakow, which established them as a constant threat for the Major trophy.

NAVI organization’s Major record

Belgium PGL Major Antwerp 2022 – 2nd
Sweden PGL Major Stockholm 2021 – 1st
Germany StarLadder Major Berlin 2019 – 5-8th
Poland IEM Katowice 2019 – 3-4th
United Kingdom FACEIT Major 2018 – 2nd
United States ELEAGUE Major 2018 – 3-4th
Poland PGL Major Krakow 2017 – 12-14th
United States ELEAGUE Major 2017 – 5-8th
Germany ESL One Cologne 2016 – 5-8th
United States MLG Columbus 2016 – 2nd
Romania DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 – 2nd
Germany ESL One Cologne 2015 – 5-8th
Poland ESL One Katowice 2015 – 5-8th
Sweden DreamHack Winter 2014 – 3-4th
Germany ESL One Cologne 2014 – 5-8th
Poland EMS One Katowice 2014 – 13-16th
Sweden DreamHack Winter 2013 – 13-16th

Natus Vincere claimed their first-ever top-four finish at DreamHack Winter 2014 and reached back-to-back Major grand finals at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 and MLG Columbus 2016 under Zeus‘ leadership. Natus Vincere couldn’t make a trip back to the final at ESL One Cologne, and in August 2016 it was announced that the Ukrainian skipper would be leaving the team he built and captained for the last six years, dating back to Counter-Strike 1.6.

His replacement was a then young up-and-coming Ukrainian Oleksandr “⁠s1mple⁠” Kostyliev, whose tenure with Liquid came to an end following their second-place finish at ESL One Cologne. After having showcased his immense talent in the years prior, he immediately turned himself into a franchise name as Natus Vincere‘s ever-reliable superstar. A pair of top-four placings and a grand final appearance at the FACEIT Major followed suit after s1mple‘s addition, but the trophy always seemed just out of reach. It didn’t help Natus Vincere‘s cause that Astralis were nearly untouchable when it came to Majors from late 2018 to 2019, but a shift to online competition caused by the global pandemic marked a fresh start for the Ukrainian side.

2021 was a year of many challenges both in and out of the server, but it was also the most successful period in Natus Vincere‘s long history. Most of events in the first half of the year were held online, which paved the way for teams such as Gambit, Heroic, and FURIA to leave their mark on the world stage. IEM Cologne was the first international LAN event to be held in over a year, and Natus Vincere made sure they were the ones who took home the gold with a 3-0 sweep over G2 in the grand final. Their victory sparked an impressive run of form as Kirill “⁠Boombl4⁠” Mikhailov‘s crew took home first place at ESL Pro League Season 14, which crowned them winners of the Intel Grand Slam Season 3 and $1,000,000 in prize money. All that was left on the CIS squad’s calendar was the one thing missing from the trophy cabinet: a CS:GO Major.

To say that Natus Vincere‘s campaign at PGL Major Stockholm was impressive would be an understatement. They played a flawless Legends Stage with a perfect 3-0 record and carried the momentum all the way to the grand final, where they ultimately swept G2 to claim the organization’s first-ever Major championship. Winning a Major was already a remarkable accolade in its own right but Natus Vincere did so without dropping a single map, a feat no other team has ever achieved.

NAVI were the undisputed best team in the world in 2021

One in his name, number one in the game

Natus Vincere are a team with many strengths that all gel together to form a winning lineup under the tutelage of veteran coach Andrey “⁠B1ad3⁠” Gorodenskiy. Denis “⁠electroNic⁠” Sharipov now serves as the brains of the group after taking over in-game leadership from Boombl4 earlier this year, Viktor “⁠sdy⁠” Orudzhev can turn the tides of a round with his lurks, Ilya “⁠Perfecto⁠” Zalutskiy delivers on his name through his reliability even in the most challenging scenarios, and Valeriy “⁠b1t⁠” Vakhovskiy‘s mechanical prowess shines bright despite his young age.

But what truly sets Natus Vincere apart from the rest of the field is the team’s superstar AWPer, s1mple, a man who is both feared and respected by the opposition due to his capacity to turn even the most unlikely of situations into a victory. With a record 21 tournament MVP medals, two-time No. 1 player of the year awards and two more No. 2 placings in the past four years, the Ukrainian is by many considered the greatest player of all time.

s1mple’s individual accomplishments are unparalleled

Prior to the PGL Major Stockholm, s1mple was likened to a king without a crown. He had already won a plethora of Big Events at that point, but was never able to get his hands on a Major trophy, as the closest he got to the gold were at ESL One Cologne 2016 as a member of Liquid and FACEIT Major 2018 with Natus Vincere. His troops reached the grand final on both occasions but failed to overcome their last obstacles, falling short to SK in Cologne and Astralis in London. He needed to wait three years to get another chance at winning his first-ever Major, and it finally came at the PGL Major Stockholm.

Read more

Top 20 players of 2021: s1mple (1)

s1mple was head and shoulders above the rest in Stockholm, as he bagged the Major MVP award after driving his team to victory as the highest-rated competitor throughout the whole tournament.

Consistently performing head and shoulders above his team, eight years since his competitive career began ‘The Undertaker’ still hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, with his most recent tournament MVP coming at IEM Cologne 2022 three months ago, where Natus Vincere took home second place.

Expectations for IEM Rio

Natus Vincere head into Rio as one of the favorites to win it all and are hungry to take back their Major crown. They have spent 17 weeks on top of the ranking in 2022 and solidified themselves as a top-two team ahead of the summer break with a victory at the BLAST Spring Final and a runners-up finish at IEM Cologne. The team’s main challengers come in the likes of defending champions FaZe and ESL Pro League Season 16 winners Vitality, with the latter housing a superstar AWPer of their own and the only true individual rival to s1mple in Mathieu “⁠ZywOo⁠” Herbaut.

The lineup hasn’t changed that much from their winning run at the PGL Major Stockholm as s1mple, electroNic, Perfecto, and b1t all aspire to reclaim what they lost in Antwerp, while sdy is seeking his first-ever Major championship. Two members of the team with a lot to prove are electroNic and sdy. The 24-year-old shifted to the in-game leader role following Boombl4‘s departure from the active roster and earned his first tournament win at the helm at the BLAST Spring Final with an aim of replicating the same success at the Rio Major. sdy, on the other hand, has been with the team since June on a trial basis and is still fighting for a permanent spot on the lineup each day.

Read more

sdy: “I’m thinking about it like, if I do a great job I will stay, if I don’t it was a good experience”

Expectations are always high when it comes to Natus Vincere, and although their ESL Pro League campaign wasn’t anything to write home about, they still have all the right components for a team capable of lifting the trophy in Rio. Being one of the few teams with a long-standing core and years of success alongside each other gives Natus Vincere a massive boost when it comes to team chemistry. With all the pieces in their rightful places, it’s up to the players to rekindle the fire that gave them a taste of glory at Stockholm and build on that momentum for another historic Major run.

Other IEM Rio Major team profiles

IEM Rio Major profile: Europe fnatic
IEM Rio Major profile: South America 9z
IEM Rio Major profile: Kosovo Bad News Eagles
IEM Rio Major profile: Russia Outsiders
IEM Rio Major profile: Europe Vitality
IEM Rio Major profile: Brazil Imperial
IEM Rio Major profile: Brazil FURIA
IEM Rio Major profile: Mongolia IHC
IEM Rio Major profile: Germany BIG
IEM Rio Major profile: Sweden Ninjas in Pyjamas
IEM Rio Major profile: Europe MOUZ
IEM Rio Major profile: Denmark Sprout
IEM Rio Major profile: Russia Spirit
IEM Rio Major profile: Brazil 00NATION
IEM Rio Major profile: Europe GamerLegion
IEM Rio Major profile: Europe ENCE
IEM Rio Major profile: United States Liquid
IEM Rio Major profile: Australia Grayhound
IEM Rio Major profile: Denmark Heroic
IEM Rio Major profile: Europe OG
North America Evil Geniuses – To be released on October 29
Russia Cloud9 – To be released on October 30
Europe FaZe – To be released on October 30

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