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Credit: BLAST

Born to win... mostly

NAVI CSGO history: The rise and dominance of a legendary team




Natus Vincere, or NAVI, isn’t just a titan of the CIS region, but a titan of the CSGO scene too. This is a brief history of NAVI in CSGO.

Natus Vincere means “born to win” in Latin, and winning is something in NAVI’s DNA. Before CSGO was even released, NAVI became the first team to win all the Major events in Counter-Strike in a calendar year: IEM IV, ESWC 2010, and WCG 2010. In CSGO, NAVI recently became the first team to win a Major without dropping a map at PGL Stockholm.

NAVI switched to CSGO from CS in 2012 with a lineup of Yehor “markeloff” Markelov, Ioann “Edward” Sukhariev, Serhii “starix” Ishchuk, Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko, and Arseniy Serhiiovych “ceh9” Trynozhenko

The team, despite being together for three years before CSGO, didn’t last long after they switched to the new edition. In July 2013, both Edward and markeloff departed for Astana Dragons. Denis “seized” Kostin and Anton “tonyblack” Kolesnikov (then known as kibaken) were to be their replacements. 

PGL

Seized would stay with the Ukrainian organization for years, becoming a mainstay of the team and eventually its in-game leader. Tonyblack on the other hand would be out by December alongside ceh9. Edward would return alongside legendary Slovakian AWPer, Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács.

Tournament wins would still be hard to come by for NAVI in CSGO. They claimed their first victory in 2014 at StarSeries IX after beating Ninjas in Pyjamas in the final, though, with seized as the MVP of that tournament. It would be the organization’s only S-tier tournament victory in the first two years of CSGO.

As 2015 rolled around, there were more changes in NAVI’s CSGO team. Starix departed to become the team’s coach, with Egor “flamie” Vasilyev stepping in as his replacement. The Russian was one of the most exciting players in the region at the time and would remain with NAVI until 2021.

The year saw a general upturn in NAVI’s fortunes, with them claiming victories at ESL Pro League Winter, StarSeries XIII, and ESWC 2015. GuardiaN was the MVP of all three events, he was voted the second best player of 2015 by HLTV. The first two of those events were won against French teams, but the Frenchmen got their revenge in 2015’s third Major, Dreamhack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015. Envy claimed the crown with NAVI in second place. Another AWPer was the MVP of that event, Kenny “kennyS” Schrub.

DALLAS, TX – JUNE 01: Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács of FaZe Clan competes against ENCE during the CORSAIR DreamHack Masters semi finals at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on June 1, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

2016 started strong for NAVI in CSGO as they opened the year with a win at Dreamhack Open Leipzig. They also were runners-up at their second Major in April, as they lost MLG Columbus to Luminosity. 

The second Major of the year didn’t go as well, however, as they were eliminated in the Quarter Finals by eventual runners-up Team Liquid. This sparked something in NAVI, as they decided it was finally time to acquire Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. The Ukrainian has been with NAVI ever since and established himself as the best player to ever grace CSGO. Zeus was the player that made way for s1mple and left NAVI by the end of the year for Gambit. 

The s1mple era begins

The move for s1mple paid off immediately, as NAVI won ESL One New York 2016 with their new signing claiming MVP. The remainder of the year wasn’t as great, however, as their only other top four placing came at EPICENTER.

2017 was a tough year for NAVI. The Ukrainian organization quickly became to regret letting Zeus go, as seized failed to live up to the legendary IGL after he took the mantle. GuardiaN also departed for FaZe Clan after they crashed out of PGL Krakow and decided to form their superteam. 

NAVI also had a tough time at PGL Krakow, the second Major of 2017, as they were eliminated 12th-14th. Zeus, meanwhile, had a fantastic PGL Krakow, as his Gambit side were the unlikely winners of the event. 

Zeus’ win prompted NAVI to bring their iconic IGL back to the squad. Seized also returned to the lineup in an attempt to capture his old form, having been transfer-listed alongside GuardiaN. Mykhailo Oleksiiovych “kane” Blahin also joined as the team’s coach, having worked alongside Zeus at Gambit. 

Unfortunately, seized didn’t recapture his form. He stepped down in October 2017, and in November he was sent to FlipSid3 Tactics on loan. Denis “electronic” Sharipov joined the team, providing s1mple with a stable fragging partner, as flamie was now inconsistent and Edward had fallen off massively. Electronic became the third player from the unofficial Andrii “B1ad3” Horodenskyi academy to join NAVI in CSGO.

The s1mple era *almost* ends

With 2018 rolling round, NAVI needed to win more championships in order to keep the best player in CSGO. They almost lost him too, as it was only at the last second that s1mple decided he and flamie wouldn’t be off to join Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo and Marcelo “coldzera” David at their new team, MIBR.

BLAST

S1mple’s faith in NAVI paid off, as the team was mildly resurgent with a bedded-in electronic. Summer 2018 saw NAVI win three championships in a row: StarSeries i-League Season 5, CSGO Asia Championships, and in the Cathedral of Counter-Strike, ESL One Cologne 2018

Despite 2018 ending with yet another second-placed finish at a Major at the FACEIT Major London and a win at the first-ever BLAST event in Copenhagen, 2018 trailed off for NAVI. Flamie was still inconsistent, and the team was consistently bogged down by the poor fragging output of both Zeus and Edward.

Zeus’ age was also becoming a concern, and, thanks to Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander redefining the fragging output required from an IGL, so was his individual level too. In 2019, NAVI began to look to the future, and the search for Zeus’ successor was on. 

In April 2019, they won StarSeries i-League Season 7. This would be Edward’s last tournament win with NAVI in CSGO, as, by the end of May, he was loaned to Winstrike. Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov came the other way. Zeus’ replacement had been found, now it was time to prepare him.

ESL

The remainder of 2019 would be inconsistent for NAVI. As September rolled around, Zeus decided his time had come and retired from professional CSGO. Kane also stepped down as NAVI’s coach and B1ad3 was brought in as his replacement, moving to the role from his previous role as esports Director.

GuardiaN also rejoined NAVI, with the FaZe superteam failing to ever live up to the expectations it had set with its talent acquisition. GuardiaN continued the NAVI tradition of being Major runner-up on FaZe too, as they lost ELEAGUE Boston 2018 to Cloud9.

They didn’t win a tournament for the rest of 2019. It became increasingly clear it would take Boombl4 time to become an IGL fit to lace his predecessor’s boots. GuardiaN’s time back on NAVI was also cut short; they replaced him with Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy. The Russian joined NAVI from Syman Gaming.

NAVI won the last event before COVID pushed all of CSGO online: IEM Katowice 2020. The remainder of the year, however, was quite poor. Although this was the case for most teams as the Online Era brought about mass inconsistency. Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi ascended from NAVI Junior at the end of the year, as NAVI became a six-man roster.

NAVI started 2021 well, winning BLAST Premier Global Final. However, after disappointing results in the following two events, flamie’s inconsistency finally cost him his place and b1t became a full-time member of the squad. What followed was unprecedented for NAVI in CSGO.

NAVI won 8 more events in 2021. The most notable of these was IEM Cologne and PGL Stockholm. IEM Cologne was a long-awaited return to LAN, whilst PGL Stockholm was the first CSGO Major in almost two years, after the Starladder Major Berlin 2019. B1t was a key player in both, with the young headshot machine giving NAVI a consistent third star they hadn’t had in CSGO since before s1mple had joined the team.

PGL

2022 hasn’t been as successful for NAVI, as FaZe Clan have been the dominant team since signing Robin “ropz” Kool. NAVI has managed to keep it to a two-team top spot race after winning BLAST Premier Spring Final. However, they lost to FaZe in the finals of both the PGL Major Antwerp and IEM Cologne

What will come for NAVI in the second half of 2022 is unclear, as s1mple recently hinted at a big announcement. NAVI need their talisman, and will at least be without him for the BLAST Premier Fall Groups.

ESL