s1mple & B1ad3 on NAVI’s battle to reach their potential with new CSGO roster

Luís Mira
s1mple talking in a interview

NAVI CSGO star s1mple and head coach B1ad3 spoke with Dexerto about the overhaul of the lineup during the off-season and how the team is gelling.

NAVI may not have ‘won’ the off-season, but they have surely been one of the most talked about teams of this rostermania. In anticipation of Counter-Strike 2’s release, many big names have pulled the trigger on changes, hoping to build the best possible rosters before the new game takes over.

After a trophyless 12 months and an early exit from the BLAST.tv Paris Major, NAVI decided to go in a new direction and turned their team into an international roster — a possibility CEO Yevhen Zolotarov had already alluded to in February.

Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev and Valeriy ‘b1t’ Vakhovskiy, as well as head coach Andrey ‘B1ad3’ Gorodenskiy, are the only remaining survivors of the NAVI team that won the PGL Major Stockholm in 2021. Taking over the team’s reins is Aleksi ‘Aleksib’ Virolainen, the former IGL of ENCE, OG, G2 and NIP, with Mihai ‘iM’ Ivan and Justinas ‘jL’ Lekavicius rounding out the lineup.

It’s a lot to process, not just for the fans but also for the players themselves. With the new season just around the corner, questions remain about how long it will take for everyone to be on the same page. “Only God can help him,” s1mple recently said when asked about whether he would give b1t a hand with his English.

In this interview, conducted right before the ‘Match of LeGGends’ showmatch against Vitality in Berlin, B1ad3 and s1mple gave their first impressions of the new team and spoke about how the players are gelling. This conversation has been edited for clarity.

What are your first impressions of the new roster? Have you already had time to scrim? How are things coming along?

s1mple: I would say it’s interesting because it’s something new, but at the same time, it’s pretty hard. In my opinion, it’s hard for me because of new callouts, new info… Everything’s new. And [there are] new players who came from different rosters with a different mentality and play style. We have scrimmed for four days. There’s a lot of work to do in the coming weeks and months. At the same time, for me, it’s very interesting because you get something new from them as well.

B1ad3: For me, I see how it’s going and I see what should be an evolving process. And I have also realized that building something is really hard and it only takes one second to ruin something. We had been building the last roster and system for a long time, it took a lot of hard work. A lot of arguments, a lot of ups and downs. People were upset and all this stuff, and we know this. But this is the step that we have taken. We must go international for the future of the organization. And we know that this is the same process as before. This is the rebuilding stage of NAVI’s CS:GO squad. I see the potential, but it will take time.

NAVI have famously used numbers for callouts in the past. I guess you’ll be adopting a different style now, with names for different positions. How is that going for you and b1t, and how long do you think it will take to get used to the new callouts?

s1mple: We still have some numbers but not a lot like before. Like on Inferno, we have ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘triple’, but we don’t have ‘seven’, ‘eight’, ‘nine’, ‘ten’. It’s fine, but as I said, we need to get used to new info.

How are you finding Aleksib’s calling system? Many people believe that he will bring a lot of structure to the team. How different is the system going to be, compared to what you had with Boombl4 and electroNic?

B1ad3: Basically, we’re still building. We have three different players, who came from different teams, with different knowledge. I have said this a lot before. This is like a broken system where you cannot take a player with the specific style you want, with the specific knowledge you need, because there is no philosophy in terms of the system. It means you are trying to build something, then you watch how they adapt and how you can adapt. For example, you’re 23 years old and you have been playing for a long time, building something brick by brick, and then you need to throw it away. It’s a very hurtful process for a person. I think we’ll need to try different things and find a balance. What I think I’ll do now more is try not to pressure them with our stuff a lot. I’ll try to give them more freedom in terms of what they like to do. And then I’ll see the strengths and the weaknesses. Out of this, we will slowly try to find the balance and build something new.

You now have the first tournament of the season, the BLAST Premier Fall Groups, and then IEM Cologne. What are your expectations for this season in particular, and how long do you think it will take for the team to be at 100 percent?

B1ad3: In terms of schedule, the perfect moment will be Pro League in Malta. We will have a big bootcamp before it. We couldn’t do it before this event because the transfer window was really short. As soon as everyone finished playing, we needed to start negotiating with the players. And this is not a quick process, right? You need at least one month. We are just coming off a break, and the bootcamp will be very short. It’s seven days, believe. I think it would be hard for a team that changed one player to have seven days to prepare, and the same even goes for a team that didn’t change anything, like FaZe. And for us, imagine how much we will change. We are building from scratch. So yeah, it’s a very short period. We need a big bootcamp, and the only chance for that is before EPL. At the end of it, we will see what the future is like. We will have a clear picture of what we should do next.

Talking a little bit about the off-season, who do you think made the best changes? What is your opinion about the rumored Cloud9 roster?

B1ad3: I think Cloud9 looks good on paper. It looks really good. If the rumors are true, you have sh1ro, Ax1le, Hobbit, Perfecto, electroNic. On paper, it’s kind of perfect, right? But maybe Hobbit will have a hard time playing with electroNic. We don’t know. Or maybe electroNic will have a hard time calling, or the team might have a hard time playing with the way electroNic will call. But the potential is huge. Vitality only made one change.

s1mple: I like Vitality. flameZ is from Israel as well. He will have [good] communication with Spinx. They just changed one player. He will take dupreeh’s roles, probably.

B1ad3: One change is always nice. We have done it before a lot of times. For example with GuardiaN, then we changed him for Perfecto, then we replaced flamie with b1t. We always made one change at a time, and it’s easy. Even when Boombl4 left, we got sdy and we went to the grand final of Cologne. One change is nice. You can adapt step by step.

After almost six years together, s1mple and electroNic are going their separate ways

s1mple, when it comes to your individual level, how do you look back at the previous tournament season? How would you compare your level with the way you played last year?

s1mple: It’s not better than it was last year. I don’t want to make excuses. I need to play and find it again. I feel much more comfortable when I know what my teammates do, when we have the structure that we are trying to find now. And we’re going to fix things all the time. As B1ad3 said, we’re going to see what’s working and what isn’t. And we’ll need to find a balance. In 2021, we were on the same page and everything was good. After that, it was a bit hard. So, yeah, looking forward to finding it again.

You said in an interview at IEM Katowice, right after a loss to Heroic, that some of your teammates were afraid to make decisions and were shutting down. Are you hopeful that you’ll be able to find your best level with this new team?

s1mple: I hope so. The personalities are very different. It’s, like, Europeans, you know? They react to different things differently. So I need to find a balance as well and find a way to give them confidence.

About The Author

Luís was formerly Dexerto's Esports editor. Luís Mira graduated from ESCS in 2012 with a degree in journalism. A former reporter for HLTV.org, Goal and SkySports, he brought more than a decade of experience covering esports and traditional sports to Dexerto's editorial team.