Natus Vincere came close. At StarSeries Season 4, they reached the finals off the back of an amazing individual performance by s1mple. To say that his performance was amazing is an understatement. It was one of the greatest individual tournament performances we’ve ever seen in CS:GO. That’s what it took for Na’Vi to reach a final. A final they still didn’t win. For a roster that’s been together for over 5 months, the other aspects of the game don’t look up to par. As soon as s1mple has the rare off game, Na’Vi are in trouble. In some cases they look completely lost tactically. A perfect example of this is their match against Heroic at StarSeries Season 4.
On Mirage, Na’Vi were leading 11-4 at halftime off the back of their CT side. Closing the game out on T side should’ve been easy. However, s1mple only managed to get 1 kill on the T side, and nobody else could pick up the slack. Once s1mple wasn’t able to open up the map, the team looked like they didn’t know what to do, and they couldn’t get a single round on the T side. Na'Vi got the job done on Overpass and eventually reached the finals of the event. But their weaknesses are clear. The issues on Na’Vi culminated in s1mple and Flamie wanting to leave the team to join SK Gaming. However, an issue with the buyouts prevented the move from happening.
The other top team in the CIS region is Gambit Esports. Their star players, Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov and Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev were among some of the best players in 2017. But ever since Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko left the team, their leadership situation has been a mess. Outside of Rustem “mou” Telepov, every player in the team has now had a run as the in-game leader, with none of them being successful. They’ve now ended up with Denis “seized” Kostin taking over the role. A role that he failed to fulfill for a year on Na’Vi. Gambit have gone from a team that could challenge for tournament wins, to a team that is only good for the odd upset and an inevitable group stage exit. The leadership situation has not just resulted in the team looking worse tactically, but has also caused AdreN and Hobbit to drop off the face of the earth individually.
Leadership seems to be the biggest problem in the CIS scene. Individually, players like s1mple, AdreN, and Hobbit have shown that they have the skills to be among the best players in the world. But with nobody to put everything together around them, other teams end up surpassing the CIS teams in tournaments. The in-game leader with the biggest name in the CIS scene is Zeus. After leading Gambit to victory at the PGL Krakow Major, his stock was at an all time high. Since then, we’ve seen that Zeus isn’t the leader everyone thought he was. While he played a role in Gambit’s success, a lot of it also has to be credited to players like AdreN and Hobbit. On Na’Vi he hasn’t managed to make the team look good tactically. On top of that, their map pool looks shallow. Despite his flaws, Zeus has been the only true in-game leader on the two top CIS teams since October 2016. Otherwise, Na’Vi and Gambit have used makeshift solution in the form of guys like seized and Hobbit, who have shown little proficiency in the role.
Once you go beyond Zeus, there aren’t a lot of big name leaders in the region. Andrey “B1ad3” Gorodenskiy has had his troubles in Flipsid3, and considering that none of the top teams have taken a chance on him yet, it’s unlikely that it will happen anytime soon. The other big name is Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow. His loose system has proven to be effective on multiple different iterations of HellRaisers lineups. We don’t have to look any further than Bets.net Masters last week to see what ANGE1 can bring to a team. With a lineup that most people didn't think much of in the beginning, ANGE1 led the team to a victory over North in the final. While ANGE1 seems like the perfect solution to the problems in the CIS scene, his massive buyout has been an issue when Na’Vi tried to acquire him in the past. Outside of B1ad3 and ANGE1, you are looking at names like Nikita “waterfaLLZ” Matveyev and Dmitry “jR” Chervak who are both very unproven when it comes to leading a team at the top level.
The CIS region should be better than ever. S1mple is playing at a level we’ve rarely seen in the history of CS:GO. The region has plenty of other talents to back him up in the fragging department. Even at a lower level, teams like Vega Squadron, Quantum Bellator Fire, and AVANGAR have showed that the CIS region has even more to offer. At the ELEAGUE Boston Major, 25% of the players in the top 16 came out of the CIS region, showing that there's even more talent than most people initially thought. Players like Nikolay “Mir” Bityukov and Alexey “qikert” Golubev have shown that they have the potential to be star players. Meanwhile, players like Ioann “Edward” Sukhariev and Denis “seized” Kostin have kept their spots on top teams despite under-performing for a long time. While these up-and-coming players are still unproven to some extent, it’s time for Na’Vi and Gambit to take a chance on the next generation of talent. Na’Vi have yet to show that they can go far in a tournament without s1mple putting in the performance of a lifetime. Gambit are looking even worse and are falling out of the top 15. Especially in their case, it can't hurt the team to take a chance on new talent.
It's easy to envision a CIS team claiming a spot as the best in the world with the right mix of players. Perhaps there could even be two CIS teams in the top 10. Instead, one team is almost entirely dependent on the form of one player, while the other might as well be an FPL team thrown together at the last minute.
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