On January 24, Natus Vincere, usually called Navi, benched legendary awper Guardian following a series of sub-par performances from the team and signed a rookie, Perfecto, from the tier two Syman Gaming to be his replacement. 37 days later, they raised the IEM Katowice Trophy.
It wasn’t an easy road to the title for Navi. The new lineup had a shaky start to the tournament, scraping out a victory 2-1 over the powerhouse international roster of Faze Clan, before being dropped into the lower bracket by Fnatic. Despite being at risk of elimination, Navi battled back, dominating the Ninjas In Pajamas 2-0 and scraping out another close win versus Faze Clan to make it through to the quarterfinals on the backs of rifler Electronic and in-game leader Boombl4.
Despite their rough start, once they hit the playoffs, Navi was unstoppable. In the quarterfinals, Navi started to show their skill. They beat Team Liquid, a team who they had struggled against for years, 2-0 in a 16-11 Dust2 and a 16-13 Mirage. The star of the series was Navi’s best player, last year’s second-best player in the world, S1mple. On Dust2, Navi began the first half down early. In Round 6, the scoreline was 1-4 as S1mple found himself caught in a one versus four. Not backing down from the challenge, S1mple retreated to the corner of long and managed to take down all four with an incredibly difficult series of shots, winning his team the round. Momentum now firmly in their favor, Navi would end the half 10-5.
Their next challenge was a semifinal against the Danish team Astralis, a team that has been the best in the world for over a year. Astralis had made it through the upper bracket of the tournament, landing them a spot in the semifinal without having to play in the quarterfinals. Navi were the underdogs coming into the series, but it quickly became clear that they were going to beat the odds. Navi picked the first map, Dust 2, and quickly jumped out to a huge lead. On the back of S1mple, who finished the map with an incredible 2.09 rating, they won the first half 14-1 and finished the game 16-5.
On the second map, Nuke, which is historically a favorite of Astralis, Navi didn’t slow down. They dominated once again, going 13-2 in the first half and finishing 16-5 as riflers Flamie and Electronic claimed over 20 kills apiece.
The team didn’t just win the games, they looked absolutely dominant. Astralis lost badly, but going into Sunday, many fans still doubted that Navi would win. The odds that they could put up another performance like in the Astralis series, where every single member of the team played at their best, were very low.
But from the first round of their best-of-five against G2, it was clear that was exactly what was happening. G2 had had a great tournament, finishing in the upper bracket and solidly beating Fnatic on Saturday. They looked like one of the best teams in the world. But against Navi, G2 looked like a tier three team at best. In-game leader Boombl4 dominated on Nuke, ending with an incredible 2.58 rating and a 32-11 KDA. Navi demolished G2 on their map choice, winning Nuke with a 16-4 scoreline.
The second map, Dust2, was the only one that was close. G2 had a good first half on the back of huNter. The first half ended seven-to-eight in Navi’s favor, and in the second half, on the backs of S1mple, Boombl4 and Perfecto, the team managed to haul the game over the finish line with an end score of 16-13 on the back of a one hp 1-v-1 win from Perfecto and a last-minute bomb defusal.
The final map was another Navi favorite: Mirage. This time it was the newest player on the roster, Perfecto, leading the charge. He had a perfect first half, finishing with 14 kills and no deaths. Alongside Flamie, who had a 23-8 KDA on Mirage, and S1mple, who boasted a 14-2, G2 never stood a chance. Navi claimed the first big tournament of the season, and all eyes will be on them to see if they can continue that form into the major in May.
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.