Ashton’s Column: Is this already Natus Vincere’s Era?

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Over the weekend, Natus Vincere won the BLAST Premier Fall Final. Just weeks after their first major win in the organization’s history, NaVi is continuing what has been a historic level of performance.  

Being a good team is not new to NaVi, an organization which has been a perennial top team for years, especially with S1mple, who is at this point effectively inarguably the best player in the world, on the roster. S1mple has 18 MVPs according to HLTV, including at the most recent major, and he’s been rated first or second in the world by HLTV since 2018. He has just one fewer MVPs than Device, who many would argue had a better team for a good chunk of his career, and has tied his record for most MVPs in one year, a record S1mple still has time to break. 

As NaVi’s winning ways continue, comparisons are inevitably made to the other organizations that have had prolonged periods of success. Astralis, as always, is the most common comparison; at their height Astralis was exceptional. From April 2018 to May 2019 they were the No. 1 team in the world, a status they’ve returned to multiple times since. Their roster during that time won three majors and a pile of IEM, ESL and BLAST events.  

Astralis is also one of only 2 other teams who have won an IEM Grand Slam, an award which requires a team to win a certain amount of events out of a set schedule, though the format did change after Team Liquid was the second team to win it. But, Liquid, while they were also very good during that time, never had the kind of era that Astralis enjoyed. 

This NaVi era on the other hand, could be comparable. That’s the question, after all, for every good team in the world and for every sport ever played. Where is that line for when it goes from a good team to a great one, from a streak to an era? How many trophies, how many titles, how much money does a team have to win before people consider if they’ve reached that height?  

I believe CS:GO is in NaVi’s era. Just this year they’ve won six events, not including group stages or RMR events. Since the addition of B1t and the removal of Flamie from their roster in April, he’s become a top player who has a 1.14 average in the last six months. That’s barely below Electronic, who has a 1.17 and has been a top six player for the last three years. 

B1t has put on a show that few rookies have managed, and he’s still never lost a LAN. In the major final, his first major ever, he went positive. So did Electronic, who hasn’t reached S1mple’s heights but who has definitely also been one of the best players in the world. Combine that with B1t, who has averaged over a 1.05 rating. Though he hasn’t been amazing, he’s been enough; Navi does not need another superstar to win.  

And then there’s Boombl4, the team’s In-Game Leader. IGLs historically are lower in terms of frags than the rest of their team because their focus and specialization is meant to be on calling plays and reading their opponents, but Boombl4 still has a .96 rating over the last six months. 

S1mple, with a 1.35 in the last six months, doesn’t need a further introduction. The best player in the world finally has the best team, a team who looks like they could keep doing this for months and months. If that happens, if they keep going, this will be one of the greatest dynasties in CS:GO history.  

But, if this NaVi team were to fall apart tomorrow and never win another championship, what would that legacy be? They haven’t existed at this level in this form nearly long enough to challenge the mantle of greatest dynasty, a mantle I’m not sure Astralis even wrestled from teams like Ninjas in Pajamas and Fnatic.  

I believe that if this team were to never win another event, or to even lose for a period and then rebound, that this was still reasonably considered an era. Their performance this year hasn’t been perfect, but neither was Astralis.’ For much of this year, I think NaVi has been the best team in the world.  

For the part that mattered the most, the LANs and the majors that finally come after 18 months of online competition due to COVID-19, simply has undeniably been the best. They are the first team to win a major without dropping a map with a 20-round win streak on Nuke, until Vitality took it last week and the number one HLTV ranking since July. This NaVi team likely will do more but I don’t believe they have to. This is NaVi’s era.  

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