NAVI Cruise to their First Trophy of the Year at BLAST Premier Spring Finals
Counter-Strike’s BLAST Premier Spring Finals have come to a close. Natus Vincere has laid claim to their first title of the 2022 competitive year, crushing Team Vitality 2-0 in the Grand Finals. NAVI were dominant in the playoffs, finishing their final three elimination matches with an insane +49 round differential.
A Sudden Change
Compared to their record setting 2021 year, NAVI’s 2022 got off to a much slower pace. They had no Grand Finals appearances through the first four months of the year. Then, the CIS giants picked back up where they left off at the PGL Major Antwerp. While they couldn’t best FaZe Clan and defend their Major title from Stockholm, NAVI were back on track to earn some more hardware.
However, the unexpected departure of their long time in-game leader, Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov, was announced just a week later. The reason given was not performance related, but due to “reputational risks for the club.” Either way, NAVI had some big shoes to fill. They would skip IEM Dallas due to travel difficulties, but this would also give NAVI a bit of time to find their new fifth man.
Less than two weeks before BLAST Premier Spring Finals, NAVI announced that their replacement would be Viktor “sdy” Orudzhev, known for his time on Team Spirit. Sdy (short for somedieyoung) was not an in-game leader, but rather a rifler. This meant that the IGL duties would fall to Denis “electroNic” Sharipov with Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev likely helping out where he could.
The BLAST Premier Spring Finals had a strong lineup of teams coming in, so it was unclear how this new iteration of NAVI would perform after coming together on such short notice. It was very possible that they could look weaker at the event, and no one would have really blamed them.
Starting Slow, Ramping Up
NAVI’s first match at the BLAST Premier Spring Finals was against OG. OG were also a team trying to gel with a new roster, in addition to requiring a stand-in for their longest standing player. The match started off as expected with NAVI taking an easy 16-7 win on Inferno. However, OG would unexpectedly show up big on Mirage and equalized the series with a 16-12.
On the tiebreaker of Ancient, OG outperformed NAVI across the board. After holding s1mple to a 0.76 rating and earning three 1.20+ ratings of their own, OG completed the upset 16-13. This shocking result seemed to put the idea in everyone’s head that this new NAVI would be struggling to live up to expectations so quickly.
Now, NAVI had to play a crucial elimination match against BIG. This time, they would not let the underdogs get comfortable. NAVI started out on Mirage and took the fight to BIG. S1mple had an immediate bounce-back map, going 28-13 with 100.6 ADR and a massive 1.74 rating. After the 16-10 victory, NAVI crushed BIG even harder on Dust2 to take the series and book the third playoff seed from Group B.
S1mple Leads the Charge
NAVI now had a difficult matchup against FaZe Clan for their quarterfinals match. The last time these two teams met was just under a month ago at the PGL Major Antwerp Grand Finals, where FaZe denied them the two-peat. This time however, everything came up NAVI.
NAVI took no prisoners against the international squad. The defending Major champions looked anything but as they got stomped flat 16-6 on Dust2, then 16-1 on their favorite Inferno pick. S1mple solidified his MVP chances here with a 46-21 K-D, 110.1 ADR, and a 1.80 rating over the 39 short rounds. Just like that, NAVI were on to the semifinals to rematch OG for a Grand Finals berth.
After beating NAVI in the opener, OG went on to sweep ENCE in the group final. Taking down the second and third highest ranked CS:GO teams in the world in a row proved that these underdogs were actually a major threat here at the BLAST Premier Spring Finals. For NAVI, this also meant that their opening loss might not have been a fluke and that OG were in it to win it.
Revenge against OG
The match started on NAVI’s preferred Dust2 pick. After fighting to an even half at 8-7, NAVI swapped to the CT side. OG’s advances were rejected at every turn, with multiple NAVI players getting involved. New addition sdy made himself known with very impressive Long holds in consecutive rounds. A 16-9 win was the result.
Inferno up next, OG would need to prove that they wouldn’t fall victim to NAVI’s 16-1 potential on the map. They passed that test with flying colors, earning 10 rounds on the T side before barely staving off NAVI to tie the series with a 16-14 victory.
The last map was Mirage. For the second time this series, the score would be 8-7 at the half, this time in favor of OG. Despite being at a deficit, NAVI had confidence in their CT side. The CIS squad held strong and denied OG like they did on Dust2, only allowing two T side rounds. The 16-10 victory put NAVI through to the Grand Finals.
Swatting Vitality Aside
Their opponent would be Team Vitality, a squad that has been trying to find their groove since the start of the year. This was the first time that the experienced veterans of Vitality had managed to make a stage appearance, let alone a Grand Finals appearance, since the team came together. They did very well to best G2 Esports in the semifinals, but this would be a step up in difficulty.
NAVI came out the gate swinging on Mirage. After losing pistol, they forced up and tore through Vitality’s buy to flip the momentum instantly. NAVI won nine rounds in a row, ending the first half up 10-5. The second pistol went in their favor as well, bringing NAVI’s lead to seven. Vitality managed to get a few rounds on the board, but just couldn’t stand up to NAVI’s defense consistently. Map one went the way of NAVI 16-8.
Vitality needed to win their Overpass pick to stay alive. After securing the first four rounds of the map, it looked like Vitality might be able to stay competitive. That success was short lived, as NAVI came alive at every position. They won every single remaining round to go up 11-4 in the first half. During this streak, we saw an ace from Valeriy “b1t” Vakhovskiy, an ace from electroNic, and a clutch 3K from sdy to close the final round.
NAVI would go on to close out the map 16-5, only dropping one T round. The combined round score was 32-13 in favor of NAVI, making this 2-0 sweep the most dominant Grand Finals of the year. After dominating FaZe, getting their revenge against OG, and cleaning out Vitality, its clear that NAVI deserve their first trophy of 2022 here at the BLAST Premier Spring Finals.
A new, perhaps unbeatable Counter-Strike record has also been set here in Lisbon. With his amazing performance throughout the event, s1mple has earned his 20th tournament MVP award, breaking the tie at 19 with Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz. The GOAT of CS:GO has yet another career defining accomplishment under his belt.
Things get interesting from here, as one of the biggest tournaments in Counter-Strike, IEM Cologne, is just around the corner. Will this new NAVI be able to keep up the momentum and claim more titles? Can FaZe Clan recover from two lackluster events in a row? How good are teams like OG? All this and more will have to be answered over the coming month of CS:GO.