Natus Vincere may be the unluckiest Counter-Strike team to ever win a major. It all began years before any of Navi’s current roster ever joined the team. In March of 2013, a young budding prodigy named S1mple received a career-crippling short-term ESL ban right as the fragger reached the age necessary to start playing seriously. While explanations abound and different sides of the story tell different tales of S1mple’s character, undeniably, S1mple was caught trying to evade this ban which was extended until 2016. Finally free of this ban in 2016, the Ukrainian superstar-to-be spent a few months playing in North America for Team Liquid. It wasn’t until August of that year that the prodigal son would return to the only major Ukrainian organization: Navi.
The uninitiated CS:GO fan may think that that is the end of S1mple’s tragic backstory, but it’s merely Act I. At this point, S1mple’s exciting AWPing style, incredible aim, and ability to carry professional games almost all by himself made him a fan-favorite. His first real year of competitive CSGO saw S1mple ranked #16 in the world by HLTV. Navi, at this point, fielded a roster balanced around the young fragger’s explosive gameplay with experienced and skilled veterans in their own right. The squad should’ve been monstrous. Only 2 months in to his career with Navi, S1mple and his team took a huge victory at ESL One: New York. The team was impressive and Simple seemed to improve in every game he played.
And then Navi played their first major with the new roster. And then again in 2017, their second, and three more times, leading up to 2020. Each time with tweaks to the roster and the game plan and each time falling short of a major victory. By 2018, S1mple had worked his way up to #2 on the HLTV leaderboards, where his only missing qualification for the title of
“Greatest Active Player in the World” was tournament success. After failing to progress past fifth place in their appearance at the 2019 Starladder Berlin Major, Navi – at this point a roster consisting of the veteran Simple and an array of new talent designed to support him and frag opposite of him – kicked into overdrive. Two weeks after their major defeat, the team demolished all other competition at the Omen Challenge. The month after that, Navi dominated ESL Pro League, with a round differential of +40 over only 3 matches. Early the next year, Navi went on to win the Blast Premier Spring Season, looking unstoppable going into the IEM World Championships in March. There, Navi dropped maps against only two teams, both of whom they went on to surpass, securing a huge tournament victory in the lead up to their next major performance.
But this was March of 2020 and the whole world was about to be flipped on its head. Both of 2020’s and the first of 2021’s majors were canceled due to COVID-19. This team in its prime, hungry for its first major was forced to wait through what could’ve been their only chances at a major win, the only chances for S1mple to claim the title of “Greatest Player Ever.” But Navi kept playing. And Navi kept winning. The squad took 1st place at Gamers Without Borders 2020, WePlay Clutch Island, Blast Premier, Starladder, Dreamhack, IEM, ESL Pro League, until finally November of 2021 rolled around and the first CS:GO major tournament since September of 2020. And Navi took no prisoners. Navi won ever map they played in the tournament, securing Simple and the squad their first Major title. S1mple, for the first time ever, was ranked #1 by HLTV that year.
Navi looked to be the best squad in the world, Ukrainian powerhouses in a field that has often been dominated by Western European organizations. And then, Navi’s history of tragedy resumed. In February of 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Navi players and staff chose either to put their careers on hold and join the fight or were forced to leave the country to continue their careers. S1mple, who left North America in the first place due to homesickness, was once again forced to leave Ukraine to continue playing the game he loved. Furthermore, Navi’s in-game leader Boombl4, was removed due to posts surfacing about his wife’s support for the Russian invasion and her allegations of substance abuse.
Navi, now playing with a stand-in at Blast Premier, lost their first match versus OG. Today, June 16th, Navi will face an elimination match which will indicate whether Navi is once again in a tragedy arc or whether the world-class team led by the greatest player to ever touch the game will be able to persevere through their unluckiest moment yet.
Words by Nathan Burke