B1ad3: “What we want to do now, is to make iM a full-fledged second voice in the team”

Олексій Харченко

We spoke with B1ad3 about preparing for and winning a major, peak form, his system and vision for CS, the roles of players on this roster, and the "old school approach" of playing Counter-Strike of Aleksib.

Players editorial team is very grateful to the Ukrainian e-sports organization NAVI for their help in organizing this interview and to Andrii for his time.

Andrii, congratulations and thank you for taking the time to chat with Players and tell more about NAVI's performance at the major. You said if I'm not mistaken, in an interview with HLTV that your goal was at least to get to the playoff stage, but you won this major. When did you realize you could win the PGL Major Copenhagen? 

The task was to be at least in the Top 4. It was a minimum goal for me because in November or even December last year when we played the tournament, I realized the potential we could have at the major. After several boot camps, I realized that we have an opportunity, if we do everything right, to be in the Top 4. Of course, you need to have the right bracket, because if you hit the winner, you can be eliminated in the quarterfinals.

In terms of when we got it right, I'd say we're very realistic about our chances at all times, there's a lot of experience in general. And I know that you can win any match. Everything depends on the circumstances, on many circumstances. How players adapt, whether the opponent is nervous or not, whether he plays a perfect CS and so on.

When we got Brazilians paiN in the playoff decider, I looked that if we won, we could have a bracket for the finals, because both opponents had already been beaten several times, both G2 and Eternal Fire. You already imagine that there is such an opportunity to be in the final of a major. I can't say we're afraid or we weren't ready to play in the playoffs with Spirit or Vitality, it's just that you understand that the chances are much better because you've already beaten your opponents, but it's a fact that in the playoffs the game is different. That is, if you played in the studio with one opponent - it's one match, and in the playoffs on stage - it's a completely different match. There are a lot of details that change.

We didn't think about when we could win, we knew that we had to approach each match separately and not think at all about winning the major. You just go step by step along this path and focus on the maximum from yourself, to do everything in all parameters, as best as possible. And in the final, we just knew that it was MR12, that there was no pressure.

We were not afraid to lose, we understood that this was our chance. If we implement certain things, we can win the major. We have nothing to lose if we just try.

There's one meme in the esports community, I think you are aware of it. There is a meme that B1ad3 choose such a tactic to then go through the lower bracket and win the tournament. Answering the first question, you confirmed that the bracket plays a very important role for the team.

Well, I don't know, because in tournaments that we won before with NAVI's star roster, we always had a very strong bracket.

And we didn't win much with this roster. There was one EPL final with s1mple. I don't remember the bracket, but I think Eternal Fire, Monte and probably MOUZ were there. It's a philosophical question.

When Eternal Fire make the playoffs, many bet on them to win, and when they lose to us, everyone thinks it's some kind of free bracket. It's a double standard. And G2, if they beat MOUZ who went 3-0, many are betting on them that they could be in the finals, and could even win the tournament.

But if G2 win MOUZ, then maybe MOUZ are not worthy of the semi-finals, because it's a bracket, but I think that the semi-finals get to those who deserve to play there and the final as well. We shouldn't play Spirit in the first round, Vitality in the second, and FaZe in the third. These are some dreams of very strict critics or super-experts, it should be some kind of "perfect bracket".

You said there was no pressure. At the same time, when we were working on the major, it was clear that some players were focused, and on the other hand, a little nervous. Because it's the final and a scene with a big crowd. Did you not feel pressure in the context of the team? Were there any players who, due to lack of experience playing on stage, could be a little nervous in this situation?

No, if we are talking about full-fledged and real pressure and not the illusory one that people talk about, then this pressure wasn’t there. Maybe the pressure was on the FaZe team, or when we were favourites with NAVI, it's a completely different pressure. Not even a drop of this pressure was felt. We just played and knew we could beat both Eternal Fire and G2. We knew we had a good chance, there was a good map veto and in the final, there was also a very good veto.

How do you rate w0nderful’s adaptation? Is it a worthy replacement for s1mple? We spoke with Aleksi, he said that the team has already held several boot camps with this player, and there was a synergy. How do you, as the head coach of NAVI, assess Ihor's adaptation to the team?

I'm not comparing it to s1mple at all. I don't think this is a relevant issue to compare him with s1mple. I hear this question a lot, comparing s1mple to w0nderful.

In general, comparing players is absurd - this should never be done. Each player has his abilities, his strengths and other characteristics in everything. The player, as a separate element, will always have an influence, influence the situations on the map, all processes in a different way.

No matter who you put - a strong and Tier-1 player is replaced by another, it doesn’t matter. Therefore, we do not compare them at all, they are two completely different players. Speaking of adapting w0nderful, we won a major, I think that's not bad.

So are you, as a head coach, satisfied with all the players and Ihor, because he showed great statistics and played at the major?

Yes, I am satisfied, because we jumped, one might say, a little above our heads. There is always a chance to win - this is rule number one. It doesn't matter how you prepared, or how you arrived, there is always a chance to win the match. I would say it was a surprise because we played a lot of practice games with FaZe, some we won.

If we look at our victory, it gives a big boost to the players. If you take the path of development of each player, adaptation, and system, this victory is very important for future progress. Because it seems to me that the level of self-confidence can be completely different.

We can even say that the assessment of a player can be completely different. There's such a fine line here because you can be too confident, but it's still a win. Such a victory is much better than any other place, fourth, eighth and so on.

For example, take Ihor, he is still a young player. To have such success at such a stage... This is his first LAN trophy - and immediately a major. He doesn’t end his career, but continues it with this trophy, in this status - it is a very big privilege, I think. And therefore his development can now go in a completely different direction. Because he doesn't want to be someone else, he doesn't try to convince himself of something. He knows it, he already won.

He was the best on the team that day, but still, you don't have to try to find answers in your head. You already know that this is a fact. We won and this knowledge is priceless. And the same can be said about any player. That is, this victory can give every player a very important self-confidence.

Aleksi, as an IGL, Valeriy, from the point of view that he is head and shoulders above other players in the team in terms of knowledge, experience and so on. If earlier he had doubts about the roster, now he understands how everything can turn out if he puts in effort, if he activates at the right moment. And if we take each player's experience, their development, and add that win, it turns into a very big boost for the player. It is one situation for a young player. For Valeriy, it’s a very big achievement to win a major with a completely different team, an international team, in English. You can imagine his skills, his capabilities and how confident he can now be, because he has already done something in a specific match, on a specific map, and he knows how it works from a mindset point of view.

The mindset was a very important factor in the grand final. The same can be said about jL, who came from a Tier-2/3 team and managed to become the MVP of the major. It doesn't matter that he's not the level of NiKo, Magisk or ropz, it doesn't matter, he did it the way he wanted, his way.

I know he doesn't know much about the game, but he's a very quick learner and he still has something different that other players don't. And now, if he continues to develop in the right direction and further enrich his knowledge of CS2 at a very deep level, then he too can be a very interesting player in the future.

For every player, this victory is an unreal privilege.

And the same can be said about Mihai, whom everyone criticizes. You win, you get criticized, you think, okay, if I won like that, I can even relax, not have any pressure and even add something and be even better because obviously, this is not the peak of his performance, that's for sure. One problem is when you lose, you play like that and realize that maybe you're the reason for the loss, even though you're not. It's in your head. At the same time, when you win, there is no pressure on you, so you can come and try again.

This is a very important win for the development of the team. Because this roster is far from its peak. We are only 30-40% of our potential way.

At the end of last year in Copenhagen, we interviewed Ursula Klimczak. She said that she believed that the peak form would be somewhere at the beginning of the year. Do you still see opportunities for growth?

She said this because we talked about this issue and I said that we could have a peak form in the major. This is an important point because some people have written about the peak potential of this team. 

I don't think the roster has a peak potential. Either you stop developing, or you are in constant development. There are two options. If you look at FaZe, they had 6-7 finals in a row. So either they continue to develop and become better, or they stop their development. 

The peak is a constant process, it doesn't exist, and you don't reach it. There is a peak of a form. When we talked to Ursula and looked at the schedule, I said that there are two boot camps ahead and the major will be the peak of this roster. From the point of view that we would be able to have some pre-made maps and the knowledge would reach the level we needed to compete with Tier-1 teams. 

It was March-April. But we are talking about peak form only, not potential. And the potential, as I said, is somewhere on the horizon. If you look at FaZe, G2, Vitality, they have at least three players from each roster, and sometimes even four, who have come a very long way together. This NAVI roster started its journey in the summer, at the beginning of the season. 

I think it was July or August. These were people who came from different backgrounds. At that time, the couple of players who played together were s1mple and b1t. And that was it. 

They didn't play as much together as all the teams in the Top 3, Top 7 rankings do now. You can take any team, even Mouz. This is a very important point, so I say that the potential of this lineup is still just beginning its journey, because they still play so much together as a team. And it's obvious that if they play more with maximum dedication, they will 100% play even better.

What would you say are Aleksi's qualities as a captain, and at the same time, did you expect that jL would be the MVP and the team leader? We have an interesting situation where Aleksi is a leader and captain, and jL has also become the leader of the team during the major. 

Justinas helps a lot in terms of morale. He can cheer you up. I would not say that he is the leader of the team, he is more like a support of the team. Nobody needs him to be a leader, he tries to be, but he also tries to help the team to be a support in difficult moments. 

No, I didn't expect him to be the MVP, I actually saw somewhere in the semifinals that he was in the Top 5 or 8 players who were going to be MVP. 

I saw good games from him, but there were also a lot of games with mistakes. No one knows how he will perform. He's not the only one who plays, it happens that Valeriy and Igor can play, and sometimes Mihai, although he has a difficult role, but he makes very important kills on the map and moves. This is very important for winning the round. 

As for Aleksi, he's a bigger leader, that's for sure. His advantage, like any IGL, is that he has a tactical mindset, and that's important. As I said in another interview, I think he still has a long way to go. When we hired him, in my opinion, he was not a Tier-1 IGL. 

In terms of individual performance? 

No, he's making a lot of progress now, that's a fact, but he's still moving forward. It's not like he's already at the peak of his potential, as we talked about the potential before. Just like how he came to NAVI and how he is now, there is a very big difference. When he came to us, he changed a lot of teams. If you change a lot of teams, it doesn't matter who is to blame, but there is a pattern to it, right? For some reason, it happens. 

I think the way he saw Counter-Strike was a little bit old-school. Because we at NAVI started playing a different Counter-Strike in 2020/21 in terms of coordination, goals, and everything else, how the system works. I've been trying to integrate him into our system all this time because if you just tell him what to do, it's very difficult because he's not a young player - he's already got a developed brain and a system of thinking in the format he wants, how he formed himself. 

It didn't really suit us in terms of our system. Step by step, tournament by tournament, we tried to change him, to correct him, because he had a lot of micromanagement over the players. And we removed it more and more each time. Every time this happened, we made a review with audio and video. We listened to Aleksi's and the players' opinions on this topic, and took successful examples from the previous squad, just even moments from other Tier-1 teams. This is how we are moving step by step in the direction we need. 

Now it is much better than it was, it is 100%, but we still need to work on it. Because in our system, as I see it, we need to be able to make sure that players in 10 out of 10 cases have the opportunity to decide on their own. In a very short time, in a second. Because if he has a request and needs this answer, it changes the system completely. It will collapse from the inside. Therefore, not everything is perfect now, but we are moving in the right direction. 

You made an interesting point in terms of strategy and vision of the game. Can we say that you want players to be leaders in their positions who can make moves, win micro-moments and help the team depending on what is needed? 

What we want to do now, and this is the main emphasis, is to make Mihai a full-fledged second voice in the team. Then the system will be complete and effective. And this is what we will do before Malta. Each player as a leader? No, there’s a very complex system, there are protocols and so on. And no one is saying that a player can say, "Rush B" or "Everyone to me, let's go out quickly". 

No, we analyze specific situations and protocols. This system simply requires that the player can make the right decision. Even on their own. Sometimes he doesn't need other players to do this. Sometimes they need one, two, or even three players to help, and sometimes they can do something on their own. 

There are different situations, so the main feature is independence. But this is a very tricky vision because someone can listen to and integrate it into their system in the wrong way. There must be a proper design for everything. It's not just some formula. If you just take a formula, the player can do something crazy. 

The main thing is that the team should be like one organism on the map and all the changes on this map should be combined so that the team as one organism feels these changes. That's all. 

What system is B1ad3 building in NAVI? How does the preparation for the match go, how much time do you spend on preparation? 

With the last NAVI roster, preparation took 2-3 hours before the match. On the day of the match, we spent 2-3 hours as a team to figure it out and prepare. It was all theory. 

This team needed a little more, but it was because we felt that it was necessary, because this team didn’t have the experience that the previous roster had. That's why we added theory every day at this particular tournament. We had very, very intense training. 

For example, we had two matches. We did two hours of preparation, then took a break for an hour and prepared for another two hours. That is four hours in total. 

How much time do you personally spend on preparation for the match together with the NAVI analyst? 

The analyst has specific tasks and must fulfil them.   

Before the theory? 

No, he prepares for the opponent, he already has templates of what to do. And he just prepares these templates. These templates can be updated every time, like, let's add something from this, this, and this. He prepares these templates, the information we need, so that we can build a plan for the game.  

I talked with you at IEM Katowice 2023. Back then, you named froz1k among all the young talents from the NAVI system. Of course, we're not talking about changing the current roster, but which of the young NAVI talents could you mention now?

I've only heard about this player, but I haven't analyzed him. Amiran (Amiran Rekhviashvili, Head of Esports at NAVI - ed.) told me that froz1k is a good player in the future in terms of his mechanics, how he moves, how he feels the game, and even his thinking, but I haven't had a chance to analyze him in depth yet. To do this, you need to spend time with him in training, see how he performs specific tasks, and what mistakes he makes, and talk to him. It will also put 100% pressure on him, he will be nervous. It takes time, you have to look at the distance. 

For example, if I schedule a class once, I need to compare these meetings in two months. We have enough ‘froz1k’s’ in our team now. Compared to the previous team, we have less experienced players and we spend a lot of time on this roster, we don't have extra time. For this purpose, we have two other rosters, and two coaches, and we have our own development. In the future, we plan to have several maps when we train with these squads. This is something we plan to integrate. 

Do you mean to practice some maps with young NAVI players? 

Yes, roster against the roster. For example, one map a day, if they have free time. Because they have their own schedule, many of them go to school, I think. 

You said that Aleksi had an "old-school approach" to Counter-Strike, but at the same time, you said that you started the process and transitioned to your system earlier. Can you tell us what your vision of CS is for the present and the future? 

I think I answered the question about the vision 100% before. 

The "old-school approach" is, of course, from my point of view. It is not some kind of objective truth. I've already explained that there is such a person as an IGL, who coordinates all the players. 

For example, I was also an IGL who did this. But I did it because it was necessary. It was not because I had any other option, let's say. And the way we've been playing since 2020-21, with NAVI, we've completely changed the system, even when I took over as coach. At first, I was at Gambit, where I spent a short period, and gained my experience. I tried to implement something there and gained very valuable experience. 

With this in mind, I came to NAVI and started building a new system. Not the system where the IGL has to fully coordinate all the players. Of course, this needs to be analysed in detail, because many people play in such a way that they are on freeze time, if they say, "We do this, then we take some zones, now we go there, now here". 

It depends on the team, on the IGL, and so on, but the old-school way has always been that there is a certain part of the rounds when the team on the map defaults. The default organises the map control, and from this map control, the IGL understands where to move. This is a very ancient approach. 

But we shouldn't forget that there is such a thing as scripts, and they existed even when I was IGL. You can just say a script on freeze time, and everyone will know what to do. Most of the time, you won't even need to adjust anything, because these are already programmed players. The problem is that you need to create this script with a very well-thought-out design. All the details have to be taken into account. I don't have anything against scripts if they are modern, good and thoughtfully built. 

Most often, there are two forms of control. Either we play by default, control the map, then the captain will say something and you can do some scripts in the first stage, for example. 

This is quite superficial. It is clear that there are some details, and each team has a more developed side.  

I see that it still exists. When Aleksi came in, he had a lot of moments where he tried to coordinate the processes in this way. This is normal because he comes from a different system, he comes from a different background, he has shaped himself in this way and he shouldn’t automatically change immediately. It takes time. But we are building our NAVI system, and sooner or later he will be fully integrated into the system and everything will be great.  

For this to happen, we also need Mihai to develop very clearly in his role and be a constant, stable second voice in the team. 

Does the NAVI Head Coach have any favourite coaches that inspire him? Maybe coaches from big sports?  

Not really, but I know it's a common practice. A lot of people watch documentaries about football, about super-top coaches like Guardiola and Mourinho. But I don't have a lot of time to follow it, plus you understand some basic things from your own experience. 

Of course, I see quotes and clips on this topic all the time. I soak it up like a sponge and remember something. In general, it seems to me that zonic was and is the main coach in the СS, because, if I'm not mistaken, he has five victories at majors. He and Astralis did something incredible, they completely changed Counter-Strike when they started playing the system. It was after Astralis that I came up with the idea of making a system.  

If you look at the tournament calendar for 2025, more and more tournament operators are announcing new tournaments. Do you think it's overloaded with tournaments? Will you give preference to any specific tournaments?  

Honestly, I haven't thought about it at all yet, and I'm not sure if there's a clear schedule right now. Yes, there are a lot of tournaments announced, but we still need to wait for information about the tournament itself, the prize money, locations, time period, logistics, and dates. Then we will look at the entire schedule for the year and I will be able to answer this question. I can say that we would definitely prefer a balanced schedule. This was probably the number one goal when I came to NAVI as a sports director and then as a coach. Because I've seen examples before where teams or players don't play very well, and their quality level drops even when they play too many tournaments. 

So from day one, we immediately created the perfect format, that if you want to win a tournament, you need the right preparation for that tournament. Not only Counter-Strike training but also mental health. That's why we're going to make sure that the schedule is very balanced and that there's time for all players to recuperate in all areas. 

I think there should be at least three weeks between tournaments. That means 6-7 days of rest and about two weeks of preparation. 

There are rumours that RMRs may be cancelled. How do you feel about this? 

To do this, you need to look first at the formats they offer. If there is no RMR, what will be instead? Valve Ranking? It means they will directly give out slots at the opening and elimination stages? Will people receive capsules because of the rating? 

Then we need to make sure that this rating is very, very objective. This is the most important thing. 

In general, I think it can be done. It used to be the same way, when many tournaments were announced, such as IEM, and then this tournament just became minor. I like it better when there is an RMR through the ranking and the RMR is determined through the Swiss system. 

I think we need to change Bo1 to Bo3, because the MR12 allows us to do that. You can make all the rounds in the Swiss system Bo3, and make RMR on LAN and this tournament will be very interesting.

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