AleksiB: “It is tough when you’ve been playing so poorly because you start to overthink”

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Natus Vincere, who won the PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen nearly three months ago, have not been up to their usual standard in their last two events since. Placing only 9-12th at both ESL Pro League Season 19 and IEM Dallas, the reigning Major champions hope to restore their success from earlier in the year and punch a ticket to the BLAST Premier World Final in December.

NAVI’s in-game leader, Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, spoke with Rush B Media’s Liam “Slevo” Slevin ahead of the BLAST Premier Spring Final to discuss previous results, the team’s recent struggles and future career plans ahead of the eight-squad LAN event in London.

You’ve played  IEM Dallas and Pro League since your Major win. With all that travel before this event, have you had a chance to do much preparation or even bootcamp?

We didn’t have a bootcamp, but we had long discussions and we did one and a half weeks of, or like, was it one week at least? “yeah, six days” – JL. Yes. So nearly a week of really long days of practice. We tried to play as many maps as we could every single day. And I feel like towards the end, I actually felt like like our form was coming back in a way that it just felt nice to play.

Everything was going smoothly. It felt like we were remembering our old tricks and the way we usually played and I feel like it was really good considering that the last two tournaments went really bad in terms of what we expected. So I think the last six days kind of made us feel the motivation and feel the fact that this is the last chance we can show it this season. It’s only tough teams in the tournament and we’re just going to show our best. 

In terms of that, like you said it’s been a lot better for the last six days and the results haven’t gone your way since the big Major win. Having it be such a high from winning the major and coming down from that, for you as a captain, what’s it been like in terms of managing the morale of the players and the team? 

I think that’s the toughest thing because I feel like you can hit the nail in the coffin. Obviously, it’s going to take a hit on your morale because of the fact that you just came from the highest high and your expectations might go higher which it obviously will and that’s the thing you can’t really affect because no matter what you do, you still end up winning the major so you kind of like obviously putting yourself up there, right?

Considering all of that, I feel like it is tough when you’ve been playing so poorly because you start to overthink yourself even. I feel like having a couple of individual talks with the players obviously helped and I feel like, yeah, as I told you this tournament is still super important for us in terms of trying to bring the morale back into it and trying to find the way we played just like over a month ago and yeah, just going to do our best here.

In terms of as you said, a bit of doubt creeping in for yourself, you’re an IGL who puts in a very detailed system, you like a lot of management over the team and we’ve seen in the past where you don’t really get the amount of time that you probably deserve to implement your system. Having won the Major, do you think that gives you a bit more time and a bit more leeway to implement the system the way that you want it to the exact detail that you want it for? 

I mean, it’s a tricky question kind of. We have B1ad3 as well and kind of like he’s not like it’s how would I say it the easy way? The system revolves around every player. It’s not only my job or B1ad3’s job, it’s everyone needs to buy into it and everybody needs to trust it and I feel like we do it at times. At times we might be sloppy about it or the fact that in the system that we play in, you have to remember a lot of stuff. Everything needs to come from the back of your mind and all of the reactions you need to apply it to all the maps and sometimes on-the-fly scenarios you just kind of need to figure out how we usually play those situations.

But at the end of the day, it’s just the motivation of the whole squad and remembering to keep a smile on your face because as soon as it takes a turn towards the worse, it might be tough to get yourself back into it mentally and we need every player. A lot of the time the solution is pretty easy, but it’s tough to get the mentality there if it’s somewhere else, right? But for the question about like giving me more leeway, I don’t know necessarily like I feel like we have everything it takes, we know how to win, but at the end of the day, it’s the team that needs to feel good and I feel like right now after I told you having these long days behind us and us doing really well and having some fun playing, I just felt like everything felt pretty smooth, right?

But as I told you, as soon as we didn’t play that good, I think the whole team doesn’t feel the connection on the server and that’s what’s the biggest problem, right? So we just need to have the connection on the server, need to have a smile on our face and I think we were always capable of winning. 

In terms of a former teammate that you have had, NiKo at Dallas for the once-off had his IGL run which he had previously done at FaZe, as well as the likes of Device being a star player on Astralis who switched to that IGL role. What is your take on that as someone who is considered more as a traditional IGL who implements a system and works with the coach as you said?

The thing is that at the end of the day, we’re speaking about two players right now who have been doing it longer than me and have been doing it very consistently at the very top, always making it to the top 20 and being in the top five for who knows how many years. It’s just the fact that you would think that they have the experience, but you also need some personality qualities in order to pull it off properly and I do think that both of them having, worked with NiKo obviously and looking at dev1ce, I think that they are more than able to make it proper.

I think they also can have a helping hand in the team, whether it’s huNter- in G2 and maybe stavn in Astralis and who knows what’s going on behind the scenes with the coach and whatever. So I don’t think they’re in it alone necessarily, but I think they’re doing a tremendous job and yes, I told you that they are super experienced players. So obviously it might be a bit easier for them to do a shift like this if you compare it to a player with way less experience.

Another former teammate of yours who has plenty of experience, for as long as he is contracted to the organization there are going to be questions surrounding S1mple and his future. Is that ever a consideration considering how much emphasis you have placed on each player in the team having their specific roles and responsibilities in the team?

For me, no. Just the fact that I mean, obviously it’s the AWP role. I see w0nderful has great potential. He’s working really hard and the fact is that whenever we lose a couple of tournaments like we did, I think the worst thing you can do is start overthinking. The thing for us is that we need a boot camp. We need to grind. We need to humble ourselves. All these very simple things and not go outside of the box when it’s not the time. When you have the time to think about whatever you need to think about, then it’s another question. But for like right now, I didn’t even think about it for a second yet.

Speaking of S1mple, he obviously came out with the PlayLikeS1mple tutorials. I know you have explored yourself with YouTube. Considering the mind that you have, is that a direction you would like to take or would you be open to further down the line, or would you be heading toward the coaching role when things are said and done in your career?

I mean, it’s pretty interesting. I’ve not really thought about it that much because I feel like once you start to think about it too much, I wouldn’t say that then you’re ready to make the jump. But all I’m saying is I think it’s not a topic yet, but I do find it interesting that there might be positions within esports within the same CS scene that could use my experience and whatever. But yeah, right now I didn’t think about it too much, but the traits I have or the interest that I have or the way I work with things, you could think that there are some qualities that that can go one to one with coaching or guides or just helping other players so yeah, it’s interesting. 

So you mentioned that you’ve had a good run into this tournament and this tournament is ending the season. With the major win and the ups and downs that you’ve had, in your own mind, what are your goals for the team in general leading into the second half of the year? 

The goal right now is to try to play the best CS as we can in the next week. I mean, honestly, I would say that the thing is that we’re just going to have a recap after because I feel like it’s hard to say what the goals will be for the next season when you don’t know how the season is going to end yet. So I think for us is that just full focus on this one and think about everything else right later.

NAVI’s first challenge will be Astralis in Group A’s opening round best-of-three, with a victory sending them to the Upper Final against either FaZe or SAW and a defeat relegating them to an elimination Lower Final series.

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