On the back of an impressive string of performances in VCT LOCK//IN 2023, Natus Vincere reached the Semifinals as one of two remaining representatives of EMEA. Thoroughly redeeming the region’s place in pro Valorant after a disappointing showing in the Alpha Bracket where just one team cracked the overall round of 16.
With a team that already boasted a stellar core holding a Masters title under their belt, NAVI upgraded themselves even further with the arrival of cNed; the famous Turkish duelist that led Acend to world championship glory in 2021. That led many people, fans and analysts alike, in selecting NAVI as one of the favorites heading into the tournament.
Surely enough, they didn’t fail to deliver. By defeating KRÜ Esports, Team Secret, and Leviatán 2-0 each time, they came into their encounter with Fnatic with considerable momentum on their side. The same could be said for their opponents as well, who reached semis with the same record. All of this amounted to a highly anticipated affair between two of EMEA’s absolute best.
Unfortunately for NAVI, their journey was halted on the doorstep of entering the LOCK//IN Grand Finals, losing 3-0 to Fnatic. Thus, they’re setting their sights to the VCT EMEA league, where they will take on the rest of their regional foes later down the line.
Nevertheless, despite the agony of defeat still being fresh in their minds, NAVI feels they can walk away with their head high and pride intact. Having endured various situations and multiple series over the course of almost a month, they feel their time in Brazil was a fruitful experience and one they can use for the future. Who knows, it might very well be the blueprint towards their road to Masters and Champions greatness.
Following the series against Fnatic, members of NAVI spoke to the media in a press conference to discuss how they faced their EMEA opponents, how they will reflect on their time in Brazil for the tournament, and their thoughts on the upcoming VCT EMEA league.
On series vs Fnatic
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: ANGE1, What do you think of your team's performance as a whole by making Top 4 in a single-elimination tournament to start off the year?
Kyrylo "ANGE1" Karasov: I'm not disappointed right now. I'll say it like this. We adapted a lot of stuff. We played all the maps. We now know what we need to work on. To be honest, I would be more scared if we won the tournament. It would've been much harder to work further. Now we clearly understand. We have a lot of things to work on and we have a good example of what to do.
BLIX.GG: d00mbr0s, we didn't see NAVI pick up Harbor a single time throughout the tournament. Was that something you were saving for the Grand Finals or was the team just not comfortable with the agent yet?
Erik "d00mbr0s" Sandgren: I feel Harbor isn't that strong in my opinion. Obviously, it has its use cases, but I think if you show it once, it works really well and if you show it twice, it's gonna work 50% worse. For us, we were just focused on having good comps, having [sound] fundamentals, and playing this first tournament to go through every scenario possible to overcome our struggles, but that doesn't mean we won't play Harbor in the future. But for this tournament, I don't think he was that strong.
BLIX.GG: ANGE1, Despite the series ending 3-0, you had opportunities to win any given map. Do you believe that Fnatic was better in any aspect as a team? Or do you think that you made a mistake at some point?
ANGE1: I felt they were just better today. We did mistakes that we shouldn't have done. We played not in the way I expected us to do so they were just better.
BLIX.GG: d00mbr0s, You guys looked pretty uncharacteristic out there today. ANGE1 was talking about a lot of mistakes you made and things that should have happened but didn't. What do you think was the biggest factor in today's loss?
d00mbr0s: I feel we had, if I'm gonna be really honest, a bad day. Obviously, in a single-elim tournament, you can't have a bad day or you will get eliminated like today. I think it happens to every team. We did some mistakes and lost small details that we were lacking and all the small details added up and you lose rounds you shouldn't lose. In my opinion, if we played our real game, I think it would be at least 3-1, but it happens.
It's part of a team. It's part of learning. For me. I'm just happy we get to go through everything in winning, losing, having close games, having bad days, and having good days. We're just setting ourselves up for a good future for the rest of the year, but yeah, today was very, let's say, not up to our standard, which is fine.
Looking ahead to VCT EMEA league
BLIX.GG: cNed, there's been plenty of anticipation about how you would fare with this team ahead of LOCK//IN and you managed to deliver by taking them to the Semifinals. How much have you seen your progression with the rest of the team throughout this competition and how will you take that forward to the EMEA league?
Mehmet "cNed" İpek: I can't see myself from third-person view in how I progressed and how I'm doing. I don't know. I think our teammates should answer, but if you ask me, I think I'm doing my best.
d00mbr0s: I think the biggest difference in cNed is, in this team, he doesn't have to be the star always. He can also do his job and win matches so I think that's the biggest improvement I've seen from him. He understands his role and the goal of each round in what he needs to do and he doesn't need to win every round for us and he doesn't need to carry.
Obviously, he can do it and he does it, but just understanding his role a bit more is what he has improved on a lot, I would say.
BLIX.GG: Shao, everyone had a bit of a rough day today but you put up pretty insane numbers throughout the whole tournament. I'm just looking to know if there was any special offseason preparation that that has allowed you to step up this much in LOCK//IN?
Andrey "Shao" Kiprsky: To be honest, it was one tip, but I wouldn't reveal it. In general, my performance was dependent on my teammates. They're doing good and that's why I can play whatever I want on maps. I can do whatever and I have confidence in my team to do all that stuff. As Erik [d00mbr0s] said, it was a bad day today.
BLIX.GG: ANGE1, Of the handful of EMEA teams that were eliminated earlier in this tournament (Liquid, Giants, and Heretics), which of these would you consider to still be a favorite within the region?
ANGE1: It's hard to say. I would say Vitality and Liquid can be good contenders in EMEA.
BLIX.GG: Zyppan, given that you've been there in Brazil for nearly a month now, in your view, what would you say has been the biggest takeaway from competing in LOCK//IN and how will you take that forward for the EMEA league?
Pontus "Zyppan" Eek: I think that the tough schedule where we played games and practiced every day is a good experience for us. It's so that we don't get exhausted from this and gain a strong mentality everyday to take [on] a new game and new practices. Strong mentality is what I would say.
Feature images: Riot/Colin Young-Wolff