Taras Bortnik had the chance to sit and talk with NAVI’s Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek after the new roster was revealed. As the only player staying with the organization through the multiple roster shuffles since 2017, Crystallize was kind to answer some tough questions regarding the many line-up changes, to discuss his communication skills and why he never took the in game leader role, but has also opened up about his personal life and how the intense three-year training put on hold some of his dreams.
The interview was conducted in Ukrainian and was slightly edited for a smoother reading in English. You can find the Russian version at gameinside.ua
Let’s start our interview by talking about the recent roster change announcement. How did you select the players, what criteria did you use?
When we decided to change the roster, we had to sketch out some candidates: who do we know, with whom would we like to play, who did we follow, maybe who stood out by himself. Everyone suggested someone well-known. We had a lot of time, and we could test enough people. Some people fitted us pretty well, but with some candidates, we struggled to be on the same page. So we just played Clan Wars and took into consideration some crucial aspects that we were looking for in people at that moment.
What are these aspects, if it’s not a secret?
We looked for a person with leadership qualities, who would be involved in the draft. This person would work with Mag, preparing for the games and drafts. And, obviously, he must be a strong player.
Of those players that you took, one of them, as I understand it, is a skilled player for mid, and the second is an in-game caller?
Yes. We considered several candidates for the mid lane and we stopped at young G.
What about your new fourth-position player, Immersion?
He will be sort of the leader. He expressed a desire and willingness to do it. And the leader should be, first of all, skilled. He does not have to decide on the macro aspects. He should stand well in the lane, understand well certain timings, and what the win condition is.
Why didn’t you think of taking the captain role yourself?
First and foremost, it affects my game. I tried to do it, although not for a long time, and it was clearly impacting my game. And yes, yes I don’t have the character for it. I can’t be a captain.
Did you guys try with some other players that you had on the roster, with CemaTheSlayer for example? I understand that after Zayac left you were looking for a support 4 in a hurry, but nonetheless, why did you part ways with Cema as well, what exactly didn’t work?
When we took Semyon, we had to urgently find the “four”. Zayac left unexpectedly, and we already had the qualifier for the Major. Of all the people we tested, Semyon was the best option. He is a very skilled player, we passed the qualifiers quite easily, but when the online tournaments started, we encountered some problems in the team. It’s harder to work online, to some extent.
Did you talk with Zayac after he left?
I chatted with him on Instagram. We have no complaints against each other. At that time there was a bit of a strange situation. He explained to me why he did it and why he wanted to do it. It’s his choice. I understand it. Everything is figured out with him now.
Let’s move on to another player. CemaThe Slayer was replaced by so bad. At first, it even seemed that Cema strengthened the roster, but in the end you swapped him. Why?
Among all the fourth position players, we wanted to play with so bad the most. He was all we needed: a captain and a drafter. He suited us. The only thing with him is that he lacks the professional stage experience and in order not to get stuck on one person, we were looking for more options. Immersion appeared.
When we started playing with Vitaliy(so bad), there was such a situation that we could not play with any new midder. They had their own teams, their contracts and their tournaments. We had to play with MagicaL and so bad. Idan played because he had no choice. With Vitaliy, everything was fine for us, but we wanted to try with another player as well. As a result, we came up with the conclusion that Immersion is more suitable for us. Vitaliy admitted himself that he was not ready yet. He needs more time to grow as a player. We decided that Immersion is better for us at the moment.
How did Idan (MagicaL) take the news that he was being kicked?
He understood. We had stagnation for two weeks when everyone did not understand what to do to fix the mistakes. We played badly. Nothing helped. All problems remained even after talking about fixing them. He understood that there would be a shuffle, and that he was likely to be replaced.
Did you not feel at any point that this shuffle might see you leaving as well?
No. I was present when we decided all the things. Everything was discussed with me.
You have been with Natus Vincere for a long time, but I think you weren’t feeling in a comfort zone all the time. Did you ever think to leave in order to keep progressing as a player?
It is often said that it is necessary to change the situation in order to progress. It seems to me that this depends more on the person. It’s not like that I’m sitting here with the same people for years, like nothing happens. People are changing, and when you see how they learn something, you might want some time to move on and experience the same thing. Maybe that would help. But, in fact, if you think about it, I didn’t play with any other professional team.
People tend to say that you are a stiff carry, that you are stuck in the old Dota playstyle etc. At the same time, you are one of the very few CIS carry players with a very high MMR score. You are in the top 5 Europe and CIS on the leaderboards, yet there is a tendency in the community to criticize Crystallize and blame him for the team’s losses. Do you know about this, does it affect you?
I read different comments sometimes. Of course, I know about it, but it somehow does not really affect me. I’m stress-resistant or something. Everyone who played with me knows this: it’s hard to drive me into tilt. Those who criticize, they don’t see the whole picture, what is happening and why it’s happening that way.
A moment of selfishness and vanity. What are your three greatest strengths?
Probably, the fact that I find a common language with almost all people. I am good at getting along with everyone. I always stay in good relations with people even after shuffles. Maybe because I am not arrogant. (laughs). I make concessions at different points. With me, it is easy to find a compromise in some situations.
What else … Maybe the fact that I actually can display more playstyles. I can play both space creating heroes and hard carry. And the third … No idea. Let us settle on two.
I was looking at your Dotabuff profile and I could see only tournament matches, so let me ask you: When will Crystallize play Death Prophet carry or Ember Spirit with the fast Urn of Shadows?
I played Ember, but he usually gets banned in the first stage. We also tried to play Death Prophet carry, but we didn’t succeed, so we did not implement this in official games. I played Riki very often. This is a space creating carry, for example, he starts to fight early.
Where is Necrophos on this list?
He is not (laughs). I love this hero, but he doesn’t work for the first position, at least not for me, unlike Nature’s Prophet carry … I played a lot on it. 40 games per month. But we came to the conclusion that this is more of a mid hero. Some heroes are absent because either we didn’t manage to scrim with them, or it’s hard to build a strategy around them. I played Dragon Knight position one, and I don’t know why you forgot about my Bounty Hunter.
At the beginning of the interview you said that your character is not suited for being the team captain. However, a carry must have a strong voice in the team. People talk about you as a cool carry with a weak voice. Do you work on fixing this somehow?
Yes. When SoNNeikO left and 9pasha came, I began to work actively on it. With Akbar, I was just a carry who plays. Nothing more was required. Akbar spoke for everyone. But when 9pasha and Cema came, someone else had to do what Akbar was doing. This is where I started to work.
I can lead, but I can’t tell everyone what to do. I see the game from my position and I can tell my team “I am strong now – follow me, I am weak now – I need time, space, protect me.” But I can’t say: “The three of you go there, I’m going to farm for a while, let the mid win the lane etc.”
Is it true that at TI9 you said not to go for the throne, but you were not heard?
Well, it was such a game situation … Yes, I was against going for the throne, but I did not insist on it. I said that it’s not worth it, but Akbar wanted … The main thing is to come to an agreement. Everyone does one thing. If it doesn’t work, it’s already like that.
How did NAVI handle the defeat at TI9, did you guys talk, got through the hard time together, or has everyone scattered in the rooms and sat there, killing time?
We were together. The only thing I don’t remember is the day we finished playing. It was already night. Then we just parted. But the next day we all gathered in the evening, at the “party”, to sit in the room, chat.
Let’s turn the conversation to a more positive note. At the beginning of 2019 you said that you have several goals: to be at the top of the leaderboards, to get to The International and preferably get a top 3 there and to fix some health problems. As far as I understand, the first problem is not even a problem. You are the top CIS carry. You got to TI. So, would you call this past year a dream come true?
Yeah, 2019 was cool. It was very cool to get on the TI stage. But TI as a tournament, it’s actually not much different than the Majors and other events. The stage and all the staff were cool. Otherwise, I’ve been to hotels before, the people behind the scene are pretty much the same, the media people are the same, everything is the same with what you experience let’s say at a Major.
Besides the fact that Gabe came on the stage, and the atmosphere in the arena, which was surreal, nothing differs that much. When the Chinese teams played, everything exploded in the arena…
How do you like the new patch?
So far, not enough. The heroes are still untouched, so it’s a bit unclear where the patch will actually go. I am still trying to find some new features, something that will be innovative, but it seems I have very few ideas in my mind right now. I don’t really want to innovate something, because the hero changes are yet to be done. So far, the item changes are nice. Necronomicon got fixed, they were too imbalanced. Lycan loses his place in the meta, so it’s all good.
You already mentioned that playing online is more difficult. Why is it more difficult for you personally?
The bottom line is that everyone plays from their comfort zone, at home. It’s easy to become lazy. You allow yourself to be too relaxed. comfort zone. Lazy more. Also it’s more difficult to discuss things with your teammates , because you don’t see everyone’s reaction. You don’t see other people’s eyes.
Top 3 CIS carry players by Crystallize.
The first is probably iLTW. I am friends with him and I know what kind of person he is. He is a flexible player and a cool person. Then, Daxak. He plays very well. He has a nice pool of heroes. The way he gives his best in pubs is even a little strange for me. He “sweats” every game, tells everyone what to do. And you can see how he is progressing. He used to mute everyone and was he silent. Now you can see how he is working to change. And the third … definitely, V-Tune.
Have you been offered by any other team?
Once. That was after not qualifying for TI8, when we lost to ALOHADANCE.
After the tax deduction, you should have in your bank account about one hundred thousand dollars in prize money, plus salary. That makes you the most desired groom of the city of Rivne. Has money had any impact on your life?
In general, I communicate with very few people in my life. Do girls write? Yes, sometimes they do. But I‘m rarely checking the direct messages. They usually want to chat.
You have grown a lot since you joined NAVI, you are mature now. If you look at this three-year period, would you say that you changed, or are you the same kid ?
80% I’m still the same, probably.
And what is included in the 20%, what are the new things you discovered?
Traveling is cool. I began to watch some travel shows and blogs. I really like it. It’s a kind of dream, I don’t even know…
Where would you like to go?
Firstly, I’d like to go to Japan, of course. Then, I’d like to go to the sea somewhere. I have never been by the sea.
Yes. For all this time I have never taken a vacation. Although there were some breaks, people went to rest, but I always sat and played. So yeah, I would like to walk by the sea to be in nature to meet, people, experience and learn about their traditions… I have this picture in my head, from movies: a beach with white sand, palm trees, and a crystal clear ocean. That’s what I want.