NeLo: "We are a team that likes to grind it out when we are struggling"

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In our eighth article in the Invitational Insights series, we talk to Natus Vincere player neLo about his team’s preparation for the Six Invitational 2020.

Natus Vincere is perhaps a curious case in Rainbow Six right now. The team was on an incredibly hot streak through Season 9 and 10, yet now, in Season 11, the team has failed to live up to expectations. While not unheard of -- Team Empire finished fourth after its Season 9 victory, and Mock-it Esports (now OrgLess) was relegated after its Season 8 second-place finish -- it is certainly unexpected.

The team burst onto the scene under the MnM Gaming banner, with DreamHack Winter 2018 being the first event for the team. A group stage exit there was followed up by a joint-third finish at the team’s first ESL Premiership Finals.

Afterwards though, MnM added eventual captain Luke “Kendrew” Kendrew and Szymon “Saves” Kamieniak and immediately found success. Qualifying to the Challenger League, the UK squad defeated Team Secret 2-0 to take its first ESL Premiership title, then slalomed through the Challenger League itself to finish second and subsequently beat Team Vitality in the playoffs to secure automatic promotion to the Pro League.

Natus Vincere celebrating the Season 10 Finals victory.

There, the roster was quickly acquired by Natus Vincere, and the added support did wonders for the team. Expected to face relegation at the end of the season, mid-table was where the team found itself at the halfway mark. However, a stunningly strong second split -- helped along by poor results from Rogue (then Giants Gaming), Team Empire, and Team Vitality --  meant that the team finished top in Europe.

Headed to its first international event as a roster together, Wildcard Gaming gave Natus Vincere a scare, but the European leaders recovered from facing match point to taking the game in overtime. Team Reciprocity was then dispatched, and so too was DarkZero Esports in the final, and Na’Vi had successfully followed Team Empire’s footsteps in winning the Pro League in its debut season.

The full statistics for Natus Vincere at the halfway mark of Season 11.

Season 11, though, has been far from a cakewalk for the team. At the halfway mark, the team finds itself in sixth place with a mere seven points from two wins, one draw, and four losses. The results come after the team parted ways with now-Giants Gaming coach Ellis “GiG” Hindle, though it is certain that the team is hiding some strategies for the Six Invitational, courtesy of analyst and stand-in coach Cyril “jahk” Renoud.

To know more about the team’s preparation, SiegeGG spoke to star player, Leon “neLo” Pesić:

Your team has been struggling in the Pro League so far. What has been the issue for your team so far?

No issues.

Hiding strategies?

Of course.

How has your team been preparing for the Six Invitational in the wake of GiG’s departure?

We are spent two weeks at a bootcamp and we are sorting everything out for the Rainbow Six Invitational. We are a team that likes to grind it out when we are struggling and learn from our mistakes.

While Doki is banned from playing, how much of a contribution has he had in helping your team prepare for the event?

Doki has been a part of this team from the beginning and it will stay that way -- he is helping out a lot, mostly with his positivity. Jahk is also a huge part of our team and it's not fair that most of the media is just mentioning Doki all the time.

The closest game your team had last time out was in fact against Wildcard Gaming. What were the key things you learnt from your first-ever Pro League Finals?

We learned that we can't enter the tournament playing slow, we can't “warm up” in the first map and give it away for free. Last event was our first big international event and a great experience that we will carry through the whole Six Invitational.

Your group has been labeled the “Group of Death” by many. Do you agree with the assessment?

I would say our group is a group of death and second strongest is group A, but it’s the Six Invitational. All 16 teams deserve to be there and all of them are contenders for the title.

Much has been said about the seeding process for the groups. Does your team have any gripes with it?

Seeding could be done differently, I think, and the direct-invite spot shouldn't exist because that spot is labeled as the “weakest team” out of 16 teams. Also, it should be a maximum of two teams from the same region in the same group.

How do you think that the double-elimination playoffs will change the dynamic of the event, and what is your opinion of the one-map advantage in the grand final?

I think double-elimination is good, because that way we will get the best team in Siege, and the one-map advantage is totally fine since that team did not lose a single Best-of-Three series in the playoffs.

Do you have anything else to say to your fans?

We appreciate all the support, thank you to all who are with us through good and bad times, #navination!

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Natus Vincere plays Spacestation Gaming as the opening match, with matches against either Team SoloMid or Rogue scheduled afterwards. Check back here at SiegeGG for more Invitational Insights and full coverage of the event as it comes.