Dom Discusses: How NAF has Reached Star Status

NAF
A young, versatile rifler, NAF is set for a successful 2019 with Liquid.

Keith “NAF” Markovic is a Canadian star rifler plying his trade for Team Liquid. He’s a player of sublime skill, and exploring his origins reveals how he clawed his way through the doldrums of the North American Counter-Strike scene to reach where he is today. The player has impressed viewers with exemplary plays and performances, but where did that all come from?


NAF’s first notable team was Denial eSports, a roster featuring current teammate Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella and led by Damian “daps” Steele. When he joined the lineup in September of 2014, they made only limited headway both nationally and internationally. Their main achievement was winning the John Wick Invitational, and qualifying for the ESEA S17 Global Finals. Famed esports organisation Team Liquid took on the roster in January 2015, marking NAF’s first time with the organisation. The team struggled with NAF, attending two LANs and placing poorly, so in March 2015 dropped him in favour of Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski. After floating around between Luminosity, eLevate and Conquest, the Canadian made the step up to OpTic in January 2016. This move was his big chance; he had to step up and earn his spot on the team.

NAF started on OpTic as a highly rated young talent. His opening LAN with the team was the ELEAGUE Road to Vegas where the Canadian achieved an impressive 1.36 HLTV rating. But lacklustre results plagued the team going into ELEAGUE S2. At the tournament, OpTic shattered all odds and helped solidify North American Counter-Strike as serious. NAF was the MVP with a 1.29 rating, but the most remembered aspect from the event was the grand final. Astralis had recently picked up a new leader in Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, who had revitalised the team. Thus, OpTic were tipped to fall at the final hurdle, but NAF had other ideas. On the deciding map Overpass, the star dropped thirty-four kills, achieving a 1.77 HLTV rating, which dragged OpTic over the finish line. His performance made history for himself, OpTic and most significantly North American Counter-Strike.

The Green Wall chuntered along, snapping at Cloud9’s heels as they attempted to establish themselves as the best team in North America. Following ESL One Cologne 2017, despite a solid placing and performance from NAF, the team parted ways. The Canadian had limited domestic opportunities due to a developing Liquid roster, and a Cloud9 who had made it to the finals in Germany. NAF opted to join Renegades, with fellow North American Noah “Nifty” Francis on the Australian-core roster. It was on this lineup that NAF cemented himself as one of North America’s greatest players.


SOME NAF THINGS.png

As you can see via the image above, NAF was monstrous on Renegades. Online and offline, against higher-tier and lower-tier opposition — the Canadian just could not stop. Benefitting under a system where he was the star player, NAF pushed the embers of a Renegades team to continued relevance. The team’s poor LAN placings were their own doing; the lineup was mentally expired and solely relied on NAF to bring results home. The Canadian’s head-turning performances brought the attention of a declining Liquid. The young team added him in favour of Josh “jdm64” Marzano in early 2018. Unfortunately, as NAF joined the roster, a certain team made a certain roster move that would come to halt a trophy-filled 2018 for Liquid. In the bitter north of Europe, Emil “Magisk” Reif joined Astralis in place of Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjaerbye.

NAF’s first event with the team, cs_summit2, would be a premonition of what was to come. He tore through opposition, and Liquid did very well. In this environment, Liquid thrived and outlasted Major champions Cloud9 over a best-of-five series to take the trophy home. It was the team’s first ever LAN victory, and NAF’s astounding individual performance came to define it; a 1.23 HLTV rating. Considering that was his first tournament with Liquid, that rating seems all the more impressive.

MORE NAF THINGS.png
NAF’s performances on LAN for Liquid have epitomised the word consistency. That he has just one negatively HLTV-rated event, a last-placed failure at ECS S6 Finals, goes to show the man’s skill. He is a solid clutch player, consistent rifler and competent AWPer. He was an important factor in helping his team win cs_summit2 and SuperNova CS:GO Malta 2018, and to win championships Liquid need him. Sadly, the most significant thing stopping him securing the status of a magical Counter-Strike player is a lack of silverware. Liquid are yet to win a premier tournament as a team, and when they look ready to, Astralis have taken over. Liquid have lost in five grand finals to Astralis this year. In the process, they have taken taking two maps, both in separate best-of-fives. The Americans are gradually catching up to Astralis though; improving performances such as crushing NaVi and MIBR at EPL S8 Finals bode well for the team’s future.

NAF is a unique and skilled player. His indifference to winning the craziest clutch, an ability to step up for his team, and consistency all combine beautifully. He has been one of the defining factors of Liquid’s strong 2018, a year that has laid the foundations for future glory. After a resounding end to 2018 via a standout performance at EPL S8 Finals, NAF has set the tone for a tantalising 2019. It should be a year where he can continue to pop heads, and Liquid can push on to bigger and better things; especially a fuller trophy cabinet.

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