After the slow dismantling of the old Ninjas in Pyjamas roster, an impressive new group of young stars has taken its place. And they might be on the precipice of greatness.
Over two years' time, CSGO's legendary Ninjas in Pyjamas team fell apart. It was slow at first, with the release of Adam "friberg" Friberg coming in July 2017, but friberg's departure started a landslide that would see all of the original members of NiP leave the team. It's long-time head coach, Björn "THREAT" Pers, would leave six months after friberg, followed by in-game leader Richard "Xizt" Langström, Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund after the StarLadder Berlin Major, and finally Patrick "f0rest" Lindburg at the beginning of 2020.
With f0rest leaving to reunite with his former teammates at DIGNITAS, NiP was left with a core made up of extremely young players. Many fans and analysts feared that, without f0rest's veteran leadership, NiP's young roster would flounder. But six months after f0rest took off his NiP jersey for the last time, the team's new roster has proven its doubters dead wrong.
At first glance, NiP's first roster lacking a single one of its original members wasn't all that impressive. The team has a very average 50% win percentage over the past three months. None of its members have an individual rating better than 1.11 for the same time period, and its roster has failed to finish in the top four of any of the events it has participated in. In fact, its best run in a long time was with f0rest still at the helm, when NiP had a run of third-place finishes at the end of 2019.
But the new Ninjas in Pyjamas squad has sneakily climbed its way up the CSGO ladder, and they've done it without f0rest. They're currently sitting ranked at 11th in the world next to teams that those that many would call CSGO titans: Evil Geniuses, Team Vitality, and mousesports. They've hovered around this position despite the loss of f0rest, and they've done it through solid and fundamentally sound play.
The new NiP is poised to breakout. Its five core players, Simon "twist" Eliasson, Fredrick "REZ" Sterner, Hampus "hampus" Poser, Nicholas "Plopski" Gonzalez Zamora, and Tim "nawwk" Jonasson, have an average age of 22 years old. They're well-coached, with THREAT returning to the head coaching role earlier this year. Having a coach with almost two decades of CS experience is certainly a boon to NiP, but fans often forget that some of the team's young roster can even be called veterans at this point.
Team captain REZ has been with NiP since its last big win at IEM Oakland 2017, where he even managed to win the tournament MVP award. He spent years under CSGO greats like f0rest and GeT_RiGhT, ultimately outlasting both them through repeated roster changes. He now leads a team that has only gotten younger, adding hampus to replace Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson in May as the team's new in-game leader.
The switch has paid dividends.
While NiP isn't winning consistently just yet, the team is showing flashes of what they're capable of. They've played undeniably superior teams close over the course of DreamHack Masters Spring, BLAST's European Showdown, and then in the followup BLAST Premier Spring Finals. This team full of young and promising players has made the playoffs in its past three tournaments, defeating Astralis, MAD Lions, and OG in explosive fashion. In the games they've lost, the roster has played close, with its most recent loss against Vitality on Dust 2 of particular note.
The BLAST Premier playoff map ended in a close 16-13 in Vitality's favor, but the ability for such a young NiP team to almost pull off a victory against a great Vitality side on Dust 2 can't be ignored. Neither can plays like the one below, where twist pulls off a one versus two post-plant with a FAMAS against two AKs.
With every tournament that moves to an online format like ESL One Cologne, CS Summit 6, and the potential for CSGO's 2020 Major ESL One Rio to be rescheduled yet again, this is where NiP can cut its teeth. The upper echelon of European CSGO is weakened, with Astralis facing internal issues and others struggling with consistency. NiP has shown that it might be the most consistent team of them all if it can capitalize on its potential. At this point in the roster's history, runs of playoff appearances are good signs, even if they come out on the losing side in close matchups.
Fans can watch NiP's continued progress in the upcoming Valve Regional Ranking tournament, CS Summit 6 Europe, starting on June 24.
Read more about the upcoming CS Summit 6 by clicking on the picture below.