It’s time for some hindsight while ELEAGUE approaches its final form. With NiP claiming the group B victory, ELEAGUE has already taken an interesting turn of events. How did the Swedes do it? Are we witnessing a NiP renaissance?
NiP held a long reign until 2015. Duncan Shields, a CS:GO analyst, emphasized that “[f]or NiP, this is the period in which they learn if they can live with being a top team but not the best”. Truth is, they refused to learn. The Swedes kept fighting to reclaim their throne instead.
NiP tried to improve results by adding AWPer Maikelele, who was eventually replaced by allu. Both of these players experienced relative success while playing for the Ninjas. However, roster changes alone weren’t enough to end the drought.
With the signing of coach THREAT and rifler pyth, their fortunes took a slow turn. Now, half a year later, the Swedes are consistently producing top results. First place at Dreamhack Masters Malmö 2016 commemorated that status.
NiP’s ELEAGUE Performance
ELEAGUE brought into question whether their rediscovered form could resist similar challenges. Could their improvement through the Major and Dreamhack be a fluke? Or was this a projection into a re-emerging NiP era?
During the group stage, the Ninjas dropped only two maps. As Selfless was able to take more than ten rounds in both games, the Swedes looked rather weak at the start of the tournament.
G2 got the better of NiP on a best-of-two series on Train and Dust2. Optic also gave the Ninjas a run for their money. So, all else being equal, the Swedes didn’t even need to place second in the group. They could’ve placed third with the same chance of moving on to the finals.
In the playoffs, NiP played Optic again. The up-and-coming NA team stomped the Ninjas on Cobblestone, putting people’s renewed trust to test. NiP retaliated on Overpass and finally won on Train after an unlikely comeback. Overall, the semifinal was extremely close and could’ve gone either way.
The Ninjas completely rolled over G2 with a swift 2-0 final to most people’s surprise. The first map, Cache, was NiP’s undisputed playground as their structured style facilitates consistent mid-control. Their victory on Train, the second map, is harder to explain.
Where lies the key difference between their performance against the French prospects between the group stages and the group final?
During the final, f0rest and pyth really stepped up. Individual play made an impact on the series. G2, however, seemed to crack under pressure. Given that most NiP players have more LANs under their belt than any other team on the planet, superior emotional fortitude can be expected.
In terms of strategy and setups, the Swedes just seemed more prepared. THREAT did his homework between both sets.
During the group stage games, G2’s willingness to rotate quickly kept dismantling T side setups. By the time the sides changed, the Ninjas were chasing too deep of a deficit.
NiP’s approach was simpler during the final. Rushes, and Ivy-focused strategies changed defensive responsibilities between ScreaM and shox. NiP essentially tamed G2 to give the Ninjas enough space to win.
Are NiP improving?
Truthfully, NiP’s level never sank low enough to be ignored. People arguing that NiP are still coming out of a dry spell are testament to the gravity of their potential.
NiP gained the ability to reclaim a game. In their current state, the Ninjas look ready to conquer any challenge. The Swedes played slow and methodical T sides. Optic felt NiP’s hunger as the third map of the series slipped through their fingers.
The ninjas have a newfound tendency to bounce back after a defeat. They beat G2 despite losing to them earlier in the tournament.
Admittedly, NiP had a high chance of making it to the final anyway. I can imagine several other groups that would’ve made their success more difficult. It’s important not to oversell the result.
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NiP’s chances in ELEAGUE?
NiP took second place at Dreamhack Summer following their success at ELEAGUE.
Interestingly, the Swede’s tend to buckle under Brazilian pressure. For example, they lost against LG’s brother squad, Immortals in the final of that tournament. NiP’s loss against LG during their first day at Faceit’s ECS finals underlines the pattern. Ironically, they keep losing to Brazilian CS. NiP’s approach to the game has similar undertones. One would think that they have all the tools to succeed but whether they can use them in the right way remains to be seen.
NiP can be expected to perform well at ELEAGUE. As long as they steer clear of their Brazilian kryptonite, the Ninjas will have a good chance of beating any of the other group finalists.