29 June 2015 - 16:15

Envy run back to the top, stymie Ninjas

Envy returned to the winner’s circle at Gfinity Masters this weekend, ensuring that the year’s perennial runner-up would remain in their place
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Envy returned to the winner’s circle at Gfinity Masters this weekend, ensuring that the year’s perennial runner-up would remain in their place.

The French Counter-Strike side defeated Ninjas in Pyjamas in the final with a three-games-to-none sweep, giving Envy their fourth tournament victory of 2015.

For all of the team’s success, Envy experienced a slight dip in performance over the past few months. The team previously staked a claim at the world’s top spot while trading tournament victories with Fnatic, but since thin hadn't come through in two finals appearances against Fnatic and Natus Vincere.

Ninjas in Pyjamas have had similar struggles, finishing as runners-up eight times since September 2014. Fully half of those finals defeats came against Envy, giving fans of the Swedish team reason for concern coming into Sunday’s big final.

Those concerns were quickly proven valid. Envy finished each half of play in the grand final with the round advantage and was never in danger of losing a game. The team was keyed by star player Richard “Shox” Papillon, but received steady contributions from each member of the squad. That wasn’t the case for the Ninjas, who struggled to follow the lead of their own star, Christopher “Get Right” Alesund.

Questions regarding the Ninjas roster have followed the team through their struggles this year, which have included a failure to qualify for the ESL ESEA League final and coming short of any significant tournament victories. Adam Friberg had been at the top of the list for many fans who sought change in the team, and while Friberg’s performance early in the tournament was markedly improved compared to his recent form, he was among those who came up short in the final.

Another in a series of finals losses will serve only to further frustrate the team, whose members have been open about their struggle to win the big one after being the dominant force in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for years.

The biggest surprise of the event was a strong run from Danish side Dignitas, who twice defeated Titan and came up just shy of series victories over both Envy and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Dignitas has largely operated in the shadow of Team SoloMid since their domestic rival’s ascendance to the top of the professional scene, but results like this weekend's point to a resurgence of not only Dignitas but the Danish scene as a whole.

Even SK Gaming’s new Danish team managed to impress, taking Ninjas in Pyjamas to overtime before falling just short in their opening round meeting.

American team Cloud9 had high hopes coming into the event after establishing themselves as the premier team in North America. But those hopes were quickly dashed in consecutive losses to Envy and Virtus Pro. Cloud9’s poor results don’t bode well for American hopes heading into the ESL ESEA final on July 2, where four teams from the North American region will clash with four of Europe’s best.

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