NiP have Found the Right Fifth

NiP have played with many different fifths and it seems like they've finally found the right player.

Esports giant ESL announced yesterday that they have plans to operate a digital "esports hall of fame".

The four core members of Ninjas In Pyjamas’s roster have been together for years, while their numerous fifth players have changed frequently. With impressive results at DreamHack Masters Malmö, ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals and ELEAGUE, the Ninjas seem to have found the fifth that fits their team. Jacob “pyth Mourujärvi has helped transform NiP back to their winning ways.

Throughout Ninjas In Pyjamas’ exploits in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene, four members have made up the core. Richard “Xizt” Landström, Adam “friberg” Friberg, Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund and Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg have seen the arrival and departure of several players attempting to fill the seemingly cursed position as the fifth member of NiP.

After long time member Robin “Fifflaren” Johansson parted from the team in late 2014, it was announced that Mikail “Maikelele” Bill would replace him and his role of primary AWPer. This would be the beginning of a turbulent stretch for NiP where the fifth player on the team would change rather frequently.

Despite a successful first tournament for NiP and a strong performance from Maikelele, Bill would not last long in the roster. While I am unsure of the full reason why he left NiP, it was no secret that he was inexperienced compared to the seasoned lineup. Maikelele had been on teams such as LGB eSports and ESG, but never on a team that the potential or fame that NiP had. His inexperience should have been irrelevant though as I believe his decent results justified the Swedish player staying on the team.

Several poor results in early 2015 preceded another roster change by NiP, where Aleksi “allu” Jalli would replace Maikelele. The addition of the Finnish AWPer was just before the Katowice major in March 2015, where NiP had a strong showing. After topping Group C, the Ninjas moved through the playoffs, defeating strong opposition such as Team SoloMid (now Astralis) and Team EnVyUs. The Swedes and allu then fell at the last hurdle, losing a close series against Fnatic 2-1. The addition of allu seemed like a great pickup for NiP after such a great run in the major, but the team’s Major performance was arguably their best result throughout all of 2015.

With the Ninjas being one of the most fabled Counter-Strike teams in history, but one who failed to win any prestigious international events in 2015, change was inevitable. While allu had not been an obvious hindrance to his Swedish teammates, it was he who left the team. Allu’s tweet on Dec. 7 announced his departure from NiP, leaving the four Swedish veterans to find a new fifth to fill the vacant role once again.

Just before the end of 2015, NiP announced the signing of pyth, who would make the team a fully Swedish roster again. The young rifler debuted against the Bulgarian side E-frag.net (now Orbit) and put in an average performance which helped his team win. It was not until DreamHack Masters Malmö that NiP finally won a large international tournament again.

With the Swedish side’s first game against Dignitas going horribly wrong, the Ninjas started the tournament looking shaky. Wins against Lounge Gaming and the Danish side Astralis were needed for NiP to progress from the groups. The Ninjas won both matches, impressively defeating Astralis in a best-of-three, securing themselves a spot in the playoffs.

NiP met the Polish side Virtus.pro in the quarter-finals, a team which had beaten both FaZe and Tempo Storm (now Immortals) in the group stages. The Swedes took the first two maps off Virtus.pro, which sent them to the semi-finals to meet GODSENT. 

The Malmö semi-finals hosted an all Swedish game. The Ninjas met ex-Fnatic player Markus “pronax” Wallsten’s team in a best-of-three that would see the winner off to the final. NiP prevailed after three close maps, with pyth being one of two Ninjas who finished on a positive kill/death ratio. This win sent NiP to the final, where they managed to beat Na`Vi 2-0 and secured their first large-scale tournament win since 2014.

NiP win Malmo

NiP’s strong form continued as the Swedes topped their group at the ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals last month. With pyth’s individual performances contributing to the team finishing top of their group, NiP progressed to the semi-finals against reigning Major champions Luminosity Gaming. While the Brazilians did win the series and ultimately the tournament, NiP’s lineup showed promise in taking Dust II off the best team in the world and making it far into a top international tournament.

The Swedish team showcased more of their winning self last week at ELEAGUE, where they secured their place in the final playoffs of the $1.4 million tournament. Finishing their group with a 2-0 win over G2, the in-form French side, the Ninjas booked themselves into the top eight teams of the televised tournament, as well as a guaranteed $50,000.

Due to their top eight finish at MLG Columbus earlier this year, the Swedish team will appear at ESL One Cologne 2016. Having shown recently that the squad can compete at the highest tiers of international Counter-Strike and triumph, the Swedes stand in a stronger position to win the Major than they have for a while.

The reason I credit pyth for the Ninjas’ success recently is not just his ability to keep up with the fragging talent on the roster such as GeT_RiGhT and f0rest, but also the way that he fits in with the squad. With NiP returning to its tournament winning form since the addition of pyth, and also their invaluable coach Björn “THREAT” Pers, it now seems possible for NiP to regain their status as one of the best teams in the world.  

Photo credit: Dreamhack

Article by: @clootch_cs