The Swedish Rollercoaster

Prologue (2012-2014)

NIP entered CS:GO on the 10th of August 2012, after announcing that they would switch from CS 1.6 to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The starting five for NIP’s entry into CS:GO was:

  • GeT_RiGhT
  • f0rest
  • Xizt
  • friberg
  • Fifflaren

This team would dominate CS:GO from September of 2012 to around June 2014. They claimed many accolades during their dominant reign over the Counter-Strike scene, and became known for their 87-0 streak in LAN tournament map wins, which stretched from September 2012 to April of 2013, where it was stopped by the Virtus.Pro line up of Kucher, AdreN, ANGE1, Dosia and Fox.

NIP placed in the top four or above in every LAN tournament they participated in since their inception up until the ESEA Invite Season 16 Global Finals.

It was safe to say, that at the time this NIP line up was the real deal. A team that had stuck together for over two years was able to continually perform consistently at such a high level, claim many accolades or consistently place high at the LAN tournaments they participated in.

After two years of dominance, things would start to change for NIP.

The End Of An Era (2014-)

NIP headed into the ESEA Invite Season 16 Global Finals looking to continue their prolonged stretch of form. This would prove to be immensely difficult from the word go, as NIP were knocked down to the losers bracket by compLexity, losing out to the North American side 2-1. Despite a 2-0 victory over Manajuma in the lower bracket, they would only go on to be knocked out by Virtus.Pro 2-1 in the second round of the losers bracket. This was the first time, as mentioned previously, that NIP would place outside of the top four of an international tournament since their inception.

Their woeful form would continue into the Gfinity G3 tournament, where they were able to qualify past the group stages, albeit barely, only to be knocked out in the quarterfinals 2-0 by Team Dignitas.

ESL One: Cologne 2014 followed, and many questioned NIP’s capability to win the tournament, largely due to their poor offline performances prior to the event. NIP kicked off their group stage in Cologne with a 16-7 victory over Indian side Team Wolf. In their next group stage match, NIP would be dealt a heavy 16-6 loss at the hands of Epsilon. Thankfully, NIP were able to beat Hellraisers 16-11 in the final group stage match to advance to the playoff stages.

NIP would then move on to face Cloud9 in the quarterfinals, and were able to edge them out 2-1 in a very close best of three series to advance to the semifinals. There, they would meet Team LDLC. The predominantly French side were not able to halt NIP’s progression as, once again, they won 2-1. In the finals, NIP would edge out Fnatic 2-1 to claim their first major.

NIP would go on to participate in tournaments such as the Dreamhack 2014 Invitational, where they were knocked out in groups, as well as ESWC 2014, where they also would not be able to do any significant damage, and were knocked out in the group stages. Their poor form would also continue in the various online leagues and tournaments.

Following the chain of poor performances from NIP, on the 3rd of November 2014, Fifflaren would announce his departure from NIP, which meant that for the first time since the inception of the roster in 2012, NIP would undergo a roster change.

The following day, Maikelele would join the Swedish side as their new fifth man. The next major, Dreamhack Winter 2014 would roll around, and it would be the first major international test for NIP under the new line up. NIP were able to qualify from the group stages with a 2-1 record, and would face HellRaisers in the quarterfinals. Here, they beat them comfortably over both maps to advance to the semifinals, where they would play against Virtus.Pro. This spanned all three maps, including overtime on the first map (Nuke). NIP won 2-1 and advanced to the finals, where they lost out against team LDLC 2-1 in a well fought best of three contest.

For the next couple of months after Dreamhack Winter, the team would look like:

  • GeT_RiGhT
  • f0rest
  • friberg
  • Xizt
  • Maikelele

The Up Down Trend Begins (2015-)

NIP managed to kick off their 2015 strongly, with a 2nd place finish at the MLG X Games in Aspen, losing out to LDLC in the finals of the tournament. NIP would then go on to win the Assembly Winter 2015 offline tournament with Maikelele, but would then follow it up with a 5th place finish at the IOS Pantamera tournament, which they also played with Maikelele.

NIP then announced that Deplan would be replacing Maikelele for the King of Majors I online tournament, where they placed third.

NIP made another announcement, this time stating that allu would be replacing Deplan for the FACEIT League 2015.

On February 24, 2015, it was announced that allu would be signed onto NIP as their new fifth player.

Now, their roster headed into Katowice looked like:

  • GeT_RiGhT
  • allu
  • f0rest
  • Xizt
  • friberg

NIP started strong in the group stage, ousting Keyd Stars 16-9 and thumping CLG 16-7 to go 2-0 in the groups and qualify for the playoff stages. It was there that they would meet, and overcome TSM 2-1. They then beat EnVyUs 2-0 in the semifinals to set up a match against Fnatic, where they would lost 2-0 and place 2nd at ESL One: Katowice.

NIP then went on to play at the Gfinity Spring Masters I, where they placed 2nd after a 3-1 loss to EnVyUs. NIP would lose out to EnVyUs in consecutive finals, this time at the StarLadder LAN finals, where they lost 3-0 in the finals versus the French side. NIP would continue to place decently in both offline and online tournaments, up until the Gfinity Spring Masters 2, where they were eliminated in the group stages.

They then placed in the top 4 at Dreamhack Summer 2015, failed to qualify for the ESL Pro League Finals, and once again placed 2nd behind Team EnVyUs at the summer Gfinity Event.

NIP then encountered another slump in form spanning three tournaments – ESWC 2015, FACEIT 2015 Stage 2 Finals & ESL One: Cologne.

NIP cleared their group with a perfect 3-0 lead, only to crash out 2-1 to FlipSide in the quarterfinals. They then would attend the FACEIT Finals, where they would get knocked out in the group stages, losing their group decider match to Fnatic 2-0.

The most disappointing tournament would have to have been ESL One: Cologne 2015. Prior to Cologne 2015, NIP had made five straight major finals. They were Dreamhack Winter 2013, EMS One: Katowice 2014, Dreamhack Winter 2014, ESL One: Cologne 2014 and ESL One: Katowice 2015. This was the first time that NIP claimed 5th-8th place at a CS Major.

Nevertheless, this spot ensured them a spot at the next major, Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca 2015.

NIP would then have a short, but decent run of form. Placing 3rd at the ESL ESEA Pro League Invitational, hosted in Dubai and then followed it up with a 4th place finish at Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca.

Disappointment would soon return to the NIP side, as they failed to qualify for the 2nd season of the Pro League Finals and were knocked out in the group stages of the FACEIT 2015 Stage 3 LAN tournament.

On the 7th of December, 2015, allu announced his departure from NIP.

On the 29th of December, 2015, pyth was announced as their new member.

The Rollercoaster In Full Force (2016-)

At the start of 2016, NIP’s roster looked like this:

  • GeT_RiGhT
  • f0rest
  • friberg
  • Xizt
  • pyth

This roster headed into their first international tournament, IEM Katowice. NIP failed to impress, claiming wins over the Mongolz & Luminosity in the middle and later stages of their group. A loss to mousesports at the beginning, a close loss to Fnatic in the middle & a close loss to Na’Vi near the end ensured NIP’s tournament life in Katowice ceased.

The Swedes would then head over to Columbus, to participate at the MLG Major, the first major that had a $1,000,000 prize pool. A tournament performance that could be considered a success for NIP for the most part, due to the fact that they had to use their coach, THREAT, because of visa issues with pyth. They were able to qualify to the quarterfinals, and thus secure their legends spot for the next major with this lineup.

NIP’s next tournament was Dreamhack Malmo. It was here that they were able to claim their first international title of 2016, to the surprise of many. The return of pyth ensured NIP were able to play with their full five on home turf, and after a series of close games throughout the playoffs, they were able to clinch the Dreamhack Masters trophy in Malmo.

They would use this victory in Malmo to set themselves off on a decent run of form, securing a top 4 finish at the Pro League Season 3 Finals and a 2nd place finish at Dreamhack Summer.

The form of the Swedes would once again falter, this time at the ECS Season 1 Finals in London, being knocked out of the group stages without a win to their name. This poor run of form would follow them to ESL One: Cologne, where they would be knocked out of the group stages by FlipSide Tactics.

This is the first time in NIP’s history that they failed to make it out of the group stages of a major.

NIP were also able to qualify for the playoff stages of the first season of ELEAGUE, but lost out to eventual winners, Virtus.Pro.

On August 17, 2016, NIP announced that disco doplan would be standing in for pyth, due to the latter recovering from an injury.

The roster, for 13 days, looked like this:

  • GeT_RiGhT
  • f0rest
  • Xizt
  • friberg
  • disco doplan

On August 30, 2016, it was announced that disco doplan would no longer be used as a stand in, and instead, Maikelele would be used.

The roster then looked like this:

  • GeT_RiGhT
  • f0rest
  • Xizt
  • friberg
  • Maikelele

The past brought back to the future.

The next international event for the Swedish side was the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 2 Finals. Headed into this, nobody knew what to expect from NIP.

NIP topped their group with wins over HellRaisers and GODSENT. They were able to beat Astralis 2-1 in the quarterfinals, take a clean 2-0 from Cloud9 in the semifinals and eventually go on to beat G2 2-0 in the finals to claim another international title.

NIP became the first team to win a major international title with a stand in player.

They would continue to use Maikelele for EPICENTER and the Season 4 Pro League Finals. At EPICENTER, NIP were sent home in the group stages. At the Pro League finals, the last tournament for Maikelele under the NIP banner, the Swedes managed to secure a top four spot in the tournament, losing out to eventual runners-up, SK Gaming in the semifinals.

On November 6, 2016, two weeks before the IEM Oakland tournament, pyth was deemed fit to play, and Maikelele was made a free agent.

IEM Oakland came around, and NIP had reverted to the roster that they had at the start of 2016. Once again, many were unsure of how NIP would perform due to their overall inconsistencies throughout the year, as well as the reintroduction of pyth.

NIP finished third in their group at IEM Oakland, behind FaZe and SK. This ensured their qualification into the playoffs. Their first match in the elimination rounds would be the Brazilian side, Immortals.

This looked like a comfortable win for NIP for the most part, as they were able to smash and grab an easy 2-0 victory over the Brazilian side. Their semifinals match against FaZe Clan was a hotly contested affair that could’ve gone either way, but it ended up going NIP’s way with a 2-1 victory over the European side.

They would then head into the finals and meet SK Gaming. SK dominated the first map, winning 16-4 on Train. The next two maps, Cache and Cobblestone, were hotly contested by both sides, and both finished in a 16-14 victory for NIP. Perhaps it was a bit of that NIP magic aiding them, but nevertheless, NIP managed to claim their third international title after an up and down year.

The Swedish rollercoaster ride would take a steep nose dive, as things became far, far worse for the Ninjas In Pyjamas.

The House Of Horrors (late 2016-2017)

After another quarterfinals berth at the second season of ELEAGUE competition, it was time to qualify for their major.

What could have been seen as a rollercoaster ride for the Ninjas turned into a house of horrors ride for them in just under a month. Up and down form became down, and the absolute lowest of low was at the major qualifier.

A comfortable win for NIP kicked off their qualifying campaign, a nice 16-9 over the Renegades. A loss in overtime on Overpass vs. HellRaisers meant that NIP had a 1-1 record in the Swiss qualifying format.

NIP then suffered a loss in regulation time (16-9) on Overpass to go 1-2.

The killing blow came from Vega Squadron.

A 16-2 loss to the CIS side on Cache ensured that NIP’s qualifying campaign died, right there. As if art imitates life, the sharks hunted for the bloody and wounded NIP, and finished them off.

NIP had attended every CS:GO major up until the ELEAGUE Major.

This raised many questions about NIP.

Where to from here? What’s next? Are changes going to be made?

In 2017, the Ninjas looked like they were out of their pyjamas, out of their comfort zone and into something frightening for them. Dreamhack Vegas yielded disappointing results for them against Astralis in the playoffs – the match did not even look like a contest.

In Katowice, it was even worse for them, failing to get out of groups.

On March 13, 2017, NIP would bench pyth and bring in draken from Epsilon.

The roster now looks like:

  • GeT_RiGhT
  • Xizt
  • f0rest
  • friberg
  • draken

However, the StarLadder Season 3 result mirrored the Katowice result, a failure to get out of groups.

At cs_summit, they placed 6th after being knocked out by Cloud9 in a well contested best of three. Although, they failed to pick up any maps and unfortunately, ended their tournament tenure with a 2-0 loss to the North American side.

Their online form also took a drastic hit, with them failing to qualify for Pro League Finals for Season 5.

Most recently, NIP failed to qualify for the PGL Europe Minor, which means now they have no chance of qualifying for the major.

Unexpected losses were on the board for the most part, as they lost to iGame 16-7 on Train and Red Reserve 16-4 on Cobblestone.

They managed to claim a victory over Epsilon, but that glory was short lived as they were shut down by Space Soldiers 16-5 on Cobblestone.

The rollercoaster of results, the constant up, down, up, down took a sharp nose dive – straight down into a house of horrors for NIP. Usually, if they are in some sort of rut or point of low form, historically, we see them bounce back and climb up to some decent placings. Whether that’s a touch of NIP magic or them temporarily reigniting their fire, they’ve always found a way.

Unfortunately, it has not looked like they have been able to find a way.

This is the worst NIP have looked in a long time, in fact, this slump here last happened in 2014, during their last few months with Fifflaren. Otherwise, it’s been up, down, up down, up, down and now, just down.

Looking Back At 2016

NIP, at times, have had unexpected tournament runs and wins over opponents that on any other given day, they would lose to. CS:GO analyst and historian Thorin coined the term “NIP Magic” to describe this.

It is a bit far back, but if we take a look at Malmo – their first international title of 2016, they were able to get out of their group with a 2-1 record, beating Lounge and ousting Astralis in the best of three decider match, which stretched over all three maps. A close 2-0 by NIP against VP in the quarters, a close 2-1 series vs. GODSENT and finally a close, but clean BO3 vs. Na’Vi to secure the title.

This victory after a poor placing at IEM Katowice, and then the subsequent online/offline run which ended with a 2nd place finish at Dreamhack Summer.

Poor finishes at ECS & Cologne, only to go and win StarLadder with a stand in. Though, funnily enough, NIP looked the strongest at StarLadder. Their wins throughout the tournament were, for the most part, convincing.

Their win at IEM Oakland? Unexpected. Despite beating up Immortals in the quarterfinals, the rest of their playoff matches were close affairs and on any other day, maybe the results could have gone the other way. They could have easily lost the semifinals and the finals 2:0, but they did not. Hence, it felt like that Oakland victory was some NIP Magic.

The StarLadder victory looked to be the victory where NIP seemed like they had actually hit their stride again.

All of these tournament runs are unexpected. Headed into the tournament, not many would have said that NIP would secure the tournaments that they did. Their victories in all of these tournaments were, to an extent & can be described a, magical, largely due to the fact that they came out of nowhere.

Here’s the thing. Nobody really knows what makes a professional player click, whether in an esport or in a sport. Nobody knows how, or why one day a player, or collectively, a team are on fire and then the next day they’re cold. In Counter-Strike, we can speculate that it’s a role change or internal team issues, but there are many other factors that we may not even know about.

There is something that we need to ask ourselves.

The Questions

Has the skill level of the core of the NIP roster declined?

Has the skill level of other teams increased?

Or is it both?

Look back at the roster moves that NIP made after the departure of Fifflaren. All of them have been to replace the one outside of the core. Xizt, friberg, GeT_RiGhT & f0rest remained, but the outsiders were constantly rotated out.

Maikelele, allu & pyth have all been rotated out, perhaps as injections of freshness to a side that is relatively old. The fact that you have a core of four and constantly replace only one means, to an extent, that you are still predictable. The other teams will know what style of Counter Strike you are going to play, no matter how many times that one player is constantly rotated out, because, more than likely, no matter who they bring in, they’re going to have to adjust to the style that’s already set.

What is interesting to me, is Astralis were the same, to an extent. Under TSM they had the same five. They formed Astralis and the core became four, with cajunb being replaced by Kjaerbye, and then karrigan being replaced by gla1ve. The Danes came to a conclusion to remove two players that they’ve played with for a while, two players that were apart of their core & improvements came. Albeit those changes were not at the same time, and the improvement came when gla1ve was introduced, but the point stands. The core of Xyp9x/device/dupreeh remained, but they brought in two players that they thought could breathe some fresh air into their team, and it happened. They went on to collect several accolades and build an impressive rivalry with FaZe Clan in such a short amount of time.

The thing with Astralis was that they recognised they were slumping, recognised they were underperforming and made changes to fix that. NIP have more or less rode it out and now are in a situation where they will more than likely have to make one or more changes, and that change cannot be just rotating the fifth man out.

Astralis had a core, made two changes and set themselves on a winning path. Their situation was different, but the changes they made were for the better. A breath of fresh air.

A core can stand only for so long before the other teams just know what you’re going to do. You can try to test a new style, but ultimately if it does not work, you are going to go back to what works & most teams are used to what works for NIP by now.

This is just theory, of course.

It has felt like the skill level of NIP has decreased significantly, whilst the skill of top level teams has increased slightly. Top teams have slowly been improving, hence the multi-team dominance we have been seeing within the last year and a bit.

The tier 2 and tier 3 team skill level could also be increasing, but shouldn’t be at that level where they can upset NIP offline and online, unless, NIP’s fall was that bad that these lower tier teams are able to outclass them now, which should not be happening, under any circumstance.

The two questions then split and branch off into other questions, such as:

  • What do they do from here?
  • What is the source of the slump?
  • How long will it be before NIP reverses this?
  • By the time they reverse this, will it be too late?

The questions just keep on sprouting, and nobody really knows the answer to any of these.

To conclude…

NIP’s drastic dip in form is disappointing, and to an extent heartbreaking. It is incredibly difficult to see legendary players suffer like this, and so quickly. To think just 8 months ago they were on the top once again, and now they will not be seen at a major anytime soon.

Likening NIP’s form to a rollercoaster ride seemed accurate. 2012-2014 were the years of steady climbing, just like a coaster does. Grinding to the top, and then hanging there for some time. The end of an era in 2014 marked a small drop, a tiny scare towards the end of the year. Then, back up in 2015, then down, then up, then down with the wide variety of results. The coaster effect came into full force in 2016, with more drops than ups, but the ups were the highest of highs, which made the drop into the house of horrors that much worse.

NIP have entered their own house of horrors.

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