Photo: By Adela Sznjader for DreamHack
A majority of CS:GO lineups hit their ceiling around the six to nine month period after the roster has formed. In the case of NiP their current roster formed on June 5th, 2018 and has been going for longer than nine months. It consists of: Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg, Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, Fredrik “REZ” Sterner, Dennis “dennis” Edman, Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson, and Faruk “pita” Pita. While NiP are a top eight team in the world, they have hit their ceiling. The nine months of results are in and NiP have nowhere else left to grow. At this point, NiP need to make a roster move in the next one to two months if they wish to climb the world rankings.
The Results are in
When examining the strength and potential of a roster, the first step is to look at their LAN results. These are the results NiP accrued in the past nine months:
Faceit Major – 9-11th
IEM Katowice 2019 Major – Top 8
Results at International LANS:
2nd – BLAST Copenhagen
3rd – BLAST Istanbul
Top 4 – DreamHack Masters Stockholm
Top 4- ECS Season 6 Finals
5th-6th – EPICENTER 2018
5-6th: CS:GO Asia Championships
13-16th – ESL One Cologne 2018
6th – BLAST Lisbon
Among these results, we can ignore the 5-6th place at CS:GO Asia Championships and the team bombing out of ESL One Cologne. While all results count when determining a legacy, when determining the strength of the current roster it has less baring. At those tournaments, dennis was still the in-game leader. As that’s the case, they don’t give a good indication of how the NiP’s overall performance with lekr0 as in-game leader.
That still leaves us with a ton of data to look into as this NiP roster has played at two majors and six other international tournaments. Here is a breakdown of their W-L records across all eight tournaments.
Bo3: 2-1 Ghost, 2-0 Heroic, 2-0 Swole, 2-0 North, 2-1 Vega, 2-1 VG, 2-1 Vitality
Bo1: NRG x3, Virtus.Pro x2, TyLoo, Astralis x2, Mouz, Vega, Cloud9 x2, MIBR, Furia, HellRaisers
Bo3: 0-2 Astralis, 1-2 MIBR, 1-2 AVANGAR. 0-2 FaZe, 0-2 Na`Vi, 1-2 Astralis, 0-2 MIBR, 0-2 Astralis
Bo1: Liquid x2, Na`Vi, Space Soldiers, Astralis x2, Na`Vi x2, Cloud9, MIBR, Renegades, Winstrike
Draws: MIBR, FaZe, FaZe
This is a brief summary that doesn’t take into account different rosters for the teams like MIBR, Cloud9, or Liquid. Even then, the results are fairly indicative of where NiP are as a team. They consistently beat a majority of the teams below them while losing to teams that are ranked above them. In bo3 series, they have been unable to secure a single victory against top teams in the world (Mouz, Astralis, FaZe, MIBR, Liquid, or Na`Vi). They are a solid bo1 team that has a good chance to upset better teams like NRG, Astralis, and MIBR.
If you look at NiP’s best runs, they fall along these lines. IEM Katowice 2019 Major, DreamHack Stockholm, and ECS Season 6 Finals are all runs predicated on beating teams I’d consider weaker than them. The BLAST tournaments have a format predicated on bo1s and thus NiP have gotten their best results at BLAST Pro Series.
With nine months under their belt and this many tournaments played, it is improbable that NiP will suddenly be able to rise up to the next level.
A Lack of a Polarizing Identity
The results are fairly conclusive, so what about in-game? In terms of map pool, they have four good maps: Nuke, Mirage, Overpass, and Train. Those set of maps allows them to be a good bo1 upset team as a majority of teams don’t play the combination of Nuke, Overpass, and Train.
While that map pool is alright for the level NiP are currently at, if they want to get to the next level, they need to be able to play at least five maps at an elite level. As it stands, their inferno, cache, and dust2 don’t stand up to the elite sides of the world.
The map pool is good, not great. In a way, it’s a reflection of NiP’s biggest problem. The team lack specialty or identity that will allow them to compete with the top 5 teams in the world. F0rest touched in this in an interview with Allan Hender, where he said,
“I think we are still trying to define our style and we are still not really certain on how we should approach T side. On Mirage we have a lot of executes, on Overpass we might play more aggressively as T, try to get up in their faces very fast without set strats. It all depends on the map, depends on the mood.”
If we’re examining NiP’s firepower, they have a good spread of skill across the lineup. While NiP have a good amount of skill, they haven’t built their team identity based off of it. They don’t play individually like the old FaZe clan does nor do they build the team around polarizing stars like NRG. On the other end of the spectrum, NiP have some tactics and teamplay, but once again they aren’t masters of it. If we’re comparing NiP to teams around their level, both Renegades and ENCE have better teamplay and structure relative to NiP as they’ve built their core identity around that style of Counter-Strike.
A working system, but not perfect
While I’ve been critical of the NiP system, it is the best that NiP can manage right now. There are no experienced in-game leaders in the NiP team. When dennis was brought to the team, he was a makeshift leader meant to hold the role until a new leader was found. NiP never found one and things broke down at ESL One Cologne 2018 and that was when lekr0 took up the role.
Since then lekr0 and pita have built a functional team structure that has created a decent foundation for NiP. They play around two core styles: defaults predicated on aggression and trade-fragging and executes. In general, the typical NiP game plan is to run their default until it runs into a wall. After that, they revert to set executes to throw off their opponent and get back into the game.
While it isn’t the best system, it does it’s job. As that’s the case, the next thing we have to look at are the roles and balance of the team. This team has three star players: f0rest, REZ, and lekr0. Dennis and GeT_RiGhT play more supportive roles, though the terms only fits nominally in this particular case. Both players have some of their classic positions (Dennis playing aggressively on Overpass or GeT_RiGhT in inner nuke), but they are largely ancillary elements in NiP. As for the AWP it switches hands between four of the five players.
In terms of strict roles on the T-side, it’s fairly variable, but the general archetypes seem to have REZ, dennis, and GeT_RiGhT swap off as entry-fraggers (GeT_RiGhT usually taking the most sacrificial entry positions) while f0rest and lekr0 follow up and trade them. GeT_RiGhT will play the passive wing while the others take map control in the default.
The system works, but the problem is that almost none of the players play up to their perceived level of ability. When you look at teams like Astralis, ENCE, or Renegades, each player looks like a perfect fit for the role they are playing in the team. In turn that allows each of them to excel individually. Outside of f0rest, you can’t say the same for any of NiP’s players. REZ is a star player, but he plays some fairly hard roles. GeT_RiGhT has been relegated to a supportive element and does his job, but this has made him struggle individually. Dennis has been in his worst career form since joining NiP. Lekr0 is good individually, but has become more inconsistent the longer he holds onto the leadership role.
Thus we come to the crux of the individual skill problem for NiP. If f0rest is a primary star, then I don’t see how the team can reach elite status. F0rest is great against lower tier opposition, and can have a flashback tournament every once in awhile against elite teams, but that isn’t a consistent win condition. While f0rest is a legend and is doing amazing things for his age, it’s not possible for him to become an elite star that can carry a team to championship contender status.
To reach the next level of international competition, NiP’s only answer is to make roster changes.
Where to go from here?
As I’ve stated previously, NiP are good in a variety of different areas. They have good individual players and a working, but imperfect system. For them to improve then, they need to become one of the best in one of these particular areas: skill, tactics, or teamplay.
In terms of roster changes, REZ and lekr0 have to stay. They are the future of the squad. REZ is currently the best player on the team considering the roles he plays. Lekr0 is their current in-game leader and in the case that NiP ever do find another in-game leader, he can go back to being a star player.
When I look at this team, the three players that NiP need to consider are dennis, GeT_RiGhT and f0rest. Dennis is the most obvious choice as he doesn’t fit this team and has been performing individually badly for a long period of time. While he can be a great player, it will not be for this team. At this point, it’s best for both parties to split as the longer dennis continues to play for NiP, the more likely it is that he loses his own sense of game.
The other two choices are GeT_RiGhT and f0rest. It’s unlikely either of them will be booted given their importance to the brand and marketing of NiP. Even so, if NiP want to go up in the world they need to consider what exactly it is each of these two bring to the team. F0rest is a good player with great longevity, but he isn’t an elite star player. If f0rest was the third or fourth best player on the team, then it might be possible for him to play on a top five team in the world.
As for GeT_RiGhT, he isn’t a star player for this team and hasn’t been for a long time. As that’s the case, we have to judge him by a different standard. In terms of the eye test, GeT_RiGhT plays the roles he’s given to an adequate level and can have some nice impact. Overall though, his individual skill is lacking. He is another player NiP have to consider moving, but it’s a bit harder to justify than dennis as he plays his roles and isn’t a resource heavy player. On top of that he also brings some intangible factors with him that likely boost the team like his unmatched work ethic.
In terms of tactics and teamplay, the biggest problem for NiP is that they are an all Swedish team. Sweden has a complete lack of in-game leaders right now so while the tactics could be improved, there is no viable answer beyond hoping that lekr0 will develop into that type of leader moving forward.
The Clock is Ticking
If money or motive was no object, then the NiP solution is fairly simple. You recruit Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson and/or Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer to create the Swedish super team. However both moves seem currently impossible. KRIMZ just signed a three year contract with Fnatic. Olofmeister has no reason to leave FaZe as they are the better team.
Normally the next answer then is to bring up young up-and-coming, but NiP and Fnatic have seemingly gone through the majority of the obvious prospects at this point. The only other alternative that I can think of is for NiP to go international. The problem with that is Swedish teams across all of esports are notorious for playing along national lines, especially when the original core of the team has had success at some point in the past.
As it currently stands then, I believe the only answer left is to go international. Teams like FaZe, Mouz, and BIG have shown that such rosters can work. NiP have shown that they are willing to go down that path in the past with Aleski “allu” Jalli and at this juncture, it looks to be their only out left.
NiP are currently at a crossroads. Today it was announced that William “draken” Sundein is standing-in for NiP while dennis takes a break due to “energy fatigue”. While draken isn’t the answer for NiP, removing dennis is.
For NiP, the next two months will be critical. It generally takes a new lineup about three to four months to peak. With the next Major at StarLadder, NiP will need to make a decision soon if they want to defend their Legends spot. After all, their IEM Katowice 2019 run was shaky. They scraped through both group stages with a 3-2 score and then Astralis battered them. While getting to that playoff was a good accomplishment, there is no guarantee that they can do it again come six months.
Beyond all of the problems that the current team suffers, the biggest issue for NiP is their competition. There are multiple teams that are coming up that can easily knock them out of their current place in the world. NRG recruited Tarik “tarik” Celik. Mouz is rebuilding around Finn “karrigan” Andersen. If Cloud9 can secure Miikka “suNny” Kempp, they could already compete with NiP. BIG are just one move away from being another top 8 contender. If the French ever decide to combine the best elements of G2 and Vitality together or take an international route, they can be dangerous as well. North is still a team that could improve in the upcoming months and challenge NiP. With so many teams on the horizon, NiP must make a move. If they just stand still, the rest of the scene will leave them in the dust.