Another day, another embarrassing elimination for the Ninjas in Pyjamas. Yet again, there are redeeming factors to consider, but there comes the point where they no longer weigh enough with all the evidence mounting up on the other side of the scale.
It’s now been almost four years since Aleksib’s last notable tournament win, failing to make push things past the line as part of three different orgs. Taken individually, they can all be explained away – and as a fan of underdog IGLs, I would very much love to do so. It’s getting tougher by the minute.
Has there been a team in recent memory that more consistently performed below expectations than Aleksib’s NiP? Well, come to think of it, there was G2 in the first half of last year. Oh. Right. For what it’s worth, the Finn’s recent travails read like a nightmare come true for a systems-based in-game leader: non-stop unplanned roster shakeups with the hiccupping Ninjas, preceded by a complete stylistic mismatch at G2 with their coach at the time (and likely the players involved as well.)
While both rosters turned out to be less than the sum of their parts, at least you can easily pinpoint at reasons why they didn’t work. As for OG, you can dive into the numbers and find that they weren’t as notorious chokers as the anecdotes tell you, but Aleksi still did less with more than he did during his breakout time at ENCE.
So where are the players of that all-Finnish squad today? Well, they are mostly finished. Self-assigned super sus Machiavallu is deservedly floundering in the nth tier of Nordic Counter-Strike on JANO Esports. Meanwhile, sergej preferred real-life Army service to a continued involvement with professional CS:GO.
As for Aerial and XseveN. They now ply their trade for HAVU, the sort of org with the sort of performances you would have expected out of ENCE when they first emerged onto the scene. Their sixth man, Twista, caught the coaching bug and Valve won’t be working with him again, if you know what I mean.
Clearly, it was not the firepower that propelled that ENCE squad to those incredible heights. So why does it seem like Aleksi’s skillset is non-transferable, and why does he keep on ending up with projects that turn out to be a poor fit for his personality and calling strategy?
Perhaps we should zoom out, then zoom in, than zoom out again. Much like Brollan, who seems to owe his entire professional career to a misjudged buff to CS:GO’s scoped rifles, ENCE emerged at a time when the AUG and the Krieg were exceptionally strong, making the metagame heavily CT-sided and allowing for much stronger site holds than usual. Indeed, if you flip through ENCE’s games at the 2019 Katowice Major, their wins are characterized by superior CT sides.
The AUG and the Krieg also served as a significant equalizer among the players, narrowing the gap between the best riflers and the rest of them. Again, there’s a delicious irony in Brollan’s presence on this NiP squad, who’s been an inconsistent shadow of his former self ever since the guns have been nerfed in April 2020, as evidenced by his HLTV stats page:
The Ninjas’ catastrophic and hodgepodge squad construction explains away the rest. Signing the Cristiano Ronaldo of CS turned out about as well for them as it did for Manchester United, k0nfig carries a clear and heavy personality baggage outside the server and headtr1ck seems like a spectacularly misjudged pickup in firepower, communication, personality and age alike.
It’s not the first time things went wrong. Here’s NiP’s roster overview since 2020, after the last of the legendary five stepped away. It’s not a timeline, it’s a tornado.
Even with all this in mind, Aleksib’s adaptability has to be called into question – both in terms of the metagame of the CS:GO matches, and all the relevant clichés about distant icy Nordic personalities vis-à-vis fiery leadership things. Ultimately, for someone whose job is to predict and mold the events inside the server, his decisions to join certain orgs don’t suggest great strategies or predictive powers. Despite all of the above, going out from ESL Pro League in the fashion they just did is inexcusable.
I’m still holding out hope, but I’d be hard-pressed to explain why. The rise of the original ENCE roster was one of my favorite storylines in CS:GO esports, and I’ve been around since the Jönköping Major. It would be a shame if the in-game leader of that merry bunch ended up going the same way as the rest of them have.