Changing players in a roster, especially within the constantly oscillating world of Counter-Strike, can often be more art than science. There is no set time, laid out rules, methodology, or philosophy that sees unilateral application and success when it comes to swapping players. As such, the case of the Ninjas in Pyjamas roster is mind-wrenchingly interesting.
To change or not to change, to pick up new talent or to buyout veterans: these are the questions which plague the sub-conscious of NiP and their fanbase after every loss and every win, especially during the drastic times of change the Swedish scene has witnessed in the last six months.
It is not a matter of simply looking at their recent performances, analysing available talent and then putting a cube block into a square hole. The Ninjas are a team inundated with asterisks, ‘by-the-ways’, and contextualised relationships that make roster moves a strange dance of power and money.
It is no secret that in late 2015, the Ninjas in Pyjamas roster was on the verge of implosion. Organisational mishaps, shady dealings regarding tournament payouts and player salaries, all combined with poor results meant that it was unlikely the NiP core of four would make it into the New Year. Yet, new sizeable contracts, a change of organisational leadership and a reprimanding of past errors saw the only two changes made to the team being Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi for Aleksi “allu” Jalli and Björn “THREAT” Pers introduced as a coach.
While these two seemingly minor additions catalysed the squad back to the top of the CS:GO heap in 2016, as their results start to dip as time wears on, one can’t help wonder where NiP’s place was amongst the Swedish shuffle beginning in the middle of last year.
Certainly pyth and THREAT made a positive difference to the side, but pyth is hardly a world-beater and the coaching rule change largely nullified the IGL aspect of THREAT’s role. As such, the acquisition of pretty much any player from the GODSENT/Fnatic/Epsilon swaps would have been to their advantage… wouldn’t it?
Since 2012 and right up until the success of their Finish Overwatch side recently, NiP’s entire brand has been built around the personalities of Adam “friberg” Friberg, Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg and Richard “Xizt” Landström. They are, for the large part, what gave NiP their power and influence in the eSports space today. As such, simply trading away members of this four man group is to trade away the main assets of the entire organisation.
This is especially true for f0rest and Get_right, who are not only the main bodies out of this four-man core, but also the most skilled players. Trading away these two players would come at a hefty cost to both the brand of NiP and the actual depth of talent in the roster as well. Ideally, any moves that NiP makes should be done concerning the 5th man, to avoid shooting the four geese that lay the golden eggs.
How then, do you go about obtaining a talented fifth man that would fit in with the core?
Ideally the addition needs to be a Swedish AWPer, not assigned to any team or willing to leave his team; it’s certainly easier to write a job specification on paper than to actually acquire the perfect player. Jesper “JW” Wecksell, Joakim “disco doplan” Gidetun, Andreas “schneider” Lindberg and Simon “twist” Eliasson potentially fit the bill as a NiP’s fifth man.
Despite the numerous switching between teams, wheeling and dealing, and general chaos of rosters that all these players experienced, the NiP core persisted. This is largely due to the fact that only a very specific type of player would be a good fit for the roster; the only way for NiP to have had a real impact on the Swedish shuffles would be for the core to be a part of it.
In reality, this will likely never happen due to their tendency to reach a decent of level of success, regardless of how long the core has stuck together and the importance they have on the organisation itself. We can expect that in future Swedish roster changes, the NiP core and the rest of the scene will exist in a broken waltz that only NiP themselves can get back into step.