Looking at the teams starting at the beginning of IEM Oakland, not many people would have picked Ninjas in Pyjamas to win, eyeing SK Gaming or Natus Vincere instead. The Group Stage battles didn’t promise anything overly great for the Swedes, they barely qualified for the Playoffs, only saved by Cloud9’s win against Heroic. Despite all the difficulties they had to get over, the veterans still managed to pull off a surprising victory after a surprising victory, finally winning the IEM Oakland title itself.
Ninjas in Pyjamas didn’t have a very easy road to the Finals. Yes, normally, you would not be worried if NiP had to play against Immortals or FaZe Clan, as they did in the Round of 6 and Semifinals; however, this time things were a little bit different, because the Immortals lineup had the same score as the team at the top of Group A, Astralis, while FaZe Clan was the only team in the Group Stage to go 5-0. Normally, NiP were always stronger, but in this tournament, both teams were looking stronger than the newly whole NiP lineup.
In the Round of 6, NiP didn’t have a very hard time dispatching Immortals. First, they won 11 rounds as CT on Dust2 and then followed it up by going even (5-5) as Terrorists, which was enough to win them the whole map. Next, NiP played Cobblestone, one of the maps they’ve been struggling on recently. Their dominating 12-3 Terrorist fiesta almost ensured the Swedes a win. The Brazilians didn’t get back to business in the second half, losing it 1-4 and granting the map and match to Ninjas in Pyjamas.
After a relatively easy Round of 6, NiP found out what a difficult match is. The first map, Nuke, where Ninjas in Pyjamas have long held an advantage, being one of the first teams to get good at it, went to overtime after both teams won 10 Terrorist rounds. In the Overtime, however, NiP popped off on the CT side, winning 3 rounds as Counter Terrorists and 1 as Terrorists to clinch the series.
The next map to be played, Train, was one of the maps were Ninjas in Pyjamas get smashed quite often. That is precisely what happened in their match against FaZe Clan too. They lost 16-6, tying the score and making both teams play the decider match on Overpass. The last map was not easy at all. To the last rounds, it was very close, however, NiP managed to squeak out a win. 16-13
While Ninjas got through some hard matches to get there, the biggest battle awaited them in the Finals – SK Gaming, the one-time best in the world. Nobody was under the illusion that it would be an easy win for NiP, in fact, most people didn’t have much confidence in their ability to win the series. The first map, Train, dreaded by everyone who plays against SK, went just as one might expect. SK Gaming absolutely demolished NiP 16-4. The second map of the series, Cache, went much better for NiP. By that, we mean to say that they won. It was by no means easy, just like the decider match on Cobblestone. Both maps ended with the same score, 16-14. It was surprising to see NiP actually win on Cache and Cobblestone. Both maps aren’t what you’d call strong for the Swedes.
All in all, nobody can deny that Ninjas in Pyjamas showed up in a major way during the Playoffs. In the Finals, Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi showed up very well together with the rest of the team. To be honest, the whole squad played very well, performing at or close to their skill ceiling. Is it time to call Ninjas in Pyjamas the best CS:GO team in the world, though? No. This tournament had no Virtus.pro or Team Dignitas. Until you win against one or both of these teams, you can’t rest on your laurels.