A set of Swedes have made it deep into the tournament to delight the home crowd – the Ninjas in Pyjamas have continued their recent resurgence as they have confidently dispatched Heroic, but they now have a very different kind of challenge in the form of Astralis, the undisputed #1 team right now who have nevertheless shown against North that they are fallible. Is it time for some NiP magic and one of the biggest upsets of the year – or will this match mark the beginning of a procession as we get ready to roll out the red carpet for the team with the red star? There’s no way to tell for sure, but if you read on, we have a few interesting pointers to offer…
Whisper it, but NiP were quietly impressive so far in the event, flat-out winning a group not many would have expected them to get out of in the first place. NRG’s disappointing early exit began with the Swedes’ massive comeback from a 13-8 deficit on Train, a feat followed up by a 2-1 series win against a surprisingly impressive Ghost Gaming. In fact, the Ninjas remain completely undefeated throughout the event so far, continuing their return to form that began during the Europe minors, a win which was already a far cry from their 16-3 defeat to Cloud9 at Cologne a few months ago – a devastating performance, the memories of which they can now erase in front of a supportive crowd on home soil.
That being said, when CeRq and co. were the only top-ten opposition you’ve faced throughout your recent resurgence, there’s still a bit more to prove. Fortunately, it’s not just the results that have improved since NiP’s internal reorganization, but the quality of play has also shot up: it’s as if the guaranteed return to the major stage lifted some sort of weight off of f0rest’s shoulders: the veteran has rolled back the years at Stockholm so far, going +45 on three maps. Better yet, he isn’t alone in this respect: REZ has also been excellent, posting a +41 score throughout the event to date – and this team does have a knack for picking up unexpected tournament wins in this circuit, not to mention their mental edge historically over this particular line-up.
Of course, all this might seem like we’re clutching at straws when you consider who their opposition is…
What’s left to say about this Astralis side? Perhaps the crucial new development after the player break is that they are human after all. Losing to North in a best-of-three was a shocker, and you could argue that dropping a map to TyLoo in the decider also indicates that the Danes are not at their sterling best.
Even if that’s the case, they were so effective and terrifying against MiBR that it’s hard to look past them in this particular game. If you were to bet on an upset in the semi-final, watch out for a potential Mirage pick, a map which gla1ve and his merry men seem to have struggled on throughout this event – and if you’re looking for intangible advantages, keep in mind that the player break usually favors the chasing pack rather than the top dog – and we don’t yet have enough data to treat Astralis as an exception to this rule.
While they don’t seem to be prioritizing the events under its banner, keep in mind nonetheless that a win here would put the Danes in pole position for the Intel Grand Slam now that FaZe have thrown away their chance at getting a cool million dollars with their quarter-final defeat – if they ever needed an extra incentive, they’ve certainly got it now.
The winner of this tantalizing matchup will go on to face either mousesports or North in the grand final of DreamHack Stockholm – and you can’t help but feel that the winner of this particular match will take some sort of edge into the clash to end it all, either by virtue of being Astralis or due to the backing of the entire crowd: but if you want to know more about the other semi-final, be sure to check out this article.