In the deep, dark forests of a meme-filled ESL Pro League group stage match, salvation finally came to the doubt-torn land of Bosnia. There is no other explanation for the sudden flick of the mental switch that saw NiKo go from target dummy to Terminator against M80. In a flash, every flick worked and all little movements felt just right, in a way it hasn’t for a long time for the Bosnian superstar. Could it be that he finally started to feel those tiny little changes from Global Offensive to its sequel? If so, that would be a terrifying sight for everyone involved.

Let’s face it, G2 aren’t exactly having a pristine campaign so far, and they don’t have much to show in terms of return on investment in the Counter-Strike 2 era, with a string of semifinal showings and receipts of some embarrassing eliminations in the winter in the cobwebbed trophy cabinet. A big part of this is NiKo’s drop in form, going from the world’s best rifler to a regular pretty good one instead, to the extent that one had to wonder whether the secret sauce had a 2024 expiration date.

Heading into ESL Pro League’s April 28 action, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the stinky smell was the rot that set in on G2 rather than that moldy box of forgotten pizza in the corner of your room that you keep forgetting to throw out. The international squad already put up the meme result of the group stage with their loss to M80, and the rematch proved to be box office gold – and not just because of the Lord of the Rings sketch in the break.

NiKo called this “one of the longest weeks” in his career, and he was clearly flagging by the time the second CS2 match against M80 came around, starting out 6-15 as the map was hanging in the balance at 9-9 – a clear improvement for G2 when compared to the blowout they suffered on the map the last time they battled the North Americans, but still not quite good enough to close things out in regulation. Ultimately, we would see three overtimes and perhaps also witness the rebirth of the NiKo we know and love.

His actions against M80 in the second half of Ancient were filthy, disgusting, X-rated, not acceptable in polite company, brutal, inhuman, and, to be honest, quite titillating, too. Truly, it was as if someone had flipped a switch, almost like he could finally see the code again.

He could do it in back-to-back rounds too, no problem:

And by the time Inferno rolled around, we got to see some of those confidence plays as well:

Isn’t it good to have him back?

We’ve been through various iterations of NiKosports over the years, and it’s the beauty and the tragedy of pro-level Counter-Strike that not even the greatest of talents can solo carry a team past the finish line. There was no Major for s1mple until the supporting cast could finally contribute in earnest, and as for NiKo, well, there was no Major to date, period. Still, having the monster carry option in your back pocket again would be a pretty damn good thing to have.

G2 have now confirmed themselves a spot in the playoffs, avoiding another huge embarrassment in the Pro League.

The future of this lineup still hangs in the balance, with m0NESY rumored to be looking elsewhere, huNter- dropping some of his fabled consistency, question marks still cropping up around HooXi and his output, and neither nexa nor jks rounding out the quintet quite how one would expect. No matter what comes next, if NiKo finally found his quill and got ready to write a new chapter, it would be as good as three other signings combined.