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Ninjas in Pyjamas return to EU LCS with familiar faces but many questions

“The opposite of a super team.” “Bound to fail.” Can NiP exceed extremely low expectations?

Riot Games

It’s been a long time since the Ninjas in Pyjamas, one of the oldest esports organizations in Europe, have dabbled in League of Legends. Originally a Counter-Strike team, the organization was founded in 2000, but previously only fielded a League of Legends roster from May 2013 through September 2014.

NiP’s return to European LoL was officially announced Wednesday, with a roster that drew raised eyebrows and loud criticism on social media. The reason: zero members of the Fnatic Academy team that won the spot NiP purchased were included.

Now, there’s an important caveat here. NiP tried to sign some of Fnatic Academy’s players, but the players took a risk and delivered an ultimatum: sign all of us, or get none of us.

NiP chose the latter option, instead pulling together a rag-tag group of forgotten and/or inexperienced Korean imports and EU LCS veterans.

Understandably, Fnatic Academy’s former roster wasn’t too happy with how their gamble turned out.

And reception to the roster ... well, it could have been better.

Profit played nine games with SKT in LCK Spring, posting a 4-1 record on Nautilus and 3-0 on Rumble. Nagne, likely the biggest name on the roster, was on the Season 3 NaJin Black Sword team that lost to SKT in the Worlds semifinals. He moved to KT Rolster, where he started in the mid lane in 2015, and virtually disappeared since. He last played a competitive game in August 2016, in the LSPL (China’s Challenger division, which his team was relegated from), and last played in a top region in 2015.

Shook started on the Alliance team that won EU LCS Summer 2014, and the Dutch jungler has moved between LCS teams since, most recently staying with Vitality. He did not play in any games this spring, but was the team’s primary jungler in 2016. HeaQ, from Estonia, made his LCS debut this spring with Giants Gaming, playing 42 games for the team that was ultimately relegated. sprattel, a 23-year-old Swedish support, spent the spring in the Challenger Series, but has played 63 career EU LCS games.

Back to the history.

As part of a post-2012 relaunch, NiP bought the League of Legends roster of the Copenhagen Wolves, joining the EU LCS for the Season 3 Summer Split.

That team featured future Team SoloMid superstar Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, and saw appearances from a litany of players that would go on to do bigger things, like future Riot caster Martin "Deficio" Lynge, Bjergsen’s future TSM teammate Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen and future Renegades/H2K bot laner Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek.

NiP ended the regular season in fifth place, at the bottom of a four-way tie at 15-13. That was enough to make the playoffs in what was an eight-team league, but NiP finished in sixth out of six playoff teams after losses to Gambit Gaming and Team ALTERNATE.

Despite making the playoffs, NiP was sent to the Promotion Tournament to play for their LCS fate as one of the bottom three teams. Playing with a new roster that no longer had Bjergsen or Deficio, the only two NiP players to start every Summer Split game, NiP was swept by a Polish team that would become Team ROCCAT.

One more chance for re-qualification was offered to replace LemonDogs, now kicked out of the league. NiP was disqualified for not being able to field a full lineup, and went down to the Challenger Series.

NiP performed pretty well in its one season in Challenger, finishing in first or second each split. But the team was unable to win qualification to EU LCS, and NiP disbanded the team in September 2014.

Now NiP is back, with a roster facing plenty of criticism before the season has even started. If any success will come to this team, it will likely come out of the bottom lane, where both players have been solid performers at the EU LCS level. We’ve seen teams like this, with language barriers and imports that seem to be there for the sake of having imports, fail time and time again. With low expectations set, anything above last place in group play would likely be a significant achievement.