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From seven per cent to the Berlin Major: versatile Wizard and IGL Kamikaze have turned NiP’s fortunes around

Ninjas in Pyjamas are back on the international scene.

Note: A previous version of this article and headline stated the incorrect figure "six per cent", instead of "seven per cent".

It is often said that winners never quit, and quitters never win. Ninjas in Pyjamas are now certainly a living representation of the expression. 

Following a tumultuous first stage, which ended with the departure of Julio “JULIO” Giacomelli from the team, Ninjas in Pyjamas are back on the international scene after a dramatic qualification to the Berlin Major.

Although the shinobis didn’t qualify as cleanly as they would have hoped, they got the job done. A seven per cent chance of making the Copa Elite Six prior to the BR6’s final week was sufficient, as three victories in NiP’s final three games saw the team climb up to fourth.

Joao “Kamikaze” Gomes, one of the only two remaining players from NiP’s original roster, revealed that the team always believed in their chances despite feeling the pressure. “Of course there was pressure, we knew that we needed the [SI] points, but if we got stuck thinking so far ahead in the Invitational, we would cave under pressure.”

All players in the squad knew that winning the final three games would put them with 15 points, a tally that’s usually enough to sneak into the top four. Despite what the standings looked like, the ninjas were well in the race for the Major. 

“We focused on that, get to 15 points and if we didn’t classify, we at least did a good campaign, better then on the first split where we got last,” said Kamikaze.

After a weak Stage 1, Ninjas in Pyjamas’ last two months were also largely shaky. Julio’s was replaced with hot prospect Gustavo “Wizard” Gomes, as NIP took to the formula set by others in the region. Marcus "Sneepy" Matos, a well-regarded IGL in Brazil, was also signed from the second-tier to coach the team and replace Dyjair "Mity" Soares.

“[Parting ways with Julio] wasn’t an easy decision, because he is a guy who played with us for a long time, we have nothing but love for him,” Kamikaze recalled.

While it was successful for NiP, playing the tier-two gamble always has its risks, though. Players must quickly adapt to the top-flight while not crumbling under the pressure. However, Kamikaze and the rest of the squad had Wizard’s back. 

Kamikaze also quickly went through some of NiP’s signings, as he pointed out that Murilo “Muzi” Moscatelli (signed Mar. 2019) and Gabriel “pino” Fernandes (Oct. 2019) are past examples of the team’s trust in Brazil’s second tier. 

“We always trusted in Tier 2 players, Murilo [Muzi] didn’t even play competitively and Pino hadn't played in a long time, so we always trusted these young players,” he said.

When asked about other potential candidates considered to replace Julio, Kamikaze mentioned that the team had explored the option to sign w7m’s Diego “Kheyze” Zanello but “the negotiations didn’t advance.”

But, like magic, Wizard slotted into the NiP roster seamlessly and was one of the best NIP players by SiegeGG Rating in the initial weeks of Stage 2.

“Wizard’s adaptation went smoothly, he’s a good kid, he can do any function, he understands everything we say, he has good communication, he is super helpful and is always helping us. It went really well, he has such a good heart and always accepts criticism and never argues with us, he’s a good guy,” said Kamikaze, effusive in his praise for his young teammate.

But, despite Wizard’s strengths, NiP were struggling in the BR6. A drastic change was needed and immediate impact was demanded. 

Enter Kamikaze. Midway through the stage, he was made the IGL of the roster and, according to the man himself and by the results posted, the team has done pretty well since.

Kamikaze revealed that Psycho struggled while IGLing, which led to the dip in results and the switch to Kamikaze being handed more IGL responsibility.

“Maybe in the future he will come back [to IGLing], now we are alternating in this function, so maybe he’ll come back to this function, maybe I’ll stay on it,” he finished. 

The change also seems to have had a great impact on the team’s dynamic and work ethic. According to Kamikaze, “everyone is giving their opinion on plays a lot more”, which is has helped the team improve. 

Ninjas in Pyjamas have been placed inside Group A; perhaps the Group of Death. The Brazilians share a group with XSET, Rogue, and DWG KIA. Kamikaze labels XSET as the team to beat for a few reasons, but especially because “they are from the region that won the SI.” 

Catch NiP on the international stage again at the Berlin Major, which will run from Aug. 15 to 21, and read up on everything you need to know about the event.