In the 6th spot of our Top 20 of 2013 by eSportsventure.com we have NiP's Richard "Xizt" Landström, who followed up his amazing 2012 with another great year during which he was in the upper echelon of fraggers and was one of the more consistent players.
Richard "Xizt" Landström started his international CS 1.6 career as an 18-year-old, taking part in DreamHack Winter 2009 with a team called ColdFrag that, among others, featured Markus "pronax" Wallsten and André "BARBARR" Möller.
2010 would become his breakout year, going on to star for H2k Gaming and Lions, teams that would finish 2nd at DH Summer and 3rd at DH Winter, which would later earn him the 18th spot on our Top 20 ranking.
He signed for fnatic at the end of the year and went on to have an even better 2011, finishing 13th on our Top 20. A few months into 2012 he took over as the team's in-game leader and they quickly climbed to the top of the world, winning Copenhagen Games, DreamHack Summer and GameGune.
But in the middle of the year he recognized the potential in CS:GO and went on to join SK Gaming's Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg in creating NiP. In the four months after that, the team won every possible title, never losing a match on LAN, making Landström the most successful player of the year considering the amount of tournaments he won in both games.
Coming into 2013, he was considered one of the very best players in the game, even putting in an MVP worthy performance at THOR Open, while at the same time being the team's in-game leader.
With more and more teams starting to challenge NiP, they were expected to have a tough year ahead of them. But it all started per usual, with a triumph in Fnatic FragOut League over Virtus.pro in the final, and then despite a loss to n!faculty in the first RC EMS One Spring Cup, they clinched the second one and went into Mad Catz Vienna in good shape.
With a 58-0 map record to defend, the Ninjas would not budge, going on to defeat all of their challengers and eventually take first place ahead of the Danish squad Anexis (16-13, 16-5). Landström himself had a great tournament, getting 0.79 kills per round and playing well in every single map.
Xizt had his own streak to keep going at the start of the year
A month later they began their long road trip with a tournament in Russia called TECHLABS Cup Moscow. They left with another title, beating Na`Vi and then Virtus.pro twice, while Landström prolonged his streak of having at least as many kills as deaths to 26 maps in a row on LAN, going back to THOR Open in December of 2012.
Furthermore, he was the team's 2nd best player with a 1.15 rating, which would prove to be a rare occasion for the rest of the year as his teammates Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg would continue to dominate at most tournaments.
Next up was Copenhagen Games where NiP again made light work of their opponents and won their 2nd title on the year, disposing of VeryGames, fnatic, Virtus.pro and Western Wolves at their final four steps.
NiP with their biggest CS:GO cheque until that point
Although Landström's streak was stopped at 30 maps after a 9:11 performance in a 16-4 win over Finnish Curse, he still went on to have a good event with the team's fourth best 1.16 rating. Also worth noting is that he particularly did well against VeryGames in the upper bracket quarter-final, having a 42:20 score (1.43 rating) in another big win over the Frenchmen.
The team's streak was 85-0 after Copenhagen Games ended and the pressure of keeping up with it was rising. Already the weekend after, NiP flew to Kiev, Ukraine for the SLTV StarSeries V Finals and prolonged it to 87-0 after beating ESC Gaming in the opening match.
But then Virtus.pro, a team that was visibly improving during the first few months of the year, finally managed to outplay the Ninjas, winning 14-16, 10-16 and putting an end to the over 7 months long winning streak.
Landström was perhaps the most motivated by the loss, as he put in a Man of the Match performance the next day (45:17, 1.71 rating) when the team demolished Na`Vi in the consolidation final (16-3, 16-5).
However, they wouldn't get their revenge as Virtus.pro denied them once again (15-19, 14-16), so Ninjas in Pyjamas went home with a 2nd place cheque for the first time in their history.
Nevertheless, Landström kept up with his great form and ended up with a 1.19 rating, 2nd best of the event and in his team.
"2012 was a great year and I think we had a lot of pressure on our shoulders going into 2013. The bigger our winning streak became we got more and more pressure from the community, everyone expected us to win without even losing a map.
The more you win you will subconsciously become more lazy and not practice as much, eventually that will come back you will have to pay for it. When we lost our first match, it was a huge relief for every one of us, all of that pressure was just gone. I'm really proud how we handled the defeat and we managed to come back and win even more."
He would not falter soon, following that up with probably his best performance of the year at RaidCall EMS One Spring Finals the next weekend, helping the team get back to winning ways, and again excelling against VeryGames.
Xizt played great at RC EMS One Spring Finals
As NiP beat the Frenchmen yet again in the semi-final of this tournament (16-33, 16-14), Landström was the top fragger with 53:32 (1.52 rating). While he didn't impress in the other matches, he did just enough to end up with his year-high 1.26 rating, good for being the 4th best at the event overall.
Before going on a deserved break, the Ninjas proved they were not shaken up by the Kiev defeat by winning another tournament, ESEA Season 13. Although VeryGames put up their best fight yet in the upper bracket final (16-14, 16-14), NiP went on to defeat Quantic in the grand final (16-10, 16-4) to close their spring season in style.
Although Landström didn't play against VG the same way as in previous events, he did top frag in the grand final against the North Americans with 47:22 (1.53), and he ended up as the 4th best player of the tournament once again (1.19 rating).
"My role in the team was to call the strats. In 1.6 I was more of a clutcher and I feel like that was my strong part, I think I was more of a highlight-reel guy back then.
When I switched over to being the IGL (and CS:GO) my role changed a lot. I'm doing everything for the team to win, I would say I have some sort of "middle" role in the team, trying to do all the small things good and doing everything for the team to win.
I can't really think of a match where I played lights out individually, I just tried to stay consistent and doing the small things good and just playing for the team to win."
Upon returning from their spring break in the middle of May, NiP would start off rusty, losing to Copenhagen Wolves and Western Wolves in two consecutive RC EMS One Summer cups, and later only qualifying for the LAN finals by the skin of their teeth – on superior round difference despite only beating Anexis, and losing to both fnatic and Team X in the group stage.
They also lost the final of Fnatic FragOut Season 2 against LDLC.com, so the team was in visibly poor shape going into DreamHack Summer mid-June.
Xizt & the rest of NiP weren't in great shape before DH Summer
As soon as the tournament in Jönköping kicked off, it was obvious the Ninjas were not playing like themselves, losing to Western Wolves 2-16 in their group's first place decider. They then had to play for 2nd place versus Publiclir.se (also known as Team X), but things became very difficult.
The best team in the world found themselves on a slippery slope, losing round after round and eventually facing elimination at 10-15. They won one round, but then quickly went down to a 2-on-5 situation at 11-15, and it was all down to Landström and his teammate Adam "friberg" Friberg to save the day.
And then in what ended up being one of the most iconic moments of the year, as well as in the history of CS:GO, Landström managed to get the defuse in a smoke to prevent his team from getting eliminated.
Xizt's 1vs3 defuse against Publiclir.se at DreamHack Summer [Video by ESEA]
"2013 was a really successful year for us and I had a lot of fun. If I have to pick one special moment it would be my ninja defuse against Publiclir.se in the DHS group stage. We were down 11-15 and me and friberg were in a 2on5 situation, and somehow we managed to win and after that we came back really strong and won the whole tournament."
It all seemed easy for the Swedes after that boost of confidence, as if that moment magically restored their skills. Even though Copenhagen Wolves gave them a scare in the quarter-final (14-16, 16-3, 16-10), NiP went on to prove they really are the best team in the world, defeating their new big rivals Virtus.pro with ease in the semi-final (16-6, 16-9) and then Epsilon in the final (16-5, 16-2).
Landström overall had his worst tournament yet with a 1.01 rating, but he still made great contribution in several matches, in addition to the invaluable defuse against Publiclir.se.
But despite their big recovery, the team had definitely lost its invincibility, and Virtus.pro would take advantage of that at the next event, RaidCall EMS One Summer Finals.
NiP overcame Western Wolves with no problems (16-6, 16-10), but then the CIS-based squad edged them out in the semi-final clash (16-11, 11-16, 14-16) in one of the best matches of the year. Despite that, Landström had a solid event with 0.79 kills per round as 2nd best in his team.
Xizt's NiP knocked out by Virtus.pro again at RC EMS One Summer
Next weekend almost saw Virtus.pro take out the Swedes yet again at SLTV StarSeries V Finals, but a big comeback on the third map (9-16, 16-10, 19-17) sent the Ninjas through to the grand final.
Then it Natus Vincere who almost surprised them, but despite going down on the first two maps, NiP came back and won another title (12-16, 9-16, 16-8, 16-2).
After a lengthy break throughout July and half of August, the Swedes traveled to the United States for the playoffs of ESEA's 14th season. With all other European sides passing up on the trip, it was just NiP against North Americans, and to no one's surprise they came out on top despite losing a map to compLexity in the final (16-11, 13-16, 16-10).
In those last two events Landström wasn't fragging as much as before, having 0.70 and 0.73 kills per round respectively, but he was still doing a solid job having more kills than deaths in 11 of the 17 maps.
He was back in his old shape at NiP's next winning campaign at DreamHack Bucharest, having the 3rd most kills at the event (193) and another great 1.18 rating. And once again he played well against VeryGames (34:22, 1.23 rating), helping the team knock the Frenchmen out in 5th-8th place.
But that was the last time NiP would defeat VG for a while, as two weeks later they would lose for the first time online in MSI Beat it European Finals (8-16, 7-16).
"When we lost to VG the first time, that whole evening was a disaster... I remember I got DDoS'ed and I had to pack my stuff and hurry over to a friend and play over there. We really tried our best to win the match, I don't want to take anything from VG, they played good.
I believe they gained a lot of confidence from winning that match and once they got confidence, they just rolled on it and played really great. I don't know what we did wrong, I think it was more VeryGames that had change their playstyle a bit and it took us some time to adapt to it."
It would change the rivalry between the two sides in more ways than the Swedes could fear, as on the next occasion they met at SLTV StarSeries VII Finals, VeryGames would triumph on LAN for the first time (14-16, 6-16).
NiP did beat fnatic in the lower bracket final, but then ended up losing to Astana Dragons in another instant classic with a CIS-based side (16-7, 12-16, 20-22), finishing 3rd overall. Landström's individual play was certainly not to blame for the disappointing placement, as he was for the first and only time in the year the team's best player, and for the third time fourth best rated overall at an event (1.17 rating).
Xizt vs. fnatic at SLTV StarSeries VII Finals
Two more losses to VeryGames would end NiP's campaigns sooner than the Swedes had hoped, in the final of RaidCall EMS One Fall (14-16, 6-16) and in the semi-final of ESWC (13-16, 16-19).
Enough was enough, so they decided to pass up on TECHLABS Grand Finals and SLTV StarSeries VIII to fully focus on the upcoming tournament, DreamHack Winter that had $250,000 up for grabs.
They practiced for several weeks in their new gaming house, and prepared specifically for dealing with the French-Belgian squad. After going through the first day with wins over Recursive and Universal Soldiers, as well as LGB in the quarter-final, NiP learned that they will meet VG in the semi-final due to the Frenchmen's loss in the group stage.
On day three of the event, the "Final before the final" happened and the Swedes did indeed outplay VeryGames, clinching the three-map series (16-13, 6-16, 16-5) and moving on to the grand final.
Xizt after the win against VeryGames at DHW
"I really enjoyed playing vs VeryGames [throughout the year], they were our biggest rivals and we had some epic series vs. them. One match that I will remember the most is from DHW, they had won the previous 4 matches between us and when we finally beat them, it was the best feeling I've ever had in my CS career."
After that NiP were already predicted to win the first place prize of $100,000, as it was just fnatic waiting for them in the final, but it would prove to be a tougher task than it seemed. After dropping a huge lead on the first map, the Swedish powerhouse went on to lose the series (14-16, 16-6, 2-16) against all odds, and relinquishing the biggest title of the year to their younger compatriots.
"One big mistake at we did at DHW was that we put all our energy and focus on VG. When we played the final vs. fnatic we didn't play up to our standard and I think the semifinal vs. VG could have something to do with it. Fnatic played very good, but it felt like we could have done so much more.
We chose the wrong match to play bad, and it cost us everything. I believe we are a better team, but we didn't play up to our potential when it mattered the most."
Landström himself wasn't in great shape individually in these last three events, averaging only 0.68 kills per round, which although still above average, demoted him to being NiP's 4th best player in that period.
To counter that, he stepped down as the in-game leader and will be looking to do better when the team gets back in action in 2014.
"I have stepped down as the IGL and Fifflaren will take over now. One goal that I have for 2014 is to play better individually and trying to help out the team more in the frag department. We changed because we felt like it was best for the team, Fifflaren got a different way of calling strats and we feel like we will become a stronger team this way."
Despite his slightly worse form in the last couple of months of the year, Richard "Xizt" Landström was NiP's 3rd best player throughout 2013. He particularly excelled in the early months when they were dominant, playing great during title winning campaigns at Mad Catz Vienna, RC EMS One Spring and ESEA Season 13 among others, as well as later on at DreamHack Bucharest.
He also played great in a number of big matches, especially against their biggest rivals VeryGames, and perhaps surprising to some he was one of the most consistent players in the world, having a rating above 1.00 in 63% of his maps.
Only eight players had more kills per round than Landström's 0.75, and even less when counting only kills with rifles, which are his main strength.
Landström was impressed by Na`Vi's 19-year-old Russian member and he predicts he could become a force to be reckoned with in the future.
Denis "seized" Kostin
"I think seized has huge potential for becoming a star in 2014. He really impressed me during his short time in NaVi. He's a smart, young player and he's got a bright future."
Where would you place Richard "Xizt" Landström on your Top 20 of 2013? Do you think 6th place is the right one for him having in mind the entire year?
We have come to the final quarter of our Top 20 of 2013 ranking by eSportsventure.com, with only five superstars remaining to be revealed. Stay tuned to HLTV.org to see who those will be, and which place they will end up in.