draken's road to NiP
The community was left in shock on Monday as William "draken" Sundin joined Ninjas in Pyjamas, but there had been a sense of inevitability that it was just a matter of time before the 21-year-old earned a big move.
Boasting the same nickname as former 1.6 player Pontus "draken" Johansson, who plied his trade for some well-known Swedish teams such as icsu, mTw and Check Six, William "draken" Sundin burst onto the competitive scene in January 2016, when his then-team, Cringe Gods, defeated HellRaisers in the European qualifier for PGL's European Minor Championship without having any sort of real practice prior to the tournament other than FACEIT pugs, according to the team’s in-game leader, Christian "rezex" Bjerregaard.
Ready to upset the odds, Cringe Gods travelled to Bucharest, where they would acquit themselves quite well once again, knocking LDLC White out of the tournament before losing out to PENTA Sports in an exciting series that went to three maps, two of which decided in overtime. It was a sign that the team was not a fluke, but the euphoria vanished just as quickly as it had appeared as the players went their separate ways shortly after the tournament.
draken at the PGL European Minor
Before the European Minor, draken had already raised a few eyebrows with Aftermatch and European Misfits. It was on the latter team that the young Swede played alongside Robby "blackpoisoN" Da Loca, during the final months of the South African’s sojourn in Europe.
"When I started playing with draken on European Misfits, I saw that he had potential, but I felt he could not play to the best of his abilities because there was too much confusion with positioning,” Da Loca recalls."
“I often had chats with Dennis "dipparn" Muslijevic, who was also on our team, about draken, trying to make sure he could play to his full level. I remember saying during one of our last chats: ‘If we can use draken in the right positions/roles, he can do really great."
"draken always gave input and suggestions, whether we won or lost a round, which I feel is something extremely important when playing on a team. Whenever a player did something good, he would always be the first to compliment him and get the momentum and confidence going."
"He did have some tilt moments, but I cannot really blame him for that as he was still in the learning phase and we were a new team. We all have such moments."
"I knew that he would have a great future ahead of him, and look at where he is now. He might not know this as we have not had a chat in some time, but I am very proud of him."
In March, the three Swedish players from the Cringe Gods lineup that had been in Bucharest (draken, Andreas "mOkEn" Karlsson and Fredrik "REZ" Sterner) plus Fredrik "freddieb" Buö and Joakim "disco doplan" Gidetun joined Epsilon, an organization desperate for success following the frustrating experiences with their previous two teams (a French roster disrupted by a match-fixing case and a Spanish squad that accused the management of withholding salaries, only to retract such comments hours later).
The language barrier that had allegedly caused the disbandment of the old Cringe Gods roster, which featured players from Sweden, Denmark and Finland, was no longer an issue, but the team took some time to gel, winning their first tournament, the Swedish Esports Championship (ESPORTSM), only in June, after beating ArchAngels 2-0, with draken boasting a 1.37 Rating, the highest of the series.
The 100,000 SEK ($12,000) payout from ESPORTSM was not Epsilon’s only positive to take from DreamHack Summer as the team also competed in the prestigious event’s main tournament, sending HellRaisers packing before playing out a very close series against Ninjas in Pyjamas, who eventually ran out 2-0 victors following two maps that were decided by details.
Epsilon carried that momentum with them going into Chinese event Pro Gamer League 2016 Summer, where they were pitted against six local teams and X. As expected, the two Scandinavian teams faced each other in the final, with Epsilon getting their hands on the $50,000 cheque after a 3-0 victory. Despite a disappointing showing in the final, draken still had the fourth-highest Rating of the event (1.21) and the highest KDD (+54), and was the top AWPer by a long distance, boasting 0.46 kills per round with the Big Green.
draken and disco doplan, Sweden's hottest prospects
Following a runners-up finish at ASUS ROG Summer, the team cut ties with Jerry "xelos" Råberg and eventually brought André "BARBARR" Möller on board, initially on a temporary basis. Under the tutelage of the 26-year-old, one of the most experienced players in the Swedish scene, with a career that goes back to 2008, the team struggled at first, taking 9th-12th at WESG Europe and 5th-8th at ESWC, but then they gave a great account of themselves at the next Minor, which they attended with Karl-William "kalle" Haraldsen as a stand-in following disco doplan’s departure to fnatic.
Epsilon were just one map away from advancing to the offline qualifier for the ELEAGUE Major, ultimately losing out to GODSENT, who would go on to qualify for the Valve-sponsored event. At the Minor, draken solidified his status as one of the finest up-and-coming talents in the Nordic region, finishing the tournament with the highest AWP Kills/Round ratio (0.39) and the highest number of AWP kills (121), bettering players like Jesper "JW" Wecksell and Bence "DeadFox" Böröcz.
Missing out on the Major qualifier was a heavy blow, but the team bounced back and finished the year on a high, winning both the Nordic Championship and the World Cyber Arena Finals. At the Chinese event, Epsilon were twice surprised by Asian opposition in the group stage, but they made up for that with a flawless run in the playoffs, beating TyLoo and VG.CyberZen without dropping a single map to get an $87,000 cheque. Once again, draken was at the heart of the action as he finished the event with a 1.22 Rating (the third-highest overall), 147 AWP kills and a 0.45 AWP Kills/Round ratio.
draken’s impressive year went largely unnoticed in the scene, but he was still tipped for success by one big-shot, Nicolai "device" Reedtz, who, in his Top 20 players of 2016 article, predicted the Epsilon player to be at the heart of the next roster shuffle in Sweden. And while a shuffle per se did not materialise, draken would soon get his big break as a NiP team bereft of ideas knocked at his door, desperate to try something new after plummeting down the rankings and missing out on a Major for the first time in history.
Someone hire me as an expert pic.twitter.com/q5hmFrpVLo— Nicolai Reedtz (@dev1ce) March 13, 2017
With Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi having faced opponents of a much higher level than draken in 2016, we decided to compare the duo’s LAN stats prior to joining NiP to see what the new recruit can bring to the table, compared to his predecessor:
draken’s addition opens up a raft of possibilities for the Ninjas, who will once again have a dedicated AWPer in their ranks, 15 months after letting go of Aleksi "allu" Jalli. But with the youngster having no prior experience at big events, questions remain as to how he will perform, given the added pressure of playing for one of the most storied teams in the game and the fact that he will face, week in, week out, sides who are one level above that of Epsilon’s traditional opponents. It will also be interesting to see whether NiP will prioritize draken’s AWP on the CT side in situations when their money is low or go for a more rounded approach, with his M4A1 and M4A4 kills combined on LAN in 2016 accounting for just 4,3 percent of his total frags during that year.
The stage is now set for draken, the second Swedish hot prospect to make the jump to the next level within months, after disco doplan. It is hard to say if this move will improve NiP’s fortunes, but it is clear that the Ninjas cannot have another messy year like 2016, in which a last-minute replacement for the MLG Columbus Major, the failure to qualify for the ELEAGUE Major and a player injury in between marred the team's successes in Malmö, Kiev and Oakland.
Fans will look at draken hoping he is some sort of miracle worker, which puts extra pressure on the shoulders of the new player, who already knows that he could be next on NiP’s chopping block if he is not able to revitalise the team – regardless of how the core members of the squad perform.