device's first six months in NIP
On the six-month anniversary of one of the biggest transfers in Counter-Strike history, we take a look at how Nicolai "device" Reedtz has settled in at his new home.
Lofty ambitions no doubt, but for a player who has been there and done that so many times, it's merely business as usual. device made no secret of his desires, and maybe even his expectations, when he joined Ninjas in Pyjamas six months ago. It was a blockbuster move, one that came out of left field and shocked the world of Counter-Strike. It almost felt like ambitious goals were required, otherwise the transfer didn't really make sense.
As one of the best players in the world for past seven years, with 19 HLTV MVPs to his name, countless other trophies and medals, and being a four-time Major winner, device moving to a team that hadn't won anything meaningful for years seemed bizarre. Moving away from a core that he had spent the better part of a decade with, and won so much, was even stranger. The most successful team in the game lost their star player, and an organisation that hadn't found a recipe for success since their initial legendary players left years ago now had a true legend of the game in his prime on their hands. In some sense it felt like a marriage of convenience more than anything else, and although factors outside of the game seemed to play a significant role in motivating the switch, inside the server was where the Dane and the Ninjas needed to come together and prove that this wasn't just a waste of one of the best players to ever grace the game.
The first tournament for his new team seemed to be the best start you could realistically hope for, as Ninjas in Pyjamas placed top-two at the stacked Flashpoint 3. They had to battle their way through the lower bracket and bested three of the top four ranked teams at the event, only losing to a MOUZ team that were fuelled by the top two rated players, David "frozen" Čerňanský and Robin "ropz" Kool. Analysing device's specifically, the signs were good; he was a monster in key maps such as the 22-19 Overpass against Heroic in the lower final and the 16-14 decider in the consolidation final against G2, suggesting he was key in getting them over the line when it really mattered.
Sure, device went missing in a few maps, most noticeably the final, and yes, his 1.12 rating wasn't anything special for a player of his calibre, but it was Ninjas in Pyjamas's best finish at an event for some time, and he had been the highest rated player on the squad. It is also important to remember this was an RMR event, and it secured a huge number of points for the team, putting them in great shape to qualify for Stockholm right off the bat. For a first outing, it was a success.
The apparent honeymoon effect evaporated almost immediately, however, and Ninjas in Pyjamas began to struggle. IEM Summer was the next event, with a 7-8th finish and 1.00 rating across the event for device an incredibly underwhelming result after the promise of Flashpoint. The manner of the Danish AWPer's struggles was of particular concern, posting a sub 1.00 rating in all bar three maps and sporting a negative kill differential in all bar two, and he was particularly poor in the deciding series.
BLAST Premier Spring Finals was up next, and it was another event to forget for the Ninjas and their new star. An absolutely woeful showing against Complexity opened Ninjas in Pyjamas's campaign as they were comfortably brushed aside, device being essentially a non-factor with a 0.78 and 0.63 rating on each map. Things looked bleak, but the team and the Dane both recovered as the event progressed, device producing a couple of encouraging performances in their lower bracket run. One such performance was a 1.44 showing in the opening map of their lower final versus G2, but he faded as the series went on, capitulating in the deciding map with a 0.74 rating that made him the worst player on the server, as Ninjas in Pyjamas lost in overtime 17-19. Unlike Flashpoint, where device was a key difference-maker to grab the Ninjas vital wins, he was now starting to disappear when push came to shove.
What was arguably more worrying was the fact that device's worst performances so far for his new team had been coming in the deciding series of Ninjas in Pyjamas's events. It had been many years since the Dane had shaken off the stigma of being a 'choker' in key series, and yet it seemed old demons were returning to haunt him as he made the most significant change in his career. A fear that had seemingly not crossed anyone's minds when he made the switch was starting to surface, a fear that maybe he had regressed in some way by leaving the comfortable and familiar environment of Astralis, by leaving behind players that had surrounded and supported him for most of his career.
Next up was Gamers without Borders, and whilst we won't put too much stock in a charity event, the series against ENCE did provide some cause for concern; device suffered in the AWP duel versus Olek "hades" Miskiewicz, going 4:12 in AWP kills against his counterpart.
For Ninjas in Pyjamas and device the next tournament, IEM Cologne, must have felt like the time for everything to fall into place. It was a return to LAN, an environment where device has more experience than almost anybody else playing today, and a return to the kind of grand stage that the Dane has become accustomed to. Surely he would rouse his usual form and return to the level that we have come to expect from devve? In their first series against Liquid, it looked like the fairy-tale was coming true; device systematically picked the top-15 team in the world apart like it was child's play, posting a 1.58 rating, 94 ADR and a whopping 73 AWP kills. The Danish dynamite was back and firing on all cylinders, and the matchup against world #1 Gambit seemed an exciting prospect with device in this form.
It all went wrong. device was the worst player on the server with a 0.71 rating and measly 32 kills over three maps against Gambit, getting battered 3:11 in AWP kills in the head-to-head battle with Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov. A lower bracket matchup with Virtus.pro seemed a perfect shot at redemption, but again the Ninjas and their new star fell flat. This time it was a 0.93 rating, but more depressingly device picked up a mere six AWP frags over two maps.
Another chance to build up to the form required to fulfil that promise of bringing another Major to Sweden down the drain. Another deciding series in which the new star player had gone AWOL. Another AWP duel where device had found zero success. The player break couldn't come soon enough, as Ninjas in Pyjamas and device clearly needed to take some time to refocus, rethink, and return refreshed for the final stretch in the run up to the biggest tournament in two years. Winning the Major was the whole justification and reasoning behind one of the craziest transfers in CS:GO history, and yet it seemed the Ninjas were about as far off as they could realistically be from being in any sort of shape to make a deep run, let alone win the whole thing. So far, a signing that Hampus "hampus" Poser described as being "like signing Cristiano Ronaldo" had not lived up the hype.
ESL Pro League marked the return from the player break, and all things considered, the group stage went pretty well for device and the Ninjas. They made it out of their group with convincing 2-0 wins over Entropiq, TeamOne and most impressively Gambit, although the latter had already qualified from the group. device himself produced a respectable performance overall, shining against Entropiq in particular, even if he did seem to wane somewhat towards the end of the group stage. The playoffs were again a decent showing for the team as a whole as they made it to a top-eight finish, but in that run device fell off a cliff. He posted a solitary map with above a 1.00 rating, produced a 0.82 in their quarter final against OG, and twice managed single a digit kill figure in a map.
Some of the more logical readers amongst you may be ready to point out a flaw in the reasoning used throughout this article. The flaw many of you may think you have found is simple; of course in series where Ninjas in Pyjamas lose and get knocked out of a tournament, device will have his worst performances. If a team lose, usually everyone's statistics suffer. It is simply a result of winning less rounds, having less economic control, finding yourself on the wrong end of more 4v5s, 3v5s etc. Unfortunately, I will have to burst the bubble of those searching for an excuse for device by comparing him to his teammates. In the deciding series of the six tournaments device had played to up to this point, device has an average rating of 0.99. That puts him below hampus, for whom the figure is 1.00, and a significant distance behind Fredrik "REZ" Sterner who comes in at 1.04. Simply put, for a player who wields the most expensive gun and is a focal point of the team, that is not good enough. When Ninjas in Pyjamas have their backs against the wall, that is when they need and expect device to step up the most.
BLAST Fall Groups were up next, and by this point you would have been forgiven for losing enthusiasm for this Ninjas in Pyjamas and device marriage. Of course, that made it the perfect time for the beast within device to awaken and remind us all of exactly what he is capable of. Ninjas in Pyjamas won all three series at this event in relatively comfortable fashion, with device putting up some of the best performances we had seen since he joined the Ninjas. He crushed François "AMANEK" Delaunay 12:3 in the AWP head-to-head in their series against G2, was Ninjas in Pyjamas's highest rated player in two of three series and was finding AWP kills aplenty. Signs of life finally seemed to be appearing, and with IEM Fall and the chance to secure Major qualification up next, the timing couldn't be better.
IEM Fall would prove to be a roaring success for the Ninjas, and almost as importantly, device's best showing across an entire event for almost two years. It was a clean sweep for Ninjas in Pyjamas in the best-of-one group stage, picking up five map wins and only experiencing serious trouble in the first half against SKADE. device was in terrifying form, putting up numbers such as a 2.07 rating and 130 ADR against Fiend on Nuke and a 1.52 rating with 97 ADR against FaZe. His level did not drop going into playoffs, as he was the highest rated player for Ninjas in Pyjamas in the quarter finals and the final, his staggeringly consistent fragging output matched by his impact rating, an event-topping 1.47. He also had the highest K-D difference (+105), the most AWP kills (169), and the most overall kills (318).
Finally, we saw the real device. The man who has appeared in the HLTV top 20 for seven years straight, six of those as a top-five player. The man who has won four Major titles. The man who has shown arguably the most consistency and longevity of any star player in the history of the game. Not only had device just produced two phenomenal individual performances, he had helped secure the organisation's first notable trophy since 2018. If that wasn't already enough, it saw Ninjas in Pyjamas rise to #3 in the world rankings, their highest in almost five years. With the first Major ín two years around the corner, this peak in not only device's form but also Ninjas in Pyjamas's fortunes could not have come at a better time.
Looking ahead to Stockholm, although it took some time, it feels like Ninjas in Pyjamas are poised to make a deep run. The Legends spot they secured with their performances at Flashpoint 3 and IEM Fall removes one obstacle before they even begin, and their form along with the form of their star player reaching the peak just before the event is perfect timing. The fact that their star player is device, a man who has shown he knows how to win Majors time and time again and has two Major MVPs to his name, is icing on the cake. Are they motivated? To answer that question, let us simply enjoy this quote from device: