Many years after the initial dominance of Ninjas in Pyjamas in the Global Offensive scene, NiP have proven once again that they are still a legendary team not to be underestimated by winning IEM Oakland 2017. With 11 of the 12 teams from within the top 20, IEM Oakland was a clash of top tier teams, with success and disappointment on many sides.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
NiP came into the event looking like underdogs despite being reigning champions. With William "draken" Sundin and Fredrik "REZ" Sterner now in the roster, the legends and new blood of the team had something to prove at Oakland. Topping their group and beating the likes of SK Gaming and FaZe Clan to retain the title proved the team is back to incredible form.
REZ was awarded MVP of the tournament following an incredible performance across the event with an overall rating of 1.28. The team is now on the board for the first season of the Intel Grand Slam, needing to win three more ESL or Dreamhack events in their next nine without SK Gaming, G2 Esports, FaZe Clan or any other team getting there first.
While it is unlikely that FaZe will have an era like the team that bested them in the final, they were definitely looking as strong as ever this tournament. By making it to the final, FaZe reclaimed the top spot on the world ranking list, forcing SK to settle for second place for now.
In the best-of-five final against NiP, Håvard "rain" Nygaard was the one player to get over 100 kills, going 103-82 over the five maps with 90.8 average damage per round, the highest of any player in the match.
Despite tough losses to NiP and EnVyUs, Cloud9 managed to beat Astralis, SK Gaming and Gambit before falling to the might of FaZe. Cloud9’s semifinal finish made them the highest-placed NA team at Oakland, far ahead of Team Liquid who finished last alongside the relatively unknown Asian team TheMongolz.
Cloud9's demise at the hands of FaZe were not due to their own mistakes, but simply getting outplayed by the better team on the day. As the only top seven team not to be at BLAST Pro Series, the ECS Season 4 Finals in Cancun will likely be Cloud9's next offline challenge before joining G2, FaZe and NA rivals Liquid in the ELEAGUE Major: Boston Qualifier in January.
The crowd at the Oracle Arena
With a full best-of-five played out between a team of legendary players and arguably the best team in the world right now, as well as semifinals featuring two-time major champions and a fan favourite NA team, the fans that got to witness the highest calibre of Counter Strike were definite winners.
Astralis suffered at this event due to Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz falling ill and unable to fly initially, with coach Danny "zonic" Sørensen having to play in his place for their first match against NiP. The Danish star finished an event with a 0.97 rating, the first time he has had a rating of less than 1 since 2015. Without the usual firepower, Astralis suffered a hard loss to Cloud9 on Train.
Beating EnVyUs and TheMongolz as well as SK in overtime wasn’t enough to secure the team a place in the playoffs. This was probably for the best as device relapsed into illness and dupreeh also fell ill, resulting in the entire team flying home and being issued with a fine for not staying at the event for signing sessions and other commitments.
In their second-last scheduled offline event of the year, hopes were high for the French ‘super team’. Placed in Group B, FaZe Clan were the main challenge and G2 were up 14-13 before a poor choice force-buy ruined their economy and chances to take a victory. A loss to Renegades, a win in overtime over Gambit before finally losing to OpTic Gaming again exposed the all-too-often noted flaws of the team.
Issues around force-buying and overall inconsistency once again caused G2 to crash out in a group stage. With BLAST Pro Series in Copenhagen being their last event of the year before the Main Qualifier for ELEAGUE Major: Boston next year, the French side will need to work hard to fight through the heavily-stacked qualifier against many teams that performed better at Oakland.
With their two wins coming from overtime, Team Liquid finished bottom of Group B having lost their other three matches. It was a disappointing result considering the success of fellow NA team Cloud9 as well as Team Liquid’s signing of Immortals player Lucas "steel" Lopesto replace Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz. The official transfer came only the day before IEM Oakland’s group stage so a lack of time to prepare and practice could have played a role in Team Liquid’s weak showing.
With Ricardo "boltz" Prass currently playing for SK Gaming on loan from Immortals, Liquid's early elimination meant the pair are yet to face each other in their new teams.
FaZe Clan managed to make it to the final and take NiP to five maps, but in-game leader Finn "karrigan" Andersen had a poor showing at Oakland. With the likes of NiKo and rain at his disposal, it isn't unusual for karrigan to not be getting a huge number frags every single match. Despite this, in FaZe's first map win of the best-of-five final against NiP on Inferno, karrigan managed only three kills.
With a K/D difference of -38, more than any member of NiP, karrigan had an average of 9.5 kills per map and was the only member of FaZe to not get at least 82 kills overall. Had karrigan managed a stronger showing, it is entirely possible FaZe would have lifted the trophy over the Swedes.
Who were your winners and losers of IEM Oakland 2017? Comment below your thoughts!