A Eulogy to Maikelele’s NiP Career2015-03-06 18:55:00
Mikail "Maikelele" Bill played with Ninjas in Pyjamas for 3 months and was soon considered a deadly force within the legendary Swedish team. The Ninjas recruited Maikelele to their roster following the retirement of Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson in November 2014 and their new AWPer flourished and contributed heavily as his team made three international finals in a row. In spite of this, NiP announced that they would be temporarily removing him from the squad to try out other players on February 13 and just 11 days later announced the recruitment of Aleksi "allu" Jalli, marking the end of Maikelele’s NiP career.
At the end of January Ninjas in Pyjamas encountered Titan in the final of the ASUS ROG Winter Cup. It was the first time the two teams had crossed paths since NiP’s embarrassing 16-1 loss on de_dust2 in the last group stage match at the ESWC in Paris; the last LAN performance of Fifflaren. Both teams had switched out one player since then (Titan, replacing Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian, added Cédric "RpK" Guipouy after KQLY received VAC banned prior to DreamHack Winter) and it was sure to be an exciting rematch. Moreover, this match was supposed to be the first time Maikelele, playing for NiP and on LAN, would meet Kenny "KennyS" Schrub, currently regarded as the best AWPer in the game. After 21 rounds the Swedes came out victorious in the first map, beating Titan 16-5 on de_dust2, with Maikelele leading the scoreboard at 20-10 score, while his French rival KennyS was sitting at 19-14, top of his team but not enough to beat the Ninjas. NiP’s tournament winning match point would come on the next map, de_cache. In a much closer game, the Swedish team won 16-14, securing first place at the event.
Maturing as a Player
Maikelele is 23 years old and fully signed with NiP in December 2014; joining the most successful line-up in the history of Counter-Strike:Global Offensive. He has faced the best AWPers, and the best teams, in the world and shown that he can match them. But more importantly, he has matured as a player and conducted himself in a way that will make him attractive to any organisation looking for a talented swedish player or AWPer.
Prior to joining NiP, the Swedish AWPer was part of LGB eSports and SK Gaming under his old alias "eksem" as well ESG! and mousesports under his new nickname for a brief period of time. There had always been a question mark over the young Swede’s attitude and behaviour in-game with accusations of "toxic" behaviour and arguments with teammates which eventually left him without a team. After having been a free agent for some time, mainly focusing on streaming, Ninjas in Pyjamas asked him to join on a trial period in order to compete at DreamHack Winter, where they finished runner-up behind the French team LDLC, who later became EnVyUs. If nothing else, Maikelele’s stint with the Ninjas allowed him to shed this persona.
On Day 1 of DreamHack Winter, the last Major of 2014, Maikelele told HLTV.org that "it feels really good" in-game with his new team, and "that it feels like [they] are really good friends outside the game", statements later supported by his teammate Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund in another interview with HLTV.org: "He’s a really nice guy and he’s playing really, really well."
Flexibility: a Curse or a Blessing?
Ninjas in Pyjamas proved from the beginning of CS:GO in mid 2012 to ESL One Cologne 2014 that teams did not need a dedicated sniper; while still deadly, the greatly feared AWP had lost some of the impact it had in Counter-Strike 1.6. For that reason NiP stayed with only a defensive support-style AWPer on CT Side, Fifflaren, with Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg being able to pick up the sniper rifle too if needed. This worked very well for a long time, but with most of the big teams having a dedicated AWPer, e.g. Jesper "JW" Wecksell on fnatic, Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács on Natus Vincere or KennyS on Titan, and with increasingly poor results from Fifflaren, the Swedes had to find a new player to fill this role. The meta was changing and with star AWPers on almost every other top team, many in the community felt that NiP needed to start moving with the times.
The list of players to replace Fifflaren was long from the beginning: Andreas "Schneider" Lindberg, Andreas "MODDII" Fridh and Marcus "Delpan" Larsson were just a few of the large list of players mentioned. Top of many people’s list was Mikail "Maikelele" Bill and this ended up being the choice that the Ninjas made. This decision made perfect sense because he is not only an aggressive AWPer but also a good rifle player which was useful if NiP decided to run some of the five-man rifle strategies that worked for them in the past.
It did not take long for the results to come in: Runner-Up at DreamHack Winter and MLG X-Games Aspen, losing both times to Team LDLC, and first place at ASUS ROG Winter. NiP’s most recent result, a 5th place finish at the IOS Pantamera Event, was the first time this team had finished outside the top four and seems to be the reason for their recent decision to remove him from the team.
Criticism from all Sides
Alongside Adam "friberg" Friberg, Maikelele was the main player to open up the game with his aggressive AWPing whilst also being able to hold narrow angles on the CT Side and shutting down enemy aggression. These are things that his teammates valued in him but there has also been critique.
In an official statement NiP described the Swedish sniper as a "very good player, but he lacks a certain amount of experience that is required in order to have a permanent spot in the NiP line-up". This left Maikelele in an awkward position as his contract did not allow him to leave the team which was something that had been rumoured after he tweeted that he would play with Team Orbit in the Nordic Masters Tournament.
An option suggested by the CEO of Ninjas in Pyjamas, Per Lilliefelth, is to loan out the player to another team, while still being under contract to NiP, a statement that earned a lot of critique on Reddit, HLTV and other social media outlets. Speculations were also rising about Maikelele’s previous attitude problems that supposedly got him kicked him out of UnWanted .
Duncan "Thorin" Shields, veteran eSports journalist, last judged the 23 year old on his Youtube channel in an installment of his "Thorin’s Thoughts" series: Due to a style focused upon frequently re-peaking difficult angles, he often "gets overrun and [the enemy team] takes the site easily". Moreover, compared to other AWPers "he just has okay rifles in terms for the team he’s playing for". Another aspect Thorin mentions is that since Maikelele likes to set up relatively difficult AWP shots, he has a high level of inconsistency as well as a flashy playstyle.
The online community celebrates the Swede at the very least since MLG X-Games Aspen, where he got some memorable highlight rounds, including a one versus two clutch against fnatic, and helping his team to reach the final of the tournament. His MVP performance at the ASUS ROG was just another confirmation for fans that the experiment of putting a dedicated AWPer into NiP was working.
NiP’s new Hope?
The interesting was that, despite his previous performance, the Ninjas had started to test out other players. The first one on the list was Marcus "Delpan" Larrson, a legendary AWPer in Counter-Strike 1.6, who played for teams such as MYM and SK-Gaming. In his first two games with NiP he showed that he certainly still had the mindset and ability to be a top player but lacked in certain situations. Delpan’s 1.6 style of holding angles does not work as well in CS:GO where aggressive AWPing has become the Meta. His mindset was similar to the one of Maikelele: pick up the sniper rifle on every possible occasion and his rifle play was relatively poor. While the team communication and cohesion was clearly not up to par, he showed a lot of good in-game sense as well as smart positioning combined with deadliness. It remains uncertain if the Swede can rise back to his 1.6 form; his trial performance on NiP looked promising but they eventually decided to not use the veteran.
The list of candidates continued to grow with two players from the current Team Property lineup: Andreas "Schneider" Lindberg and Simon "twist" Eliasson. Schneider was able to win the first Major, DreamHack Winter 2013, with fnatic; he has not been able to repeat that form since and went through a stage of inactivity following his departure from the fnatic team. His current teammate twist is most known for his stint in LGB, the team that managed to upset fnatic at EMS One Katowice and take a map off future winners Virtus.pro. His fast reactions made him a deadly AWPer with much stronger rifling than Maikelele or Schneider. In his prime he was considered to be one of the best players in Sweden to not be a member of NiP or the current fnatic team. However, there are a lot of questions surrounding him; he is still the best player in Property but less dominant than he was in the past and there have been questions recently about his commitment to the game.
There were many more that could be listed here, most notable being Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi, currently Team Orbit, and Mathias "pauf" Köhler, Team Property, who had a stellar performance at last ESEC.
Speculations even went as far as Aleksi "allu" Jalli, who was, at the time, AWPing for 3DMAX! and known from his time at mousesports, although it seemed unlikely that he would join NiP as he is from Finland, speaks almost no Swedish and had just qualified for Katowice with the 3DMAX! lineup. The Ninjas surprised us once again, however, and began playing some online matches with the Finnish superstar. Allu’s performances were solid but not to the level that some would have expected given his usual level of play within his previous teams but the Ninjas saw an opportunity and took it with both hands, announcing Allu as their new fifth on February 24. Whether the communication barriers within the team will be able to be overcome and whether this move will be a permanent and successful one is yet to be soon but one thing is for sure, this spelled the end for Maikelele’s NiP career.
Time will tell if NiP is going to be able to benefit from their player change. It is just two weeks until EMS One Katowice, the first Major in the busy year, and the Ninjas are not going to Poland to place second again. The organisation has stayed relatively quiet about Maikelele and his NiP contract; there is still no news about whether he will be officially released or loaned out to other teams. The Swedish AWPer spoke of his time in NiP as a "dream come true" but he has shown great maturity and professionalism in this trying time. What will be next for Mikail is yet to be seen but one thing is for sure: his time in NiP is, for now at least, over.