As a player, he dragged NIP back to relevancy. As a leader, dragged them kicking and screaming to the top ten. It was never easy for him, Nicolai “device” Reedtz came in to be the star he never had, and before they even managed to put together a competitive roster, life got in the way, and device never played another game for the team.
Roster instability was the norm, a constantly changing roster where he had to get accustomed to playing with a variety of stand-ins, constantly ripping up his stratbook and starting all over again. Even when he had a consistent team, it was with the caveat of that team having players that weren’t up to the standard of tier one. It was impressive, and somehow he managed to be a star all while doing it, a player building his own legend through countless obstacles, questions were beginning to be raised as to whether he had outgrown whatever it was that NIP could actually offer him.
Then, everything changed. The decision to go international was made, and both Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen and Daniil “headtr1ck” Valitov arrived. A competitive roster was finally in his hands, but his services as it’s captain were no longer needed. Freed from the role in order to become a true star, he was impressive at first, but the struggles of the previous years had taken their toll, and he took a break from competitive play.
Now, after NIP’s failure to reach the playoffs at the BLAST.tv Paris Major, and with a player he hadn’t played with before his spell on the sidelines, Hampus “hampus” Poser returns, and with Aleksib’s departure to NAVI, it will be as captain once more.
There’s no question over hampus’ ability as an in-game leader. Somehow, in a team including Patrick “es3tag” Hansen and Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora, he managed to qualify for the Champions Stage of the PGL Antwerp Major 2022. Two of the worst players to ever play in tier one, it’s a feat very few in-game leaders would have been able to accomplish.
And let’s not even get started with the inconsistency of Fredrik “REZ” Sterner or disappointing levels of Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin as an obstacle either. Not just yet, anyway.
He did it in impressive fashion, too. Having qualified for the Legends Stage via the RMR, best of one victories against Vitality and Cloud9, as well as a best of three against FURIA. None of those are easy games, and both FURIA and Vitality would also be present in the playoffs.
It wasn’t the only Major Champions Stage NIP qualified for with hampus as their leader either. The PGL Major Antwerp 2021 had a similar story, except then he at least had device to play with. Well, device and Young Ninjas player Linus “LNZ” Holtang, just one of the stand-ins he would play with during that era.
A testament to his proficiency as a leader, it wasn;t just in the Major circuits that hampus found success with what little he had to work with. hampus also had NIP playing as a consistent playoff-level team. While that didn’t necessarily mean they were ever contending for trophies, they were still in a far better place than many other teams.
So if hampus did all this, even without the star that was acquired to turn his team into true contenders, why would he ever give up the role of in-game leader anyway?
There are very few in-game leaders that would have made that decision worth it, and while many people would argue Aleksib isn’t one of them, when he became available, it was a risk worth taking.
Aleksib may have struggled at G2, but that wasn’t all his fault. The roster was still limited by the firepower Audric “JACKZ” Jug could bring, and Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov was still at the stage of his fledgling career that he struggled on most of the maps in the pool. A talented player supported by his incredible mechanical skill, he wasn’t anything close to the article that Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen gets to utilize today.
Outside of G2, some of OG’s best days since arriving in Counter-Strike were found with Aleksib. Not just that, but he managed to reach the final of a Major at IEM Katowice 2019, and also stopped Astralis’ legendary Nuke LAN winning streak too.
As we said already, it is a risk worth taking. Aleksib’s stock may not have been at its highest when he was picked up, but it was a chance to free up hampus to be a star while also maintaining a tactical level with a captain who is well accustomed to playing at tier one.
Sadly, Aleksib was handed the same issues as hampus before him. This time caused by the man himself, hampus’ spell on the sidelines prevented Aleksib from ever playing with the roster promised to him, and although the arrival of Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke meant there wasn’t much of a firepower deficit, there was a role imbalance to contend with.
With three naturally aggressive riflers in k0nfig, REZ, and Brollan, at least one of those players would be forced to adapt to new roles, and that’s something that takes time. Eventually, that role imbalance was figured out, and although NIP’s results were still below the level expected from the organisation, the fact they nearly qualified for the Champions Stage at the BLAST.tv Paris Major was a testament to the fact they were heading in the right direction.
Unfortunately, time was already up for Aleksib at that point. Their final match at the BLAST.tv Paris Major, a game against Apeks in the 2-2 bracket of the Legends Stage, was the final nail in the coffin. A game that signified a loss of faith in the Finnish leader, it was quickly decided afterwards that his services were no longer required.
Having gone into the tournament without expecting to win, Aleksib’s realistic outlook was commendable. It wasn’t pessimistic in the slightest; he knew the Major was another step on the ladder to NIP finding their way back to trophy contention. A tournament that came too soon in their development, he spoke optimistically about the team’s future chances with the arrival of Counter-Strike 2.
He would never get the opportunity to experience that with NIP, however, and as he was scapegoated following the loss to Apeks, he found himself on the way out, with hampus being the one to pick up the phone to replace him.
All things considered, it raises the question: Was this the right decision?
On paper, absolutely. hampus’ record with NIP speaks for itself, his placements were far better than Aleksib’s even in unfortunate circumstances, and his individual level was higher too, but that doesn’t tell the full story.
Let’s talk about the prospect of a NIP squadron that features both hampus and Aleksib for a moment. Logically, with Brollan being the worst player on the team, he would be the one making way for hampus, so we’ll slot hampus in the team in his place.
There is a slight issue of role imbalance, with no player on the team who is naturally an aggressive support, someone would have to get used to doing so. That being said, Brollan is the weakest player on the team, so whoever adapted into the role would still likely be an upgrade on him anyway.
In theory, it would be k0nfig. The most naturally aggressive member of the team, he would be able to adapt to those roles the easiest. It’s not the best utilization of him, but he was forced to do so for Astralis for the better part of a year anyway. hampus could also do it, but he’s better utilised as an aggressive spacetaker, a role typically reserved for stars of a team. Again, it makes sense, but it’s a mildly illogical decision if the idea to stop him from in-game leading is based on the idea of freeing him up to be a true star.
A team that is undoubtedly an improvement on the one initially promised to Aleksib, it’s a tantalizing prospect, especially considering the constantly improving headtr1ck. It may have still failed to be a true contender, but it is at least an upgrade, and that’s exactly what NIP should have been aiming for.
In truth, the team isn’t overly worse off with a straight swap between hampus and Aleksib. Both are competent leaders, and both are capable of performing as well as they need to in their respective roles.
The fact remains though, it would at least be marginally stronger with them both on the team. And in a game as competitive as Counter-Strike is in the modern era, those fine margins can mean everything.