Changes were expected to come for Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Dota 2 roster ahead of the ESL One Los Angeles Major qualifiers, but the changes to the lineup are surprising.
The organization revealed its new lineup, which saw a surprise cut alongside the previously announced release of Nico “Gunnar” Lopez. NiP’s team consists of the following players:
- Nikita “Daxak” Kuzmin
- Jason Connor “TANNER” Weedon
- Rodrigo “Lelis” Santos
- Saahil “Universe” Arora
- Peter “ppd” Dager
This new lineup is has considerably more upside than other versions of the team from earlier in the 2019-2020 Dota Pro Circuit season.
Daxak has quietly been one of the best carries in the CIS region since joining Gambit Esports in 2017. He has consistently been one of the hardest core players to kill in all of Dota 2 throughout that stretch, and was one of the most important figures in establishing Gambit as a serious threat in Dota 2.
He split from Gambit when the team stumbled in controversial fashion during the qualifiers to The International 2019. He joined Winstrike Team shortly thereafter, but his run with the team lasted just a few weeks.
The other big addition to the team is Lelis. The Brazilian player was very impressive at the DreamLeague Leipzig Major as a substitute for beastcoast. Though he had little time to prepare with the team, they still reached the top eight of the event and posted a high-profile upset win over Nigma in the lower bracket.
Lelis takes over offlaner duties as Universe moves to the roaming support position. This quietly marked the release of Malthe “Biver” Winther, who joined the team at the start of the season.
NiP faces uphill battle for ESL One Los Angeles Major
The new NiP is a solid one. TANNER and Lelis are two players with high ceilings, while Daxak, Universe, and ppd are all proven in their own right. While previous iterations of the team had some potential, this squad has a much better chance of qualifying for Dota Pro Circuit events.
That said, their chances may still be slim.
Alongside the announcement of Gunnar’s release was the news of NiP returning to Europe for the ESL One Los Angeles Major qualifiers. The team competed in North America for the DreamLeague Leipzig Major qualifiers, due the region’s comparative lack of depth.
The new NiP roster will need to work its way past a slew of top-level Dota 2 teams including proven top teams including DreamLeague Leipzig Major winner Team Secret, Team Liquid, Alliance, and Nigma. OG will also be competing for a spot in the event with its heavily overhauled roster. There are several other formidable teams also in the hunt, such as Godsent and Team Singularity.
Even if Valve decides to give Europe three slots in the ESL One Los Angeles Major and two slots in the third StarLadder Minor, NiP will have to defeat multiple strong opponents in order to make the cut. That’s a tall order for a team that will only have a few weeks to prepare as a group.