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In a fresh Counter-Strike: Global Offensive season full of new rosters, Ninjas in Pyjamas had a clear advantage as they entered the year with the same five players. That was before Dexerto and 1pv.fr reported that Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz would be prolonging his mental health leave into 2022.

At the BLAST Premier: Spring Groups 2022, NiP’s legendary Danish AWPer will again be replaced by Young Ninjas stand-in Love “phzy” Smidebrant.

“Just before we were going to start, we got the news about dev1ce not starting the season with us, which obviously was a bit rough to hear cause dev1ce is dev1ce, you know?” NiP’s in-game-leader Hampus “hampus” Poser said. “But we got phzy and we [practiced] now for one or two weeks …  it’s been going fairly well, I would say.”

phzy NiP
Phzy will stand in again for dev1ce at the BLAST Spring Groups 2022. | Provided by BLAST

The last time the team played with phzy was at the BLAST World Final and, before that, Intel Extreme Masters Winter. The young AWPer performed admirably at both events, despite having only half a day of practice with the team before IEM Winter.

“Now he’s more integrated into our system,” hampus said. “He has his own plays and we let him do it. I think you will see how good he is.”

According to hampus, the extra practice time was put to good use. Besides integrating phzy, the team also spent time shoring up their weak T-sides.

“I won’t say, of course, but we have some new things,” hampus said. “You’ll see.”

BLAST Spring Groups

NiP will play their first BLAST Spring Groups match — and their first match of 2022 — against BIG Esports at 10 a.m. ET on Jan. 28. BIG, who brought in Josef “faveN” Baumann to replace Nicklas “gade” Gade during the offseason, are also fielding a mostly unchanged team.

“We played BIG a lot of times last year,” hampus said. “Both teams can win but I’m feeling confident. They have a new player with faveN, but we have a new stand-in with phzy so it’s a fair game in that aspect.”

It’s not just BIG and NiP that are showing a new look at the Spring Groups. Only teams Natus Vincere and Astralis will be playing the event with the same five players they fielded at the end of 2021. Hampus believes that all of the new and untried rosters will give NiP an advantage.

“Some of the new teams, they will have some problems,” hampus said. “For sure, in the first tournaments, we can capitalize on that.”

But the Swedes will also have to contend with new threats and teams that may just find the infamous honeymoon phase, where the absence of pressure and expectations can give rise to dangerous, free flowing Counter-Strike. In Group A, G2 Esports will make their debut with Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen and Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov. They’re a team that many have their eyes on coming into 2022.

“I can’t even do half the things he’s doing with the AWP,” hampus said of m0NESY, the widely touted 16-year-old talent. “Now [G2] don’t really have anymore excuses. They have a very strong lineup on paper.”

Hampus also identified FaZe Clan and Evil Geniuses as two teams to watch. “This year will be very interesting with what team will be the best team,” hampus said.