At a point where every team thinks Brimstone is borderline overpowered, Ninjas in Pyjamas shunned the agent. Why?
While the ranked ladder for VALORANT rolls out across the live servers, handfuls of weekly tournaments and invitationals have carved out a rough idea of what the early metagame will look like. Agents like Sage, Brimstone, and Cypher all seem to be featured without questions each match and on the majority of maps played. However, one European team is doing things a little differently. Ninjas in Pyjamas has been running a surprising lack of Brimstone these last few weeks and instead opted for the recently nerfed Raze as a replacement. This week’s analysis looks at the trade-offs of dropping Brimstone for Raze, how effectively Ninjas in Pyjamas used the composition, and how viable it is moving forward.
First, let’s contextualize where it was used. Ninjas in Pyjamas wielded this composition during their dominant win at the Wave Esports Cup #1 and in their surprising second-place finish in the COOLER Cup.
- Read more: Where does Brimstone rank statistically?
Like I mentioned before, the big difference to note here is that Ninjas in Pyjamas trades out Brimstone for Raze. This gives them more direct area denial with Paint Shells, Blast Packs, and Boom Bots over Brimstone’s Incendiary shell. This also allows them better access to vertical positions thanks to Blast Packs and, in comparison, a better ultimate with Raze’s Showstopper. However, the big trade-off is the lack of vision denial with the loss of Brimstone’s Sky Smokes. This means that without proper rehearsal, generally speaking, attacking sites isn’t as clear.
However, Ninjas in Pyjamas circumvents this problem beautifully.
Usually, Leander "Tenner" Aspestrand is their Raze player and you can often find him, especially on Haven, taking short flanking angles and clearing rooms with Boom Bot. Throughout Ninjas in Pyjamas’ run through the Wave Esports Cup, we constantly see Tenner checking and clearing angles like A Short and C Short on Haven and Vents on Split with Raze’s strong area denial. This opens the map and creates a ton of space for his team to work.
Here is a great example of how well Ninjas in Pyjamas uses Raze to play aggressively to take A Site over in the grand finals of the COOLER Cup.
Ninjas in Pyjamas denies A Heaven with Omen’s Dark Cover. Immediately after, Raze starts sweeping through A Short as the remainder of his team cuts through A Long and waits for the call. Raze clears A-Short of any aggressive holds with her Boom Bots and once done, Tenner makes the call combos with Breach to deny A-Box with Fault Line and Paint Shell. With only 3-4 abilities used, this is a fairly cheap way to limit the A Site Defenders. Now, they’re only able to hold Bottom A and A Tunnels which are very passive angles. With all the space in the world, Ninjas in Pyjamas blitzes in and takes the site in a matter of seconds. They’ve entirely circumvented the need for Sky Smokes with Breach, Raze and Omen respectively.
Overall, the Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Brimstone-less composition feels attacking or retake favoured. Raze can dislodge defenders or at least provide information on where defenders can be, whereas on a standard defence, all the area denial she brings can force you to hold slightly awkward angles. Contrast that to Brimstone who doesn’t have to commit to a forward position to use Sky Smoke. On one hand, we’ve got someone who can anchor a defence and provide smoke nearly across the map and on the other we’ve got someone who can quickly dispatch an enemy or physically deny them space through the threat of direct damage. One is more proactive, the other a bit more reactive.
What this does show us is that Raze isn’t completely dead in the water in terms of viability, rather her tools are a bit more limited and her role is a bit more defined. It is not feasible to use Paint Shell to fish for kills or to clear suspected angles anymore, instead, you’re incentivized to use it to clear actual defended positions or to deny set positions on a fast execute. This is exactly how Ninjas in Pyjamas played out their set Haven A push. With this in mind, Raze is much more about flushing people out of positions and getting picks rather than carpet bombing a site and denying all of the angles all the time.
It requires a very sharp set plays to abuse what vision denial tools you do have or, more simply, it requires you to play very quickly with direct goals in mind. A great example of this is in Ninjas in Pyjamas’ offensive round on Split in the grand finals.
They find themselves down and against the ropes and opt for a slower, mid focused set up rather than abusing the “burst” potential their compositional has inherently. Having set plays as they did on Haven to quickly wrestle one of the two sites away from the defenders or to take mid control feels like what Raze does best. Unfortunately, Ninjas in Pyjamas let off the gas which resulted in the slower play.
Generally speaking, I do think Brimstone is a great agent. He slows down the game with his vision denial and does it all incredibly safely, however, I do think that with more time, the composition that Ninjas in Pyjamas has shown us, will come more into vogue. The lethality it brings with its two-ability combos and strong information fishing is potent, but difficult to pilot correctly. If anything, I see more set Ice Orbs and Fault Line combos with Paint Shell and Omen’s smoke to crack open sites quickly and force the enemy to always retake.
We could see this evolve into a slow round start to gain information and then a sudden explosion of abilities to quickly take the chosen site with seconds left on the clock.
In short, Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Brimstone-less composition is strong, but is it something you should be running in your ranked games? Probably not. The difficulty doesn’t come from agents or the composition inherently, more so from the style is asks of you. That said, if you’re looking for something that runs fast, has a ton of set play potential, and will catch opponents off guard, then keep your eyes on Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Images via Riot Games and Ninjas in Pyjamas