NA LAN, NA Lessons
Dreamhack Austin was a stacked North American LAN, with six teams in the top 20 of HLTV’s CS:GO world rankings, despite the absence of any European sides.
So of course, both of the finalists were from Brazil.
It is an exciting time for Brazilian Counter-Strike, with Luminosity (first place at Austin) a standard-bearing, elite squad and Tempo Storm (second place) up-and-coming off of their first international tournament win at the CEVO finals. Conversely, NA fans should be left feeling much as they did a year ago: disappointed with a scene mired in mediocrity.
As a member of the U.S. of A. myself, then, I must write up the most pertinent learning-points for the NA scene. If Austin was the NA classroom, here are my class notes. Please, boys, copy my work…
Raw firepower is only alright (Liquid)
Team Liquid has become the epitome of North American Counter-Strike in more ways than one. They became the de facto American dream team when they went to the semifinals of the MLG major and nearly defeated Luminosity—only to see an acrimonious roster move after bombing out of the next event, Dreamhack Malmo. They are a collection of great talent—and play so inconsistently. They take aim duels, man, aim duels all day…
Dreamhack Austin showed that Liquid’s personality is much the same as it was before, only that they now miss the extreme fragging power of s1mple. Koosta had his moments, and I can see him improving, but he is still clearly a rookie to even the top level of NA. On the last map they played against Luminosity, for example, he posted an atrocious 11 kills and 25 deaths; if he hadn’t have choked so hard, his team might have taken the closely-fought map and had a chance to make the finals.
This team has a certain Virtus.pro-like steamroll when things are working. They make quick successions of frags across the map. And Hiko, of course, is still a rock of a clutcher. But sadly, nitr0 still looks weak, and the team leans overwhelmingly on EliGE, easily the best player on the team right now. Furthermore, their anti-eco play is suspect. (Then again, every NA team’s anti-eco play is suspect.)
This team is, for now, disappointingly okay. To win in the future, they have a long honey-do list to complete: (1) kick nitr0 into gear again, (2) give koosta guidance and experience, (3) consider hiring a coach or consultant to improve their play in man-advantage or anti-eco situations, and (4) continue whatever Satanic ritual has transformed long-time bottom-feeder adreN into the passable role-player the team needs. All these seem rather difficult to achieve.
Role-appropriate roster moves work alright (Cloud 9)
Cloud 9 to semis? I’m pleasantly surprised. The new C9 line-up looked scrounged from slim pickings (Slem pickings?), but beating CLG in a Best of 3 and coming within one round of the finals has piqued my interest. Perhaps their acquisition of an unknown tier 3 NA in-game leader was slier than I thought. Slemmy (the new IGL in question) needs to improve his calling and adjustments on both sides, but his arrival may have put both the stars and the role-players of C9 in better, more comfortable positions.
Skadoodle hasn’t looked this good for months, and this shouldn’t be surprising. Skadoodle is a player who thrived most when under the direction and structure of a clear in-game leader, be it DaZeD or seangares—both of whom noted how they would have to carefully direct Ska where to play. Do the math from here: C9 gets an IGL, and Ska starts playing well again. Kapeesh?
Meanwhile, stewie2k has become an entry-fragger, and this is a perfect position for him. He’s got quick, great aim, and such a position both his aggressiveness and masks his still-clear inexperience. (This is the position tarik should always have played!) But Slemmy hasn’t put stewie to good work on Terrorist sides yet. Too often has stewie—or shroud, or n0thing, for that matter—been left pushing alone onto the wrong bombsite seeking kills with the round timer running perilously low.
Slemmy seems to have good game sense and a knack for certain Counter-Terrorist positions, and his presence also seems to have freed up n0thing’s fragging. However, Slemmy needs some hard DM practice ASAP, because his aim sucks, and I predict n0thing’s fragging won’t often be as good as it was in Austin. n0thing famously performs better at NA LANs than against top Europeans. He also needs to continue working hard on his tactical feel for games, as he was not beyond misreading both Brazilian squads he faced.
Get a brain in-game (The best player on Splyce was…freakazoid)
Watching crappy NA teams like Splyce play good international teams is a morbid obsession of mine. It’s a side show (freak show?) of beautiful masochism: cocky, under-skilled, and dumb players from my beloved stateside home getting mercilessly wrecked by the most mundane of Counter-Strike tactics. Watching Splyce was no exception.
Do these guys practice? And by practice, I mean, do more than f? Because in their game versus Luminosity, no one on Splyce seemed to have any idea where their opponents were playing at any time. No one, except fREAKAZOiD.
Yes, the rock that C9 rejected has become…well, a stand-in for Splyce, and their best player at the tournament. fREAK, unlike his teammates, seemed to anticipate where his opponents were playing and demonstrated an understanding of trade-frags and when and where to take duels. Others (like DAVEY) showed much better aim, but had none of fREAKAZOiD’s understanding of the game.
fREAK didn’t have this game-sense when he first joined C9 a year ago, but he earned it through hard work and LAN experience playing at the top level. NA’s up-and-coming would do well to take a cue from his improvement: study the top teams, practice with focus, stop playing loose at any time, and LEARN THE POSITIONS, DAMMIT.
Oh, and up-and-coming NA teams looking for a veteran and an entry-fragger could do worse than fREAKAZOiD. He’s not as bad as everyone else you have access to. Just sayin’.
A South American Work Ethic
The Brazilians trounced the Americans at an NA LAN, with both squads moving through to the finals, and no one should be surprised. SA > NA confirmed.
Thought it was cute that, in that grand finals, each player added the name of one of their Brazilian counterparts to the end of their nick? Actually, that was more than cute. It was a show of solidarity. Under the fatherly guidance of FalleN (the wise, the mighty, the powerful FalleN…okay, I’ll stop gushing), these boys poured their guts out together to understand the game and reach the highest echelons of CS:GO. The Brazilian scene is family, and their solidarity and work ethic have led them to international success surpassing that of the deeper—but less focused—NA scene.
Tempo Storm has some talent, this we cannot doubt. Hen1 is a truly explosive AWP talent, boltz is stable (though a bit absent in Austin compared to at the CEVO finals one tournament before), and felps has now doubly shown he is the play-making star a team needs to become successful. But pound for pound, C9 has just as much firepower—they have shroud and Skadoodle, two of the best fraggers NA has ever seen.
Why did C9 lose, then? Tempo Storm has a deeper playbook. They’re more rehearsed. Their teamplay is truly on point. They’ve *worked* the game, they’ve *worked* the maps—they’ve done their homework, and they’ve done it right. Their practice translates to rounds, especially when the nerves of high-pressure situations seeks to throw them off.
Take this hard work and multiply it by two years (and a few smart roster changes), and this is how Luminosity became major winners.
Take heed, NA. Your Maker cast his judgement, and then he and his angels destroyed you at Austin. Maybe the Brazilians are onto something?