‘Fixing’ North American Counter-Strike

It is no secret that North American Counter-Strike has been disappointing. The region has always been on par with the top Europeans in terms of skill but has never really been there tactically. 2016 was one of the most successful years for NA CS, but things aren’t on the upward trend for them. Here are a reshuffle of the top 4 North American rosters, in the way I think they should be. I will also be inputting my thoughts on how these teams would rank in the world.

Team Liquid

via HLTV.org

On paper, Liquid are still the best North American roster. The org’s owner Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet, has also shown he isn’t afraid to open the checkbook to get good players. That is why I would project Liquid to come out on top of this NA shuffle. As for their roster, I would replace Josh “jdm64” Marzano with Óscar “mixwell” Cañellas. I would also cut Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, and sign Will “RUSH” Wierzba. Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz will have a field day with this roster. Not only does he have the superstar Jonathan “EliGe” Jablonowski, and hybrid AWP star player mixwell to play with, but he also gets his entry man RUSH back. Moving Russel “twistzz” Van Dulken into the mid-round role would benefit him greatly, as he is very good at winning gun fights. Altogether this team would be an unstoppable force on the Terrorist side, and pretty intimidating on the defense as well. As for where they would rank, I think a spot from 4-6th in the world would suit them.

OpTiC Gaming

 

via @MuggsyOG

I believe in Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez as an owner, and I think he’s done a pretty good job so far in CS:GO. Thus making OpTiC come out in second place in this roster shuffle throughout NA. No player from the current four-man core will stay on OpTiC. The beginning of their roster revamp starts by poaching underrated In game Leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta from CLG, along with his teammate Ricky “Rickeh” Mulholland who shows great promise to become a superstar AWP player. I’m going to bring in Hunter “SicK” Mims from Misfits to be the entry man, who also shows great promise. To round out this roster, I will take Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and Timothy “autimatic” Ta from Cloud9. This team would also be dangerous on both sides; however, the offense would most likely be based more on leveraging the skill on the roster, creating inconsistencies. Their ranking would hover most likely around the 8-11th spot in the world, though if everything goes right this team could even win a tournament.

 

Cloud 9

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

On paper, they currently have a better roster than OpTiC, but the org’s front office has shown time and time again that they will not do what is necessary to win. The only good signing that this organization has made, was the signing of Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham after the iBUYPOWER controversy. The first thing that needs to happen is to sign former OpTiC member Tarik “tarik” Celik. Skadoodle will be removed to make room for jdm64. Michael “shroud” Grzesiek will be relegated to streamer status, and nitr0 will take his place on the active roster. To round out this roster, the signing of Stephen “reltuC” Cutler to serve as an In-game Leader. The ranking for this team would most likely be floating around the 11-14th spot in the world.

Misfits

I will predict that Misfits swoops in to steal the leftovers from perhaps more accomplished orgs like Counter-Logic Gaming, as I have lost all faith in that organization, or Team SoloMid, as they seem to have lost interest in Counter-Strike. The only current Misfits player I will keep around is David “devoduvek” Dobrosavljevic, as he has shown flashes of talent. I will snatch Keith “NAF” Markovic, along with Skadoodle from free agency. Next, give me Kenneth “koosta” Suen from CLG, as he has been on the up and up recently. Damian “daps” Steele is the best In game Leader left in the NA scene, so I’ll pluck him from NRG. While I doubt this team would do anything internationally, they would be a good NA team, that would probably qualify for tournaments such as the ESL Pro League finals. I would put them around the 12-16th ballpark world ranking.

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The Trickiest Positions for each Active Duty Map

Here are what I’ve come to understand, through watching, playing, and talking about Counter-Strike to be the trickiest spots to play on each individual map in the current tournament pool. As a note, these are positions that aren’t necessarily the most difficult to play, but to play properly isn’t as easy as it may first seem.

Cache

via: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYH1ZPrfTuk

Playing the Vent/B rotator is definitely the most tricky, although oddly it is not the most difficult. Soloing the A bomb site is by far the hardest position to play on this map, but being that rotator from B can be quite tricky, as both mid and B need you almost simultaneously. The number of different scenarios you see as a B rotator tends to make the decision on where to play from difficult. The heaven and tree room are as good as useless to your teammate on the site, aside from any flashbangs you throw. This problem leaves a lot of players caught in the middle of a rotation, and losing rounds as a result.

Cobblestone

Cobblestone is pretty obvious, playing as that A rotator who is needed both on the A site and in the connector. It is an experience many don’t want to go through, and for good reason. Taking out of the equation A-splits using the drop zone, this would still be the trickiest spot to play; being in a good position in order to hold off an A push, while being able to support the drop zone player is impossible. When you add in A-splits, the position becomes a nightmare. One misstep, or hesitation and you could cost your team the entire round.

Inferno

Playing the arch side of the A bombsite can be quite tricky, although I actually think this one has to go to the pit. Playing the pit has always been tricky, but in this iteration of Inferno with how hard holding the banana can be, the pit is so much more crucial than it ever was. Not to mention, the removal of the pole leaves less cover. This position can completely turn the tides between a round won and lost on the A bombsite. While this is one of the weaker maps in terms of the rankings, Inferno’s positions are pretty straight up, so the pit has to take the cake.

Mirage

The stair/connector area to me is the most tricky on this map, just due to the fact that if you have the incorrect read on the situation in any sense, you can screw your whole team over. When a T side is taking the middle, if you aren’t there to support, you may as well give mid for free to the terrorists. When the T’s are taking A site, if you aren’t in front of the smokes, your teammate will be trapped in the site with no way for you to support him. If the T’s are Mid-A splitting, you need to be in the exact right position to isolate one side of the push or you are as good as dead. I could see an argument for short B; however, in this position, it is easy for your teammate to solo the B bombsite, whereas the A bombsite is quite difficult to solo. Thus making it less important to have the exact right read.

via http://team-dignitas.net/

 

 

Nuke

This one is a little bit difficult, as I’ve found pretty much every position on this map can be tricky. The one that would have to take the cake here would be playing on the Upper bomb site as the anchor. The thing that makes this one extra tricky is not only do you have to be alert at every second in the round, as it takes mere seconds for a Terrorist team to swarm the upper bombsite, but you also have to know the exact right way to be able to position yourself, and where to look in order to maximize your efficiency within the round. You need to be quick and decisive, or you’ll be caught out of position.

Overpass

I would say on Overpass there aren’t any super tricky positions in the ideal setup on the map, which neglects the connector position. For the purposes of this list, however, I’ll say the connector, as if you lose your teammate in the bathrooms, you are as good as dead.

via http://www.counter-strike.net/

Train

The inner bombsite can be quite difficult, especially considering that you won’t be getting too much help from your teammates. Not only are fakes common, but the fourth defender is crucial to holding off a push successfully. Defending the B bombsite with the two drastically different elevations can be a total chore, and without a good read, you can get screwed in a lot of ways. An extra added bonus is you also get the most difficult bomb site in the entire map pool to retake should your teammates fall on the outer bombsite.

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Space Soldiers’ Journey to ESL One Cologne

The Space Soldiers squad, hailing from Turkey, qualified for one of Counter-Strike’s most notorious tournaments by defeating Swedish side GODSENT in the closed qualifiers.

Space Soldiers sought redemption after faltering at the European minor, losing out on a spot at the PGL major. Despite that loss, they’ve been on a strong run of form. The team flew out to Lisbon to compete in the 4Gamers CS:GO Masters in which they took first place by defeating a number of Portuguese opposition. A confidence boost, no doubt, for the string of qualifiers that laid ahead.

European Minor

Unfortunately for the Turkish squad, they opened up their Major campaign with a close loss to Tricked and then a dominating defeat at the hands of Team Kinguin. Following those losses would be wins over North Academy and NiP. Although both sides had their flaws, Space Soldiers dictated the play leading to both victories. However, they would fall short to Dignitas in the next round, losing 16-2 on one of their worst maps, Inferno. Had the team not gotten off on the wrong foot, it’s likely we would have seen them pressing on to the main qualifier.

Cologne Qualifier

The ESL One Cologne qualifier was a chance at redemption for Space Soldiers. They easily defeated their first opponents, Bulgaria’s Outlaws, with score lines of 16-3 and 16-7 on Train and Cobblestone, respectively.

Their next series would be against Team EnVyUs, who as we know are a line up with potential thanks to the likes of Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom and Alexandre “xms” Forté. However, a strong team performance would earn Space Soldiers another 2-0 victory with Buğra “Calyx” Arkın performing in both games.

Engin “MAJ3R” Kupeli led the way in fragging against GODSENT. [Source: Liquipedia]

To secure their place at the infamous ESL One Cologne, Space Soldiers would have to defeat GODSENT, one of the many struggling Swedish teams. GODSENT got off to a bad start in the veto phase by allowing Space Soldiers to get their favorite map, Cobblestone, first. The Turkish were relentless in securing the victory (16-5).

In the second map, Space Soldiers would jump out to a commanding 14-4 lead before GODSENT started to build up an economy on the Counter-Terrorist side. However, in the twenty-fifth round, the Swedes would throw their chance away by losing to a TEC-9 force buy. Space Soldiers would win the map 16-10 and the prized tickets to ESL One Cologne.

It would be hard to pick a standout player for the qualifier. The entire team stepped up when needed, even stand in Engin “ngiN” Ko, however, Engin “MAJ3R” Kupeli led the way in terms of kills and damage across both maps in the final.

The Big Chance

Aside from their attendance at WESG in China, ESL One Cologne will be the first premiere LAN event for the Space Soldiers. The team has risen in popularity due to the incredibly skilled Can “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş and Buğra “Calyx” Arkın. Their journey to the top has been eagerly awaited and I’m sure many will be wanting them to upset the best of the best as they descend on the Lanxess Arena, Cologne in July.


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Rise Nation signs CS:GO team

Rise Nation is expanding their esports presence with the signing of the ex-EclipseGG Counter-Strike: Global Offensive roster.

According to ESEA.net, the new Rise Nation roster has four active members: -Ace, vSa, dazzLe, and moose. In Rise Nation’s announcment, their fifth player is Jonji.

Last season, the North American roster competed in the ESEA Premier division for the first time and finished the regular season with a 14-2 record. They will continue competing in the Premier division for Season 25 and will play in Philadelphia at Fragadelphia 11 in July.

Rise Nation entered esports with a Call of Duty roster in 2014. Still a top team in the game, Rise Nation has acquired players in Madden, Street Fighter, Overwatch and now CS:GO.

The team is owned by NFL player Rodger Saffold and Kahreem Horsley.


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The Return of Dust2 Could Be The Change CS:GO Needs

In February of this year, Valve made the decision to remove Counter-Strike’s most iconic map from the competitive map pool, dust2. The map was replaced by another fan favorite and classic Inferno which had recently undergone its own rework. With the current map pool lacking exciting and competitive maps could Dust2 make a timely return?

Available for competitive play at the moment is Mirage, Train, Nuke, Cache, Cobblestone, Overpass and Inferno. However, many of the map pool problems lie with the two most recently updated maps Cobblestone and Nuke.

Issues with Cobblestone

The former has undergone many changes since its inception in CSGO. Cobblestone went from heavily Counter-Terrorist sided to Terrorist sided faster than a chicken running from Ronald McDonald. The changes to the B bombsite created the one-dimensional style of play it has become known for. Terrorists can simply steam into the B bombsite with an army of flashbangs and so long as one catches a Counter-Terrorist, you can have that bomb down and the round secured. Even after Ninjas in Pyjamas’ coach Björn “THREAT” Pers innovated new smokes for both bomb sites, rushing B still prevailed as the most effective strategy.

Threat was the mastermind behind NiP’s smoke strategies on Cobblestone. [Source: Dreamhack]

An underlying problem is that the economy for Counter-Terrorists can already be detrimental. The ability Terrorists have to dominate the B bombsite only further punishes that economy since there is a high percentage of success whether the Terrorists have rifles, UMPs or pistols at their disposal all with little damage to their own economy.

A recent example that highlights the imbalance of the map was at Dreamhack Austin in which G2 Esports played the map three times. The results were two wins at 16-13 and 16-12 and a loss of 16-14. The fact that Cloud9 and Liquid can amass nearly as many terrorist rounds as G2 and Gambit speaks to its disparity. It shows that there is little difference between a mediocre cobblestone team and high-level ones such as G2 who have known to be specialists on it in the past.

Issues with Nuke

Cobblestone, in fact, is a great map in comparison to the next, Nuke. The rework is simply a re-skinned version of its predecessor and still, holds many of the core problems people had with the original. Directional sound is a core problem within Counter-Strike itself. Although, Nuke heightens the severity of the issue because of its layout. Nuke is the only map in the pool that has multiple levels of height making sound essential to figuring out where the opposition is. However, the sound in CSGO is so bad that more often than not players are led to believe that their enemies are in one place when they are in fact somewhere completely different. Not only that, but Terrorists are particularly disadvantaged since Counter-Terrorists can use the silenced M4 making it even harder to pinpoint where enemies are.

Another core problem was the tight openings and corridors that allowed very little Terrorist movement. This made it easy for CTs to shut down oncoming attacks. In the update, the doorway into the A bombsite was widened in an attempt to counter this issue. Despite their intentions, Valve, in fact, made it easier for Counter-Terrorists to see into hut and lobby making it just as hard as it was before.

They also made the addition of the catwalk around the roof of the A bombsite. In my opinion, this is a legitimately pointless area for Terrorists. Again, in their ultimate wisdom, Valve has more so added another option for Counter-Terrorists as now, they can push up outside while maintaining a height advantage. Even if the Terrorists manage to succeed in getting outer control, a player using the catwalk has the same impact on the round as if he self-boosted on the roof or walked up the ladder.

The new catwalk can be seen running from silo all the way to CT heaven.

Nuke’s inclusion in the map pool also triggered outrage amongst the professionals due to the map it replaced, Inferno. A popular choice among all teams, Inferno was heralded for its ability to produce competitive games. There were many top inferno teams such as Fnatic and EnvyUs whom could garner large numbers of T rounds while the likes of Virtus.pro and Dignitas were known for locking down the CT side. It allowed specialists on each side of the map a chance to shine. No teams are even vaguely interested in becoming a specialist on Nuke, which can be told from how infrequently the map is played.

What could Dust2 do?

Dust2’s impact on the map pool would entirely depend on the outcome of the rework. It was removed due to its stagnation in play, with the same strategies being repeated over and over again. If there are new ways for Terrorists to engage bomb sites and more ways for Counter-Terrorists to defend them I see the rework being successful.

There have been many suggestions as to what changes should be made. One of the most popular ones is opening up the skyboxes around the map. Doing this would allow teams to be more creative with strategy as opposed to the same two or three seen before its eventual demise.

Dust2 had its sixteenth birthday this year, almost as old as me.

Another suggestion has been to utilize the area before Terrorists enter B halls since it is unused space. It could be used as a foundation for B site attacks or maybe the bomb site could be moved forward so that it is more evenly distanced between Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists.

Due to the maps history, it is likely that teams will be interested in adding it to their map pool when construction is eventually finished. It was prominently used in North America against Europeans where they could demonstrate their in-game talent. If tactical depth is created as a result of the rework it will be a refreshing change to play and watch. Hopefully it retains some of its run and gun aspects while also promoting more strategical play.

No matter what happens fans will rejoice when Dust2 is eventually re-added to active duty. So long as it’s in favor of either Cobblestone or Nuke, I’m an advocate. The CSGO scene has been long awaiting another shake up and Dust2 could be the map to do it.

 

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The Question Mark that is North

photo via http://intelextrememasters.com/

North, the second best team from Denmark, one of the top 10 teams in Counter-Strike at the moment, have been disappointing considering all of the good pieces they have obtained. With a duo like Emil “Magisk” Reif and Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke and one of the most skilled supporting casts in all of Counter-Strike, we expect greatness from North. North has yet to even make a notable final since their win at Epicenter Moscow over seven months ago. Not to mention that win came with former member Ruben “RUBINO” Villarroel. I’ll be diving headfirst into the two key problems within North, and possible fixes to these issues.

The AWP

When I look at this North team, I see a team that, especially on T side, should be running a run and gun, five rifle style. A style sort of reminiscent of the LDLC lineup with Richard “shox” Papillion. On Cobblestone, North’s best map, Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen, the team’s leader, runs this style. As for the style on other maps, however, he has different ideas, as René “cajunb” Borg is frequently on the AWP.

On their CT sides, they frequently choose to run the double AWP, even on maps like Cobble, where you don’t even necessarily need one AWP. When you aren’t running a T side around having an AWP, you can be much more aggressive when buying, leading to force buy wins with weapons in desperate need of a nerf like the UMP, Tec-9, and P250. If MSL wants to stick to running an AWP, one of their aggressive riflers will either have to step down or be removed from the team.

Sluggish Defense

The real problem has not been In-game Leader MSL’s T sides. The struggles this team has encountered have been on the Counter-Terrorist side. Most of their defensive woes all flow from one key detail; the loss of RUBINO. Without someone who can play the tricky spots on maps, such as solo A site on Cache or the connector/stairs on Mirage, their CT sides suffer immensely. Time would most likely be a fix to this; although, the signs of improvement aren’t showing after multiple months. As a result, I think the only option they would have would be to bring in a new player.

photo via https://www.redbull.com/us-en/

In need of a Hero

While my last two points have suggested this North don’t necessarily need to make a change in players, the current lineup has massive potential. Should they need to change for any interpersonal issues, or if they get impatient with these okay, but not stellar results, people they could likely grab include Andreas “MODDII” Fridh, Valdemor “valde” Bjørn Vangså from Heroic, or they could bring up a player from the North Academy team. The best move at the current time would have to be to grab MODDII, as he plays this passive and supportive style that I think would fit very well into a team packed with entry power. Another key detail is he can play the very tricky spots on maps and can be integral to a defense that could use some bolstering. He would also bring some veteran savvy to an extremely young team.

To the North

The Danish powerhouse is stuck in the most competitive era in CS:GO history, which has pushed them out of the top 5 world rankings. Still, North have a bright future under MSL. He is a brilliant leader who is capable of bringing out the best in most of the players he plays with. While they might not be reaching the heights that they want at the moment, they maintain a high floor and have a sky-high ceiling going for them. North still have a lot to prove going forward, we’ll see if they can start to make big finals and win out the huge LANs like we expect them to.

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The hardships of being a Counter-Strike professional

For the average viewer, it might be difficult to comprehend the struggles being a professional gamer might bring. After all, in their eyes, they make hundreds of thousands of dollars playing their favorite video game, but there’s more to it than that.

Time is Money

In traditional sports, such as football, at the amateur level teams may train once or twice a week for an hour. Players only begin dedicating huge hours to their craft after they have already begun earning a stable income. It is estimated that English winger Raheem Sterling now of Manchester City was earning around £30,000 a year as a seventeen year old. Now obviously this is a player who showed and has now displayed his great potential. However, even young players playing in the 2nd and 3rd tiers of English football will be living comfortably from their wage packets.

This is a far cry from the amount of time spent by even budding esports players. Looking at the masters league in Faceit’s pick-up game service, two tiers below the professional level, the top three players had committed 114.1, 107.3 and 89.6 hours in the past two weeks on Steam. A heck of a lot more than any semi-pro football teams will be playing. This is a large chunk of time to commit without reaping any immediately justifiable reward.

The fact that any player wanting to reach professional status has to dedicate this sort of time speaks volumes about the exclusivity of such a career. More often than not, players have to give up trying quite early because there comes a time where people have to think about the future and creating a comfortable life. Jarosław “pashaBiceps” Jarząbkowski is a player who in the past has been open about his struggles in the beginning of Global Offensive. Watching his player profile below gives some insight into his life and how it all started for him.

Variations of Practice

Another strain on professional players is that to stay at the top level they not only have to spend time practicing with their team but also play alone to hone their basic in-game mechanics. It is true that after playing for many years the various weapon sprays, crosshair placement and movements become muscle memory but it only takes a few days of not playing for it to significantly drop off. While the start of the spray might still be deadly, your muscles will begin to less effectively execute the last ten bullets or so. You will get fewer headshots since your wrist hasn’t been actively making the flick movement for days.

On top of that, many leaders and coaches will expect their players to leave practice and do their revision. That might be to practice smoke grenades or study their own demos to perfect play. Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz at the ELEAGUE Major talked about studying his own heat maps so as to not become predictable to opposing teams.

Studying heat maps is going the extra mile of course, but players still spend anywhere between around 2-6 hours a day perfecting their in-game mechanics and most likely a further 6 hours practicing team strategy with the possibility of official matches after that. These players can spend up to sixteen hours a day playing Counter-Strike. If everyone else is going the extra mile, it’s something a top competitor can’t afford not to do.

Device was vocal about studying his own heat maps at the ELEAGUE Major. [Source: Dreamhack]

Home or Away

Time leads onto another aspect of professional Counter-Strike which is the traveling. One of the beautiful yet challenging elements is that tournaments are conducted all over the world. From Sydney to Stockholm to Dubai and back again. Currently, we have the most over saturated pro circuit within esports with our players traveling to approximately three LAN tournaments a month.

This is one of the reasons why I rate Counter-Strike players more highly than many other esports players. In League of Legends, all five players live in the same house and can articulate a consistent schedule as the matches are in the same place at the same time every week. Spending so much time on the road can only add to the mental fatigue Counter-Strike players experience through repeated high-level competition, the amount of time practicing amongst missing home.

A huge talking point this year is the conflicting schedule between ESL One Cologne and the PGL Major. [Source: ESL]

Witch Hunts

Being a professional sportsman undoubtedly makes you susceptible to much hate from opposing fans or your own if the team is underperforming. In football, this may be in the newspapers or on Twitter. However, the difference between footballers and esports players is that most footballers are not consistently active on Twitter. Therefore, don’t have enough time to read all of the messages or are busy traveling to read the newspaper. The difference in esports is that they work over the internet so all mediums used to criticize or hate on players is in a place where they are going to see it. Whether that be on Twitter, Reddit or in-game.

A recent story that came to light is that of Mikail “Maikelele” Bill, who was once playing in a major final to now failing to qualify for tier two LAN events. Of course, Maikelele himself will likely admit that his own form has declined in that time. Although, it wasn’t entirely his fault, for example, losing his spot on the Ninjas in Pyjamas despite playing consistently well.

Many esports communities are too ready to unjustifiably disrespect pro players. These people without proof or little insight take to forums to insult people who they were the biggest fan of yesterday. It must be a hard pill to swallow when these players who are driven by competition and winning for the fans, can’t garner their respect when they go through a rough period.

To conclude, next time your team is going through a rough patch consider some of these factors and take it easy, they’ll come back.

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Who will win Dreamhack Tours?

Despite SK’s win at IEM Sydney stealing the headlines, this weekend Dreamhack hosted one of their many open events in Tours, France. The tournament has provided some of the most entertaining Counter-Strike we’ve seen in some time. Na’Vi embarrassed themselves, Robin “ropz” Kool made his LAN debut, while Misfits have given North America some hope. There were eight teams in attendance with only four now remaining. Although we might have lost some big names, today’s semi-finals will be a real treat.

HellRaisers vs Misfits

Misfits caused one of the biggest upsets we’ve seen by defeating Na’Vi in a best of three in their decider game. The North American team lost the opener in a crushing defeat on Cobblestone before reverse sweeping their opposition in dominating fashion. The win largely came through primary AWPer Shahzeeb “ShahZaM” Khan, who outplayed his Na’Vi counterpart Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács all series long. ShahZaM averaged more than a kill a round and was responsible for multiple clutch plays.

HellRaisers advanced straight to the semi-finals after two best of one wins in the group stage. The first was a crushing victory over home team EnVyUs. Their second game was against Danish squad Tricked, who they narrowly beat 16-13 on Train. HellRaisers’ two Slovakian players Patrik “Zero” Žúdel and Martin “STYKO” Styk were the defining players closing out rounds with an array of multi kills across both maps.

This semi-final is hard to predict for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is unknown whether ShahZaM will turn up in the same way for today’s games. The AWPer has shown flickers of this potential in the past although, it has never stuck, leading him to lose his spot on both Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming. In spite of that, Misfits’ usual star player Hunter “SicK” Mims was absent for the majority of the series, meaning he can bring firepower if he can find his footing.

However, HellRaisers will be a more formidable opponent than Na’Vi since they have a more structured style. Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow stated that he has been working hard with his former In-Game Leader, now the HellRaisers coach, to further develop a tactical approach. Both Zero and STYKO have been consistently on point these past months, so it’s likely to continue into the semi-final. The key player for the CIS team will be their own AWPer Bence “DeadFox” Böröcz, who has been on the decline for some time now. If ShahZaM turns up in-form he will have a hard task trying to do what GuardiaN couldn’t.

In my opinion, HellRaisers will win the series, most likely in three maps. I think their tactical presence will feel completely different to Misfits’ previous game. The Americans will at least win one map if their players step up again, it’s also not completely out of reach that they take the series themselves. HellRaisers are the logical pick because they have consistently shown they are capable of beating the lower opposition.

G2 Esports vs mousesports

Hometown heroes G2 Esports easily has the most hyped roster we’ve seen in CSGO, however, they are yet to live up to that potential. A win at this event will put some of the critics on the backburner for a short time.

G2 stumbled early by losing 16-7 to Tricked on Inferno, one of their better maps, forcing them to play against fellow countrymen in Team EnVyUs. In that series, they were always in front thanks to Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro, who finished the series +20 in kills.

Following the victory, G2 were to play Tricked again in a best of three. This time, all of the team performed to the level it should with Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt topping the board. It was refreshing to see the likes of Bodyy and NBK dishing out the damage and is a promising sign for G2’s title hopes since then they would only need one of their stars firing on all cylinders to win against just about anyone.

G2’s support player Bodyy contributed highly against Team EnVyUs. [Source: Dreamhack]

G2’s opponents are international team mousesports, who recently picked up Faceit Pro League star Ropz. They advanced straight to the semi-final after two wins over Heroic and the faltering Natus Vincere. It’s hard to gauge how strong the roster really is after these wins since both opponents underperformed at the event. One thing that is clear however is that there is more to come from this lineup and particularly from Ropz himself. However, even though mousesports has some dangerous players, G2 simply has too much individual firepower. That, combined with mousesports lack of time with Ropz, means I find it extremely unlikely that they drop the series.

Highly sought after, Ropz rose through the ranks by playing FPL. [Source: HLTV]

Grand Final

The safe and logical pick for the winner of Dreamhack Tours is, of course, G2 Esports. The Frenchmen have shown a willingness to improve from game to game and their individual prowess should be in full effect by the time the grand final comes around. HellRaisers have a small chance to take a map if they build some momentum following a pistol round win, but otherwise, I see G2 and the sixth man – the crowd – overwhelming the CIS team with raw skill.


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A New Scope – The AWP Nerf Years On

Over two years ago, Valve released one of the most memorable updates for seasoned players, the AWP nerf. The patch, released in early April of 2015, reduced the speed at which players could move while scoped in with the sniper. The aim was to make AWPing on the terrorist side less impactful which it definitely achieved.

By making the change, terrorists were unable to use many of the long-time opening pick spots since the slower movement speed means that they could not peek angles already scoped in. This made T side AWPing more difficult because for an AWPer to be able to use these angles, they would have to quickscope and sometimes even prefire common CT spots, in order to try and gain an advantage.

An example would be long on dust2. It is not uncommon for an AWPer with a good spawn to peek long doors in an attempt to catch a player crossing to pit. However, post nerf, terrorists would move too slowly to attain the kill without peeking before scoping in. This gives Counter-Terrorists a god like advantage since not only is it already harder for the T to kill them but the slower movement means that the CT can Molotov deep and deal a substantial amount of damage as the AWPer exits the doorway.

Although the changes impacted a lot of AWPers in a negative way, the patch has allowed certain players to come to fruition. So in this article, I’ll be taking a look at some of the most affected players and where they are now.

Troubling Times

In spite of his return to form in the latter stages of 2016. Fan favorite Kenny “KennyS” Schrub fell from grace a little when the AWP nerf hit years ago. The Frenchman’s ratings dropped from his usual highs to unusual lows from April onwards in 2015. Overall his HLTV rating dropped by 0.14 despite playing with a better line up in Team EnvyUs. He openly admitted in an interview with Aftonbladet that it took a huge toll on him emotionally, when he could feel his confidence slipping away. KennyS will undoubtedly always be a household name in Global Offensive, gifting the community with an array of highlights and montages to watch and love. It will be interesting to see if he continues his rise back to number one and maybe even surpass his 2014 form.

KennyS playing for Team EnvyUs at the Cluj-Napoca major. [Photo Dreamhack]

Similarly, to Kenny players, such Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham are world-class AWPers that have struggled with consistency ever since the nerf. Both of these players still show us glimpses of their past performances, however, have a higher tendency to go missing. This has led to the world where a lot of AWPers are no longer the star players of their teams. Back in 2014 teams would be built around the likes of KennyS and GuardiaN, however, nowadays they play second fiddle to daring impact players such as Richard “shox” Papillon and Alexander “s1mple” Kostylev. With fantastic skill, s1mple and Shox can utilize not only rifles and pistols but also AWPs just as effectively as their main AWPers.

As I just alluded to the AWP nerf didn’t necessarily make our most famous AWPers play worse. It simply closed the gap between being a good AWPer or an extraordinary AWPer. The niche skill was effectively, no longer niche. Teams would sometimes overly push double AWP setups because they would have their long time god-tier AWPer, for example, Jesper “JW” Wecksell in Fnatic, and their star player, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer, who on his day, could out AWP his counterpart. This is a situation that occurred in many teams. To name a few s1mple and GuardiaN in Natus Vincere, Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Chris “chrisJ” de Jong in mousesports as well as Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo and Marcelo “coldzera” David in SK amongst many more.

Despite being one of the world’s best GuardiaN has struggled with consistency. [Photo ESL]

Who Blossomed?

Since the patch, the AWP is seemingly more effective on the Counter-Terrorist side. This has led to the rise of defensive AWPers, for example, Aleksi “allu” Jalli. Allu is a player who anchors critical spots on the map by dominating with strong positioning. An instance would be long on Inferno which he locked down throughout his tenure on the Ninjas and carried through into FaZe. In the clip below you can see he gets the opening pick mid. Following that Allu uses the advantage to aggressively hold second mid gifting himself another kill. However, the last three kills demonstrate his positional knowledge. He uses the corner of the wall to slightly peek out eliminating much of the risk of re-peeking.

Another player who has perhaps benefited from the changes is FalleN. Known as the brain behind Brazilian beasts SK Gaming, FalleN was a star AWPer in the first iteration of Counter-Strike yet didn’t take on the role in Global Offensive. Not until the removal of Caio “zqkS” Fonseca from his roster in favor of Coldzera. As aforementioned, the changes led to the ascension of strong all-around players taking star player spots. This allowed FalleN to settle back into AWPing more easily and play as the second star who supports Coldzera. Being the second star allowed him to take on the leading role more effectively as it meant the team didn’t rely as heavily on him allowing FalleN to focus more on the other four players.

In spite of previously arguing having two great AWPers as a negative, the change cites a reason for some of the greatest teams in Counter-Strike history. Fnatic and SK, who have both had periods of total domination, were built on JW/Olofmeister and FalleN/Coldzera. The fact that the teams could switch between the two added depth to their team play and allowed an individual player to take over if needed, rather than force the AWP into a players hands if he is having an off game.

Olofmeister (Center) and JW (Far Right) were a force to be reckoned with during the Fnatic Era of CS:GO. [Photo ESL]

Conclusion

As I learned in my previous article on Lurking in CS:GO, though not quite to the same extent, AWPing is becoming less of a defined role within certain teams and more of a situational pickup. Gradual changes to the game are placing a greater emphasis on increased movement speed and the use of pistols and SMGs. Thus giving us a rise in incredibly skilled line-ups. This, Combined with the changes to the AWP some teams have up to three players capable of AWPing at the pro level.

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The Downfall of Lurking

The art of lurking is perhaps the most distinct role within Counter-Strike. Personally, I would describe the lurker as being the thorn in the enemy’s side. It is their job to apply pressure to the opposing team by being a constant distraction. These types of players commonly play based off of enemy grenade usage, sound cues, and information gathered by their team in order to catch the enemy off guard.

The most famous lurkers have truly ingenious instincts to play at such an incredibly high level. So let’s take a look at some of Global Offensive’s storied lurkers.

Cream of the Crop

GeT_RiGhT

Not only one of Counter-Strikes most famous lurkers, but one of its most famous players of all time is Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund. The Swede defined the role late in the 1.6 era and carried it through to Global Offensive. He joined the resurrected Ninjas in Pyjamas line up in 2012 and has stuck with them ever since.

GeT_RiGhT demonstrated the effect being a backstabber could have. Often, he waits for his team to secure the opposing bomb site, then, after he hears the enemies rotating, he comes in from behind and cleans up the remaining kills.

GeT_RiGhT made famous the position in apartments on Inferno where he is known to wait while his teammates attack B. This lurk, in particular, is extremely effective because it means the Counter-Terrorists have no knowledge of whether there are five terrorists ready to execute the A-bomb site or just one lurking. Once the terrorists have control of the apartments, it is usually too risky for the CT’s to take back.

Due to the dominance of Ninjas in Pyjamas from 2012 through 2014, opposing teams not only fear the physical lurk but also the mental presence. Just the idea that GeT_RiGhT  ‘could’ be in apartments can sometimes be enough to crack teams.

Happy

A player who built on the legacy started by GeT_RiGhT is Vincent “Happy” Schopenhauer. Happy was a part of the LDLC/Team EnVyUs lineup that won two major tournaments amongst other premier LAN events. Much like GeT_RiGhT, Happy plays away from the team to create situations where he could kill enemies from behind. On the T side, he plays much farther removed from his team than GeT_RiGhT does, making it harder for the enemy to track him. However, it’s his daring flanks on the CT side where he times his push to perfection, executing the terrorists with deadly effect. On dust2, Happy waits for the exact right moment to push short or long, leading to a plethora of multi kills.

Hiko

The final player is a North American: none other than Spencer “Hiko” Martin. This is a player who, similarly to our favourite Swede, helped define North America early on. He was on the Complexity roster that achieved legend status at two major tournaments.

One of Hiko’s trademarks is playing at the squeaky door on Cache. He not only hides out listening to enemy sound cues but creates his own. He repeatedly opens and closes the door as well as spraying through it. This prolongs enemy rotations if his team heads to the B bombsite due to the fear that Hiko can flank. Furthermore, if his team is coming A, he causes panic in the CT’s minds because he will continue playing with the door during the full execute. You just never know when he’s going to jump out.

Double major champion Happy pictured at Dreamhack London (Source: pcgamer.com)

Decline of Lurkers

In recent years, lurkers stats have dropped dramatically, leaving the likes of Happy and Hiko to miss out. Many people are skeptical of whether these players are past their time or not. Part of the problem is that the majority of players have become aware of lurkers and how to counter them. On the older maps, it has become increasingly difficult for GeT_RiGhT and Hiko to innovate new ways to lurk, meaning that lurking on maps such as Cache, Inferno, and Mirage has stagnated.

However, I think the larger problem is that the modern faster meta doesn’t favour them. Since the introduction of the Tec-9 and more recently the UMP, teams have been able to win rounds more easily with limited equipment. A style introduced by none other than Happy himself, players abuse the power of the pistols and UMP by holding close quarter angles to pick up a kill. This subsequently reduces the round to a series of one versus ones making it much easier for the limited team to win. This fast-paced style has created a movement in which teams are now choosing five fantastically skilled players over playing with more defined roles. It’s not to say that lurkers aren’t amazing riflers, it’s that they peak when they get the chance and use their brain to win the round.

Happy was a loser in the most recent French shuffle, missing out on the chance to play with Richard “shox” Papillon and Kenny “kennyS” Schrub. Hiko is currently teamless after a brief stint with OpTic Gaming where they publically stated that he didn’t fit their style. If some of the game’s best lurkers can’t stay atop, is there any hope for the up-and-comers?

Hiko didn’t don the OpTic jersey for very long. (Source: dexerto.com)

What can they do?

Despite Hiko and Happy being unwilling to adapt to the changes, GeT_RiGhT has made efforts to try and recraft his artwork. In the current iteration of NiP, you can find him becoming the entry fragger on full executes. Since he is so fabled for playing away from the team, he has taken on this role to occasionally cause CT’s to wonder whether he is just lurking or whether there is a delayed execute of Ninjas behind him.

Another way lurkers could change their game is to essentially become support players similar to how Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth plays on Astralis. By doing this, the players would still be able to play from the clutch using their intuition to win. Consequently, it would mean that they wouldn’t take one of the star player spots and the resources of the team. In turn, they could recruit a younger superstar that’s more in line with the modern meta. That way they can funnel all their resources into the new star and bet all their money on them.

There is still hope for lurkers yet.


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