Immersing yourself into a new competitive game can be easy, but can also be difficult. While many games are presented in an easy to follow manner, accompanied by informative commentary and analysis, beginning to understand some of the more complex competitive games out there can be a tough road to travel down. Knowing this, we here at Beyond Entertainment want to help you if you have ever thought about getting into different competitive games. For this, we will be guiding you through the ins and outs of competitive Counter-Strike, and in specific Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, one of the largest competitive games that sees continuous growth heading further into 2015. This will be your viewer guide for the ESL One tournament at the IEM World Championships in Katowice, Poland, the first major CS: GO tournament of 2015.
After reading through this guide, we hope that you have you have a newer and deeper understanding of competitive Counter-Strike, allowing you to follow the event from the first match to the last, and enjoy it enough to maybe even try out the game for yourself. So let’s get started.
While the first 2 and a half months of 2015 have been filled with incredible Counter-Strike: Global Offensive action, this weekend starts the series of events that have saw immense growth in 2014 and skyrocketed Counter-Strike back into its rightful place as one of the top competitive games in the world: The Majors.
The “Majors” are unlike any other Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) events. These massive tournaments are funded and directly supported by Valve, including a massive $250,000 prize pool, map related case drops in which you can win souvenir skins for the specific event when linking your Steam account to your Twitch.TV account, as well as GOTV in game support allowing you to spectate the matches live as they happen in the game itself, giving you all the controls to watch the way you want to watch, and the sticker capsules, which directly support the teams and help to fund the major events, and are viewed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, both through live streaming and national television in some countries.
This weekend, the first major of 2015 takes place at the IEM World Championship in Katowice, Poland, hosted by ESL. The first major of 2014 was also held at the same event just one year ago, in which Polish team Virtus.Pro plowed their way through the competition, winning $100,000 in front of their home crowd, defeating the one and only Ninjas in Pyjamas easily in the Grand Finals.
Now, if you are new to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or new to Counter-Strike in general, the more intricate aspects of the game can be a bit difficult to follow, especially when hearing terms such as “AWPer” or “Skyboxes” on the various maps or attempting to understand the in game economy system as the games go into the later rounds. Counter-Strike, to describe it simply, involves 2 teams: the attackers, and the defenders – where the attackers try to plant the bomb at one of the 2 bombsites, and the defenders try to stop them. While it sounds simple and may sound like other games you have played before, it is much more than that, and involves an amount of depth and team coordination that surpasses most if not all other team based competitive games. This will be your viewer guide for ESL One at IEM Katowice and for competitive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – from the teams you will watch play to the casters, analysts and hosts you will hear throughout the weekend – this article will help you to take a dive into the world of competitive Counter-Strike.
What is Counter-Strike?
So, you may be reading this article and asking yourself – what is Counter-Strike? Counter-Strike, and more specifically Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (as it is the current flagship CS title) is a tactical based First Person Shooter developed by Valve, played on PC. Counter-Strike began as a mod of the legendary PC game “Half-Life,” also created by Valve, which was released in 1999. This mod quickly became a phenomenon, and Counter-Strike later became it’s own franchise. Later versions of Counter-Strike would soon follow, including Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Counter-Strike: Source, and the current flagship title of the franchise, Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
The Counter-Strike franchise by itself has a long and incredible history, but Counter-Strike became more than just a game for many. Counter-Strike has one of the longest and proudest histories of any competitive game in history, beginning with the original Counter-Strike game, which became more commonly known as Counter-Strike 1.6. CS 1.6 is regarded as one of the greatest video games of all time, and is still considered the pinnacle of competitive Counter-Strike.
Counter-Strike has been the franchise where many current professional gamers, show hosts, and casters got their start in the world of competitive gaming, or made their names a staple in the realm of the popular PC FPS. Legendary commentators and personalities such as Joe “Joe Miller” Miller, Leigh “Deman” Smith, Scott “SirScoots” Smith, amongst many others, either got their start through Counter-Strike or cemented their names in the history books during the early years of competitive Counter-Strike. Many of these commentators, personalities, and hosts are now household eSports names, with many newer faces in the process of doing the same as their predecessors. On the other side of the coin, we know who truly makes these competitive games what they are: the players. The list of players who have solidified themselves as some of the greatest of all time are far too many to list for this article, but do not worry. You will have a chance to see some of these players play this weekend in Katowice as part of some of the biggest teams in Counter-Strike.
The Basics of Competitive Counter-Strike
Counter-Strike, at its simplest, is a very easy game to follow, and is as simple as the concept of “attack and defend” which it is built upon, but can be confusing to understand for any first time viewer. Let’s look over the basics of competitive Counter-Strike and what you can expect to see this weekend.
- Competitive Counter-Strike involves 2 sides, and the teams will play as the following: The attackers known as the Terrorists, and the defenders, known as the Counter-Terrorists.
- Competitive CS: GO is played in a Best of 30 rounds format. The first team to win 16 rounds on the map will win the map.
- Each round is 1 minute, 45 seconds.
- The bomb can only be planted at one of the two Bombsites, A or B, and has a 35 second timer when planted for detonation, resulting in a win for
the Terrorist team if the bomb is not defused before the 35 seconds is up.
- Counter-Terrorists can defuse the bomb with or without the purchase of a Defuse Kit. Without a Defuse Kit, it takes 10 seconds to defuse the bomb while it takes only 5 seconds with a Defuse Kit.
- If a game ends in a 15-15 tie, the teams will move into overtime to decide who wins the map.
Terrorists can win rounds by doing any one of the following:
- Eliminating all 5 members of the enemy team.
- Planting and detonating the bomb at either Bombsite A or Bombsite B.
- Planting the bomb at either Bombsite A or Bombsite B and eliminating all 5 members of the enemy team before the bomb detonates.
The Counter-Terrorists can win rounds by doing any of the following:
- Eliminating all 5 members of the enemy team.
- Defusing the bomb if the enemy team plants the bomb.
- Survive with a minimum of 1 Counter-Terrorist alive when the round comes to an end with no bomb planted.
- If the bomb is planted, and the Counter-Terrorists eliminate all the opposing Terrorists, the bomb MUST be defused for the Counter- Terrorists to win the round.
These are just the basics of what will happen in each round during a competitive Counter-Strike match, and keeping all of these things in mind will help to make watching and understanding each game that much easier. As you are watching, keep an eye out for how the different teams play in their own unique style and how the teams differ from each. Teams such as Natus Vincere are known for being a team who will run the clock down and then make very late round pushes when playing on the Terrorist side.
Economy: The In-Match Money System in Counter-Strike
One of the features of Counter-Strike that has always made it such an incredibly team focused and strategized game is the game’s in match money system, which dictates all parts of a competitive CS match. The money system, known as the in game economy, is another aspect of the game that requires full teamwork and coordination, as you cannot just buy anything you would like at any given time. Here is a small breakdown of the money system in a competitive CS match.
- At the start of each map, each team begins with pistols only and each player has $800 to spend.
- If a team wins a round by running out the time or eliminating all enemy players, that team receives $3,250.
- If a team wins a round by either planting and detonating or defusing the bomb, that team will receive $3,500.
- If a team loses 1 round, they receive $1,400. If a team loses a second round in a row, the team receives $1,900. This trend continues, and maxes out after losing 5 or more rounds in a row with a $3,400 accumulated loss bonus.
- Players will individually earn money as well, as getting kills with various weapons awards various amounts of money to that player.
- Players can also receive more money by planting the bomb if playing as a Terrorist, or defusing the bomb when playing as the Counter-Terrorists.
- The largest kill bonus a player can receive is by getting a kill with a knife, which rewards the player with an extra $1,500 to spend the next round.
- If playing on the Terrorist side, and the round time runs out and you are still alive, you will NOT receive the team reward for the lost round.
There is a bit more to the money system in CS: GO, but this covers most if not all of what you will see this weekend. Managing your economy can be the difference between winning and losing a match by just a few rounds, and is another part of competitive Counter-Strike that shows the teamwork and coordination needed to win on the biggest stages.
The next aspect of CS: GO we will be covering in this article are the maps you will see played this weekend. CS: GO contains a great mix of new and old maps, with some of the maps dating back to when they were first created in the original Counter-Strike game.
1. Dust 2 (de_dust2)
Dust 2, a bomb defuse map, as are all the maps this weekend (de=defuse map), is one of the classic and most well known maps in the Counter-Strike franchise. Known for its long sight lines and somewhat T-sided play, Dust 2 will be sure to provide some intense matches, especially when teams begin to buy AWPs on either side of the map.
2. Inferno (de_inferno)
Inferno is another classic map that has been a staple throughout the Counter-Strike franchise. A fairly even to somewhat CT-sided map, Inferno makes for some of the best games seen in the history of CS: GO, and is a map that allows many top teams to show their true dominance over other teams. Bombsite A can be attacked through multiple points by the Terrorists but also has many corners and objects for the Counter-Terrorists to hide behind to defend the site. Bombsite B is usually the tougher bombsite to take over, with the main area of attack being a long section of the map known as “Banana” due to its Banana shape. Watch for teams to rush through Banana to take over the B site, or even through the Counter-Terrorist spawn, pushing through the area of the map known as “construction.”
3. Mirage (de_mirage)
Mirage was introduced into CS: GO on June 6, 2013, but has been around as a map for years in previous CS titles, known as the map de_cpl_strike in CS 1.6. Commonly agreed upon as a fairly to heavily CT-sided map, Mirage can be one of the tougher maps for teams to string together continuous wins on the Terrorist side. However, recent weapon changes have somewhat shifted the balance of the map, and some teams have now been seen being able to win multiple rounds in a row on the Terrorist side of Mirage, coming back from down as many as 9 or 10 rounds to win the map.
4. Nuke (de_nuke)
Another historic map in the Counter-Strike franchise, Nuke is one of the original maps first introduced back in the beta of the original Counter-Strike game. Known for being heavily CT-sided, Nuke is a map where scores of 11-4, 12-3, or even 13-2 are not uncommon for the team starting on the Counter-Terrorist side. Some common tactics seen on this map will include Terrorists will look to push through the outside of the map, known as outside, into a staircase known as “secret” in an attempt to push the B bombsite, located below the main level of the map. Terrorists will also try to push through the first large room on their side of the map, known as “lobby” and can either push through “hut” directly into the A bombsite or through the “ramp” side of the map and either down into Bombsite B or from “hell” up through “heaven” and into the A Bombsite.
5. Cache (de_cache)
A fairly even to somewhat CT-sided map, Cache is currently the only non-Valve created map in CS: GO to become an official map. Cache can be a map that sees some teams dominate the CT side and finish off the map on the T side or can see some teams use unrelenting aggression on the T side to enforce their dominance and either keep the game even or going into the CT side with a small lead over their opponents. Look for a lot of play involving the middle of the map, especially on the Terrorist side, where a player can be boosted on top of a teammates head to get a large view of the middle of the map, and drop down to possibly push either bombsite. In its recent months of play, Cache has seen many Terrorist teams get the ball rolling after an initial pistol round win and never let the lead go. Although CT-sided by design, Cache at times is very much so a momentum based map where the Terrorist team can win one or two rounds and snowball the game into an eventual victory.
6. Overpass (de_overpass)
Another completely new map to CS: GO, Overpass is a map that has been a topic of discussion since first being added to the official competitive map pool back in the Summer of 2014 before ESL One at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. A CT-sided map, Overpass was seen as almost impossible to win if a team did not win enough rounds on the CT side. Overpass was also the topic of much controversy in November of last year, during the final major event of the year at DreamHack Winter. In what became known as the “Fnatic boost,” team Fnatic was playing team LDLC (now team EnVy) in a Best-of-3 series to see which team would onto the semifinals. Fnatic played on the CT side for the 2nd half of the map, and brought out a never before seen boost known as a pixel walk, which allowed the player boosted highest to see almost the entirety of the map. It would be 10 rounds before team LDLC had any idea the boosted player, olofmeister, was killing them from, and LDLC would go onto lose the map and the series. After a night of controversy and discussion, Fnatic was initially not disqualified for the boost, and they would soon pull themselves out of the tournament, forfeiting the match, giving the win to the eventual event champions team LDLC. Overpass has received some fairly significant changes, especially to the A site, which should make for teams playing on the Terrorist side to accumulate more rounds than previous versions of the map.
7. Cobblestone (de_cbble)
First seen in the beta of the original Counter-Strike game, Cobblestone became an official competitive map alongside Overpass last year during the Summer of 2014, added just before the ESL One Cologne event held at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. Cobblestone has been a target for criticism and scrutiny since its addition to the competitive map pool. Agreed upon by many as a map almost impossible to win on by teams playing Terrorist side during the 2nd half, Cobblestone is an often-vetoed map for its heavy CT-sided nature. Cobblestone has also undergone a variety of changes to its map design, but has seen little to no competitive play in 2015. The changes were welcomed with open arms but it remains to be seen how these changes will effect the map when played in an offline environment.
As previously mentioned, Counter-Strike has it’s own set of terms specific to the game that you will hear the commentators throughout the game. Occasionally, these terms can be confusing if you do not know the ins and outs of the game, so use this small guide as a way to get yourself situated with the language of Counter-Strike.
“AWPer” – An AWPer is a member of a team who is the team’s dedicated Sniper. The most powerful of all Sniper Rifles in CS: GO is the AWP, and many if not all teams will have 1 (sometimes 2) players dedicated to buying an AWP as soon as the teams economy allows for it.
“Frag” – Frag is a term you may have heard while watching other games, and is simply another word for a kill on an enemy player. You may also hear the term “Top Fragger” or “Bottom Fragger” meaning the kill leader or or player with the least kills for a certain team or in a certain match.
“Eco-Round” – An Eco-Round is a round where a team does not have a lot of money, and as a result cannot buy primary weapons (or can but can only afford less powerful primary weapons), and not much equipment (grenades, Defuse Kit, etc.).
“Ace” – The term “Ace” refers to when a player for a team gets all 5 kills in that round.
“Molly” – The term “Molly” refers to an Incendiary or Molotov grenade, which hits the ground and spreads out an area of fire on the ground, dealing damage over time.
“Wall Banging” – The term/phrase “Wall Banging” refers to when a player is shot through a wall or surface that can be penetrated by bullets.
“Stacking” – The term “Stacking” refers to when a team will have more of their players than normal either defend or rush a certain bomb site.
“Buyout” – The term “Buyout” refers to when a team buys as many things as they can. This will usually mean a primary weapon, full set of grenades, and a Defuse Kit if playing as the Counter-Terrorists. Buyouts are most commonly seen at the final round of the first half of a match, and the final overall round of a match.
“T-Sided” & “CT-Sided” – The terms “T-Sided” and “CT-Sided” are used to refer to maps in which the design and play of the map is either favored for the Terrorists or the Counter-Terrorists. Maps such as Dust 2 are commonly said to be somewhat T-Sided while maps such as Overpass and Inferno are said to be CT-Sided maps.
“Skybox” – The term “Skybox” refers to the invisible ceiling included in each map. Although each map has a Skybox, some maps have different heights of Skyboxes. This variance in height allows for some maps to have a much greater use of across the map Smoke Grenades, which can block off parts of the map vital to each of the 2 teams.
These are just a sample of the Counter-Strike terminology you will hear the hosts, commentators, and analysts use throughout the weekend. As you watch the games, be sure to pick up on these terms as well as others and utilize them when you play Counter-Strike yourself. Communication is one of the keys to winning in any competitive team based game.
The Hosts, Casters, & Analysts for ESL One Katowice 2015
Just like any other popular eSport in the year 2015, there are show hosts and commentators we have all come to known and love as fans and players of all competitive games. These are the personalities who lead us through each and every game, and each and every event, setting the story line for the weekend ahead and provided us with the excitement and in depth analysis required for fans new and old alike. Here are the show host, casters and analysts you will see this weekend from Katowice.
Now, it’s finally time to move onto the bread and butter of the event, and of all events: the teams. 16 teams from all over the globe will competing this weekend in Katowice for the chance at part of the $250,000 prize pool, including the coveted $100,000 for 1st place and the title of Champion at a Counter Strike: Global Offensive Major tournament. For now, we will only be covering some of the teams in attendance that you will want to watch out for, especially if you are new viewer to Counter-Strike. (NOTE: Names of players are from left to right).
Fnatic: (Coach Devilwalk), pronax, Olofmeister(olofm), JW, KRiMZ and Flusha
One of the undisputed Top 2 teams in the world heading into Katowice, Fnatic have everything it takes to win Katowice and more. The champions of the first ever major CS: GO event back in 2013 at DreamHack Winter, this Fnatic lineup has seen incredible success since its creation. Since the addition of Olofmeister and KRiMZ last June, Fnatic has only placed outside the Top 4 at one event, DreamHack Winter 2014, which saw Fnatic remove themselves from the tournament after the Overpass boost controversy involving team LDLC. With what can be agreed upon as the most complete lineup out of all the top teams entering Katowice, Fnatic have everything in place to secure themselves a great finish at the end of Sunday.
Envy: SmithZz, NBK, Kioshima, Happy, and shox
Formerly known as Team LDLC, the now team Envy find themselves with Fnatic as the undisputed Top 2 teams in the CS: GO world. After the French roster shuffle that took place early in September of last year, LDLC formed an incredible French lineup for themselves, bringing in talent from various top French teams and forming a powerhouse squad. With 5 tournament wins and multiple Top 3 finishes in that time, the now team Envy, under the ownership of Call of Duty legendary personality Mike “Hastro” Rufail, come into Katowice looking to become the first back to back major CS: GO champions, and the first two time major champions in CS: GO history.
Ninjas in Pyjamas: friberg, Xizt, f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, and Allu (not shown)
The fan favorites – the Swedes – the innovators of CS: GO – this team goes by many names and associations – but most simply call them the Ninjas in Pyjamas, NiP. A team and brand dating back to the earliest days of competitive Counter-Strike, Ninjas in Pyjamas is one of if not the most well known names in the history of Counter-Strike. A team that includes two legends of CS 1.6 in Patrick “f0rest” Lindberg and Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, the Ninjas are loved by their home country Sweden and by hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world. The core 4 of the CS:GO Ninjas in Pyjamas, GeT_RiGhT, f0rest, friberg, and Xizt, are known for being innovators from the early days of the game. They are also the team who went on an incredible 87-0 offline map win streak from 2012 to 2014, including 10 offline tournament wins and finishing within the Top 4 in the first 16 tournaments the team played.
The Ninjas are coming into Katowice with a new fifth player, a Finnish player by the name of Aleksi Jalli, known as Allu – a player known for his AWPing prowess. This move to sign the Finnish player came as a bit of a surprise to many NiP fans. NiP picked up fellow Swedish player Bill “Maikelele” Mikael in late 2014 to replace long standing member Robin “Fifflarren” Johansson who had been with the team since it’s move to CS: GO. NiP, like many Counter-Strike teams, attempt to keep all the players from home country, in this case Sweden – as they are a team based out of Sweden with all Swedish players, leading to Swedish as their main language and form of in game communication. So this move to sign a Finnish player was seen as slightly surprising. However, even with this, the Ninjas have proved to everyone one thing about when they play in a major tournament: You do not count them out. No matter how much their performance has slipped in the months leading up to the tournament, when it comes time to fire on all cylinders, NiP does it. This lineup might be new heading into this weekend, but it is no reason to count this team out, especially when considering that the Ninjas in Pyjamas have been in the finals of all 4 major tournaments held in CS: GO’s history.
Virtus.Pro: Snax, NEO, pasha, byali, and TaZ
The champions of this same tournament one year ago, Virtus.Pro will be once again playing in front of their home crowd, looking to repeat the same performance they had last year. VP is another fan favorite team that incudes legendary players from CS 1.6 in Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas and the one and only Filip “NEO” Kubski, who many consider to be the greatest 1.6 player of all time. Virtus.Pro, an all-Polish lineup, will be once again playing in front of their home country this weekend. The Polish crowd was electric in 2014 for every single match played, but everyone knew when Virtus.Pro was playing. Every kill, every bomb defuse, every round win was met with an eruption of cheers and chants from the crowd, and this surge of energy from the crowd was almost visible in the air as the teams own intensity increased with every passing second. Virtus.Pro, along with Fnatic, NiP, and Envy, will also be looking to become the first two time major CS: GO champions this weekend. Will the home country behind them help lead the Poles to victory? As always, only time will tell.
Titan: kennyS, Apex, Ex6TenZ, Maniac , and RpK (not shown)
Titan established themselves early on as a household name in CS: GO upon the signing of the then VeryGames team, which included names such as NBK, Scream, SmithZz, and Shox. The team has had a rough go of it in the past year, and never seemed to get over the hump. Now, Titan has looked to reform themselves after their past troubles and the backbone of the team is the best player in CS: GO right now: Kenny Schrub, better known as “KennyS.” KennyS has been an incredible player in CS: GO, but has been playing on an entirely new level for the past 6 months. Titan also possesses one of, if not the best in game leader in CS: GO, Ex6TenZ. Titan will need to step up around KennyS this weekend if they want a shot at winning their first even major in CS: GO.
Cloud 9: Shroud, sgares, Semphis, ShahZam (not shown), and n0thing
The most well known North American CS: GO team, and probably the best team in North America currently, is Cloud 9. Formerly under the Complexity brand, Cloud 9 is a fan favorite who has underperformed in every major they have attended. Even with pre event boot camps where the team lives, eats, and breathes Counter-Strike for a time right before the event, Cloud 9 has not been able to get all the gears in motion to have a large impact at a major event. To make matters possibly even wore for Cloud 9, they are coming into Katowice with a new fifth player, after star player Spencer “Hiko” Martin stepped down from the team. Hiko was replaced by Shahzeb “ShahZam” Khan, who is now the teams dedicated AWPer. Cloud 9 is once again boot camping before this event, and the team needs history to not repeat itself once again this weekend. Another poor placing at a major would be disastrous for this team, and could set the precedent for the team for the rest of the year.
Counter Logic Gaming (CLG): Cutler, Hazed, ptr, tarik, and FNS
CLG has been one of the most interesting stories of North American CS: GO so far in 2015. The former mouseSpaz team was signed to CLG back in January, and was one of the top teams in NA in online play but had yet to prove themselves in a premiere tournament. CLG qualified for the MLG CS: GO event at X Games Aspen, and shocked the analysts, the fans, fellow players, and even themselves in the process. In a 16-14 nail biter on Dust 2, CLG defeated LDLC in shocking fashion. While the team did not make it out of groups, this win vs. the number two team in the world made brought CLG from an online team with a new sponsor to a blip on the radar as a team who could pull an upset if they were underestimated. CLG is placed in a very tough at IEM Katowice, and will have to go through Ninjas in Pyjamas, Hellraisers, and KeydStars to have any hopes of making it out of the group stage. The win vs. LDLC at X Games, while impressive, was a best of one where upsets are always possible. This is now their first true test, and they have a lot to prove to show that they can be the next great North American team.
These are just some of the teams to become familiar with for this weekend, and you can find more information about the teams including the full teams list here. The weekend will be nothing short of incredible, and these teams will provide just a small portion of the action over the weekend.
Now, after reading through all of this information, you are hopefully itching to play and most importantly, watch Counter-Strike: Global Offensive this weekend over on Twitch.TV. Below you will find the official Twitch.TV stream for the event, as well as a full event schedule and more general information about the event. The first major tournament of the year will set the bar for the rest of 2015, and will be a Counter-Strike tournament you will NOT want to miss.
The matches will start this Thursday morning with a battle of the French powerhouse teams EnVy and Titan to kick off the event. Be sure to also visit our forums, and discuss the entire ESL One Katowice event in our official Counter-Strike thread all weekend long!
Photo Credits: ESL, Dreamhack, Aftonbladet E-sport, gosugamers.net, Counter-Strike Wiki, ESEA, clgaming.net, Team EnVyUs