We’ve reached the fifth and final article in this series on the different roles within teams in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. This time I’ll talk about the in-game leader and the various approaches you might take to captaining your squad to victory.
Different types of in-game leaders
As I see it there are three distinct types of in-game leader and they all have their pros and cons. The first is the leader who spends a lot of time coming up with meticulously-planned executes, or “set strats”. The good thing about this style is that the entire team understands what you’re going to do and the chances of your push to be well timed and executed is a lot higher than if you only kind of know what to do.
The downside is that you can’t know for sure what the enemy team will do. They might decide to push a key area of the map and make things difficult for you. One way to deal with this issue is to plan for different potential threats: ‘if they do that we’re doing this. If not, we’re doing this instead.’ Another downside is that it is easier to read a team that constantly goes for set strats.
The second style that comes to mind is the kind of leader who likes to run a lot of default rounds where you spread out across the map and gather information before you decide which site to attack and how. With this style you’ll rarely run into stacked sites. If done properly you’ll almost always attack the weaker side of the map. There are, again, some downsides to this approach. First of all, it takes excellent communication within the team to pull it off. Secondly, your pushes won’t be as coordinated as a team that’s spent hours running set strats on empty servers. Another risk is that you’ll get picked off one by one and end up not being able to go for a proper push at all.
And then we have the third style, if you can call it a distinct style: a combination of the styles mentioned above. Sometimes you’ll go for slow defaults and sometimes you’ll think you have the read on your opponents and mix things up by going for a set strat.
Your team’s ambition and map pool
When you form a team it’s important that you all share the same ambition. If one player wants to play a few games to wind down after a stressful day and another one wants to win international LAN tournaments, then you have a problem. Things will go a lot smoother if you’re all on the same page.
CS:GO is a game that takes time to learn and you can’t do everything at once. Let’s say you have a team that practices three times per week for a couple of hours. If that team tries to include all seven maps in its map pool they’ll get to practice each map once or twice per week. Needless to say, that’s not going to help them win that online FACEIT tournament you’ve got your sights on.
Most leagues and most tournaments use a system in which you take turns banning and picking maps. Unless you play a best of five (which is rare) you’ll have at least two bans, meaning that you can have a map pool of five maps and guarantee that you won’t play any of the maps you don’t practice. Bear in mind that five maps is a pretty large map pool for any team. You can go for four maps and pray that you won’t have to play the maps you don’t practice.
But which maps should you include in your map pool? That depends on a lot of factors. First of all you need to look at what your strengths are. Maybe you have a sick AWPer that you can play around. Then Dust2 might be a map to consider. I’d say that a good approach is a mix of what you think could work in theory and how games actually tend to go. Sometimes you have a strong record on, say, Cobblestone, but you don’t really know why. Simply being successful on a map is as good a reason to include it in your map pool as any.
I’ve been an in-game leader on and off for over a decade and I’ve played under in-game leaders with varying degrees of experience. One thing I’ve noticed that almost all new in-game leaders struggle with is to know what to say at the start of a round. The more I’ve played the more I’ve come to realize that it’s not always necessary to have a detailed plan every time your team spawns in. Call a default setup, take your time and get a feel for what kind of defense the opposing team is running.
It is however crucial that you come up with a plan at some point. A bad plan is better than no plan in most cases. If you’re new to in-game leading you can try to start planning for the next round towards the end of the current round. Keep a mental note of how the economy’s looking. Let’s say you’ve lost two rounds in a row and you’re about to lose a third one. That means that unless you get the plant you and your teammates will get $2400 next time you spawn. What does that mean? Can you afford to buy? Should you tell your team to save $2000 so that you’ll end up with at least $4900 each the round after?
That leads me to my next piece of advice: try to practice one aspect of your in-game leading at a time if you’re new, or it’s bound to feel overwhelming. You might focus on you mid-round calls in one game, and then managing the team’s economy in the next. It takes time, but as you improve in different areas you’ll gradually start to feel that it comes more naturally to you.
My third piece of advice is pretty simple. The first time you want to come up with strats for your team, I’d recommend you to either get inspired by others or downright steal stuff from pro teams. Watch demos and ask yourself why that team decided to use that smoke at that time. The more you steal, the more inspired you’ll be to come up with strategies that are more suitable to the players you have on your team.
Making good mid-round calls can win you games. Listen to what your teammates say and try to keep track of all the information you have to give yourself a better chance of making good decisions. If you’re new this can be tricky because it’s a balance. You don’t want your individual game to suffer too much, but at the same time your team needs someone to make the calls.
Let’s say you’re in a two-versus-two situation on Cache and you play the terrorist side. Both of your players are in mid and you know for a fact that there’s a guy on A, because your other teammate just died in A-main. What’s the right call? Obviously it depends on what weapons you have, how much time you have left and if your opponents have an AWP or not. But just for the sake of making this example, we’ll ignore all of that. The right call in this situation is to quickly go through the vent over to B. You know there’s an enemy on A and there’s a possibility that there’s an enemy on B. That other enemy might as well be in Z-connector or over at A with his friend. If you have to choose between going onto a site where you know there’s an enemy and a site where there might be an enemy you should almost always go for the latter.
The information that you have is not limited to what you’ve seen and heard this round. You might for example know that the other team managed to save an AWP. Depending on what your plan is you may want to either try to find him or stay away from him. Either way, if you can’t see him in mid and he doesn’t appear to be peeking on A, chances are he’s on B.
The money system
If you want to succeed as an in-game leader it’s crucial that you know when to eco, when to quasi buy (to buy but save enough money to be able to buy up the next round) and when to force buy. You’ll have to try out different things to see what works for you and your team, but this page is a great resource when learning the different rewards. Just make sure you scroll down to the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive section.
Watch the pros play
As you might know, the Swedish team Ninjas in Pyjamas were extremely dominant during the first year of CS:GO. They went 87-0 in maps won on LAN, a record that probably won’t be beaten, ever. After that first period, the team dropped off and gradually got worse up until recently. Admittedly they won a Major in 2014 but they still looked a little shaky. How can a team with that much individual skill go from being completely dominant to not even be considered a top 10 team? The meta game evolved while NiP stayed the same. Just before the MLG Columbus Major earlier this year they hired Björn ‘THREAT’ Pers as their new coach. Because of visa issues he had to stand in as a player for Jacob ‘pyth’ Mourujärvi in that tournament. Like expected they weren’t close to winning, but something had changed. They looked more structured and you could tell they’d been talking things over.
Fast forward a month to Dreamhack Malmö, where they played with the full line-up. The tournament was just as stacked with top teams as a major. Now you could definitely tell they had improved. They went on to win the entire thing and this time it wasn’t a fluke run. The reason they won was because of their new calm and collected style with great mid-round calls. I highly recommend that you go over to HLTV.org and download a few of NiP’s demos from that tournament and compare the games to how they looked before they added THREAT.
Another great strategist is Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo from Luminosity. He’s probably the player who’s had the biggest impact on the game in recent times. The way he’s transformed the Brazilian CS:GO scene in such a short time is incredible. It started with a team called Keyd Stars who qualified for the ESL One Katowice major in early 2015 where they showed a lot of promise and finished in the top eight. At that time no-one thought Brazil would end up being this powerhouse of a nation in CS:GO.
Now not only has he won the MLG Columbus major with Luminosity but he’s also helped out the guys in Tempo Storm with the strategic aspect of the game and as a result they’re up and coming. According to HLTV.org’s latest ranking Luminosity sits at number one, and Tempo Storm at ten. Needless to say, FalleN is one of the all time greats when it comes to in-game leading. Watch some of Luminosity’s games and you’ll feel inspired to do great things with your own team.