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There s loads happening in all sorts of scenes across the world this weekend, from international CS:GO to Dota 2 in Sweden to top-tier StarCraft in Korea. There s also one of the biggest-ever Rocket League prize pots on the line and a massive Street Fighter V tournament underway in Paris. GL HF!
Dota 2: Dreamleague Season 5 PlayoffsAnother long-running Dota 2 league reaches its final stages, this time in Sweden. Top-tier teams including OG will be playing throughout the weekend. Matches begin at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Saturday and at 11:00 BST/03:00 PDT on Sunday. The stakes aren t quite as high as they were at Epicenter, but it s bound to be great Dota nonetheless. You can find the stream .
CSGO: StarLadder i-League Invitational
There s a lot of great CS:GO happening this weekend, including StarLadder s i-League Invitational in Kiev. Luminosity, Na Vi and Virtus.pro are taking part. Strangely, it s hard to find a definite schedule for this one, but the playoffs are due to conclude on Sunday. Your best bet is to check on European time for the livestream (check the sidebar for info on upcoming matches.)
CSGO: Esports Championship Series
More CS:GO, this time on the other side of the world. A similarly impressive lineup of teams including Astralis, NiP and Fnatic go head-to-head in the USA for a slice of a massive $1,750,000 prize pool. Games begin at 00:00 BST/16:00 PDT (the previous day) on both Saturday and Sunday. .
StarCraft II: WCS Korea Season 1 Cross Finals 2016
Four of the best SCII players in Korea (and therefore the world) fight to determine a final champion for the region. There s $17,000 at stake for first place as well as 1,000 WCS points. Games begin at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Sunday. Find more information, as well as the stream, on the .
Hearthstone: Americas Spring Preliminary
This massive qualifier for the Americas Spring Championship is open to all, but expect to see a lot of well-known faces too. The top 128 in the region will duke it out across the weekend, starting at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT each day. It ll be .
Rocket League: Qualifier 1 Online Final
One guy in last week s comments asked, and we ve delivered! Rocket League s inaugural esports, er, league has reached its first moneyed final, with the conclusion of qualifier 1 in Europe and North America playing out over the next few days. The $5000 pot might seem modest by modern standards, but this is early days for an exciting new esport. Find more information, and the livestream, on the .
Capcom Pro Tour: StunFest
France has produced some impressive Street Fighter V players of late, so it s only appropriate that Paris is the next stop on the Capcom Pro Tour. Andi Hamilton looked forward to StunFest in his , and anticipates great things for the event. Play begins at 19:00 BST/11:00 PDT on Saturday and at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT on Sunday. A word of warning: the initial livestream has been a bit flaky, particularly when it comes to SFV. Hopefully they ll have sorted it out by the time the top 8 rolls around. In either case, you can find more info and the livestream .
Smite: Spring Split
Smite s European and North American Spring Split enters week eight with another round of play this weekend. You ll find matches starting at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday, with Europe leading the charge on Saturday followed by NA on Sunday. Schedule and livestream details can be found on the .
Friday s announcement of the World Esports Association, WESA, could ve gone smoother. A leaked logo earlier in the week prompted widespread speculation, and even in the immediate aftermath of the official announcement it was tough to find a clear explanation of what this new sports federation would actually do. In part this is the fault of WESA itself. I was at the launch in London, and my experience was of a number of good ideas struggling to make themselves heard above the furore.
There are a bunch of different ways to say we want to create a more stable and professional conversation around esports , after all, and we ve started FIFA is only one of them although it just happens to be the one that makes people think about corruption and bad governance. It feels like they ve been fighting fires from minute one as a consequence of mishandling a few key points.
On the other hand, the way the conversation around WESA has developed demonstrates, with bittersweet irony, why something like WESA is necessary. The esports community likes to hold court in Reddit and on Twitter. YouTube and the press are used as soundboards that start public fights elsewhere on social media. And I m not just talking about fans: the last few days have seen senior industry figures including members of WESA get drawn into a mess of he-said-she-said. This is an industry used to conducting its affairs through DMs and private Skype channels, where transparency (i.e, a leaked chat log) is usually a consequence of a fight getting out of hand.
WESA s most appealing stated aim is its desire to structure and professionalise exactly this kind of conversation; to provide a way for esports orgs to talk to one another in a way that avoids exactly this kind of unhappy fallout. I don t think that s a crazy idea, in and of itself.
Here s a broad outline: WESA is a committee featuring eight large esports organisations (Fnatic, NiP, Na Vi, Virtus.pro, G2, EnVyUs, FaZe and mousesports) and one tournament organiser (ESL). Representatives for these organisations are joined by a representative from a player council. WESA is distinct from other sports federations in that it gives players direct representation independent of their teams.
Motions brought to the committee will require a 75% majority vote to pass, and any policies brought into being by WESA will only be applicable to WESA members and WESA-sanctioned leagues. WESA members will be able to play in non-WESA leagues, and non-members will be able to play in leagues that WESA oversees.
WESA itself will not run events or leagues at all, but given the connection to ESL it s not surprising that the CS:GO Pro League is the first to be sanctioned by WESA. Areas of consideration suggested to me on Friday range from anti-doping to anti-gambling, broadcast rights, scheduling and legal dispute resolution.
To that latter end, WESA will also operate an arbitration court designed specifically for esports. They boast that this will be able to operate via video chat, return a verdict within 48 hours, and allow disputes to be resolved independent of the complex web of national jurisdictions that esports has traditionally struggled to navigate.
The association will fund itself with membership fees (the board would not specify how much this is) and by taking a revenue share of the leagues that it sanctions. This share is split evenly between all member organisations.
Almost all of it has precedent within conventional sport (WESA s first league commissioner, Pietro Fringuelli, was previously a legal advisor to the German Bundesliga) and the failings of similar organisations, like FIFA, does not necessarily mean that this also will fail. Associations and unions are not de facto corrupt, and all governance is imperfect to a degree. If esports is to become more structured, that has to start somewhere. There is no perfect external authority to be consulted for an industry this new, with this many unique considerations. To that end, I understand why WESA has formed in the way that it has.
The controversy surrounding WESA, then, comes from a few different places: concern about who is involved in WESA and how much power they ll have; the motivations that drive its members; the failure of previous initiatives like this; a general distrust of centralised governance. I put these concerns to James Kennigit Lampkin, VP of Pro Gaming for ESL.
You look back at an organisation like G7 Lampkin says. These teams came together and said we re going to work together, we re going to unionise against organisers and leagues . Then other people tried it. And it always failed. Why did it always fail? Because every single time a new game comes out, that relationship set resets. Those team owners are incentivised to be ultra-competitive in the space, get the best players they can, go after each other shady stuff happens. When you say to team owners, hey just go work together , consistently over the last decade it didn t work.
Creating a stable structure that can produce guidelines that would survive the death of any given game was one of WESA s founding ideas. That was the thought behind the structure Lampkin says. Instead of having teams operate by themselves and organisers operate by themselves, maybe we could actually create something sustainable that doesn't get destroyed the second a new game comes out.
This sentiment is echoed by Fnatic s Patrik cArn S ttermon, who was captain of the Fnatic CS:GO team for six years. You cannot really expect, in esports, that a title we play today will be around in a hundred years. But nevertheless we feel like a game can have longer longevity than it has today. In order to stimulate such, we need to get organised. We need to set standards. We need to ensure that the professional circuit that we are very much part of is well-defined, predictable, that sponsors can understand the scheduling and so on. This has not been the case in CSGO in particular.
A lot of what WESA seeks to do (arbitration being the exception) already happens unofficially in some form or another. Esports orgs talk to one another in order to agree on schedules, players talk to each other about how they are treated, and how they d like to be treated, and so on. At its most benign, WESA seeks to make these processes more transparent and consistent.
Teams, and players, have come together in very unofficial ways Lampkin says. We deal with a player union in Dota and a player union in CS:GO. But the significance of those unions is fairly small the Dota union, for example, exploded because of a Twitter fight between two players. An entire union destroyed because of a Twitter fight between two players. If we're talking about how to make this work, it has to be official.
[WESA] will govern and form regulation, but it will form regulation on itself, really Lampkin says. It's a collective partnership that brings stakeholders to the table.
Both S ttermon and Lampkin acknowledge that skepticism is a likely response to any initiative like this. There will be questions asked S ttermon says. The community will be like, is this good for us? There have been projects that appear to be similar from the get go people have an inherent caution when it comes to uniting stakeholders, particularly when there are some dominant forces. People think we re just coming in and making a power grab and trying to control the entire space. That is by no means the ambition we have here at all.
Given WESA s stated aim to professionalise communication in the industry, the question of who has been invited to participate in that process is a primary concern. There are a lot of high-profile teams already involved, but many that aren t. Most notably absent, however, are the other tournament organisers: MLG, DreamHack, FACEIT, and so on. As far as WESA s launch incarnation is concerned, ESL speaks for that entire aspect of the industry. This is clearly questionable, and the hardest thing about WESA to accept on trust.
What we said was, if we're going to build this structure in WESA, then you're inherently required to balance ESL's power in that system ESL s Lampkin says. Because otherwise, as fans say, it looks like ESL's just going to try to dominate everything. That is specifically why we built it with players and teams with so much power. Certainly ESL as an organiser love our own events, but when you bring all these other people in who counterbalance that view, you get a system that allows for us to have a proper communication structure with other organisers and with non-member teams.
The structure of WESA, Lampkin argues, prevents ESL from operating with the kind of impunity that concerned fans have suggested. Even so, there are understandable concerns about how ESL might influence the association s priorities, or take advantage of these new clearer lines of communication. To that end, Lampkin asks that people wait and see.
What it comes down to is the actions of the association he says. If all the WESA teams pull out of ELEAGUE tomorrow, then you can quickly go and say 'hey, yeah, this was a terrible idea.' The point is that if, theoretically, ESL runs into the WESA board room and says 'we're shutting down everything!' The players say 'no, we're boycotting you' and the team owners walk out of the room and the entire organisation crumbles immediately. Because it requires consensus! That's the entire point of the system.
Even so, the question but why isn t anyone else directly involved should be asked. Lampkin s answer surprised me. ESL was in negotiations with other organisers he says. Not all other organisers, but we were in negotiations. Hey, is there a way for us to align our interests.' And after months of this process, hmm-ing and ha-ing, we came to the realisation that, no, it fails. As leagues, we are too competitive with each other across the esports ecosystem.
Lampkin didn t offer a specific explanation for why these discussions failed, so in that sense this remains another aspect of this difficult subject that the community is being asked to take on trust. We tried, but we re the only people who want to make this happen is the message here. And it s easy to be cynical about that message.
When I spoke to Fnatic s Patrik S ttermon, however, he independently verified Lampkin s sentiment. We set out, as teams, to talk to tournament organisers a few years ago he says. Through that process, eventually we learned that what we can accomplish with ESL is superior to the other discussions we had. This doesn t mean that those guys are cancelled out or not in consideration going forward. In fact, we hope to set a great standard and maybe stimulate other regions to set up something similar. Maybe we can work together.
There's always, I see it in esports press, I see it from fans, and I see it from our competitors, this implication that we're bulldozing or crushing Lampkin says. What we're saying is, no. What we're doing is we're working. This is an open playing field. There is nothing stopping any organiser from building systems, fighting doping, fighting corruption, fighting against match-fixing. Anybody can go and do that, it's just the case that ESL has been a bit ahead of the pack on a lot of this stuff. Look at the esports integrity initiative we had, AnyKey, WESA these are initiatives that we put forward with others to create a better structure within esports. Because literally we cannot do it by ourselves.
This, at least, is something that can be independently assessed. ESL have repeatedly expressed an interest in professionalising esports no other tournament organiser has been as public about anti-doping, for example, or diversity. This does not mean that their involvement in WESA is altruistic, but it does lend credence to Lampkin s notion that ESL happens to be the organisation with the most drive when it comes to these issues. This might sound unfair, particularly if you re working for one of ESL s rivals: in which case the onus is on those organisations to prove that they re just as engaged.
Put it this way: if WESA is successful in creating a system of governance that makes CS:GO players richer, safer and happier, and attaches that primarily to ESL events, then ESL will definitely benefit and that is worth being circumspect about. However: players will also be richer, safer and happier. That should make it harder for tournament organisers of all kinds, including ESL, to offer players anything less than the good deal that they ve become accustomed to. This is a best-case scenario, perhaps, but it illustrates why a pragmatic approach, even one that seems compromised, has the potential to exert a positive influence over the esports industry as a whole.
This product is very close to my heart S ttermon says. Esports has been vastly changing, but some stuff hasn t changed in pace with the rest of the industry. Like player representation, benefits, broadcasting rights stuff you normally see in conventional sports that have been around for a long time.
If long-term players want these things, and they are not being provided for in the industry as it currently operates, then they will go looking for it. It s worth considering that WESA has been established with a focus on CS:GO that seems to have been the main criteria governing which teams were initially invited and the CS:GO scene is probably the most open to this kind of structure. There s little publisher oversight, a lot of different stakeholders, and little stability.
CS:GO is, I think, the one game where there's an opportunity for team owners to start to manage themselves without excuse the analogy without a parent says Lampkin. [WESA] is not a reporting-upwards relationship, it's a consensus-building organisation.
This is the sense that I get from S ttermon, too: CS:GO both needs better governance and is open to it. He cites League of Legends as an attractive model.
I think there's a lot of learning to take from Riot S ttermon says. How they set up the LCS. The LCS has proven to be a very successful formula for teams, there's a schedule, there's a transfer window, the fans are really hype. That's similar to the sports world, and sports have had a much longer time to figure these things out.
It s easy to see where the appeal of WESA may lie for teams like Fnatic. Reliable prize pools, regulations and schedules are good for business, and they are specifically good at attracting major sponsors that might be put off by esports wild west reputation. If WESA (or an initiative like it) succeeds, then the parties involved stand to benefit tremendously. But and this is a really important but stability and profitability translates directly into a better experience for players and viewers. If you want more events near you, better support for semi-pro teams, more regular games, then all of that stems from a healthier business. I m not saying that WESA can or will achieve this, but it s important to understand the contours of the area between trying to make esports more viable and trying to take over the industry.
Through WESA, however, these organisations many of them a decade or more old have an opportunity to become the official governing heart of the CS:GO scene. They may well prove to be benevolent governors, but they ll still define the environment that players operate within. The growth of the Dota 2 scene makes for a useful contrast, here. The vast prize pools associated with the International, coupled with Valve s preference for working directly with players rather than teams, has created a highly unstable environment. The influence of the traditional esports orgs has been on the wane since 2014, when a number of teams split up and reassembled under new banners. This has been a mixed blessing: more freedom has, on occasion, meant more freedom to get screwed over . But players have largely been in charge of their own destinies.
As prize pools in CS:GO increase, it s not surprising that the old orgs are looking for ways to increase their significance in the eyes of their players before the scene goes the way of Dota. If they re trying to do that by offering the players a better deal as part of a WESA member org than they d get on their own, however, then it s hard to say that this is necessarily a bad thing.
I suspect the discussion around WESA will change dramatically the moment they either (a) screw up or (b) solve a major problem for players. The former would prove the cynicism of the last few days warranted. The latter would suggest that ESL et al deserve more benefit of the doubt than they ve been getting.
Beyond that, the organisation s first challenge is creating meaningful regulations that create more stability and better quality of life for players within the CS:GO scene. That is far easier said than done, and likely the work of months if not years. But if they can do that and that s another big but then the next step is to apply WESA s learnings to other esports. S ttermon is confident that this is possible.
It s inevitable to capture the learnings and apply the learnings across the board, right? He says. Not only in future Counter-Strike leagues but within our organisation across other games. That doesn t mean it has to be a forceful approach it s about getting in the same room, understanding the opportunity and how we can collaborate together. The intention is to very much be open minded, include as many stakeholders as possible, but not forgoing the intention to professionalise the space we want to do this in a sustainable fashion.
Lampkin argues that WESA doesn t need to take over the industry to be effective that it can be just as useful as a positive example independent of other organisations, and that they would be happy for this to be the case. I don t think Riot needs WESA, right? He says. But what we see is a lot of problems that we look to solve are either not the core competency of a lot of game publishers, so the goal for us is, we provide the solution even if we re not engaged with that publisher through WESA if we ve figured out how to solve anti-doping, or we ve figured out how to solve gambling issues, then just copy us! It s an open market.
Despite the talk of the LCS, there s a little of Valve s logic to this stance. WESA will either succeed because its ideas work, Lampkin argues, or fail because they don t and either is good for the industry as a whole. The only way WESA works is if it has the buy-in of players and teams he says. It's the only way it works. I can go and ask nicely for a team to join but if they don't want to join they don't have to join. It's entirely based on the value proposition that we as a group here have created to try to stabilise things and create a better structure.
There is a long, tough journey ahead for WESA. The association has been founded in a culture that was primed to reject it from the start, and it may yet prove that this is justified. Yet I worry that this same culture might prevent WESA, or an organisation like it, from being effective despite best intentions. If every attempt to establish standards is treated like a conspiracy, and every attempt to make esports more profitable treated like a scandal, then the conversation within the industry between teams and showrunners, teams and players, organisations and fans has almost nowhere to go.
It s important to ask tough questions. As the esports industry matures, however, these are questions that need answering too: who is going to offer players a secure career path? Who is going to prevent another crash? Who is going to ensure that the rights of players don t get trampled as the business becomes more profitable? WESA may not prove to have all, or any, of the answers. In that case, the question becomes: who does?
A good sniper can turn the tide of a game. There are lots of different styles and each one helps the team in its own way. An aggressive peek that results in an entry kill can open up a site and make it a whole lot easier to win the round. With a more passive approach you can hold down a key area on the map and make sure your team is in control. In this article I ll try my best to introduce you to a few different styles and how they function within a team. In my previous guides to roles in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive I ve covered support, entry fragger and lurker.
Like I mentioned above, there are a lot of different styles when it comes to AWPing. Because of that it s difficult to say what a good AWPer is supposed to do. Ultimately, your goal is to win the game. In order to do so you need to understand a few things. First of all: your weapon costs $4750. That s $2050 more than an AK-47. Let s say you have full armor, an AWP, a smoke and two flashes and you re facing a guy with an AK-47 and the same equipment. If he kills you that s $6450 plus the bonus $300 he gets for the kill. Unless one of your teammates manages to salvage your AWP for the next round, it s a disaster for your team s economy.
For the AWP to be a good investment you need to either kill the other team s AWPer or two riflers. Of course that s not always the case: you can get a one-for-one trade that opens up a bombsite and wins your team the round, but you get the point. In the long run, it s crucial that you don t throw away those precious rounds when you have the one shot-one kill beast in your hands. The AWPer should always try to stay alive for as long as possible.
It s difficult to balance prioritizing survival and having an impact on the game. Therefore the AWPer needs to carefully plan their every move. Usually it s not wise to go and peek long on Dust2 without help from a teammate. Get your support player to flash you in and make sure they re there to trade the kill and pick up your weapon if you die. An AW:er should also have a backup plan. Choose the angles you peek carefully and make sure you have a way out in case you miss your shot. You should try to know your next move before you have to relocate. Like this:
If you want success with the AWP, you need to try to find advantageous peeks. Especially if you suspect that the other team can t afford proper weapons. They might try to run you down with pistols in an attempt to do some serious damage to your economy.
Another big part of being an AWPer is to know when to actually buy the AWP. A few players, like Josh JDM64 Marzano, buy the AWP almost every single time they can. Generally that s a weakness. Sometimes it s better to buy a rifle and play the long game. With experience, however, you ll learn what s right for you.
You want a player who s highly accurate and who has fast reactions. Those traits will come in handy in duels against the other team s AWPer. Many games have been won or lost depending on the outcome of such a battle.
If you ve watched aggressive AWPers like Jesper JW Wecksell or Kenny KennyS Schrub go for insane peeks from positions they shouldn t play from it s easy to think that you need to be a little crazy to be a successful sniper. On the surface it may look like they don t know what they re doing, which of course isn t the case. If you re the AWPer on your team you need to be able to weigh the risk and the potential reward.
Your sniper player should be a person who can stay calm in all situations. Being an AWPer means that you re going to be under a lot of pressure at times. One hit and you get the kill and put your team in a great position. A missed shot on the other hand can lead to your team losing the round, and in the worst case force you to go for an eco the following round.
Don t be afraid to communicate your ideas. If you think that you can kill the other team s AWPer in mid if someone flashes you in, ask for the flash. Be confident and define your own fate.
Here s a clip from the ESL Pro League Season 3 final between Luminosity and G2. Marcelo coldzera David displays great awareness, precision, reactions and he has a plan. He knows what he s going to do. In other words, all the qualities you want a good AWPer to have. Now that Ladislav GuardiaN Kov cs and Olof Olofmeister Kajbjer both have been struggling with wrist injuries for a while I d say that coldzera is the best player in the world. He s had some insane performances as of late and shown a level of consistency that you d only expect from a true superstar.
coldzera positions himself below the ladder next to the bomb train. From this position he s ready to assist his teammates wherever he s needed. As it turned out, Fernando fer Alvarenga got killed by Edouard SmithZz Dubourdeaux behind the green train. At this point coldzera knew that Gabriel FalleN Toledo had control over alley and that SmithZz was likely to peek as he had to pick up the bomb.
Marcelo managed to pick up the kill, and immediately after the shot had been fired he climbed the ladder to make it harder for G2 to trade. As he climbed Adil ScreaM Benrlitom sprayed down one of coldzera s teammates. Because of that, coldzera knew exactly where ScreaM was and as a consequence went for an aggressive peek that paid off due to his pinpoint accuracy and fast reaction time.
After that kill, G2 s Richard shox Papillon found himself in a very tricky 1-on-3 situation. He had 13 seconds to retrieve the bomb, plant it and at same time stay alive. Knowing this, coldzera just stayed put in his hiding place. shox killed both FalleN and Tacio TACO Filho. After that he had no time to go for the bomb. He had to either save his weapon or pick up the last kill. Because of coldzera s smart positioning, the only way for shox to win the round was by climbing the ladder, which is practically a suicide mission. He probably should have saved his rifle instead.
So, what did coldzera do? He killed the bomb carrier, he put his team in a 3-on-1 situation by going for the aggressive peek towards the bomb train and he survived the round with his AWP. Plays like that can change the outcome of a game. Remember that an AWPer who s still alive poses a great threat and limits the options that their enemies have.
First off all you want to be a competent rifler even if your main job is to snipe. I d recommend that you spend some time on deathmatch servers with both the AWP and assault rifles as often as you can. Get to know your weapons.
A more specific way to practice your AWP is to study the maps. Go on an empty server and try to pre-aim all the common spots as you go around corners. Remember that your scoped in movement speed is significantly slower than when you re not scoped in. Scope just as you get around the corner, or else you ll be a whole lot easier to kill. Like this:
If you learn how to do this properly you ll have a greater chance of winning those duels.
As you might already know, you can t move and shoot accurately at the same time. What does this mean? It means you ll need to learn how to come to a halt as fast as possible. Let s say you re strafing left to get around a corner. At that point you re holding A (default keys are used in this example). If you then let go of A, you ll slide for a short distance. What you want to do instead is to let go of A, press D to counter that movement and then hold both A and D to make sure you stand absolutely still. Practice this move and in time it ll become second nature to you.
Let s get back to those deathmatch sessions. There are different ways to approach your practice, but here s what s worked for me: try to practice only one aspect of your game at a time. In one session that might be shoot as quickly as you possibly can when you see an enemy . In another session it can be whatever happens I m not going to miss my shot . A third option can be that you focus on switching to your pistol as fast as possible to try to finish off enemies every time you miss a shot with the AWP. I usually focus on one thing for ten minutes, another for ten more minutes and then I ll just play for ten. That s some good all around practice in thirty minutes.
It s always a good idea to watch better players play the game and try to learn from what they re doing. Go to HLTV.org and download a few demos. Focus on their positioning and crosshair placement. Ask yourself why is this guy doing what he s doing?
When it comes to AWP:ers there are lots of good players with various styles to watch. On the more explosive side of things you have players such as JW from fnatic and Oleksandr s1mple Kostylev. s1mple is one of those rare players with extreme talent. If he can learn how to control his emotions he s bound to become a real superstar one day.
Then you have those AWP:ers who play a more passive style and who are great at holding down angles. Tyler skadoodle Latham from Cloud9 is one. Admittedly he s fallen off a bit from his old level of play. The fourth player I ll recommend is GuardiaN. Before his wrist injury he was considered a top two player in the world and for good reason. He s just a great player overall. I d say his greatest strength is his insane map knowledge. He can peek specific spots to perfection through smokes and he probably gets more wallbang kills than any other pro player in the scene.
Every now and again something special happens in pro matches. The magic moments that we all love to watch. One of those moments were when Luminosity faced off against Liquid in the semifinals of the MLG Columbus major and coldzera did this:
Valve even decided to make some permanent changes to Mirage in memory of that glorious moment. Never forget.
Photo credit: ESL/Helena Kristiansson
When I say G, you say TWO! G! TWO! G! TWO!
An English crowd cheering the French would be all but unheard of in most sports. Even here in CS:GO, where Europe holds a strong sense of solidarity, it still came as quite the surprise. Nevertheless, hearing the crowd erupting into roars of delight at every ScreaM headshot, there was little doubt about where their allegiance lay. And it was hard to blame them as London witnessed one of the most exhilarating demonstrations of force France has given in years.
The ESL Pro League Finals pits the top eight teams from the North American and European scenes against one another. Limited to just four teams from each region, you d be hard-pressed to find any analyst predicting the likes of G2 to qualify over NaVi in Europe. It s no secret that French CS has been in a rut for some time now, holding fantastic talent but never quite able to realise their potential. Following the breakup of LDLC, all eyes had been on EnVyUs to carry French hopes forward, but thus far 2016 had only seen France fall further and further from the upper echelon of teams. But where EnVy may be waning, G2 finally seem ready to pick up the pace.
The group stages hosted at ESL’s new studio in Leicester involved some of the most bizarre scenes in CS:GO history. In one round against Astralis, Optic Gaming spawned without a bomb: an event so unusual that the team didn’t realise until they had taken the bombsite.
The event s opening looked set to provide a tournament of upsets as Canadian team Optic Gaming overcame a sluggish Astralis and, perhaps even more surprising, Luminosity fell victim to G2 on train, historically one of their best maps. Ninjas in Pyjamas just barely survived their encounter with Team Liquid, who failed to capitalise on no less than 12 match points in an all-too-soon flashback to the MLG Colombus semifinal.
Come the weekend, only four teams remained: NiP, Fnatic, LG and G2. In what many had expected to be the highlight of the tournament, fan-favourites NiP faced off against an invigorated LG. Pushing NiP well beyond breaking point, Luminosity looked an entirely different side to the group stages, earning the first spot in the grand final. Hailing from Brazil but competing in NA, LG occupy an unusual position: they re popular in both EU and NA, but never the main fan focus. This hasn t stopped a passionate core of Brazilians from cheering their side on, however, no matter where they play. Following their victory, Luminosity s Captain, Gabriel FalleN Toledo discussed his fan-support across the globe:
It's awesome because the Brazilian fans are starting to watch Counter-Strike again. Us playing well and reaching the top made them start looking for Counter-Strike again. We know that a lot of Brazilians live outside of Brazil there are a lot of Brazilians in London and they are here watching us play. It feels amazing to see all the Brazilian guys interested in Counter-Strike [and esports] again.
In the other half, G2 faced Fnatic. Struggling from the loss of Olofmeister, Fnatic still present a formidable opponent that can never be underestimated, as G2 were soon to find out. Suffering an embarrassing 11-0 opening, Fnatic looked in utter disarray. However with the change of half, it seemed the Swedes had awoken, and following an incredible 39 kills by Flusha, they dragged themselves out of the abyss to a map one victory. Fortunately for G2, this form was far from consistent, and over the course of the next two games, the French retaliated. A confident win on Cache led to a tense decider on Train. Missing a crucial Mag-7 shot on defence, Fnatic s JW was swiftly overwhelmed, allowing G2, the unexpected qualifiers, to push far beyond expectations and reach the grand finals.
Photo credit: ESL/Scott Choucino
If there was one talking point for the weekend beyond the matches themselves, it was certainly the home crowd. Indigo at the O2 provided a surprisingly intimate venue for the finals, in a smaller-scale, dimly-lit arena. Up close and personal to the stage, the fans more than made up for numbers through sheer noise and bravado. As the largest prize pool event to be hosted in the UK so far, the developing scene brought fervor in droves. British fans celebrated in the only way they know how, creating unusual and entertaining chants of support while drinking rather too much alcohol much to the surprise and amusement of the casting team.
While the attitude within the venue remained upbeat and never swung towards aggressive, the often unrelated noise did cause some confusion for the online viewership. During the second semi-final, volume of the game and casters on the upper balcony was low enough that fans became distracted. In scenes reminiscent of a cricket game, spectators began to create a staggering tower of stacked cups across the crowd, all the while chanting feed the snake! . Fortunately, this was taken in good spirits, with attention and support returning to the game at crucial moments. At the very least, the UK has shown it can provide one of the most fiery audiences in the esports world, unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.
The final match of the tournament was nothing short of phenomenal. Unexpectedly, G2 elected not to ban Overpass, a map widely considered LG s forte having lost just one of their last ten matches there. The French firebrands clearly had a point to prove however, producing a powerful comeback to take a one-map lead.
Having already defeated LG on Train during the group stages, G2 found themselves faced with a much tougher challenge in the grand finals. Despite an 11-4 lead in the first half, LG struggled to maintain control, calling a timeout at 12-all. Sensing their team s need, the Luminosity support in the crowd rose to the occasion, filling the arena with voices of support and lifting their side to the win. As each game progressed, it became clear that both sides were near-perfectly matched. Where G2 held fast on Cobblestone, LG fired back on Dust 2, winning G2 s map pick.
In its final appearance in the current map pool, Inferno hosted the most intense finale of year as each team traded round after round before Luminosity took a two-round lead at 14-12. Just as it all looked to be over, G2 countered, winning three consecutive rounds to reach 14-15 and match point. LG, however, were far from finished, decisively driving the match into overtime. At last, it seemed, G2 were exhausted, with Luminosity claiming the crown at 19-16.
The UK crowd had demanded entertainment, and they received the highest pedigree. Finishing with one of the best series of 2016 so far, the ESL pro league has shown that CS is entering one of the most volatile and exciting times of it s life. Luminosity Gaming have again established themselves as the best in the world, and G2 have finally returned French CS to life in explosive form. Electrifying the crowd, G2 s Adil ScreaM Benrlitom supplied countless highlight shots, while Richard shox Papillon produced not one but two 1v4 site retakes to keep his team in the game. French CS is back, and more exciting than ever.
Whatever your game, there s loads to watch this weekend. LoL s MSI is the highest-profile official event, but both Dota 2 and CS:GO have massive tournaments of their own and then there s a bunch happening in the house of Blizzard, another stop on the Capcom Pro Tour, and regular season play in Smite. Find all the details below.
League of Legends: Mid-Season Invitational
Catch the finale of what has been a dramatic event so far and will undoubtedly continue to be so. Our columnist Cassandra Marshall covered the main points you need to know earlier in the week. One semi-finalist will be decided today, with CLG and Flash Wolves duking it out for the remaining spot in Sunday s grand final tomorrow. Play begins at 06:30 BST/22:30 PDT (the night before) on both days, with rebroadcasts at 19:00 BST/11:00 PDT. Find the livestream on LoLesports.
Dota 2: Epicenter LAN
Epicenter has been a brilliant event so far, with over-the-top staging matched by phenomenal games. Newbee s record-smashing 29-game winning streak was brought to a halt by OG yesterday as TeamLiquid s star continues to rise. The remaining playoffs will be played over the course of the weekend, with games beginning at 09:00 BST/01:00 PDT on both Saturday and Sunday. Here s the English language stream.
CSGO: ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals
Top-tier CS:GO with a $512,000 prize pool to match. Play has been ongoing since Wednesday, with finals taking place this weekend at the O2 in London. Tune in tomorrow for semifinals between Ninjas in Pyjamas/Luminosity and G2/Fnatic, with the grand final set to take place on Sunday after a showmatch. The livestream for both days starts around 14:00 BST/06:00 PDT, with matches beginning around an hour later. Find it here.
Heroes of the Storm: Europe Summer Regional 2
The second European Summer Regional rounds up the best of the region s Heroes of the Storm teams in Tours, France. In addition to the main prize, there s a slot at next month s Summer Championship on the line. The final day begins at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Saturday and you can watch on Dreamhack.tv.
Hearthstone: Europe Spring Preliminary
160 of Europe s best Hearthstone players go toe-to-toe over the course of three days, starting today. You can watch the livestream on Twitch from 13:00 BST/05:00 PDT on Saturday and Sunday, but this event also has a substantial live component. Venues around Europe are running their own viewing parties with side events for attendees: check out this post for more information.
Capcom Pro Tour: Battle Arena Melbourne 8
The latest stop on the Capcom Pro Tour brings Street Fighter V to Australia. As usual, this is an open tournament featuring pro talent: if you re only interested in seeing the very best, consider jumping in later in the event. That said, BAM8 have a healthy livestream schedule planned: pools start at 01:00 BST on Saturday/17:00 PDT on Friday and the top 32 will be streamed from 08:00 BST/00:00 PDT on Sunday. You can find the stream, and more details, here.
Smite: Spring Split Season 3
Smite s regular season continues with an evening of play in Europe on Saturday and North America on Sunday. Find the games on Twitch starting at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT both days.
StarCraft 2: Spring Championship
Alongside Heroes of the Storm at DreamHack this weekend, StarCraft 2 is hosting its Spring Championship. 32 players from 17 different countries makes this a massive international showcase, with everyone fighting for a portion of the $150,00 prize pool. You can watch it on Twitch here, with games starting at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Saturday and Sunday, and 11:00 BST/03:00 PDT on Monday.
This weekend is extremely busy, with both the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational and the many attractions of DreamHack Austin vying for your time. You'll find esports of almost every stripe ahead, with only Dota 2 taking a break in the immediate aftermath of the Manila Major qualifiers. GL HF!
League of Legends: Mid-Season Invitational 2016
MSI is the talk of the League of Legends world at the moment, and expect that to continue for the next week or so as the action rages on in Shanghai. We're currently in the middle of the group stages, which will continue throughout the weekend play starts at 06:30 BST/22:30 PDT on Saturday and at 04:30 BST/20:30 PDT on Sunday. As ever, you can find loads more information, and the livestream, at LoLesports.
CSGO: DreamHack ZOWIE Open
A cross-section of American CS:GO go to war with a grand prize of $50,000 on the line as part of the ongoing DreamHack ZOWIE Open series. This is a chance to check in on MLG Columbus surprise hit Luminosity Gaming as well as CLG, Cloud9, Liquid and more. Play starts on Saturday at 21:00 BST/13:00 PDT and you can watch the games on DreamHack's CS stream.
StarCraft II: DreamHack ZOWIE Open/WCS Spring Circuit Championship
Talented StarCraft II players compete for a share of $50,000 and, perhaps more importantly, 5000 WCS points. It opens with a massive 96-player group stage, so there are plenty of opportunities for unknown players to shine (or fail horribly.) Even so, you might want to tune in later in the day to see the highest standard of play. The games began today and continue throughout the weekend, starting at 17:45 BST/09:45 PDT on Saturday and 18:30 BST/10:30 PDT on Sunday. Here's the stream.
Hearthstone: DreamHack Grand Prix Series
Another open event at DreamHack Austin, this time with a relatively modest prize pool of $27,500. They only plan to livestream the best of the Swiss round followed by the top 8 bracket, so Sunday's probably the day to tune in expect the stream to start around 17:00 BST/09:00 PDT. You'll be able to find the stream link through dreamhack.tv.
Heroes of the Storm: NA Summer Regional
There's $100,000 on the line at the HotS Summer Regional at Dreamhack Austin, along with a spot at the Summer Global Championship in June. NA is one of the most dynamic regions for Heroes of the Storm, making this a good place to jump in if you've not tuned in before. Play began today, but you can watch the second day (including the finals) on Saturday from 17:00 BST/09:00 PDT. Find the livestream here.
Smite: Spring Split
There's another weekend of top-level European and North American Smite ahead. On Saturday, Hungry For More formed from the ashes of Titan will take on both Paradigm and Team Dignitas. They've had a spotty record so far, and will be looking to turn that around. In NA on Sunday, Enemy's new(est) roster will take on Team EnVyUs and SoaR G2A. Games start at 18:00 BST/10:00 PDT on both days, and you can watch them here.
Street Fighter V: Capcom Pro Tour NA Ranking Event
The latest stop on the Capcom Pro Tour rounds out the packed Dreamhack Austin event. There are a lot of incredible players in attendance, including Justin Wong, PR Balrog, Brenttiscool, Julio Fuentes and others. It's an open event, so if you're planning on tuning in then the best time is at 21:00 BST/13:00 on Sunday that's when the top 8 begins. Here's the livestream.
Release your inner Ethan Hunt and bring out your sneakiest plays: it s time to talk about the lurker. Compared to the roles I ve covered so far (support and entry fragger), lurker is the most distinctive in terms of what you re supposed to do and how to get it to work within a team. It would be easy to say that the lurker is the player who sneaks around the map on their own trying to backstab people. In a sense that s true, but there s so much more to it.
The lurker is supposed to wander off by themselves and either secure kills or stall the opposing team s defenders rotation over to the site where the main attack is taking place. They should also scout ahead to let the in-game leader know whether it s a good idea to go for the intended execution or not. Let s say they re in apartments on Inferno (a moment of silence for our beloved and figured-out map) and they can hear that there s a CT on short as well as one in pit after you ve taken control over banana. In this instance, they know that the rotation is going to take a while and that it s probably wise to try to take the B-site. The lurker is also in a great position to kill the CT in pit once that guy realizes that the terrorists are swarming B.
Alternatively, the lurker could go down to boiler room and try to kill the player on short in order to stay closer to B so that they can assist his team during the post-plant situation. There s a lot of decision-making involved when you lurk: decisions that can either make or break a round. Let s say the lurker decides to go for the kill in pit but the CT manages to get out safely. Then our lurker is in a bad situation and can t be of much help for their team. On the other hand, they might secure the kill and put some pressure on defenders in CT spawn, making it a lot more difficult to retake the site.
I d say that there are two primary qualities that a good lurker needs: creativity and good communication. A creative lurker can come up with plays that most other players wouldn t even consider. Coming up with a play involves good reads of what your opponents are likely to do as well as understanding what they may or may not expect. I d say your lurker should be a player who trusts their instincts. When I ask the lurker on my team how he came up with a certain play, he often replies with I don t know, it just felt right . Lurking is a highly intuitive endeavor. It takes time to get it right, so don t beat yourself up if you re new. The only way to develop this skill is through experience.
The other part, communication, is probably the main reason why you want a lurker on your team in the first place. Your lurker needs to be able to assess the situation and provide good information. If they can t hear nor see a CT in a position where they expect a CT to be, they should alert the rest of his team as they might be about to walk straight into a meat grinder. Remember that knowing where the defenders aren t positioned will help you figure out where they are.
Also, it doesn t hurt if your lurker is a person who watches a lot of demos in order to learn how top players generally react to certain plays. How does the B-player on Mirage generally react to a smoke strat over at the A-site? Is it possible to categorize players in different groups? The players who tend to rotate early, players who stay for too long and players who half rotate over to a more defensive position closer to the market area? If so, will that knowledge help you identify what kind of player that B-defender is in a live game? I think so. Study the game and tendencies and you ll have a better chance of making good decisions on the fly.
It s also important that your lurker is individually skilled and can hold their own in a fight, as that s what they re supposed to do most of the time.
This round was played during the grand final of Dreamhack Masters in Malm , Sweden a few weeks ago. Christopher GeT_RiGhT Alesund from Ninjas in Pyjamas starts off the round by going off on his own towards B. He jumps down to lower tunnels and is lucky enough to find Ioann Edward Sukhariev out of position on catwalk. As Edward goes down, the rest of NiP know that there s one less CT remaining on the A-side of the map.
GeT_RiGhT proceeds by smoking off mid doors. At that point Na Vi have no idea how many players are around the mid area. As a result, they can t really start to rotate away from either site. Two flashbangs and a sneaky play through the smoke later and GeT_RiGhT picks up his second kill: Ladislav GuardiaN Kov cs.
After that kill, he waits for a second or two but no one tries to trade off the kill from the B-side of mid, suggesting that the B-player might have pushed tunnels for information. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I think that the smoke in mid served two purposes. The first one and the most obvious one is that it allowed GeT_RiGhT to go for the sneaky play with the flashes. The second one was that it, in a way, forced Na Vi to go for a peek in tunnels for information, because at that point they couldn t know where NiP was going to attack. Knowing that there was a possibility that they would peek and find that no one was there made Christopher realize that there was a chance that the B-player was going to attempt to flank him. His flawless read of the play secured his third kill of the round as he managed to pick off Egor flamie Vasilyev.
After that his job was pretty much done. He decided to stay in lower tunnels and make sure the last CT couldn t push mid doors. This time he missed the fact that Daniil Zeus Teslenko pushed short in an attempt to save his armor and CZ75-Auto. It s easy to see what an impact his lurk play had on the round. Not only did he kill three players, he also made sure that the defending players couldn t know where the main push was going to take place.
If you ve decided that you want to be the lurker on your team there s a lot of work to be done. The main area that I think you should focus on is your gamesense. Watch a lot of demos from your own games to find out how players on your level react to the things you do. How do the players on a certain site generally react to a flashbang thrown in a certain spot at a certain time. If you notice a pattern you should try to figure out what triggered the response.
The best way to learn these things is to play a lot of games. Preferably against other pre-made teams, so that you know that they will communicate. It s even more important that you focus and try to figure out how a specific opponent plays during the actual game and how you can use that knowledge to your advantage. If your team goes for an A-push and you throw your flashbangs and a smoke towards B, how long did it take for the B-players to get to A? Is it possible for you to play in a certain way to trick them into doing what you want them to do?
Because of the nature of your role, you should spend a lot of time on deathmatch servers. It s crucial that you get good at winning those aim duels. It s like that old Bruce Lee quote that s been cited almost too many times: I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times . If you spend more time working on the basics of the game than your opponent, you give yourself a greater chance to come out on top of any given situation.
When you play games for practice purposes you should try to mix things up as much as possible so that, over time, you build a solid repertoire of plays that you can use in different situations. However, it s important to remember that when you play matches you can lure your opponents into a false sense of security by going for the same exact play every single round. Usually those plays involve a smoke and two flashes. It s important that you re able to stay alive once they know what you re up to. After a few rounds they might think that they ve figured you out and when you throw your utility grenades they know that you re alone. All of a sudden you show up with your entire team and the CTs haven t started to rotate in time. GeT_RiGhT might not have been the player who came up with that style of play, but he sure was the one to make it famous. He s able to pull it off on a professional level because of his raw individual skill. Like I said, put a lot of time into practicing the basics.
As with all roles in CS:GO it s important that you watch the pros play if you want to improve. First of all, you should try to answer the most basic of questions: what exactly is this player doing? By keeping that question in mind you ll look for the information that s actually useful rather than to just notice the big kills and wish that you could pull off stuff like that.
Once you ve answered that question your next one should be: why are they doing what they re doing? Here s where it gets tricky. Look at what their teammates are doing and how the lurker s plays help them. Lurkers rarely just lurk for the sake of lurking.
So, who should you watch? One obvious choice is GeT_RiGhT, the best lurker in the history of CS:GO and Counter-Strike in general. Every CS player can learn things from him.
The next guy I recommend you to watch is Spencer Hiko Martin from Team Liquid. At the moment he s the strat caller for his team, so if you watch recent games you ll notice that he plays more of a support role than before. Take a look at a few demos from before the MLG Columbus Major and you ll find some useful stuff. His style is a lot more passive than GeT_RiGhT s, but he s really good at finding kills. Especially towards the end of rounds.
You can find both recent and older demos over at HLTV.org. Click Events and under Past events you ll find a link to their massive and awesome archive. There you can select specific events you want to watch and you ll have access to an almost infinite number of demos.
Study hard. Play harder. Get to where you want to be.
Cheating in CS:GO is its own small sub-industry, a hard-to-kill parasite riding on the skin one of the PC s most popular games. Some ne'er-do-wells get off avoiding the notice of the VAC system for as long as possible. Others leverage cheating as a , offering premium programs and services. Some professionals have even used cheats during competition (with , career-ending ). For Valve, combating the risk of hacking is an endless war. Just last week, Valve s elimination of nabbed nearly 170 pro TF2 players. And last year, it dealt over to suspected accounts; with ownership counts likely exceeding , CS:GO likely represents a significant chunk of that figure.
Earlier this year, CS:GO player AndroidL was inspired to take matters into his own hands. In late January, AndroidL created and dispersed a pair of free hack programs on a popular cheat forum. Unbeknownst to their downloaders, the programs were time bombs. They d function normally for a set period of time before permanently skewing the user s view angle to an abnormal tilt and enabling a constant bunnyhop script huge, obvious red flags that would immediately trigger a VAC ban. Although clever, the first few hack releases earned modest attention roughly 1,000 downloads apiece, according to AndroidL s .
CS:GO has a cheating problem, AndroidL explained to me over multiple private messages. I don t think Valve is doing enough to prevent cheating; it doesn t speak publicly about VAC (for obvious reasons) or cheating in general. For such a competitive game with such an active and thriving community, Valve fails to at least acknowledge cheating is an issue in CS:GO which is appalling. Due to their failure to communicate, we aren't sure if Valve are actually attempting to combat cheaters or not. It's impossible to play a game of CS:GO today without suspecting someone on the enemy team of cheating.
AndroidL s hack took a more direct approach. It dispensed with timers and prompted a ban the moment a user would load the hack and enter a match by continuously topping off health, ammo, and armor values. Yet despite the almost instant effect, it achieved greater success, accumulating over 3,500 downloads.
Contributing to the hack s propagation was a simple testing method: I set the launch options of CS:GO to +sv_lan 1 -insecure which disables VAC (but consequently prevents me from joining any VAC enabled servers), AndroidL wrote. This means I can test the hacks without getting banned. I just played an offline game with bots where I was able to confirm the features such as editing my view angles along with health and ammo numbers.
Once the hack s usability was confirmed, AndroidL uploaded it onto the cheat forum through a VPN to stay anonymous. The forum account was only days old with no reputation, which would typically undermine the legitimacy of the hack. But to promote the hack, AndroidL went for a straightforward solution: I had a few of my friends post messages such as great, the hack worked! and so on until the comments overflowed onto a second page. Most hackers don t check the second page of posts; they ll only read the first few comments and then download the hack. As publicly released programs tend to last only a few days before detection by VAC, dummy nods of approval was enough to push the scheme in front of as many eyes as possible while it lasted.
And it worked. The hack s impact was magnified by its sheer efficiency; a cheater couldn t react fast enough between launching CS:GO and meeting VAC s awaiting hammer seconds later. As bans started snowballing, users flooded the host forum with of their sudden downfall. AndroidL feigned innocence by coming up with excuses as to why it wasn't my hack banning people to encourage others to download it.
Members of the CS:GO community could already participate in culling the cheater population through Valve s initiative for a few years now, but AndroidL s accomplishments demonstrate how one can more surgically hamper hackers with only modest extra effort. The victory could very well be temporary at best devoted cheaters can simply create a fresh Steam account and spend the $15/ 11 on another CS:GO copy but from AndroidL s perspective, the self-demise of those who sought an ostensibly easy access to a hack was worth it.
I think Overwatch is a very good idea, AndroidL wrote. It's another filter cheaters have to go through, but the only reason Overwatch exists is because VAC lacks the capabilities to detect all cheaters. Although I believe VAC is a good safeguard against cheaters, I don t believe it is a strong enough safeguard. There is little to no effort involved for a hack developer to bypass VAC it is a decent system to keep away the masses of people using public cheats, but other than that VAC is essentially futile.
I do have a plan with similar tactics and I probably will do this again sometime, AndroidL continued. It would be great if I could cooperate with Valve to get a larger number of cheaters banned. Taking cheating into our own hands seems to be the only solution right now, and I encourage others that have the skills to do this to create similar fake hacks. Furthermore, I want to put off those thinking about cheating. This wasn t the first fake hack, and it definitely won t be the last.
University provides a fantastic opportunity for students with shared interests to connect through societies. Perhaps most enviable of all, it offers the time and flexibility to truly invest in a wealth of temptations: sports, media and, of course, video games. With its ever increasing popularity, It should come as no surprise then that esports would find it s place too. As both player and spectator audiences grow, communities across the UK have developed to accommodate this new demand, with lecture theatres providing the perfect venues for League of Legends, Dota 2 and CS:GO viewing parties.
As a postgraduate researcher, I may not have the same freedom as I did during my undergrad years, but when I heard that an esports society had been created at Southampton University, I leapt at the chance to engage with players beyond my online team. I ve been playing CS for over ten years now, making it a not-insignificant part of my life. Despite my long relationship with the series, I d never really considered dabbling into the realm of competition beyond a few IRC-organised pick up games in the days of Source. Following a brief internal league however, I found myself on the shortlist to compete in the National University Esports League (NUEL) for Southampton s top team. Captained by Wildsam, and combining the might of Stubacca, Zack, Rennui and Ferno (myself), the 'Deadliners' were formed.
Started back in 2010, NUEL was designed to support students with a passion for competitive gaming. Though initially focused on League of Legends, the game roster has recently been expanded to include Hearthstone and Counter-Strike. With the CS league relatively unknown, It wasn t clear what level of competition we d be facing. At the time of entering I held the rank of Legendary Eagle which, according to current estimations, put me in the top 10% of players. Now while that s certainly something I m proud of, it s still a significant jump from the top 0.6% that comprise the Global Elite. If any universities were fielding players of that calibre, we d certainly have our work cut out for us.
Collected below are my experiences of each week of the league. I ll take you through our successes and setbacks, both in game and out. As a newly-formed outfit, Deadliners experience should provide a reference for what players new to the amateur competitive scene can expect. I can t guarantee your experience will match ours exactly, but hopefully you ll find the inspiration to take the plunge yourself.
The NUEL tournament consists of two stages. Teams play two best-of-one (BO1) games per week. The first two weeks are reserved for qualification. The top 16 teams enter a double elimination bracket in the subsequent weeks. The remaining teams are entered into the S-League and continue the BO1 format to compete for the highest possible position of 4th. Each week, the team dropped from the elimination bracket enters the top position in the S-League.
Anxiety and anticipation. Excitement tempered by trepidation. In the hour running up to our first match my mind was racing. Why hadn t we scheduled the time to practice beforehand? Who would our opponents be? What ranks should we expect? The degree to which a minor alteration to circumstance can change the entire weight of a match caught me by surprise. Though playing the same game as I would do any other evening, the added element of ceremony to a scheduled match brought a sense of unease I was wholly unused to. When it was revealed that we would be facing the previous winners of NUEL s winter season, University of Manchester, it s safe to say my aspirations for the match were stunted at best.
Like most maps in CS:GO s roster, Cache is generally considered to be CT-sided, that is to say the CT side is expected to win more rounds in each half. We were therefore grateful to open in the stronger position. However, while the map may favour CTs, we quickly discovered that our team did not. Unable to maintain control of the centre, adaptation proved difficult and the lack of experience together quickly became evident, costing round after round. I had offered to play as our team s primary sniper, but with our economy in tatters I found myself barely capable of affording an AWP, let alone performing with it. Scraping together only a handful of rounds toward the end of the first half, prospects looked bleak.
Fortunately, the half-time changeover provided a much-needed ease of tensions,finally allowing our team to relax into a pace that suited us. With a strong start, I was finally able to find my personal comfort zone, shifting location round-by-round to catch people off guard. Unexpectedly, we found the momentum shifting in our favour, finally allowing us to dictate the flow of play. When it finally came, victory was near euphoric. Had we really just managed that? If we could compete with the previous winners, how far could we expect to go?
With our next opponents ready to play we had little time to celebrate, instead rolling straight into our second game and imminent demise. Where UoM had been precise, carefully timing peaks and flashes, Bath A were relentless. Piling onto sites in five-man pushes, the change in tempo blindsided us, overwhelming our shaken defence. Reeling from the high of a win, we suddenly found ourselves in the aftermath of a bloody loss. It looked like things wouldn t be so simple after all, but if we could just claim one match in the following week, our chances of qualifying for the elimination bracket were still good.
Sadly I was unable to compete during the second week, leaving my team to find a substitute. Even so, the knowledge that we needed just one victory to qualify for the knockout stage kept me pinned to my phone during the evening of the match. The news that finally filtered through was far from positive. Confusion and disagreements betrayed the result: we had lost both matches and were likely relegated to the S-League.
Despite dropping to the lower league, I wasn t yet ready to give up, and together with my team resolved to give the remaining matches our all. The opportunity to play in a more formal setting and develop as part of a new team had given a whole new drive to my time spent in CS. I had already begun to see clear improvements to both aim and positioning, earning me a regular top spot in my matchmaking team.
The first week in S-League served as a polar introduction to NUEL s broad range of skill. First lined up against OX Gaming from Hull, we found ourselves comfortably surpassing our opponents and eased into an almost-casual 16-5 victory. The relaxed attitude this fostered left us utterly unprepared for the 16-3 bruising we then received from Swansea Green. Competitors in the winter tournament, they showed such confidence and ease together that we were taken aback to see them outside the elimination bracket so early. It s safe to say that we were thoroughly outclassed, but as tough as a heavy loss can be, there s a level of benefit to competing against a higher class of player and no shortage of insight to be gleaned. Expecting to suffer some humiliating defeats, I had made a mental effort to take positive factors away from each match. At the very least, our execution had been swift.
During the matches, we made a concerted effort to provide support toward each other beyond in-game actions. Our captain, Wildsam, was a constant voice of reassurance, never allowing the situation to shake him. Even while winning, it s easy for a player to set themselves off-kilter after losing a number of duels in a row. Usually found topping the frag count, Stubacca lost a series of contests early in the first match and was vocally shaken. However, support from the rest of the team meant it wasn t long before he was back on his feet. When playing as part of a team, it s important to make sure you re aware of your teammate s mental state and give them encouragement when necessary. After all, everyone has bad days.
Week four shall henceforth be known as the week of the food coma. There are some interesting lessons to be learned in competing around a fixed schedule, and one of those is to plan your dinner well. Much like physical sports, it s a bad idea to consume a vast quantity of food, no matter how delicious, before playing CS:GO. While not suffering the same stomach issues as a game of basketball would provide, my body had instead decided that reaction times and logical reasoning were unimportant when compared to digestion. As a result my time spent in the first match against Sheffield Hallam was spent staggering blearily around the halls of Cache. Fortunately, where I proved lacklustre my team was more than ready to pick up the slack, each member earning over 20 kills to secure a second S-League win.
In a fitting twist of fate, the second game lined us up against Portsmouth s 5 Noobs Who Don t Play CS. Southampton and Portsmouth hold a significant University rivalry, sparring off against one another in each year s Varsity sporting competition. The prospect of a grudge match helped shake me out of my stupor, keen to uphold Southampton s winning record against our rival. Contrary to their name, we knew that Portsmouth was fielding at least one player of Global rank, an intimidating prospect for a team of Eagles. Playing on Overpass, far from our comfort zone, the match was a tightly-fought contest. If not for a herculean 30-kill effort by Zack, the match would have gone Portsmouth s way.
Impressive individual performances can do a lot to boost morale in a tough match, providing a source of inspiration while easing some of the load for those struggling. However, repeated success can be a double-edged sword. If one member is seen to be consistently playing better than the others, it can lead weaker players to question their value to the team in general. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find that our top scorer would shift every week, and often led the pack by only a small margin. That we had such similar skill levels was a surprising positive, allowing independent highs to shine without anyone feeling that they were falling behind.
Unfortunately, this week also supplied its fair share of frustration, highlighting imperfections in the backend system for the league. Each week, match and server information was granted only within an hour of the scheduled time, causing some serious problems when the servers stop responding. After an exasperating 30 minutes of waiting and refreshing the NUEL site, we were all but ready to give up on playing when the information finally came through. Small failings like this are far from terminal, but marr the overall experience of an event, replacing anticipation with annoyance.
They found us. I thought the land of structured competition would be free of trolls, but still they come. HAHAHAHA they cry THE NEXT GeT_RiGhT? Within minutes of joining the server, chat was flooded and before long nothing intelligible was left. Then I remembered that CS:GO has a mute function.
It seems a sad truth that any competitive game will be marred by a sizable, unpleasant portion of the community. For every friend I ve made through online matchmaking, I ve had to wade through at least five vitriol-spewing antagonists. Combining a volatile mix of anonymity, young audiences and adrenaline-fueled competition, it s all too easy for players to approach both allies and foes with a hostile attitude. The most depressing aspect is that derogatory remarks can even prove rewarding. The right comment at the wrong time can do a serious number on a player s mental resolve. Placed in a tense environment requiring a great degree of finesse, it doesn t take much to push most people over the edge, and the further you fall down the slippery slope of frustration, the more difficult it becomes to recover.
That this kind of behaviour can be rewarding is infuriating to say the least, but to see it in a more serious competitive environment caught me off guard. You would hope that any team willing to commit to a weekly schedule would show some degree of maturity. Confrontational behaviour may sometimes provide immediate benefits, but it provides an unwelcome front for new players, and does little to progress the still developing realm of esports. Most competitive games have begun taking steps to punish abusive behaviour, offering temporary bans or time in purgatory but CS:GO still has a long strides to make in this regard. I should count myself lucky then that not a single member of my team took this approach. Even on the receiving end of our worst beatings, we stayed respectful. This resulted in a far more amiable environment.
To be fair to our opposition, UoL:A were far from directly offensive, simply filling the chat with endless, key-bound memes and lines. A brief check of the NUEL site informed that their team had in fact qualified for the elimination stage but fell out in the first round. Their team had even beaten Swansea Green, at whose hands we received a resolute 16-3 drubbing. It was in all probability that they had little interest in competing further, and after ending the first half 10-5 they all but collapsed. Likely hoping to be dropped from the remaining games, UoL:A even submitted an opposing match report following the game, contradicting our victory. The poor behaviour did little to sour our mood however, as four straight victories in S-League had put us within touching distance of a top ten finish.
I d love to say our NUEL experience ended on a high, conquering all odds to close our tournament run with a hard-earned win. I wouldn t be far wrong, but it wasn t quite to be. Following a loss to the capable but disrespectful Surrey Lions, we found ourselves pitted against Warwick CS in one of the closest games of the entire tournament. Our two sides went blow for blow against each other, trading rounds throughout the first half to end at 8-7.
With a strong pistol round, Warwick forged ahead, carving a five-round lead to reach 9-14. In what was probably my personal best performance of the tournament, both AWPing and rifling, we held the line. Clawing back round after round we finally brought the scoreline level. Then, just as it felt we had gained the upper hand, we were broken. A sloppy attempt to push onto Overpass B bombsite left our team in disarray. Warwick took the final round without competition. We had lost 14-16.
A win would likely have placed us around 10th out of a 60 team roster, and I found myself thinking back for days on how we could have changed the result. Due to conflicting schedules, our team had been forced to find a sub for Stubacca in the last hour before the match. While performing admirably, it was clear that our sub was a little out of their depth. If only we had the full team. If only we had pulled back on that last B approach. While I was devastated at the time, the better team deserved the win and I couldn t have asked for a closer match to round out the league.
Across the course of these twelve matches, each member of the team had gently gravitated into the roles that suited them best, and we found that we complemented each other well. Stubacca proved a competent solo player, more than capable of holding the B bombsite alone on maps that required it, while Rennui and Zack formed a stable rifling team to lock down control in a region. If I had to pick a weak point, it would regrettably have to be myself. Lacking in a dedicated AWPer, I had offered to play the role. Though I was more than capable of playing the aggressive T-side, I regularly struggled to hold the middle lane when defending. However, this trial by fire has since seen my sniping proficiency extensively honed, to the point where I can now comfortably say that the AWP is by far my best weapon.
For a team of strangers, thrown together a matter of weeks before the league, I m extremely proud of our performance. Over the course of a few weeks, we developed together on all fronts of our game, from coordination to moral support. It s clear that the NUEL system is designed from the ground up for inclusion. While the elimination bracket is the main draw, the existence of the S-League gives new or inexperienced teams like our own the chance maintain a presence and vie with those of a similar capability. Competing in a league, even just at the bottom rung, gives a drive and energy to the game that can t quite ever be replicated in standard online play.
Since the start of the league I ve been playing more CS:GO than ever before, even pushing myself into a higher skill group. Given the chance and time to practice, I would run it all again to aim for that elimination stage, and happily with the same team. The majority of Deadliners had entered the league unacquainted, but I wouldn t hesitate to invite any of them for a game in the future.
This championship marks only the second NUEL foray into CS, and the back-end side is still showing some clear teething issues. With match information given only briefly before the start time, it s no surprise that server problems could lead to frustration. Re-use of a limited server pool once led to players for the following match joining the server for our still-ongoing game. There s also no clear way of checking the standings of either the elimination bracket of S-League on the NUEL site. Weekly fixtures list matchups and winners, but only within a group of five teams. To this day I still haven t been informed what place we finished.
In truth, NUEL is a far cry from the bigger online leagues like FACEIT, but it doesn t really have to be. A large part of appealing to the student demographic is to encourage new communities and talent countrywide. With the backup of an S-league for drop-outs, NUEL gives newcomers a place to test the waters of competition before they dive into its murky depths. Would I recommend NUEL? If you re a university student and interested in CS, certainly. If nothing else, I can think of no better excuse to find a team and get practicing.
If any the above sounded like your cup of tea, the current NUEL season has just ended, leaving plenty of time to practice for the next. If you re not a student (or not based in the UK) there s no need to worry as plenty of alternatives are out there: the Electronic Sports League (ESL) run an open league at no cost of entry, while FACEIT takes online matchmaking to the next level, scheduling games against other teams and running regular competitions for prizes.
We ve got a relatively quiet weekend coming up as League of Legends takes a break ahead of the forthcoming mid-season invitational. Even so, there s some top-tier European Counter-Strike to watch and a lot of great Dota 2 happening at WePlay s Season 3 LAN finals (rubbish greenscreen staging notwithstanding.) Some of the world s best Hearthstone players will be putting Whispers of the Old Gods to the test in Korea, too.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: CEVO Gfinity Pro-League Season 9
There's some top-tier CS:GO happening at Gfinity's arena in London this weekend. Play has been ongoing since Thursday, but continues with semifinals on Saturday and the grand finals on Sunday. Play begins at 12:00 BST/04:00 PDT on Saturday and at 15:30 BST/07:30 PDT on Sunday and you can find the livestream here.
Dota 2: WePlay League S3 LAN Finals
There s two more days of play left in the WePlay League Season 3 LAN finals in Kiev. There s been some really exciting, fun Dota played so far although the tone of the event has been set by a run of Shanghai Major-style production snafus. From a comedically terrible greenscreen set for the analysis panel (see above) to arbitrarily cutting away from games during crucial teamfights, it s been a bit of a shambles. That s part of the fun, though, and reason enough to tune in. Play begins at 08:00 BST/00:00 PDT on Saturday and at 10:00 BST/02:00 PDT on Sunday and you can find the English language livestream here.
Hearthstone: Seoul Cup World Invitational
An array of top Hearthstone talent including Thijs, Ostkaka, Reynad and more will compete for a share of $22,000 in Seoul this weekend. It'll be a relatively quick, single elimination contest with play spread across both days. Hearthstone s latest expansion has done a number on the metagame, so it ll be fascinating to see what decks succeed at one of the first serious competitions since Whispers of the Old Gods launched (you can find some pro predictions here, incidentally.) Watch the English language livestream here, but bear the timezone in mind: play begins at 14:00 KST both days, which is 06:00 BST or 22:00 PDT on the day before.