Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

The group stages of CS:GO's portion of the Intel Extreme Masters at Katowice 2018 are underway.  

Running today in Poland's Spodek Arena, the first of Group A's matches—SK Gaming vs Avangar, and Renegades vs Astralis, the latter of which, at the time of writing, can be viewed here—are set to wrap up after 1pm GMT, with Group B's ties to follow. I don't know enough about the CS:GO esports scene to pass judgement/back a potential winner, but Ninjas in Pyjamas is some top tier team naming. I'm rooting for them. 

Group stages run through March 1, with playoffs on March 2, playoff semi finals on March, and the competition's grand final on Sunday, March 4 at 4pm GMT/8am PT. Here's a look at the prize pool:

A full streaming schedule for all of that can be found here, as can more information on the event's format. 

Elsewhere at Katowice 2018, PUBG and Dota 2 held their respective run-ins last weekend—marking Dota 2's first Polish major—whereas Starcraft 2 started its initial rounds of 76 yesterday. More details on those can be found here and here and here.   

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

In July 2016, Twitch suspended James "PhantomL0rd" Varga, a streamer who at the time had nearly 1.4 million followers, over his association with CSGO skin gambling site CSGOShuffle. Esports journalist Richard Lewis said a record of email exchanges between Varga and CSGOShuffle coder Duhau Joris that he'd obtained "heavily suggest, almost to a degree of certainty," that Varga actually owned the site, a fact he neglected to mention in streams where he used and promoted it, and gambled with "house money" rather than his own. 

That's in violation of FTC and Valve rules, which means it also violated the Twitch terms of service, and as a result his channel was suspended. But now Varga has filed a lawsuit (via Unikrn) against Twitch over the suspension, saying that Twitch improperly suspended his account and then terminated his contract without providing an explanation as to why. 

The lawsuit alleges that Varga's contract obligated Twitch to provide written notice of violations, as well as an opportunity to correct them within 30 days, but neither the notice nor the corrective window were provided. Furthermore, the allegations that led to the suspension arose from "unsubstantiated, false accusations leveled at Varga by a third party, whose accusations were the culmination of an effort to publicly disparage Varga and take advantage of his popularity." 

"It is clear from Twitch's conduct that the stated bases for suspension and termination were an effort to deflect negative press and scapegoat Varga, allowing Twitch to publicly decry alleged gambling conduct and divert attention from the fact that Twitch continued to knowingly allow such conduct to continue on other Twitch channels," the suit states. 

Varga alleges that he wasn't given a reason for the suspension until January 2017, nearly five months after it happened, when a Twitch rep told him that his channel had fraudulent subscribers. At some point after that, however, he was told that the real problem was the amount of non-gaming content he streamed, including CSGO skin gambling, which violated content guidelines. 

But Varga claims that he was told multiple times by Twitch employees that he could stream such content for up to 30 consecutive minutes at a time, and that Twitch "was aware that the representation was false." 

The suit says Varga suffered significant financial and reputational harm as a result of the suspension, which occurred despite him fully satisfying all the conditions of his contract. He's seeking general, special, and exemplary damages, interest, legal fees (including "expert witness fees"), and whatever else the court deems appropriate.   

Varga, as far as I can tell, has not returned to Twitch since his initial suspension, but he's been streaming on YouTube since last year. A Twitch rep said the company does not comment on pending litigation. 

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Cloud9 became the first North American team to win a CS:GO major over the weekend, defeating the favored FaZe Clan in tight overtime action. The following day, a very different sort of eye-popping mark was set when a Dragon Lore CS:GO weapon skin sold for more than $61,000

Dragon Lore ranks highly among the most expensive CS:GO skins to begin with, but this one was particularly valuable for a couple of reasons. First, it's a souvenir skin, which are available exclusively from souvenir packages that only drop during Valve-sponsored CS:GO tournaments. Dragon Lore is actually the rarest skin in the Cobblestone Packages, which currently sell for a little north of $30 each on the Steam Marketplace.   

This particular skin is also "factory new," and its stickers are all "unscratched," each of which compounds its rarity even further. And the timely pièce de résistance is that it bears the autograph of Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, the MVP of the ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018 where Cloud9 made its mark.   

The skin was originally purchased for $35,000 by a collector named Drone, who told Polygon that the selling price, despite being so much higher than what he paid (which seems absolutely nuts to begin with), was as low as he was willing to go. "I didn’t originally get into this game solely for profit," he said. "I just got very lucky a couple of times, and money is more valuable to different people. I’m very lucky in my financial state to where I can afford to buy these skins and it does not affect me."   

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Cloud9 celebrates. Image courtesy HLTV, click for source.

It’s been a long wait for North American fans, but after five years of waiting, they finally have their home-continent heroes. The all-American squad of Cloud9 fought their way through a murderer’s row of the best CS:GO teams in the world—including the #1 ranked SK Gaming—to make it into the finals of ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018, then emerged victorious from a grueling, three map, double overtime match against the European superteam of FaZe Clan.

On paper, this looked like one of the most lopsided grand finals in CS:GO Major history. FaZe Clan is notorious for being “the most expensive team in Counter-Strike history”, having bought out the contracts of the best players from several of the best teams in the world. One of their players has won two Majors in the past, and the rest of them have made it deep into the elimination brackets at previous Majors. With SK Gaming, the only higher-ranked team in existence, suffering from the loss of one of their core players, the consensus was that this was FaZe’s tournament to win.Cloud9’s current lineup, on the other hand, is composed entirely of younger players with fairly modest winnings to their names. As a team, they’ve never even made it into the top eight of a Major, and most of the individual players have never made it anywhere near this far in this caliber of tournament. Few people were predicting this outcome.

Not only did the American underdogs come out on top, they did so in a manner that made for one of the most spectacular grand finals in Counter-Strike history. They started things off inauspiciously, losing their own map pick in a 16-14 nail-biter; this set them up to have to face FaZe on Overpass, a map that Cloud9 has lost four times in a row to FaZe in previous tournaments.

Despite that history hanging over their heads, the young team put on a clinic in the early rounds, pulling out a variety of aggressive, exciting plays to drive the score up to an imposing 15 rounds to 4. FaZe showed signs of rallying after half-time, as Håvard "rain" Nygaard found his groove and started posting some big frag numbers, but the comeback was eventually shut down by Cloud9 for a final map score of 16-10.This set the stage for a final showdown on the final map of the tournament, Inferno, where both teams had demonstrated strong tactics in previous matches. Cloud9 got off to a strong start on the CT side, eventually settling for a respectable first-half score of 7-8 in FaZe’s favour. Things began to look grim for the Americans during the second-half, however, as FaZe strung enough rounds together to cripple Cloud9’s economy, driving them to the brink of death with a 15-11 scoreline.

Then, to the visible frustration of a FaZe Clan who felt that this tournament was theirs for the taking, and with the hometeam crowd threatening to bring down the arena roof, Cloud9 posted four consecutive rounds to bring the score to 15-15 and force overtime.

It took them two overtime sets, and a few scarily messy-looking rounds, but Cloud9 finally got the job done. Final score: 22-19.

For the young players of Cloud9, this marks a new high point in their Counter-Strike careers, and for fans of Cloud9 and North American Counter-Strike in general, it marks the end of a drought that had stretched on so long that it began to feel like an unliftable curse. Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham, the quiet Cloud9 player who was awarded the tournament MVP trophy, was asked in the post-match interview what was ahead for Cloud9. His answer was simply, “a lot of tournaments.”We can only hope those future tournaments are half as electrifying to watch as this weekend’s has been.

Counter-Strike

Photo by Jo o Ferreira, click for source.

For as long as CS:GO has existed as an esport, North American teams have played the role of the underdogs, perpetually overshadowed by European—and recently, Brazilian—squads who always end up taking home the hardware at the big tournaments. Since the advent of the Valve-supported Major tournaments in 2013, no North American team has ever won one; today, at the penultimate day of ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018, the Americans of Cloud9 have brought themselves tantalizingly close to ending that drought.

After a rocky start in the group stages, Cloud9 fought their way back into contention with a convincing 2-0 win over the French squad of G2 Esports. The vagaries of the tournament bracket meant that this victory set them on a collision course with CS:GO’s current team to beat, the top-ranked Brazilians of SK Gaming. Riding a wave of momentum, and with the hometown crowd cheering their countrymen on, Cloud9 nonetheless entered their semi-final match as the heavy underdog.

As soon as the first map got underway, it was clear that it was time to throw rational predictions out the window. A series of incredibly well-executed rounds and some huge individual plays led Cloud9 to a crushing 16-3 victory to start things off, shocking the analyst desk and driving the crown into a frenzy. Despite the second map not going quite as well, resulting in a 16-8 victory for SK Gaming, Cloud9’s momentum appeared unbreakable, and they rallied to win 16-9 on the third map to clinch their berth in the tournament’s grand finals.

This outcome marks only the second time a North American team has managed to make it into the finals of a Major, after Team Liquid reached (and subsequently lost) the finals of ESL One Cologne back in 2016. If they pull off a win tomorrow against the formidable opposition of FaZe Clan, they will make CS:GO history, and perhaps begin to turn the reputation of American Counter-Strike around.

They’ll also have faced one of the toughest roads to victory of any Major-winning team in recent memory, due to their lacklustre performance in the group stages putting them in a very tough bracket position. Making their way through G2 Esports, SK Gaming and FaZe Clan, the fourth, first, and second best CS:GO teams in the world respectively, is a feat that will finally put to bed any question about Cloud9’s legitimacy as a top-tier team on the world stage.You can catch the grand finals at 11:00am PST on Sunday morning on ELEAGUE’s Twitch channel.

Dota 2

Battle.net may have Destiny 2, but Steam has millions of simultaneous PUBG players. GOG may have the best collection of DRM-free games, but Valve has, well, PUBG again. And Dota 2, and CS:GO. Competition has increased a lot in the past 10 years, but despite the growth of GOG, itch.io, Origin, Battle.net, the Microsoft Store, and others, Steam is still the gaming store on PC, and Valve runs two of the biggest esports in existence. Its influence on PC gaming can't be understated, so it naturally receives heaps of criticism and suggestions from players and developers alike. That's how it goes when you're on top.

Ruling out obvious fantasy, like a DRM-free release of Half-Life 3, here's what we hope PC gaming's de facto leader does in 2018.

Is a new Steam interface on the way?

A Steam interface overhaul

A big update to Steam's interface was teased last year, and it's about time. While Steam has changed a lot since 2003—mostly as new features were tacked on—it still leaves much to be desired. Better automated sorting of our libraries would be a start. If you have tags, why not let us use them? The controller settings are weird, opening in a Big Picture Mode-style window and changing my Steam overlay to the same as if there's no way someone would use a controller at their desk. The music section of my library is a mess, with repeat entries that don't play. In other words, the tacked-on features feel tacked on. Without entirely throwing out the interface we're used to, an extensive UI and feature refresh would be welcome. (GOG Galaxy's version rollback feature would be welcome, too.) —Tyler Wilde

CS:GO on Source 2

The biggest thing on the wishlist for CS:GO players heading into the new year is the long-awaited move to the Source 2 engine. Rumors have been circulating about when this change-over will finally happen for at least two years now, since shortly after Dota 2 was moved to the new engine in the fall of 2015. Valve confirmed back in April that they’re working on giving CS:GO the same treatment, but so far this update has yet to materialize.In addition to the presumed graphical optimizations of moving to the new engine, the content creation tools for new maps, new skins, etc. are allegedly a vast improvement over the original Source tools. Hopefully, this means we’ll see a glut of new user-created content when the update drops, thanks to the modernized and more user-friendly creation tools.

Similarly, the other big item on the wishlist is the promised upgrade to the new “Panorama UI”, a complete overhaul of all of CS:GO’s menus and interfaces using the panel-based UI that Dota 2 has already adopted. Just like the Source 2 update, this change has been in the works for quite some time now; Valve confirmed they were “preparing” for the UI switch at least as far back as the summer of 2016, but as with everything else Valve does, they’ve been rather tight-lipped about any sort of timeline for the Panorama implementation.

Below these big-ticket items on our 2018 wishlist, there are a litany of smaller changes we’d like to see happen:

  • Classic maps like Mirage and Dust would benefit from the same sort of overhaul Inferno, Nuke, and Dust 2 have received over the last couple of years. 
  • The map pool could use some fresh entries (or some revivals of classic entries) to keep the competitive meta interesting. 
  • An unranked version of CS:GO’s core 5-vs.-5 competitive format has been a popular community ask for years now.
  • Valve’s anti-cheat technology is lagging behind third-party services like ESEA, and could use a serious upgrade.

The astute observer will notice that almost everything mentioned herein could’ve just as easily appeared on a similar list at the end of last year. It often feels like CS:GO is a lower priority for Valve than its other esports juggernaut, Dota 2, so while there are plenty of updates we’d like to see in 2018, it seems unwise to get our hopes up that many of them will happen particularly soon. Nonetheless, we’ll keep our fingers crossed. —Mitch Bowman

A little warning before Dota 2 changes

The TI7 contestants were announced abruptly. The Pro Circuit system was announced abruptly. The games contest was announced, and soon extended, abruptly. Gameplay mini-patches were released abruptly, at one point abruptly breaking custom games. 

A surprise is nice sometimes, but when it comes to Dota 2, one of the biggest games in the world, not everything should come as such. At least a million players likely clock in every day, and a significant chunk of that population—plus some non-players—follow the competitive scene that’s grown from it. Basically, there are a lot of players trying to just play the game and keep up on a fundamental level. 

So, for many out there already irrevocably attached to the experience, frequently needing to stay up-to-date and ready-to-go is exhausting. Maybe it’s just become part of the Dota life: you wake up, see if Valve has done something, and then continue with life. But why does it have to be like that?

Dota 2 players could use a little communication. Just a bit. You can put something off for six hours to get us ready, and you don’t have to give a Riot-length explanation, nor a Developer Diary. It can be a six-hour heads-up on a patch, an announcement of an announcement, or a new way to share what teams are heading to TI. Have someone sit at a computer and press the buttons so people don’t guess teams from the source code. Or all of the above. Valve, you’re allowed to steal these ideas. In fact, please do. 

Of course, we’re also talking about Valve here, and that’s just part of how they do things. I’m sure they’re aware, but the reason why they haven’t changed anything is beyond me and anyone else in the scene who isn’t actually a Valve employee. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. —Victoria Rose

Improved moderation and curating

Steam Direct is great for new developers who don't have publishers, but the consequence is an influx of ripoffs and shovelware. In theory, Steam's algorithmic discovery tools and Curators should surface only the best games, and truthfully, my store page is looking pretty nice during the Winter Sale—a healthy mix of good deals and games I might be interested in. But that's not quite the case in the Popular New Releases section, which is consistently full of free or free-to-play games. Free games aren't necessarily bad, but the 'popularity' metric means free clickers and gags naturally get promoted over anything with even a small price tag, potentially burying great games that dare to cost five bucks. 

2018 should see an even bigger influx of new games—thousands upon thousands—and I'm skeptical that these automated and community-driven tools will be able to keep up. At the minimum, I hope Valve more aggressively cuts asset flips—which it did a bit of in 2017—and outright insulting games, and sets a clearer policy on nudity and sex. It's been totally inconsistent in that latter regard, even receiving criticism from a porn game distributor.

An increase in moderation is doubly needed in the Steam community. It took me five seconds to find a group advertised with a lynching icon and a swastika. Delete. —Tyler Wilde

As always, a game

Valve says it's working on a few, but we aren't holding our breath. And no, nice as it was, Bridge Constructor Portal doesn't count. —Tyler Wilde

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Valve News Network reported a couple of weeks ago that the venerable online shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive might be getting a battle royale mode at some point in the future. But modder Kinsi wasn't willing to wait for it to happen, so they went ahead and created one of their own. 

Called Go 4 The Kill—or Go4TK, to save time and space—the mod features a map more than four times the size of Overpass, and three to four times larger than the Source engine normally allows. As Kotaku explains, it accomplishes this feat by breaking its map into sections separated by mountain ranges: Crossing the mountains places you into what is effectively another map, but everything is connected so you can move back and forth seamlessly. Despite the size of the playing field, performance should be roughly equivalent to conventional CS:GO maps because there's very little "'unnecessary' detail," aside from what's required to provide cover for players.

While PUBG is commonly cited as the battle royale standard-bearer, Kinsi said the inspiration for Go4TK came from a different game. "With Go4TK my aim was to combine two games that I like: King of the Kill and CS:GO," they wrote. "It was mainly meant to be a challenge for myself to push the boundaries of whats possible with server-side only CS:GO modding. From the ground up I've carefully handcrafted everything, be it the map in itself or the plugin allowing for the actual gameplay to ensure the best possible integration." 

There are some significant gameplay differences between Go4TK and CS:GO. Bullet drop and travel time are modeled, running will not reduce firing accuracy, weapons have randomized inaccuracy but no recoil patterns, ADS (aim down sight) is very important if you want to hit what you're shooting at, and if you get shot yourself, you'll bleed—and if you don't do something about it, you'll keep on bleeding until you die. It is also, despite being much larger than conventional CS:GO experiences, a smaller-scale experience than PUBG: Kotaku says the maximum player count is 20, while the Go4TK site says players per game is "targeted at 49."

Go 4 the Kill was actually released back in August, and work has continued since. There have been setbacks as well, most notably the shutdown of North American servers in November due to lack of interest. Kinsi said on Twitter that they might be brought back online soon, "thanks to a generous Redditor," although how long they'll be kept around will depend on how much use they see.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

For the first time ever, the UK Gambling Committee's year-end report on Young People and Gambling has looked into "awareness and participation rates" of skin gambling (if you're not sure what that is, here's a primer). The report states that, "based on the description provided within the questionnaire," 45 percent of children aged 11-16 knew about skin gambling, and 11 percent said they had placed bets with in-game items at some point in the past. 

"'Skins' are in-game items, used within some of the most popular video game titles. They provide cosmetic alterations to a player’s weapons, avatar or equipment used in the game," the report states. "Skins betting sites allow videogamers to wager cosmetic items rewarded in-game or purchased for real money on a digital marketplace, accessible from the UK for several years." 

A BBC report on the Gambling Commission paper leads with the statistics on skin gambling and then says that roughly 370,000 11-16 year olds in England, Scotland, and Wales reported spending their own money on gambling at least once in the prior week. But the context is misleading: The number is accurate, at least within the survey's margin of error, but it includes all forms of gambling, including slot machines, scratch cards, and wagers with friends ("five bucks says you can't make that jump"). Furthermore, the figure "represents a continuation of the longer-term decline seen since 2011," when 23 percent of 11-15 year-olds reported taking part in some form of gambling during the preceding week. 

Prevalence of gambling with in-game items increases with age, from three percent of 11 year-olds to 14 percent of 14-16 year-olds, and was higher among children who had spent money on other forms of gambling over the past week, or who had played "online gambling-style games," like casino games, slot machines, or poker. In fact, the rate of playing those games matches the incidence rate of skin gambling, at 11 percent.

It's the ability to convert in-game items into cash that denotes the activity as gambling for the purposes of the report, rather than the actual conversion itself—the fact that the skins could be converted into cash, not whether they actually were. That's also how the concept was introduced to survey respondents: "When playing computer games/app it is sometimes possible to collect in-game items (eg. weapons, power-ups and tokens). For some games, it is possible to bet these in-game items for the chance to win more of them." 

"The Gambling Commission takes the view that the ability to convert in-game items to cash, or to trade them (for other items of value) means they attain a real-world value and become articles of money or money’s worth. Where gambling facilities are offered to British consumers, including with the use of in-game items that can be converted into cash or traded (for items of value), a gambling license is required," the report says. "Tackling operators making gambling facilities available to children is one of the Gambling Commission’s priorities." 

In other words, it's the people running unlicensed gambling sites who are liable to be targeted by the Gambling Commission, and not the games themselves, or the companies who make them. In fact, earlier this year the commission successfully prosecuted YouTuber Craig "Nepenthez" Douglas and his business partner Dylan Rigby, who ran the FUT Galaxy website that enabled gambling on real-world soccer matches using FIFA 17 virtual currency. But that currency could also be exchanged for real money, which fell afoul of the UK's Gambling Act and cost the duo £255,000 ($340,00) in fines.   

"Because of these unlicensed skin betting sites, the safeguards that exist are not being applied and we're seeing examples of really young people, 11 and 12-year-olds, who are getting involved in skin betting, not realizing that it's gambling," Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison told the BBC. "At one level they are running up bills perhaps on their parents' Paypal account or credit card, but the wider effect is the introduction and normalization of this kind of gambling among children and young people." 

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

The FTC has finalized its settlement with Trevor "TmarTn" Martin and Tom "ProSyndicate" Cassell, the streamers who used their YouTube channels and other platforms to enthusiastically promote the skin gambling site CSGO Lotto without any indication that they happened to own 42.5% of CSGO Lotto. Some of Martin and Cassell's videos showed them achieving extraordinary wins on the site, and worked with other popular YouTuber friends to produce similar videos with titles like "1% CHANCE?! (CSGO Lotto)."

The initial settlement, reached in September, set new standards of disclosure on the two and the site, forbidding them "from misrepresenting that any endorser is an independent user or ordinary consumer of a product or service." 

Per the settlement, Martin and Cassell are forbidden from misrepresenting endorsers as independent consumers, must "clearly and conspicuously" disclose their endorsements and connections with other endorsers, submit a compliance report to the FTC in one year, and maintain a variety of records relating to their accounting, consumer complaints, marketing material, and personnel for the next 10 years.

No actual penalties were imposed, however, which didn't sit well with a few members of the public who took advantage of the commission's invitation to submit comments on the decision. "I am appalled and disgusted with this ruling. These two deserve a hefty fine, if not jail time, for knowingly misleading their largely adolescent fanbase into using a gambling website that they owned," Jack Thorpe wrote. "The items that were being traded on CSGO Lotto had real money value, and these two were pocketing millions from rigging a system that they owned." 

Another, using the name Maloney, noted that Martin and Cassell had "purposelessly deceived their audiences by pretending to have found CSGO Lotto and recommend to use it when in fact they owned it from the beginning." 

"I believe this deliberate action deserves a larger punishment than just warnings to not do it again," they wrote. "A precedent needs to be set in order to stop these malicious acts from further occurring." 

A third respondent, Christopher Jahn, acknowledged that the CSGO Lotto site had a clause in its TOS stating that users must be at least 18 years old, but then moved on to the obvious: "Let's be honest here, what teenager is actually going to abide by that, let alone even read it? Can you imagine a modern day teenager saying, 'Well, I'm not quite 18 yet, guess I'll be a law abiding citizen and go do something else'? No teenager is going to do that." 

These were the only three to comment, and their words were not enough to have an impact on the ruling. 

The full text of the FTC's CSGO Lotto settlement is available here, and you can get a closer look at what caused all the trouble in the first place in our explanation of CSGO skin gambling. A photo of clearly chastened TmarTn participating in a recent Call of Duty: WWII promotion is below.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

CS:GO skins and all other Steam Market items are subject to a $400 maximum listing price. Items are often sold for greater sums through key trades, a sub-currency of the CS:GO economy. A single CS:GO key costs $2.50 USD and can be sold on the Steam Marketplace. To break through the $400 ceiling, you convert your listing price to a key value. If you want to sell an item for $500, divide your listing price by the key value, 500 by 2.5: 200 keys. Most people use third-party trading websites to list CS:GO’s rarest wares, but once a trade is made, those keys can be sold back into the Steam Marketplace.

There are some skins in our list that definitely break that cap, but due to both the extraordinary rarity of these items and their inconsistent prices in the key market, we’ve pulled our best estimates from varying trading sites. These are subject to change on a whim, but remain impressive no matter how transitory.

[Updated 11/30/2017]

Guns

Souvenir AWP: Dragon Lore, ~ $4200 (10,000 keys)Dragon Lore, Field TestedThe Cobblestone Collection

The original Dragon Lore skin originally fetched a hefty $10,000, but this commemorative skin still commands a quaint $4,200, almost as if to say “Why have my scope flash off the morning sun when I can just use these totally rad gold stickers?”

This particular Dragon Lore commemorates the Grand Final match of the 2015 DreamHack Cluj-Napoca CS:GO Championship between Natus Vincere and Team EnVyUs, and is autographed by MVP Denis Koslin.

AK-47: Fire Serpent, $3200Fire Serpent, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Bravo Collection

I’m no economist, but does it say something that this skin is basically three times as expensive as a real-world AK-47? This holiday, please think of the less fortunate arms dealers, and buy this commemorative memento from the Operation Bravo: Ruins map. Let’s see a Precious Things statue spit fire like this.

M4A4: Howl, ~ $3700 (1500 keys)Howl, StatTrak Factory NewThe Huntsman Collection, May 2014

Turns out crime still pays. OK, technically it's mundane internet art theft,  but this bit of contraband still stands as one of the primo skins for competitive CS:GO enthusiasts, and it’s only getting rarer. 

The Howl's extraordinary price is due to the unusual controversy that followed it after release, which included the gun's removal from distribution—but not from owners' inventories. CS:GO stopped dropping new Howls long ago, so the lucky initial owners of this lion-faced piece of copyright infringement own one of the most coveted status symbols in the game. 

P90: Emerald Dragon, ~ $550Emerald Dragon, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Bravo Collection

Asian artwork is always in good taste. Just ask your local tattoo artist. Hopefully your aim is a little more straightforward than this poor lizard, because he’s all over the place on this skin. Remember, kids, always assign a designated dragon.

Might as well pick it up now, since it’s currently less than half of its original $1,000 price tag.

AWP: Medusa, ~ $1400Medusa, Minimal WearThe Gods and Monsters Collection

While this fetching gorgon skin demanded a hefty $400 upon release back in May of 2015, it’s only risen in value since, topping out currently at about $1,400. You might say its high value is set in stone… I’ll show myself out.

AK-47: The Empress, ~ $750Empress, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Spectrum 2 Collection

Finally, you too can be the belle of the ball, the becky with the good hair, the yas queen. Look, what do you want from me? It’s a pretty lady with blonde locks that would make Reinhardt blush. This skin helped ring in the Chinese release of CS:GO just last September, so if you’re looking for some fresh paint, have at it.

AUG: Akihabara Accept, ~$500Akihabara Accept, Factory NewThe Rising Sun Collection

Anime is trash… and so am I. The Akihabara Accept still commands a decidedly not-trash price (a remarkably consistent $500 average since release, though some have sold for over $1,000), so I guess we’re stuck with visions of pink-haired teens slaughtering us from afar. God bless Japan.

Five-SeveN: Hyper Beast, ~$200Hyper Beast, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Operation Hydra Collection

Doom’s floating sphere of teeth, the Cacodemon, has got nothing on this sinister-looking Swedish meatball. If you pull the trigger, it’s like wiggling its tongue. If you want a little extra spice with your meatball, the Hyper Beast skin can also be purchased at considerably lower rates for the AWP, Nova, and M4A1-S.

 MP9: Bulldozer, ~$250Bulldozer, Factory NewThe Assault Collection

You’ll be a bulldozer in the eyes of your enemies with this skin: Loud, yellow, prone to making odd noises when you back up. The Assault Collection skin pack hasn’t been part of the regular loot drop in CS for a few years, so it’s gone from selling like dirt to plowing cash.

AWP: Boom ~$400Boom, StatTrakThe eSports 2013 Collection

With a classic comic book framing, this skin shows off its entrepreneurial spirit. No need for boisterous cries of “Boom! Headshot!” when you can just cut out the middleman. I look forward to the eventual Disney-owned shared universe.

Souvenir USP-S Road Rash, ~$400Road Rash, Factory NewThe Overpass Collection

Remember when mom would take you to the mall for new clothes, but your enlightened 13-year-old self just had to have those pre-torn jeans? This is like the gun equivalent of that. Why didn’t you stop us, mom?

This skin dropped during the ELEAGUE Atlanta 2017 CS:GO Championship Grand Final Match, and is autographed by MVP Peter Rasmussen AKA “dupreeh” of team Astralis.

M4A1-S: Master Piece, ~$2900Master Piece, Souvenir, Factory NewThe Overpass Collection

If you look closely enough, you can see a faint homage to the Mona Lisa smile between the first squiggly line and the fifth, just behind the lettering that reminds you of a passing train car.

This skin was dropped during the ESL Cologne 2015 CS:GO Championship’s Quarter Finals match, and is signed by MVP Håvard “rain” Nygaard, then of Team SoloMid.

AK-47: Red Laminate, ~$450Red Laminate, StatTrak, Factory NewThe eSports 2013 Collection

They took an AK-47, dashed it with some nice red paint, and poured laminate all over it. It’s the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto of guns. Get this one while it’s hot, because it’s been rising from a modest $300 to a $450 average since October 2016.

AK-47: Fuel Injector,  ~$320 (156 keys)Fuel Injector, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Wildfire Collection

Yellow. The color of sunshine, bees, and the light you try to ignore while driving. Throw caution to the wind with this simple skin (sold at a remarkably consistent $400 average) that will leave your victims wondering how that oversized banana got the drop on them.

AK-47: Wasteland Rebel,  $425Wasteland Rebel, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Vanguard Collection

As far as war chants go, “MAKE THEM CRY!” ain’t too bad. It certainly rests alongside other such classics as “YOU DON’T EVEN GO HERE!” and “HEY, WANNA FIGHT?”

For you Counter-Strike lore hounds, the Wasteland Rebel’s flavor text indicates it’s a favorite of Naomi, a bodyguard to Operation Bloodhound Terrorist leader Valeria Jenner

AWP: Oni Taiji, ~ $145Oni Taiji, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Operation Hydra Collection

“Taiji,” more commonly referred to in the West as “Tai Chi,” is the ancient Chinese philosophy of supreme ultimate state of undifferentiated absolute, infinite potential, and the oneness before duality. You know, yen and yang. Pretty heady stuff for a gun with a demon on the butt. While it’s currently on a downswing price-wise, it might not be a bad idea to pick up one ASAP considering Operation Hydra recently ended.

AWP: Pink DDPAT, ~ $130Pink DDPAT, Souvenir, Minimal WearThe Overpass Collection

At some point, Counter-Strike scientists asked “if Barbie had an AWP, what would it look like?” The Pink DDPAT pairs well with any seasonal outfit, be it for a jaunt at the mall, or in the official Barbie DreamCamper. Sleep well, Ken.

If you’re worried about getting dropped by cross-map headshots, maybe take a chance on the DDPAT at the lowest price it's seen since release three years ago. This souvenir skin commemorates the 2017 PGL Krakow CS:GO Championships, was dropped during the Group Stage match between SK Gaming and Immortals, and is autographed by MVP Fernando Alvarenga.

M4A4: Royal Paladin, ~$320Royal Paladin, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Revolver Case Collection

The Royal Paladin is a proper statesman’s rifle. An elegant leaf engraving, fine ivory, and enough gold to fix at least a few mouthfuls of teeth. Though it’s had some significant dips, the Royal Paladin has maintained an impressive $350 average price over two years. That’s monarchy for you.

AK-47 Neon Revolution, ~$155Neon Revolution, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Gamma 2 Collection

Pink as a clown’s bum, with “ANARCHY” emblazoned in spray paint on the side. It’s a rifle with all the quiet modesty of a Jared Leto acting role. Wait, when did this skin come out? Summer of 2016? Oh, no. *Checks flavor text.*

Well, at least something is producing a better return-on-investment than that trainwreck.

USP-S: Neo Noir, ~$120Neo Noir, StatTrak, Factory NewThe Spectrum Collection

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Counter-Terrorists on fire off the shoulder of bomb site A. I watched grenades glitter off the skybox into our spawn from across the map. All those moments will be lost in time, like lag in the rain.

The USP-S is one of the few guns on this list with roots as a fan favorite from Counter Strike: Source, so maybe a few of those epic moments can live on with you in the end.

Knives

Karambit: Lore, ~ $1400Lore, StatTrak, Factory New

It’s a knife called “Lore,” but I’m not exactly seeing any further exploration of the Counter Strike world beyond a rad visual design. Still a better love story than Destiny. Ha, commentary.

Comes with a custom knotwork paint job, and it shows. The skin originally sold for $400, a mere penance compared to the $1,200 minimum you’ll likely find these days.

M9 Bayonet: Night ~$620Night, Factory New

Sleek, yet simple. Dark, yet pointy. Seems like as good an excuse as any to yell out “I AM THE NIGHT!” over and over again. If, like its flavor text describes, it’s “the bite at your neck,” this skin might just bleed your wallet dry.

M9 Bayonet: Crimson Web ~$950Crimson Web, Factory New

Some knives are silver, some are black, some are even the color of the rainbow. This little buddy does you the solid of getting all red and nasty before you even start to work. Thanks, champ. Also spreads jam really well.

Gloves & Stickers

Moto Gloves: Spearmint, ~ $700Spearmint, Minimal Wear

Wash the taste of a bad match out with these minty mittens, at least until all your friends are asking for a piece. Warning: Do not ingest gloves, especially ones that taste like pine trees.

Hey, at least after spending upwards of $700 (up from $400 a year ago) on gloves, you have all the right in the world to growl “and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

IBuyPower (Holo) ~$4500Marketplace Link

You thought the IBuyPower sticker was something else back when it debuted at $400 in 2014, huh? Well, Mr. Moneybags, hope you're ready for a second mortgage, because this increasingly rare sticker now tops a majority of all CS:GO skins for a lordly $4,500 average.

Although the “Contraband” Howling Dawn sticker goes for about $200, the first-edition esports stickers are by far the priciest. Among them, Team iBUYPOWER’s holographic sticker reaches a whole other level, due to the fact that the team was banned by Valve and dissolved after the discovery that they fixed matches for their own benefit

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