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stuchiu
Written By: stuchiu

Esports writer in search of the play.

Jun 6, 2019

Liquid are the ranked number one team in the world. They have won two of the bigger LAN events post-Katowice (IEM Sydney and DreamHack Dallas) and accrued other top finishes. Their run was in part due to their dominance on Overpass. Liquid’s mastery on the map has been key in solidifying their spot atop the HLTV rankings.

The win-loss breakdown

Liquid’s current LAN record on Overpass is 14 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses. The teams they’ve beaten include: FURIA, NRG, Ghost, Fnatic, NiP three times, BIG, Lazarus, MIBR, Astralis twice, Cloud9, and AVANGAR. They drew with ENCE once. Their three losses come from ENCE, Vitality, and Astralis.

While the numbers are good, they are a bit inflated as not all victories are equal. If we trim it down to top ten teams, then Liquid’s record is eight wins, one draw and three losses. Additionally, one of those wins came from iBUYPOWER Masters, so there is an asterisk next to it as there were mitigating circumstances at that LAN.

So while the win-loss record isn’t as monstrous as it first appears, Liquid’s Overpass is still the best in the world. Outside of ENCE and Na`Vi, they’ve beaten every Overpass team of note. While not impervious, Liquid are likely the best team on the map right now.

A brief overview of Liquid’s versatile players

First, we need to take a look at the strengths of the players they have on the roster. Their lineup includes: Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, Keith “NAF” Markovic, and Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip.

What makes this group of players fascinating is their level of firepower and versatility across the board. All five players have had experience playing different roles and positions. Each has played as an entry-man, lurker, or wing on the T-side. In addition to that, three of the five players are adept at AWPing: nitr0, NAF, and Stewie2K.

team liquid wins iem sydney

This versatility allows for adjustments on the micro scale that can have reverberations on the macro game. For instance, when you look at maps like Mirage or Dust2, Liquid will rotate their double AWP setup between nitr0, NAF and Stewie2K. Each of the three has a distinctive style of play. Nitr0 plays the closest to a standard safe style of AWP. NAF oscillates between being extremely aggressive and passive, which makes him the hardest to predict. Stewie2K specializes in combat style AWPing and likes to put a large amount of pressure on his side of the map with the weapon.

This versatility tied together with the structure and tactics that nitr0 and Eric “adreN” Hoag have instituted means that Liquid can theoretically play any style of game they wish as they have all of the requisite players needed to execute it at the highest level.

While this is a great boon, it can pose a problem at times as too many potential answers can lead to indecision or internal conflict. While Liquid are the closest lineup in CS:GO to having formless roles, they still have a standard they rely on for the majority of their games. This map that displays this the best is Overpass.

Looking at the T-side of Overpass

The base game of Liquid’s T-side comes from their default. They have EliGE, nitr0, and Twistzz playing the three-man pack towards mid and long, Stewie2k playing underpass, and NAF playing the B side. This setup makes sense in terms of the individual abilities of the players.

EliGE and nitr0 should play together as a map control duo as they have the best synergy of any duo in Liquid. Not only have the two of them played together since 2015, but they’ve taken turns being the first or second man in. In addition, EliGE likes to make first contact in 5v5 situations and his particular skillset makes him ideal to be the one to take first contact on the Liquid side.

Twistzz is their third man towards the mid/long area. Among the five players, he has the least defined roles on the T-side. He can help EliGe and nitr0 take mid to long, whether that’s in the pack or as an additional prong to the attack. His raw firepower means that he can duel any of the top players and likely come out on top. He can also help NAF take sewers control if Liquid want to be aggressive on that side of the map. What makes Twistzz so dangerous is that he’s a built-in redundancy for Liquid’s two man entry pack. If either EliGE or nitr0 go down, he has the firepower and experience to easily take up that role, so Liquid are never hamstrung in 4v5 scenarios. If Liquid get the map control and execute, then Twistzz’s entry strength is second to none and Liquid can overwhelm most CT-side defenses if they get to that point.

Stewie2k and NAF play the more individualistic roles. Stewie2k plays underpass, a fairly low-impact role. Even so, he plays it out well and if he gets into a duel, he has the confidence and ability to either win it out or force the CT-players back. In the later rounds, it allows him to be in position to lurk or entry into either A or B. As for NAF, he plays towards the B side of the map. While he can aggressively look for duels, he usually reserves those plays when Liquid need a wildcard. More often than not, he lets the action play out on the rest of the map and uses his game sense to figure out when he can sneak in, get the easy kill on site and call the rotation.

This is the base of Liquid’s play. A strong, structured default that allows room for individual plays to shine as well. They mix this in with fast-paced defaults to keep the defence honest in case they try to stack too heavily at mid or long. Outside of their individual skill and structure, it’s the small details that make Liquid strong.

At IEM Sydney, Liquid played against Fnatic in the finals. In the seventh round of the match, Liquid execute onto the B-site against a three-man stack. EliGE runs in first from short and dies to Simon “twist” Eliasson’s AWP. Then the smokes bloom for Liquid. In this moment, the North Americans know a few things. Twist is playing at pillar with the AWP. There is no one at toxic as nitr0 has already taken that space, so the remaining players are either towards CT or pit. Nitr0 flashes for his teammates which let’s both Twistzz and Stewie2K go out of the smoke. Twistzz kills both players in pit and Stewie gets twist. While Fnatic made the right call of stacking the B-site, Liquid outplayed them with their tactics and individual firepower.

While Liquid’s T-side has been strong, there have been times where it has fallen apart, particularly in the finals. At cs_summit 4, they played against Vitality in the championship match.

In the seventh round of the finals, Vitality called for a four-man stack on A, leaving Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt alone on the site. Liquid made the correct call of hitting the site and easily won the round. However, Vitality tripled down on their gamble and went for the same setup in the 8th and 9th rounds. So when Liquid went for their standard default, they were in a 4v3 scenario both times and lost both rifle rounds.

The other time we see things go wrong was against ENCE at DreamHack Dallas. Liquid were on the way to a 10-5 half on their T-side of Overpass. However, they lost to an eco on the tenth round and started to lose focus. In the next rifle round, they failed to get control of sewers early on and ENCE set up a trap for them there when they pushed out of connector. They tried to change up the tempo with a fast B execute, but ENCE had full utility. Either Liquid had a misread of their economy or they thought that it could catch them off guard. In either case, the hit was stopped cold and things degraded from there. By the end of the half, Liquid reverted back to their standard which had got them success earlier, but Aleksi “allu” Jalli and Jere “sergej” Salo won their duels in the A area.

In general though, those games are the exceptions rather than the rule and speak to Liquid’s strength on these maps. While Vitality and ENCE both won Overpass, neither side gave a consistent answer to beating Liquid’s T-side. Vitality’s gamble stacks are high risk, high reward. ENCE’s CT-side Overpass relied on Liquid losing focus and having both Allu and sergej step up as individual players.

Overall, Liquid’s T-side isn’t revolutionizing the game with unique takes or a new approach. What it does do though is execute the standard to a meticulous degree with a consistent level of execution. When powered by the incredible skill of the five Liquid players, few teams in the world can beat their T-side.

Looking at the CT-side of Overpass

Liquid’s CT-side is arguably even more impressive than their T-side. They like to use a 2-1-2 double AWP-setup, having EliGE and nitr0 control the mid or long areas as a two-man trading pack. They have Stewie2K and Twistzz play together towards the B-site. NAF is the rotator between the two.

What makes the Liquid CT-side strong is map information, redundancy, aggression, and interdependencies between the three squads of players. The CT-side begins with EliGE and nitr0. The two of them almost always play in a tw- man setup that allows for trades. After the opening nades, they play together either in toilets, long, or short. EliGE usually plays a more forward position while nitr0 supports him. This kind of setup makes it hard for the Ts to completely clear out the A side of the map. When the Ts take long, mid, and toilets, it’s usually done in a three-man pack or a two-one split. The problem with clearing out EliGE/nitr0 is that they have a wide variety of setups they like to use which can punish Ts if they cut any corners on utility. If they meet the 2v2 scenario, then you have a potential 50/50 duel where the better players win out. In a 3v2 situation, you’ll likely have a one-for-one trade as nitr0 plays a transitional defense position most of the time. In the case of the 2v1, it’s likely that Liquid win out in that scenario.

If the Ts don’t clear them out, then they are open to counterattack. Here’s an example from BLAST São Paulo:

Liquid are playing ENCE. In the 21st round, the Finns have taken long control and connector. Liquid have EliGE and nitr0 holding two in toilets. ENCE have to hit the A-site from long. Nitr0 is able to post up from toilets to slow down the hit and EliGE can flank them from long. This creates a messy scenario for ENCE, despite the fact that they got the first kill on NAF entering the site. Nitr0 gets two from toilets and EliGE splits off and gets another, leaving Liquid in a 2v1 scenario that they win.

EliGE and nitr0’s control is so strong that Liquid rarely have to commit a third player to the A defense. This is great for Liquid as the meta of Overpass has generally been to force the CT-side to commit more players to the A site so that the Ts can win easy rounds on B with the Astralis execute.

While EliGE and nitr0 get a lot of the credit for their hold, it can only happen because of how Liquid plays out the rest of the map. Other teams have used the same holds but can get punished as the T-side can just walk down the lane that they aren’t covering and plant the bomb. This is why most teams generally have their two A-players play apart from each other so that they can cover the most amount of ground. Liquid don’t have that problem because of NAF. In the clip above at BLAST Sao Paulo, NAF rotated at the perfect time when ENCE were about to hit the A-site from long. While he gets picked off, his general sense of timing of where he needs to be is on point. Another example can be seen from Liquid’s game against ENCE at DreamHack Dallas.

In the 25th round of the map, EliGE and nitr0 are holding two towards long. EliGE dies and nitr0 isn’t in a position to trade. ENCE spend some time waiting for the second player to peek from the A-site as that is the usual setup. Instead, nitr0 was also in the corner. This creates enough delay for NAF to rotate over. ENCE realize that nitr0 is probably around the corner and flash for him. However, it’s too late as NAF’s rotation has come in and what ENCE thought was a 2v1 became a 2v2.

The final piece of the puzzle are Stewie2K and Twistzz. In order for NAF to make the rotations he wants, he needs information. EliGE and nitr0 can give it to him through their aggressive holds on the A-site of the map. Stewie2K and Twistzz give it to him through their aggressive stance on B-short and monster. In general, Stewie2K is given the second AWP and will hold an angle for the entire round. He can either hold for monster, short, or down connector after being boosted by Twistzz and blowing up the door. This gives Liquid an additional avenue of information and potential to get another pick. In the case where Stewie2K and Twistzz have rifles, they have more flexible options. They can either use similar setups, go for aggressive pushes in the early, mid, or late round (Stewie2K’s push through the smoke at monster against ENCE is a prime example of this), or they save flashes to get info late in the round.

Given all of the factors I’ve described above, I think Liquid have the best CT-side Overpass in the world. Their setups give them good map control and information on both sides of the map. They have a lot of pick potential and late round aggression. NAF’s rotation fills in any potential gaps that can appear, and their holds across the map compliment each other and make it greater than the sum of their parts.

Conclusion

Liquid are now closer than they ever were to becoming the best team in the world. They’ve proved that they can win big LAN finals at IEM Sydney and DreamHack Dallas. They are now the number one on HLTV's rankings. If Liquid want to solidify their spot as the world’s best, then Overpass is essential. Every great team had a map that they were untouchable on and right now, this looks to be that map for Liquid.