Esports News

Luci Kelemen
Written By: Luci Kelemen

Telling tales of esports, one word at a time, six years and counting

March 24th, 2021

ZywOo, s1mple, device: the HLTV top charts have all gone to wielders of the big green in recent years, with their squads dominating the competition. Turning CS into a point-and-click adventure costs you $4750 a pop, and it’s no surprise that the snipers are the lynchpins of team compositions and are often the last to get cut from an underperforming roster. So why are so many aspiring teams trying to make it work without them now, and do they stand a chance?

Modern warfare: AWPer go kill

It doesn’t take a lot of expertise to decipher why a long-range one-shot kill machine is a potent weapon to have in a 5v5 tactical shooter – and by the same token, why those who are great with it are so valuable as a player.

Notably, the higher you climb on the skill ladder – meaning Gold Nova 2 scrubs need not apply – the investment aspect of the weapon comes into play all the more: dumping almost $5000 into your primary rifle means that regular reinvestments are crippling at best and impossible at worst, which, coupled with the measly $100 kill reward, means that an AWPer has to be just as good at surviving a lost round as popping heads on the way to victory, which is a special skillset in and of itself.

Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to name a top team without a strong dedicated sniper (with the one obvious exception we’ll come back to very soon), and a look at the HLTV rankings right now, flawed as they may be in the online era, seems to supplement this theory: the teams of s1mple, device, sh1ro, Jame and FalleN round out the top five, with degster, ZywOo and syrsoN to follow.

One could even argue that a glance at the team’s AWPing responsibilities tells you more about their prospects than their recent run of results – which makes it all the more curious how many squads are nevertheless trying to make it by just on rifling prowess alone. Then again, their approach isn’t entirely without merit: they’d just have to replicate one of the most notable rises in individual performance levels we’ve seen in the game.

Formless like water: the Liquid approach, circa Q2 2020

Remember when Team Liquid was on top of the world, speedrunning their way to Intel Grand Slam glory? It may seem like a long time ago now, and not just because of how the pandemic warped our sense of time: the spring of 2019 marked the peak of the North American squad’s powers, wiping the floor with their competition with the sort of raw firepower we’ve only seen glimpses of before when FaZe Clan’s superteam was close to the summit. Notably, they made it all work without a dedicated AWPer, which goes to show just how incredibly the whole squad has to perform to make this work at the highest level.

A team without a dedicated AWPer also sacrifices the double AWP pocket strat for most scenarios, making them a bit less versatile tactically – no wonder it took a sustained bout of monstrous individual form from everyone on Liquid to power them to greatness, and it also makes sense that they were exactly the sort of team that’d be extremely prone to cooling off during an extended break.

Of course, the only thing more questionable than playing without a full-time sniper is to push an incredible role-player into wasting their talents with the AWP instead of calling in a specialist.

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NiKo on the big green: mission impossible?

This brings us nicely to G2’s latest gambit, a team that seems utterly destabilized and incoherent since the Bosnian superstar’s arrival, even once you factor in their decent showings at ESL Pro League so far. It takes little more than a cursory glance to see how kennyS’ performances weren’t up to par as of late, but the notion of taking your best rifler (indeed, arguably the greatest in the world) and shoehorn him into sniper duty seems just as asinine as s1mple playing eco while Zeus and Edward hog an AK. If the rumors are true and NiKo himself had a preference for this setup, it’s just another nail in the coffin of his image as a deep thinker of the game.

Much like his attempts at in-game leading, the ultimate issue of using the Bosnian as an AWPer is the waste of his potential as a rifler. Statistical analysis of the Group B matches suggests that his performance was the worst among the competition, meaning his “sniper kills per sniper rounds” stat was roughly in line with allu’s, outranked by nawwk, broky and acoR, not to mention the velociraptor that is ZywOo.

Sure, a good French sniper to replace kennyS may be hard to come by right now but considering how the free market is teeming with talent, it would surely make more sense to shop around and find the right fit than to go with a square peg in a round hole for the long run. After all, this G2 squad is not a plucky underdog: top 3 is the bare minimum now that NiKo is on the books, and based on what we’ve seen from the summit of CS:GO all these years, this approach guarantees wasted potential.

Photo credit: HLTV