When we look back over the history of CS:GO, it’s easy to forget that influencing hand that updates to the game itself has on the professional ecosystem. From the round-timer, to AWP, to pistols, to hitboxes, each successive change has played a large part in shaping the meta of play, and as a result, rewarding the teams that are able to adapt. Today, Valve announced an update that will noticeably change CS:GO’s meta and force adaption from players around the world. The primary change is that, simply, after a pistol round, the team that loses will earn $500 more than before, or in other terms, their losing bonus starts ‘one-round ahead’ at $1,900 instead of $1,400 pre-update.

While this may seem subtle, due to the nuance and complexity of CS:GO’s money system, the impact of such a change is immense. Arguably the largest effect this will have is on force-buying and the fragility of the CT-economy.

Currently, if a team loses the pistol (and doesn’t plant the bomb) they will always force on the second round. Broadly speaking, into the second round, they will have ~$150 (money left from pistol) + $1,400 (loss bonus) (+ $300 (for maybe a kill)) = ~$1,550. With this, you have lots of choice in terms of configuring pistols/utility/armour/maybe even a scout between players. Given how deadly deagles/CZ’s can be in the hands of professional players, and the teamplay to efficiently trade and snowball off of openings, there is a justified threat  in forcing. If you don’t win the round, at least you can do damage to the enemies economy, or get a bomb down, or both. According to Ben Doughty, approximately 25% of the time, teams are able to win the force pre-update.

With this update, teams heading into the second round off a pistol loss will now have ~$2,050 to spend without a bomb-plant or kills.

This is where things start to get interesting.

Most apparently, it gives the second round force far more oomph for both sides of the map; more utility to execute on T, defuse kits on CT, and head armour for both. For teams like NiP, FaZe, Mouz, and Na`Vi who are often attributed for strong force play, the seemingly small addition of $500 on each player is a lot more leverage into a round. Two extra flashes, smokes, and a molly across a matchmaking team doesn’t equate to much because its effectiveness is lost without structure. On a side like Na`Vi though, this dramatically opens up how they can approach a round and gives them much needed tools. Given how often we can see these sides pull out wins as is, and prevent their opponents cleanly converting a pistol to a 3-0, we will only see it ramp up in the near future.

It’s also important to note that if a team is able to win this second round force, the team who loses will get the standard first loss bonus of $1,400. This is a huge dynamic. It is easier for teams to win force-buys at the start of the half with more resources to do-so, but the consequence of losing a force hasn’t changed. Given that the CT-side relies on more money to be effective, and, as a result, are constantly under threat of having their economy reset (losing a series of rounds to build loss bonus, winning one round, then losing the next), some are saying that this update favours T-play. The T’s are able to get the CT’s on a back-foot more reliably with forces, and there is no update to help the CT’s get back into the game, in this sense.

On the point of T-favorability, the update represents an interesting chance to eco on the second round, or at least, change the way in which you force. If a team eco’s on the second round with ~$2,050 per player, with the loss bonus scaling, they’ll have ~$4,450 in the third round. For T’s, this is enough to buy AK’s, head armour, and limited, but adequate utility (especially given the unlikeliness of AWPs on the 3rd for CT’s who’ve won the last two). For CT’s, this will put them in the same position they were often in pre-update in the fourth round after forcing in the second; no head armour, limited utility, one or defuse kits and no AWP.

Alternatively, the CT’s might do something like ‘deaco’ (buy deagles, no armour) on their second round, and full eco on the third. This would give them (again, assuming no kills) ~$6,650 to spend on their fourth round. More likely though, the CT-side (just like the T-side) will force in the 2nd, lose, eco and have ~$5,300 to play with for a full-buy in the fourth, which is far better than the sketchy buy they had to piece together pre-update.

This update also opens the door to a variety of novel strategies as well when it comes to saving on pistol round, or getting a bomb plant on the pistol/force. The possibilities are too exhaustive to outline in detail, but essentially we will see more scouts, rifles, and SMG’s in the second and third rounds on top of stronger force-brought pistols.

Overall though, this update isn’t totally ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but rather makes a large shift to the game which opens up a lot of new options. On one hand, this sees the strength of the CT economy weaken with the T’s being able to win the force-buy more often and lessen the importance of winning a pistol on CT. But on the other, it helps the CT-side have a healthy buy on the fourth round if they lose the pistol, and give them a better chance at getting back into the half and establishing an economy. Essentially, with more money to play with early on, there is more resources available, and as a result, more that can be done. Whether or not this makes the game more ‘balanced’ will take time to watch unfold, but it certainly gives the game a fresh feel and inspires creativity/exploration of what can be done