The fundamentals of Counter-Strike
Counter-Strike is arguably one of the most challenging first-person shooter games to learn, master, and excel at.
The game has almost infinite levels of intricacy. It’s not your average shoot-kill-die-respawn deathmatch war game. It’s a dynamic and complex game that allows the most intelligent players to thrive over the most mechanically sound players. In CS:GO, it’s generally better to have more brains than brawn. Most importantly, there’s always something to learn from a match, whether it be in competitive Matchmaking at the casual level or in competition at the professional esports level.
To be one of the best in the game, it takes commitment and dedication, just like any sport. If you invest the time and effort to hone your skills, you’ll eventually reach the upper ranks and become one of the few people in the world at a given talent threshold. All you need to do is maintain the fundamentals.
Here’s a walkthrough of the most rudimentary Counter-Strike concepts needed for your success at both the team and individual level.
Learn spray patterns and do it well
The spray patterns for all of the guns can be found here. Spraying accurately and knowing where your bullets will hit is easily the most important concept in the game, and it requires hundreds of hours of practice. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t grasp a spray pattern right away–even the pros had to start somewhere.
Learn grenade spots and trigonometry
Smoke, incendiary, and flashbang throws can be learned by studying numerous guides on YouTube (Cruxal is one of the most concise sources for map tutorials). It may seem like a lot to remember, but enough repetition of the grenade spots on each map (and knowing how they affect the enemy’s line of sight) will eventually become second-nature to you.
Learn economy management
Knowing the ins-and-outs of money management is a major key to succeeding within a team, especially if your team uses and saves money as one unit. Once you start learning about buy trends and behaviors between both teams in-game, you’ll be able to strategize plays more effectively than before.
Learn common pre-fire angles
Have you ever wondered how an enemy knew your position before they peeked an angle? They most likely learned every common prefire angle in their own time. Yesber’s pre-fire practice maps on the Steam Workshop are the best for learning those angles, as they have different settings and guns you can fine tune to your liking.
Learn map rotations and timings
An awareness of the enemy location on the map is a vital component to winning rounds. If you know that there are less enemies in one bomb site based on time elapsed and callouts from your teammates, you can call a timely rotation through routes of the map where enemies are absent. Rotating, either individually or as a team, is entirely situational, so execution is up to your own discretion. All you need to know is the layout of each map.
Learn better crosshair placement
Crosshair placement is an easy way to distinguish the experienced players from the noobs. A general rule of thumb to follow for ideal placement is to keep your crosshair at headshot level where you anticipate a player to peek from.
Learn power positions
Good positioning can win you of multitude aim duels if you’re familiar with how the enemy team behaves and reacts to a given spot on a site or within a choke point. Be sure to use utility in various ways and different positions per round so you can increase your chances of catching enemies off-guard.
Learn from your mistakes
Don’t make the same mistake twice. And if you continue to mess up, the enemies will continue exploit your poor decision-making until you adapt. On another note, the most powerful tool for self-teaching in CS:GO is the demo system. Although it can be boring, watching gameplay from your past matches and even professional matches is extremely helpful for educating yourself on the game’s nuances.
Coordinate plays and trade kills as a team
CS:GO is a team game. It’s essential that you push sites as a team, defend sites as a team, create strategies as a team, and even die as a team. Being a lone wolf (aka lurking) among teammates you don’t know is detrimental to a team composition, unless you’re doing so with a purpose. Similarly, dry-peeking (peeking without grenades) and wide-peeking without a teammate’s help is an easy way to feed kills to the enemy team.
Know the difference between playing passive and aggressive
In addition to playing entire rounds as a unit, it’s important to know when to play passively or aggressively, as well as predicting when the other team will interchange between the two. Your team may get frustrated if they’re moving around the map and peeking angles with a totally different playstyle than their supporting teammate(s). A good player to watch demos on is SK Gaming’s Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo.
Be aware of where your team is on the map and cover different angles
Holding different angles and choke points and assigning them to players who excel in that position can benefit you on both the Terrorist and Counter-Terrorist side. When coverage of an angle is compromised because your teammate dying or because of enemy utility, it’s best to fall back and ask for support from site-anchoring and rotating teammates.
Before complaining about how you died, it’s important that you say where your killer is, how much damage you dealt to them, and where they were headed. “Connector is lit 95 and going to stairs,” is a good example of a concise callout. This is especially applicable if your teammate is in a clutch situation, since they’ll most likely want silence as they find their way to the round win.
Nobody likes a bad-mannered teammate. If you’re going to be critical about a teammate’s playstyle, at least do so in a constructive way and without a harsh tone so they won’t react negatively. When arguments break out, it creates a bad team environment that no one benefits from.
Set up crossfires when playing defensively
If you and a teammate are covering a site and watching the same angle, it’s good to hold the that choke point from different vantage points. Combining this style of play, while also playing contact and/or anti-flash. Coordinating crossfires with one or two teammates is good for effectively stopping pushes on both the Terrorist side and the Counter-Terrorist side.
Don’t peek with bomb planted on offense
There’s no need to pick fights with enemies approaching the site. It’s best to just play to the sound of the bomb timer and force Counter-Terrorists to check every single corner and angle as they enter into a site. The likelihood that they find you, kill you, and defuse the bomb in time decreases as you waste more time.
Cover your teammate who’s planting or defusing the bomb
Always make sure your teammate is receiving cover fire as they sit on the bomb. If you can’t cover them and prevent them from being killed, at least try to bait yourself out and sacrifice your life so the enemy is focused on you and not the planter/defuser. That way you’re giving your team a greater chance of winning the round.
Pay attention to everyone’s grenade trajectory and count
This rules applies to both your teammates and enemies, as there can be too many grenades being thrown at once in any given situation. For example, if four smokes are thrown from the Terrorist side of the map, it’s generally indicative of an execute towards the closest bomb site. Conversely, if two incendiary grenades fly into a choke point from the Counter-Terrorist side, there are at least two defenders on that side of the map.
Don’t ever slow peek with or against an AWP
Do not, any under circumstances, slow peek an AWPer–especially if you also have an AWP. That AWPer is purposely holding that angle for a prolonged period of time, and they intend on killing you the second they see the first pixel of your player model. Jiggle-peeking and using grenades to flush them out of their position is the best method for countering passive AWPers.
Remember to have fun with the game
If there ever comes a time where you’re frustrated with the game, remember to just take a break. Continuing to play after you tilt can take a toll to your performance, and you won’t enjoy what could’ve been a fun, competitive match. Hence, why most players wish you, “good luck, have fun,” before each map starts. It's just a game. And it’s definitely possible to enjoy the game and suck at the same time–you just need a positive attitude and a love for the game.