Thorin's Esports History: Top 20 Dominant CS:GO Maps (Part 2 of 2)
SK Gaming's 26:2 dominance on train, boasting a 92.86% win-rate, has rightfully seen the map described as one of the most dominant for a team in history, but with the competitive side of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive having been underway for more than four years now, it is worth figuring out where SK's train stacks up with the other great maps for the fantastic teams who have played this game. In this first part of two, I look at the 20th to 11th most dominant maps in CS:GO history.
Part one: 20-11
Part two: 10-1
Note: Some of the video embeds play earlier than the time I selected, so if there is a large discrepancy then just to the time listed.
10. Early to nest - Na`Vi's overpass
Back in 2015, overpass was the ignored map in the pool. Virtus.pro could play it but favoured the likes of cache and cbblestone; FNATIC could win on it thanks to strong CT play; and TSM had it in their pool but not high up. The team to first master the rework of the map was Na`Vi. With flamie in their lineup, the team was no longer solely about having GuardiaN goes crazy, though flamie was inconsistent for much of that year. Strength on overpass began to lay the foundations for the Na`Vi we know from this year, which became one of the very best in the world.
While Na`Vi's power maps in 2016 have typically been train and cbble, their overpass has remained an insurance policy and one they could count on to still gain them wins. From Dreamhack Summer 2015 through to ELEAGUE S1, the end of this lineup, the team went a very strong 24:7 (77.42%) on overpass. On 2015 they were able to knock off nine in a row, while other teams were still struggling to find reliable answers for the map.
Their strength and confidence on the map could be seen by their selecting it against Luminosity in the MLG final, though they would lose it in a shockingly one-sided game in which GuardiaN was non-existent. Weeks prior, in the semi-final of IEM X Katowice, against the very same Luminosity, and with GuardiaN showing the first signs of his injury, Na`Vi had shown their specialist nature by pulling out a number of never-before-seen boosts on the T side.
Na`Vi bring new boosts to get their AWPer a kill:
Back in 2014, prior to the rework, overpass had been a CT sided map, with teams simply playing inside the sites and waiting for their opponents to come to them. Na`Vi in 2015 showed themselves to be a capable CT side, winning ~65% of CT rounds during their best stretch of form. It was on the T side, though, that they showed the qualities which made them the best in the world on the map. They won more than 53% of T rounds, ensuring opponents facing Na`Vi could not simply rely upon a strong CT side and then grinding out a few rounds. Na`Vi could rely on getting nine CT rounds and then know they had the consistent tactical style to get them enough T rounds.
GuardiaN holds down long:
Na`Vi's approach to the map has practically always been to have GuardiaN at A controlling long, where he has made use of many boosts and having a man pushed forwards who peeks out to draw attention from him or kill those focusing on him. Over at the B site, it is flamie who controls the barrels area and has shown many ridiculous holds against opponents coming from the monster pipe.
flamie in his famous spot, taking down multiple opponents, as he so often would:
9. A hidden home keeps Denmark relevant -TSM/Astralis' overpass
Team: Team SoloMid (TSM)/Astralis (Ast)
Lineup: device, dupreeh, cajunb, Xyp9x and karrigan
Best stretch: 17:3 (85.00%)
Stretch Spanning: 08/2015 - 03/2016
Best streak: 10
Na`Vi's overpass was the first display of dominance on the map and SK's made for a very dangerous second home during the Brazilian team's era, but the best overpass in CS:GO history belongs to the Danes of TSM, later known as Astralis. During their best stretch, running from IEM X Gamescom to IEM X Katowice, they managed to win a staggering 17 out of 20 offline games on the map - an insane 85.00% win-rate. This included a 10 game winning streak to open that stretch of form.
Extending out beyond simply the best statistical stretch, we find TSM won 19 of their first 23 on the map and for the entire history of the lineup they won 25 out of 36 games on overpass, giving them a win-rate of just under 70%. Only once during those 36 games on the map did karrigan's men lose two or more games in a row and those were their sixth, seventh and eighth games on the map with this lineup. Nobody in CS:GO history showed as much consistent excellence, longevity and ability on overpass.
A look at the team's wins and losses also highlights their high level on the often overlooked and passed over map. Of their 11 losses, three came at the hands of Na`Vi, early on and during the CIS side's time as the best on the map. One loss came to the pronax era FNATIC, when olofmeister basically won the game by virtue of being the best player in the world. Another came to the dennis era FNATIC, who win simply because they were FNATIC and it was the semi-final of a $250,000 or more tournament.
Luminosity/SK gave TSM three of their losses on the map, but stands as the only team to seriously deliver an uneven performance against device and the Danes. VP defeated them but lost three games in return. FNATIC were beaten three times and Na`Vi saw the matchup turned against them and TSM winning the last two encounters. The only lower level team to steal a win was G2, back before Ex6TenZ had been kicked.
Everyone not called Na`Vi, VP, FNATIC, LG and G2 saw themselves defeated when they loaded into overpass against TSM. Three of those five names are literally the other three best overpass teams of all-time and two of them made this top 20 list. TSM's overpass holds the notable boast of being one of the maps which saw the hardest competition, as they played the other great teams on it many times, in contrast to some of the other specialist maps out there which teams avoided.
When TSM were at their best, they were still gaining ground on Na`Vi to eventually overtake them as the best overpass team. The significance of the map, though, is that it kept the team afloat into the TQM/Astralis days, when they were no longer winning tournaments but were still considered a fringe elite level team. Astralis would still always get out of the group stage and defeat teams a tier below, with only NiP really being their Kryptonite out of the teams ranked below them and the Danes being famously capable of defeating any lesser ranked opponent but always losing to elite sides in the semi-finals or final.
As 2015 had gone on and teams had played more overpass, particularly with the cadre of teams who showed strength upon the map battling each other, overpass opened up to become less T-sided, as teams could no longer play the old meta of sitting in the sites. FNATIC, despite never being one of the best on the map, pioneered the aggressive long control which has since become famous, pushing olofm up long or into the bathroom area to get early information and not allow the Ts to push all the way up to the site. As such, the map became harder to win CT rounds on. TSM's strength is seen in the meta shift as they won around 57% of their CT rounds, but a monstrous 61% of their T side rounds.
The most devastating example of dupreeh and company's dominance over the T side came with their win over Team Liquid at FACEIT Stage 3 in November. The previous month Team Liquid had come close to upsetting Virtus.pro, one of the world's best teams in general and on the map, in a close 14:16 loss on overpass. At FACEIT, TSM smashed them with a 15:0 T side and then won the CT pistol to close out a seemingly impossible 16:0 over a team who knew the map and from the T side.
The T-side strength of the team on the map saw entry man dupreeh enjoying great form, but the sleeper was Xyp9x, who practically always performed his job in the team's wins. Super-star device was arguably the world's most efficient player on the map. This became known as one of the maps where he would AWP practically the whole T side.
device showed how effective he could be with an AWP on overpass: (10m20s)
TSM's T-side approach saw them using the long distances of the map to their advantage, starting out with a similar base set-up each time, regardless of which site they planned to hit. cajunb would hold the stairs/door area, allowing easy rotation towards the other site and preventing the threat of a flank. They might have device working up long A with an AWP or swap him over and have dupreeh holding there. While they worked for information or a pick, they would make their decision on which site to hit and then regroup to the players at that site and progressively move in and onto the site of choice.
TSM employed slow approach tactics on the A site, often slowing down after a pick to carefully clear out areas prior to rolling onto the site with good smokes: (18m05s) (11m10s)
Typically, their A attacks were the slow rounds, sometimes even coming off a failed B push to rotate up when they felt an even numbers or more fight made more sense on A. B was the site where TSM use fast attacks, either throwing in molotovs and smokes to eliminate areas where CTs could be holding or even walking in dry initially, until contact was made, and then throwing their utility after taking the site.
B was where TSM would use their fast attacks, often saving some of their utility to cover off the site and delay rotation: (39m54s) (1h08m25s)
8. Plowing the land - Virtus.pro's mirage
Team: Virtus.pro (VP)
Lineup: pasha, Snax, byali, TaZ and NEO
Best stretch: 14:3 (82.61%)
Stretch Spanning: 07/2015 - 04/2016
Best streak: 6
There are few teams who can say a single map effectively won them a major, but then there are few teams as iconically connected with a single map as Virtus.pro and mirage. When the Polish lineup came out of nowhere, in terms of offline results as a lineup, having bombed out of the first major four months prior, to win EMS One Katowice, CS:GO's second major, it was on the back of an Earth-shattering show of form on mirage. Of the nine games VP played in Katowice, five were on mirage and they would lose only a single time on it.
VP's loss was an over-time game to the skill-loaded LGB of olofm and dennis. Three of their four wins saw them keeping their opponents in single digits for rounds won. VP's stats on the map at that tournament spoke to why they were near impossible to beat. They won 72% of their CT rounds and then almost 63% of T rounds, meaning they were winning both halves of the game and teams could never feel safe with their own number of rounds won.
In four of the five games VP played on the map they began on the T side, but still won three of those first halves and two with double digits. Against Happy and apEX's LDLC they even managed a perfect 15:0 first half on T side. The legendary CT side of NiP could only win 4 rounds against the monster VP plow which tore up the opening half of map one of the grand final.
The nightmare begins for NiP as they face the plow: (43m25s)
This was one of the maps which made the Virtus.plow famous and feared. When VP took over the middle of the map they could not be stopped from executing onto whichever site they pleased to attack. This was also the era when full smokes onto A followed by forcing onto the site was very much effective and required the CTs to take early kills or be pushed off entirely.
VP smoke off the A site to hit and destroy the defense: (18m25s)
Despite VP's strength on mirage in 2014, it was a map which was banned against them and did waver. The most they ever won in a row on it was six, surprisingly. It would always remain a strong map and one they could play well, but they were not as exceptional as they once were and saw hard competition from numerous other strong mirage teams, notably, depending on the time period, Zeus and starix's Na`Vi; the Danish TSM; pronax's FNATIC; and the Brazilians of Luminosity/SK.
The best stretch on the map, in terms of raw wins, was actually from the middle of 2015, when they rose up again as one of the best teams going into the Autumn, and into the end of the first quarter of 2016. It may be their most famous map and one they will always be thought of as one of the greats on, indeed earning the highest ranking for a team on this map in this list, but VP's mirage was not as dominant as nostalgia may suggest, for those imagining it would crack the top five.
The Poles' success on the map is best summarised by the life-time record of the lineup on it of 56:28, giving them a very respectable, for such a huge data sample size, 66.67%. That really was the story of their mirage, as they won more than they lost but could not count on it as a near automatic win, with the notable exception of their famed Katowice run.
7. Killer from the depths - FNATIC's cbblestone
Team: FNATIC (FNC)
Lineup: olofm, flusha, KRiMZ, JW and pronax
Best stretch: 14:2 (87.50%)
Stretch Spanning: 03/2015 - 09/2015
Best streak: 8
A persistent trend which will have been observed with the maps ranked thusfar is that during the team's best period upon them they were practically their first or second choice from their map pool. Either they chose the map with regularity or left it up as the decider against teams who didn't ban it second rotation in Bo3 series. That FNATIC's cbble does not quite fit into this criteria speaks to how good that FNATIC lineup were, the best in history to many people's minds, and how deep their map pool ran. pronax's squad played literally everything in the map pool, following the removal of nuke, and would go where the series made most sense in terms of their pick and their bans.
cbblestone was not a map FNATIC picked so often, but their dominant run on the map saw them winning six tournaments during their best stretch with it and it played a key role as a second or third map in their pool. Their best period of titles won lines up with their strength on cbblestone. Over a 16 game stretch from ESL One Katowice through to Gfinity Champion of Champions, FNATIC won 14 games (87.50% win-rate) on cbblestone. This period saw them winning eight games in a row.
Over the entire life-span of the FNATIC lineup they managed a 15:5 record on the rework (75.00% win-rate) and three of their five losses came in their last four games, when they had largely been acknowledged to have fallen from the top spot and with two against EnVyUs, champions of the last major of the year and one of the best cbble teams at the time.
Virtus.pro were acknowledged as one of the best cbblestone teams and went against FNATIC on it a number of times, only to lose all three meetings in big matches. At ESL One Katowice FNATIC picked the map into VP, in front of the Polish crowd, as if to send a message of intimidation, as they went on to win the map. At ESL One Cologne, the next major, it was the decider which FNATIC easily won, having broken VP's hearts in the second map (inferno). In the Cologne final, FNATIC picked the map into EnVyUs and won it following another heartbreak delivered to an opponent, having come back on dust2 against the French side. Even in the ESL Dubai Invitational, where it is well remembered that VP smashed FNATIC on two maps, what is often forgotten is that FNATIC still won the opener on cbblestone.
What made FNATIC so good on cbblestone is that first of all they were an early adopter of the rework. With the updated version of the map allowing a lot more possibilities for success on the T side, FNATIC would win an average of 67% of their T side rounds, allowing them to win the T side around half of the time. On the CT side, they were a solid team, winning 65% of their rounds. This made them dangerous on both halves and they exploited these strengths against opponents with the relevant weaknesss. Against NiP, FNATIC could win huge CT halves and shut them out entirely. Against VP, they could win the T half, even just narrowly, and hold off the VP T side with solid defense.
FNATIC's cbblestone was built around olofm's powerful rifling, which made him the best player in the game at the time of FNATIC's dominance on the map. On the T side they would frequently have him walking out onto the platform at B as the entry man, looking initial aim duels which he could many times win and open the site up as a result of. On the CT side, he put his knowledge of how to entry that position into play to shut down opponents, as he played up and around the platform and was often the first point of contacts for opponents attempting to hit B, the primary point of attack even back then.
olofm was in control of the platform area as CT: (1h04m40s)
Having the best player in the world entry the B site was a winning formula: (34m52s)
The rest of the B defense was the combo of pronax and KRiMZ, who guarded the drop room and allowed pronax to rotate off to help A or be the next line of defense at platform, should olof die. This was made possible due to KRiMZ's famous ability, first shown on inferno at B, to hold difficult areas by himself. Having pronax nearby, though, allowed FNATIC to defend on the occasions when the drop room was swarmed. flusha and JW played the A site for information, switching who covered the corridoors and danger and who was looking mid. JW would AWP for information and get early kills and fall back, allowing the B defense to decide whether to load up or rotate pronax over to A.
cbblestone was a map that other teams either had to ban, opening up picks like inferno and dust2 for a FNATIC team that often favoured those maps anyway, or leave open and face either a direct pick or a third game decider on a map FNATIC became one of the world's best on, particularly in the era of their mirage falling away and their cache living and dying by olofm's power.
6. Scared right out of the map pool - NiP's train_se/train
As feared as NiP's nuke was, many teams played or were willing to play the map and thus NiP got a large sample size of games on it to show their dominance. What set the Swedes' train apart from their other maps is that teams soon flat-out refused to play it and ensured they put their ban onto it. Over 11 months of play, NiP only played the map 18 times, despite playing in 16 tournaments over that time-span and reached the final of all 16. NiP lost only a single time in their first 17 games on the map, losing an over-time game to Lemondogs at the domestic tournament Svecup Västerås.
Beyond that insane initial stretch, NiP expanded their dominance up to a 20:3 record (86.96%) right up until the final of Dreamhack Winter 2013, a total span of more than 15 months of play. Along with the Lemondogs loss, one of their other losses was also in over-time, to FNATIC (JW, flusha, schneider, Devilwalk and MODDII). The only big loss the Ninjas ever faced on the map was vs. Na`Vi, in the final of StarSeries VI, which was still only a 9:16 defeat for the Swedish masters.
NiP won their first 13 straight games on the map, admittedly including a few games in domestic tournaments, but also smashed all the other good train teams and had a huge impact on who would even play the map. ESC was NEO, TaZ and pasha's team and came into CS:GO thinking train would be a strength for them. The map did prove to be one of their better maps, but NiP beat them the first two times they played, with one being a 16:3 domination. Na`Vi brought over their own championship lineup from 1.6, as ESC had, and also adopted train early on, only to find themselves crushed in three straight train games until that upset at StarSeries.
The three teams to challenge NiP early on in CS:GO were the French side VeryGames, led by genius tactician Ex6TenZ; the CIS Virtus.pro, who were the first to finally take a map from NiP and place ahead of them at a tournament; and the Western Wolves teams led by gla1ve, who were known for their good tactics and team-play. VeryGames tried playing train again NiP early on, with RpK still in the lineup, and were shut down on their T side both times. Only a couple of months later they would abandon playing the map entirely, despite it being a map that strong tactical teams could potentially do very well on and them being the best tactical team in the game.
Virtus.pro played the map early on, months before upsetting NiP, and took a beating from NiP online and soon quit playing the map against anyone. Western Wolves were willing to play the map, as ESC and Na`Vi had been, and saw themselves annihilated 16:2 on it in the final of Copenhagen Games, on Danish soil. This was the terror of NiP's train_se.
CS:GO as a game was very CT-sided at the time and train stood out as one of the maps where big CT halves had a large tendency of happening. With NiP as the best CT-side team and team in general, it's no surprise they averaged 76% of their CT side rounds and reached double digits in almost all of their CT halves which had more than 10 rounds played in them. What made NiP near impossible to beat, though, was that they also averaged 54% of their T rounds, meaning their defensive brick wall either set them up to close games out prior to the opponent getting double digits or they would lock the enemy team out after switching onto the defensive side. Indeed, only nine out of 23 games ended with the opponent hitting 10 or more rounds won.
NiP's star duo of f0rest and GeT_RiGhT were both phenomenal on the map. GeT_RiGhT played the inside site and with easily the best spray in the game he could repeatedly take down fast rushes against him. The Swede was so dominant that when scores were run up he would sometimes take the autosniper and use that to decimate teams pushing onto his site through smokes. Fifflaren played the inner site with GeT_RiGhT, but was ready to rotate outside quickly, since his site partner could hold the site alone and delay or destroy rushes himself.
GeT_RiGhT was a rock inside:
f0rest would be playing the pop dog side of outside, which no longer exists in the rework of the map but is the train that was leading up to the entrance to the small ladder which takes players towards inside. As such, teams could not quickly rotate to the outside site, since the best aimer in the game played up close at the bottom of said ladder. Other times he would be up the ladder, meaning he could not simply be naded out and teams had to send someone to check where he was.
f0rest does whatever he wants outside:
Perhaps the most surprising strength NiP had on the map was Xizt, who continued to play the position he had occupied in 1.6 teams like FNATIC, playing outside at T mid and pushed up near where the electric box is in the rework and up where the five train is now, but at the time the bomb spot was, right out in the open at outer, or over as secondary cover for alley. Xizt had some of his best games in NiP on train and it is no exaggeration to say there was no right answer for opponents on where to go, as the Ninjas had the entire map locked down, with the right players at the right spots to suit their strengths.
train_se was the best version of the map for NiP and they would themselves come to grow a distaste for it after Valve forced the retail versions of the map back onto the competitive community, starting at the first major - Dreamhack Winter 2013, as NiP famously lost the deciding map of the major final while on their famously strong CT side. Not only did that loss haunt them and turn them off train, but Virtus.pro rising up made the Ninjas decide to go away from train, which led to the now infamous mirage being allowed through for the final of the next major: EMS One Katowice.
Prior to the majors beginning, train was NiP's and only NiP's, though and they were so dominant there and impossible to break down on their CT side that team simply elected not to play them on it or suffered the consequences.
5. Making T side great - LDLC/nV's cache
Team: LDLC/EnVyUs (nV)
Lineup: Happy, kioShiMa, shox, NBK and SmithZz
Best stretch: 13:2 (86.67%)
Stretch Spanning: 01/2015 - 06/2015
Best streak: 8
cache stood as this lineup's best map throughout their time together, on a statistical basis. Their ability to play dust2 may well have been greater, being as it afforded them so many incredible wins and with big T halves, but that map's upset nature made it hard to be as consistent as Happy's boys were on cache. From their start as LDLC they showed strength on the map, only losing to an inspired OT performance from kennyS and KQLY's Titan and due to FNATIC being close to unbeatable in late 2014.
In 2015 was when the team's streak of crazy dominance begin on the map, as they went 13:2 from January to the final of Dreamhack Tours in May, starting with an eight game winning streak. inferno was still a strong map for nV and dust2 was always a series-changer for them, but it was cache that was their rock and the map they pioneered showed supreme strength on. This was the map, coupled early on with their inferno, which saw them putting together their insane streak of 14 straight top four finishes at offline tournaments and, for a while, had them contending with FNATIC to decide whose era it would be.
Even expanding out from their best stretch one finds that from January to June the team went a blistering 19:4 (82.61%). The difficulties which beset nV late in their time with the lineup, as they lost cache to Cloud9 twice and fell to internal fighting, still saw them finish their time on the map with a ridiculous 27:10 (72.97%).
It was tough to find a team who could legitimately face nV on the map and expect to win. NiP upset them in the semi-final of ESL One Katowice, the fifth CS:GO major, only to lose their next three cache games to NBK and company. FNATIC seemed to win their games by virtue of being FNATIC and having olofmeister, who thrived on the map and racked up numerous big fragging performances.
What was bizarre about nV's cache was that on the CT side they would play fairly static positions, but the high skill balance in the team allowed them to individually put rounds on the board, working in two man groups to secure sites. NBK played around the quad area in A and this was back in the days when players could occupy that spot the whole game, as teams had not yet begun to regularly use molotovs to clear it. The position quite literally became known as "NBK spot" during this period.
NBK was particularly strong on this map and helped secure the more open A site. When nV would later change players he would be the one dropping 32 kills in their first ever series win over FNATIC, beating them at Gfinity Champion of Champions. As with inferno, Happy was his site partner and played off the former Titan man beautifully.
NBK was a key player at A for nV's defense:
On the T side, they used cache with shox entrying onto A, as has been a classic pattern of his play to this day, and Happy lurking around the door area. Even on the T side, nV were predictable in where they would hit and how often, but the timing of when they would push and the strength of their entry players was difficult to deal with or counter. shox and kioShiMa could walk into a site dry or off a single pop flash and tap heads.
As such, nV would seemingly hit the A site for most of their cache T side and yet put rounds on the board against even elite level teams. Even when VP had shown the world the power of mid control, nV typically just hit one of the sites outright, relying on overwhelming the site with numbers at a specific timing.
shox was a key to nV's powerful A push:
This nV was also still a nightmare when force-buying, so when opponents were able to take gun rounds against them the French side would come in with a low buy, when by all rights they should be saving, and win rounds with a ridiculous frequency.
NiP likely still don't know how they lost this round against nV's force-buy: (2h56m07s)
4. Drowning opponents once the water level rose - Na`Vi's train
Team: Natus Vincere (Na`Vi)
Lineup: GuardiaN, flamie, seized, Edward and Zeus
Best stretch: 17:3 (85.00%)
Stretch Spanning: 12/2015 - 07/2016
Best streak: 9
Na`Vi's train flew under the radar somewhat early on in the lineup's time, following the addition of flamie for more fire-power. They suffered what would be eight of their eventual 12 losses within their first 12 games on train, but those numbers do not tell the story of how well they were adapting to the new map. In those first 12 games they largely lost to the best train teams in the game: Virtus.pro, FNATIC and the Danish TSM. Their loss to EnVyUs in the Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca final still stands as an example of a team winning simply by being a more skilled team, not being better than the losing team at the map.
Na`Vi had embraced train since it had been added in place of nuke, which was a map they did not like to play and whose removal allowed them to focus upon cache as their only permanent ban. Their losing record on the map was a result of Na`Vi themselves being a worse team that the top sides in CS:GO, not being worse on train. When Na`Vi elevated their level as a unit, with their run to the major final in Cluj-Napoca and starix taking over as IGL, which set flamie up to become a true super-star, Na`Vi's train became the map that was spear-heading their rise to elite status in CS:GO.
From their victory over the new look FNATIC at ESEA ESL Pro League S2 finals through to the end of the Cologne major, a span of eight months, they won 17 out of 20 games on train. Two of those losses came to the Luminosity lineup whose excellence on the very same map spurred the creation of this list, so superlative has their dominance on it been. It's worth pointing out, as a counter-balancing point, that this Na`Vi lineup accounted for one of SK's own losses, beating them in the Dreamhack Leipzig final. Na`Vi made a lot of finals over this span of time and their train was the primary reason behind it.
Na`Vi made their living on train by dominating the offensive side. Where others might struggle to win the T half, Na`Vi were so strong on it that they would sometimes elect to play CT side first, when given the choice, so as to know how many T rounds they would need and thus adjust their attacks accordingly. Their slow build-up into fast pushes as the timer was running down were famous and yet effective, seeing them able to hit double digit T rounds won against even elite teams on the map like Luminosity and Virtus.pro. A core component of their slow style was to be able to fake as if they were hitting one site and then rotate in to the other with little time left.
Na`Vi employed numerous fakes which began outside and let them then hit the inner site:
Naturally, as was always the case with this iteration of Na`Vi, the game was based around GuardiaN and this, in part, accounted for the slow nature of their set-up. The team would allow GuardiaN room to work and create a pick and then the monster AK of flamie would roam into a site and rip off heads. The young Russian was also a pivotal player for Na`Vi's defense, as he would hold the tricky lower inner area, where one is likely to face many opponents in an instant.
GuardiaN was the central piece of many of Na`Vi's train performances:
flamie locks down the inner site:
3. Stronghold of king KRiMZ - FNATIC's inferno
Team: FNATIC (FNC)
Lineup: olofm, KRiMZ, JW, flusha and pronax
Best stretch: 19:3 (86.36%)
Stretch Spanning: 08/2014 - 01/2015
Best streak: 9
The great Counter-Strike dynasties are built on having a home map that can be won with consistency, thus laying the foundation for series wins against any level of opponent. A great team will be even more dominant and consistent when the map which becomes their stronghold is played by many of their peers who will be contending with them for titles, as opposed to banned out due to being too niche or weak for opponents. FNATIC's inferno not only meets all of the aforementioned criteria, but is perhaps the best known example of such a home map being the building block of a CS:GO kingdom.
Being as FNATIC became, particularly during the run for their two majors in 2015, a team well known for a deep map pool and the ability to move around it according to the opponent, literally evolving their pool to see them favouring dust2 and cbblestone at times, alongside their inferno, it is worth differentiating the two FNATICs and which was the best at inferno. The first FNATIC was the one which proved elite from the get-go in the Summer but waited until the late Autumn to start winning titles and then looked as if they were going to become utterly dominant, winning three straight offline titles heading into the major. This was the FNATIC who were impossible to play on inferno.
That FNATIC period, from FACEIT S2 LAN Finals on, is when they won 19 out of 22 games on inferno (86.36%), put nine in a row on the board and had every team scrambling to study their demos and learn their style. This FNATIC accomplished their success with some of the best CT defense we have ever seen on any map in CS:GO history. FNATIC were a team known for putting up double digit CT rounds on inferno with consistency you could rely upon. Many may think back and remember that many teams were putting up big CT halves on inferno, but it was FNATIC who developed this very meta-game and innovated some of the nuances of it.
FNATIC's CT side play revolved around saving their utility of flashes, smokes and molotovs to delay the Terrorists from being able to enter the sites, particularly the B site. They did this by using them in turn, to stack their effects and delay Ts who did not want to run through smokes and flashes, as well as using smoke throws from the A site to smoke off the banana, as opposed to those CTs own A site. With this approach in place, inferno quickly became a CT sided map, as did mirage, another FNATIC speciality.
When Ts did attempt to attack the B site, which is practically always going to contain the least CTs, they ran into a KRiMZ who was if not the world's best player, for a brief month or so, then the world's most effecient player. The former LGB man quickly made a name for himself with fantastical fundamentals, always appearing to be positioned correctly to take a full attack and then moving to the next spot from which he could secure a kill or do damage, all the while calmly delivering bullets to enemy chests.
KRiMZ was a brick wall in the B site, despite playing arguably the hardest role on the map: (24m02s)
KRiMZ's lock-down B play allowed olofm, who was far from the super-star world beater he would become the next year or even FNATIC's best player, to rotate over to the A site, so that FNATIC could quickly have four men there when the Ts attempted a timing push onto the site. What made KRiMZ's play at B so ridiculous was that it was typically a position played by a more supportive player, as highlighted in some of the other great inferno teams. nV were the other elite inferno team of that era and the same two-man combo operated the other way around: with NBK being the KRiMZ site anchor role and playing bait to allow Happy, who was the olofm rotator equivalent, to clean up the kills. KRiMZ not only anchored the site but got the kills as well.
KRiMZ racked up multiple kills at B regularly:
A key to knowing when to rotate olof over was not simply relying upon KRiMZ to hold or delay at the B site effectively, but that while FNATIC were delaying the opponents with utility they would have JW running around the map seemingly at random, from the opponent's perspective, and both causing havoc and gaining information on the enemy's whereabouts and set-up.
This was the era of the over-powered CZ, which allowed aggressive AWPers a strong fall-back weapon if rushed - closing the distance having always been the counter to aggressive peeking AWPers. Nobody made better use of this luxury than JW, who was a nightmare pushing up into the boiler room or swapping onto the B site to peek out into Ts who were waiting for their chance to finally hit the small site. JW before the AWP nerf was a player regularly making the impossible happen, especially when it made the least sense for it to.
JW's AWP was a key distraction, danger and tool for gaining information:
From this basis of rock steady fundamental efficiency at the B site and wild-card madness around the A site, FNATIC would allow pronax to make calls based on the information his men relayed and rotate his team into favourable set-ups. flusha, once one of the world's best lurkers, was needed only to be a stable force over in the A site and olofm, later to become perhaps the best CS:GO player in history, was but the assistant to KRiMZ and rotator to the A site.
FNATIC continued to be strong on inferno into the early part of 2015, when they switched over to olofm being the primary carry of the team and the game shifted away from the previous meta-game of monster CT halves, but they continued to win at an impressive rate, pushing their record out to 28:6 (82.35%). During their time winning majors and being less dominant tournament-to-tournament than in 2014, but winning more of them and against greater competition, FNATIC would use inferno as a comfort map and against specific opponents who they felt it would yield a win against.
Even at the very end of the lineups time together, their stats on the map read an impressive 38:11 (77.55%). 77% being high for a map a team has played almost 50 times and in arguably the most competitive era, in terms of world class teams, in the game's history. There were different FNATIC's, even within the life-span of the same lineup, and thus different FNATIC infernos. Few teams even legitimately went against the 2014 to early 2015 FNATIC's inferno and won heads-up, thus making LDLC/nV's wins at fragbite Masters S3 and MLG all the more impressive.
FNATIC dominated inferno at a time when every other big name team (LDLC, Virtus.pro, NiP, Titan and Na`Vi) played inferno and would rarely ban it, and in a meta of CT-side lock-down defense that they themselves pioneered and thus left exasperated opponents forced to play FNATIC's own style against them and in nearly all cases come up as not good enough against the original. If one was looking for the factors that need to be in place to build a dynasty, FNATIC's inferno and the meta of play and teams playing it that it existed within would be a perfect case study.
2. Imperious from the other side - Luminosity/SK Gaming's train
After Luminosity made their now legendary player swap, bringing in fnx and TACO days before Dreamhack Winter 2015, they established themselves as one of the world's best teams and eventually the world number one outright, winning two majors along the way. Their strength on train did not come solely from their era of dominance, when some point to the weaknesses of some of the other top teams contributing to SK pushing out far ahead of the others. SK's train began back the very beginning of this lineup's time together, as a fresh lineup with almost no practice, and has continued even after SK fell off the top spot and has been unable to win any of the four tournaments they have played since winning the major, four months ago.
The ability to dominate on train from their rise, through their dominant period and now when they are a world class side but no longer winning trophies, speaks to how much of their success has been as a result of strength on the map itself and constantly staying ahead of the meta-game, as well as simply being a fantastic and all-time great team.
SK's train boasts some of the most staggering numbers on this list and is a run of dominance which remains active and thus could climb to the top spot one day. SK have lost only twice in the 28 times they have played the map offline with this lineup, accounting for a 92.86% win-rate. With teams like NiP being allowed to count domestic victories in the early days of CS:GO, it does not seem unreasonable to allow SK's single win against lesser Brazilian opposition in Alientech to be counted in their total.
SK's two losses on the map speak to how impossibly dominant they have been on it. Na`Vi, whose own train is ranked fourth on this list and was phenomenal over an overlapping period, narrowly beat them in an overtime match. The other loss was a reasonably close match against shox's G2 in their miracle run at the ESL Pro League S3 finals, where it is still a mystery how G2 could hit such a high ceiling of form as to be able to steal away what never became a very strong map for them.
Since losing to G2, SK has won 17 straight games offline on train and this streak remains active, with the 17th victory having been added in the final of IEM Oakland last week, against NiP, the eventual champions.
What has made SK so deadly on train, to the extent it is practically an automatic loss for any opponent, however skilled on the map, is the strength of their CT side. Like most of the great train teams, SK have a strong T side and can in many cases win that half. When they swap over to the defensive side, though, they transform into a team that defies all trends on the rework of train. For practically their entire time with this lineup, which was well into the period when the likes of Na`Vi and VP had shown themselves to be great T side train teams, SK brought an ability to shut down the CT like no other team who has ever played the map.
train in particular stands out as one of the best maps for coldzera within their system, seeing the Brazilian super-star the center-piece of their outside control and using his marvelous efficiency to routinely take down multiple opponents. coldzera's position involves having to switch between the T mid and alley, so his uncanny gamesense is employed to its fullest effect. FalleN joins coldzera outside, putting the most dangerous dual AWP set-up in the game in play at times covering that site.
coldzera is at his best on the CT side of train:
FalleN shows why he is the world's best AWPer at outside: (25m05s)
With SK playing coldzera and FalleN, their two best players, at the outer site, one could be forgiven for imagining opponents could simply hit the inner site for easy plants, but the play of TACO at that site has allowed the Brazilian team to load their talent outside. The player best known for his supportive style, filling in whatever gaps the team may need - sometimes entrying, such as on cbble, or lurking on overpass, plays the bomb train and can often be seen taking up similar positions to flamie from Na`Vi. His development on this map in particular has seen them strengthen their grip on it to the extent they still remain unbreakable even after other elements of their team are no longer as power across other maps.
What has allowed SK to keep winning on train has been that they have a full arsenal of tricks to get rounds on the defensive side. On force-buys they have the set-ups and chemistry at key positions to steal the key kills to allow them chances to win the round, ensuring they are not in the position of having their CT economy decimated and thus letting the opponent run up a lot of T rounds. Not since the days of FNATIC's inferno of 2014 have we seen a team as exceptionally good at the CT side of a map, and with train being a map often thought of as T-sided for the great teams, SK's feat of mastering it and staying ahead of the curve becomes all the more impressive.
1. A man's home is his castle - NiP's nuke_se/nuke
Team: Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP)
Lineup: GeT_RiGhT, f0rest, friberg, Xizt and Fifflaren
Best stretch: 38:1 (97.44%)
Stretch Spanning: 08/2012 - 06/2013
Best streak: 32
The most dominant map in the history of competitive CS:GO was not only the cornerstone of the first and most dominant dynasty in the game but features numbers which defy belief, even with the context of competition and opponents taken into account. The numbers associated with NiP's nuke_se/nuke can only be compared to Wilt Chamberlain's scoring numbers in NBA history, where the second best is so far behind as to leave the reader incredulous every time they come across the record-breaking numbers.
NiP won their first 32 games in a row on nuke. There was no typo in that sentence. It's not as if the top teams simply avoided NiP's nuke either, since they were instead in many cases avoiding their train with a ban. No, VeryGames, the Polish ESC, the CIS Virtus.pro and Western Wolves all played NiP on nuke and for the first nine months they all lost. NiP played in nine offline tournaments in a row without a loss and only one of those was solely domestic. Over their first 39 games on nuke, NiP suffered only a single loss, to the CIS Virtus.pro.
Over NiP's entire time with Fifflaren as their fifth member, the squad went 57:7 (89.06%) on nuke. The Ninjas were so dominant that every victory over them stands out as significant in history. VP's win at StarSeries V was the first series NiP ever lost a map in and the same core of players, but with GuardiaN added in, would get a win over f0rest and company at Dreamhack Summer, a few months later. Western Wolves managed a miracle win in the very same Dreamhack Summer tournament, stomping NiP in the group stage. At EMS One Summer, the next tournament, NiP crushed WW with an 11 round opening T half to send a message.
NA's coL grabbed a victory on home soil at ESEA. VeryGames finally got their win on nuke, a map they were also strong on, as part of their dethroning of NiP in the Autumn. Renamed to Titan, they continued to perform against NiP in early 2014, beating them at the Dreamhack Invitational. Finally, Cloud9 convincingly beat NiP on nuke at ESL One Cologne, further highlighting the miraculous nature of NiP's comeback to win the decider on cbblestone and go on to take their first and only major.
What made NiP so unbeatable on nuke was that they completely defied the patterns of the meta-game on the map. As in 1.6, the map was famously CT-sided and the low level thinking was that anyone could run up a big defensive half simply by playing the standard spots and using normal rotations to the site hit. Certainly, NiP benefitted from huge CT halves, the biggest in the game and with so many that went past 10 CT rounds won as to be ridiculous, especially in light of some of the competition they were against. That doesn't tell the story of NiP's nuke, though.
NiP's defense could withstand even the game's best T side teams: (11m10s)
NiP's monster CT halves came when they had to play CT side first. If NiP played T side first, then they would in most cases win that half too and fairly often with double digit rounds won. In those first 39 games, through which they lost a single time, NiP started on the T side in more than half and yet opponents only reached double digits rounds won themselves on 10 occasions. So NiP held their opponents under 10 rounds won 29 times out of 39 games played.
NiP's full outer hit was very effective: (11m00s)
NiP could not be contained on the less favoured T side: (15m05s)
NiP's CT side strength was centered around having GeT_RiGhT, far and away the world's best player, covering the outside area. At this pivotal position his long range spray routinely picked up kills, allowed him to provide information for his about T whereabouts and let him rotate down through the secret stairs or into upper. If the Ts did not directly engage him, then you had the most dangerous clutch round player in the world rotating in to flank them or attempt a retake.
GeT_RiGhT was always in control of outside:
Avoiding GeT_RiGhT and making him retake was not necessarily the better option:
FNATIC's inferno defined an era and SK Gaming's train continues to be a marvel of modern day Counter-Strike chemistry, but NiP's nuke stands as the most dominant map in all regards. Statistically it is miles ahead, it was a truly great home map that NiP built their dynasty on and they were dominant on both sides of the map, despite the T side of that very same map often being considered the most difficult to get rounds on in CS:GO history and that remaining a persistent complaint up until its removal in 2015. No team dominated a map in CS:GO like NiP did on nuke.
Photo credit: ESL, fragbite