Being an in-game leader at the top of professional Counter-Strike is a tale of two extremes when it comes to feedback from journalists, pundits, and social media. If your roster is clicking and you’re winning the occasional tournament, you’re the mastermind behind it all and destined to go down as one of the best of all time. However, if you have a month or two of poor results, it’s all your fault and people are certain another IGL can lead your team to the next level.
We’re in the age of no middle ground, the age of no reasonable, well-thought-out opinions allowed. Because of this, part of me understands why we get so few non-generic interviews from in-game leaders at the very top of the scene. Who would want to spend hours devising a gameplan, only for a teammate to mess up a smoke or completely whiff a spray and then have to answer questions about it without throwing your teammate under the bus? Unless you’re 2017 Virtus Pro, professional CS:GO is a result orientated business and the in-game leader is, more often than not, the person who gets the most of the abuse or praise, whether or not that’s fair.
When looking at some in-game leaders who are competing at an elite level, and enjoying their moments of abuse-free Twitter scrolling, you start to notice a trend in their CT sides. A lot of them play very central on the map. When an IGL is stuck playing solo sites they can only make calls based off of the info they see. If the T’s avoid the site the IGL is at, they are going to be forced to make mid-round calls based on only half the story of the round. I believe it puts unneeded pressure on other CT’s to relay solid info and not take unnecessary duels in the middle of the map. It can leave a team of great individual players looking clueless on the CT side where teamwork is essential.
Let’s take a closer look at three in-game leaders on Top-10 teams playing on three different maps and how they ensure they are a key component in their team’s CT half.
Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander at the age of 23 is already a legendary in-game leader and a three-time major winner. What really stands out to me about Gla1ve as an individual player is how well he blends his aggressive and passive play as a rifler. He very rarely puts himself in a position to not get a frag for free on the CT side when he gets aggressive, but also will often take a very safe approach to the early round as well. It’s a nightmare for opposing sides.
When it comes to his Overpass gameplan, Gla1ve is nearly always at the center of whatever setup he has called. When I say the center of the map I’m not talking about picking a point you think is in the middle of the map and going there every round. In full gun rounds, Gla1ve will be in a position where he can quickly rotate to either site depending on what info his teammates give him. Two of his teammates will be dedicated to each site at the beginning and Gla1ve with either be on the hunt for early info or playing a position that guarantees he catches a T off guard for an easy kill. Gla1ve, in the early round, concentrates mostly on two areas, connector and water. If he’s not pushing water early for control, he’s jump spotting for info from the sandbags near graffiti or he’s playing connector. Gla1ve’s entire purpose on CT is to make sure quick rotates through connector for the T’s are impossible without him knowing about it. He puts himself in the best positions to relay info to his teammates and give them the best chance to win the round.
Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen is a very new addition to the ranks of elite IGL’s. He’s barely over a year into his time on ENCE and already has two trophies to his name along with being a major finalist in Katowice. Aleksib and Gla1ve have some striking similarities in their gameplans for their CT sides. Aleksi plays many of the same positions on CT Overpass, but for whatever reason, isn’t nearly as aggressive in the early round. For Aleksib, I wanted to concentrate on ENCE’s Train. It’s been their best map since they formed in April of 2018 and they win over 60% of CT rounds vs other Top 10 teams on it.
Aleksi, like Gla1ve, puts himself in the center of the map. If ENCE have a CT in pop dog then Aleksi will be supporting from near bomb train or connector. If ENCE have a more passive setup on A then Aleksi will primarily be close to connector which enables him to quickly rotate to B if needed. One thing that Aleksib does really well is support his teammates aggression. He’s consistently the CT throwing a flash into pop dog or T main so his teammate can peek and hopefully get a free kill. By putting himself at the center of the action he makes sure he’s the one getting and relaying info no matter what the T side throws at him. Seeing a theme yet?
Aaron “AZR” Ward was a secondary caller when Noah “Nifty” Francis was on Renegades. He’s is still relatively new to the IGL role in this Renegades lineup, but he’s already led them to a spot in the Top 10 of HLTV’s rankings and even had a brief stint in the Top 5. Not bad for a 26-year-old first time in-game leader.
What jumps out at me from watching AZR on Inferno is how passive he plays the middle of the map. Nearly every round he will first go B with two other CT’s and throw his grenade and molly down banana to stop a potential rush from the T’s. This also ensures that after he leaves the other two CT’s on B that they are working with a full nade set for the rest of the round. My fellow Inferno B players will know that playing the site without nades to delay a push is not fun.
After AZR rotates back to A, he either goes to arches and watches the corner without peeking middle or rotates directly to library and holds a passive angle and plays info. His passive play enables the other two CT’s on A to concentrate on apartments and short/boiler without the fear of losing their arch or library player for free and getting pinched from multiple angles. AZR’s passive play is perfect for his position on Inferno because he can focus on getting info and controlling his teammates responses to that info based on his calls.
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