Welcome to the first article of my In-Game Leading series for Counter Strike: Global Offensive! If you want to take your CS:GO game to the next level, you’ll have to learn how to practice as a team. In this article, I’ll discuss how to effectively manage your first few practices. I’ll also cover mistakes that I see new teams make when playing together for the first time. One of the most common – and often fatal – mistakes is jumping into a scrim before working on default setups and executes!
Before continuing, it’s worth explaining how to set up a private server. If you have ESEA, you can join a scrim server, type .setup in chat, and change the settings to your liking. If you prefer to host the server on your own computer, create a private lobby inside CS:GO and use my config linked here on PasteBin. Just be sure you have -tickrate 128 in your game launch options. Once the server is configured, you can start to practice as a team!
Learn Default Setups
Your team’s first priority should be to establish default setups for both terrorist and counter-terrorist play. These are predetermined positions that you will take up on the map , which lets you get familiar with how they “play.” Most teams start with one or two default counter-terrorist setups and one default terrorist setup. The objective of a default terrorist setup is to gain additional map control without losing the control you start with. Whether by slow safe pushes or aggressive rushes, taking control of various map locations is key to a successful attack.
Understand Your Goals
Correspondingly, the objective of counter-terrorist setups is to deny map control to the terrorist team and, above all else, hold the bomb sites. Both teams are always looking to gain information about the each other’s equipment, positions, and strategy. It is important to note that default setups aren’t simply positions that you move to on the map, but also roles that you each agree to play. Specializing lets you pull off plays that are simply impossible without good coordination!
For example, my ex-teammate Sean and I had a grenade combination to take control of the checkered floor position (known as ‘checkers’) on Cache with only two players. While he was throwing his ‘nades, I kept him safe against aggressive pushes from CTs. Since he was the designated fragger later on, he used his utility first. I would then flash Sean into checkers after another player tossed a molotov in the vents to clear them. After taking control of checkers, we could boost each other into the now-safe vents and take mid control. Once you’ve established what each player does in your default setup, practice as a team – not in a scrim, but on a private server! Make sure your grenades are coordinated and your timing is near perfect before moving on.
Learn Default Executes
Once your team has default setups down, it’s time to begin working on “executes.” These are specific combinations of grenades and player roles that you can use to take control of key areas on the map. It’s critical that in-game leaders know what executes they want to learn and instruct players exactly how to perform them, especially at low-levels. Many teams end up mistakenly clearing (or missing) the same angles and it’s not hard to fumble a critical smoke, flashbang, or molotov. This is why “dry runs” are so important: it’s much easier to fix a sloppy smoke in a private server than in the middle of a scrim!
When practicing executes, don’t allow too much time for everyone to carefully line their grenades up. Practice as if it’s a real match! For fast executes that you’ll need early in the round, start from spawn. For mid- to late-round executes, play your default setup and take the map control you normally would, then rotate into your proper positions for the execute. It’s important to master advanced strategies like fakes, but they should not be your first priority. Start simple, like a default A hit on Cache with smokes for cross, parking lot, and catwalk, and molotovs for fence and quad. You can always try to add more into a strategy that’s performing well!
Customize Your Sessions
I believe that the first practice a team has on a new map should be spent almost entirely in a private server. However, well-known CS:GO video maker Voo prefers to learn a default setup and a few basic executes, dry run a few times, then quickly jump into a scrim. He found that his team becomes distracted and unproductive if they sit in a private server for too long. In the long run, you’ll have to find an approach that works for your players. If your team works best under pressure, start practice by jumping into a scrim and then review replays or work on problem areas afterwards.
Practice as a Team (Finally!)
Finally, it’s time to scrim. If you’re playing on ESEA, make sure to set your demo to private so other teams can’t easily counter you. Don’t change it to “none,” or you won’t be able to review your own team’s replays! Try several executes during the match, and make sure your default setups work well. These are your team’s bread and butter and they will set you up for success. Of course, you shouldn’t play the same setup every round, but I’ll cover mid-game calling in an upcoming article. Remember, you should take scrims seriously but there’s no reason to get mad or hot mic! This is never okay, and as the team’s leader it’s your job to enforce this rule and defuse the situation.
After each scrim, discuss with your team what your strengths and weaknesses were. If the scrim went really well, it’s fine to hop into another one. There are always more challenging teams to play against! However, if more than a few things went wrong, the team should review the demo together to analyze each round. Try to focus on teamplay rather than individual play, and identify what lead to the result of each round. When you’re finished, you can play another scrim and repeat the process! Even if your team is playing well and winning easily, the IGL should save replays to identify mistakes. There’s always room for improvement, and teams you’ll face in league or tournament play are often much better than those in scrims!
Practice, Practice, Practice
Finally, the biggest mistake is (in theory) easy to fix: you need a lot of practice as a team! Any team that hopes to reach ESEA Main or Premier needs to play together more than occasionally. Most teams in ESEA Intermediate and Main practice about twenty hours each week, while Premier teams average about thirty! Professional teams play more than forty hours per week. None of these stats include hours spent on aim practice or PUGs, which players usually do on their own time. It’s important to set a schedule as a team and stick to it. As the team leader, you’ll need to make sure players reliably arrive to practice on time and warmed up.
There’s no way around it: you’ll have to play together if you want to win together! An essential part of being the in-game leader is managing that play. You should efficiently spend and structure your training, so you can learn the right concept at the right time. And, as a team, you’ll have to practice with the intent to scale the mountain of mastery Counter Strike offers. If you need help structuring practice or want to further explore the concepts in this article, I’m happy to assist individuals and groups in private coaching sessions! And keep an eye out for the next piece in this series in the coming weeks!