CS:GO

Thorin's Take: device - The Coach's Dream

by Duncan "Thorin" Shields

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Astralis super-star Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz is a coach's dream primary star. The CS:GO player with the most majors won in history, taking MVP honours at the recent Starladder Berlin major, the Dane requires little in terms of resources, is self-directed, can play numerous positions on most maps within the same game and maximises the effective cost of giving him his sniper rifle like no other elite player.

zonic, worthy Coach of the Year winner at this year's Esports Industry Awards and the Game Awards, has in his possession a jewel which may not appear as large or gaudy as some others, but is priceless in its value.

A great hybrid becomes a great primary

A hybrid player is one who is comfortable both using the traditional rifles, the AK or M4s, as well as the AWP sniper rifle. Plenty of players are proficient within one domain and can dabble in the other, but often only when they have "the feeling" or on specific maps and in specific positions. Where CS 1.6 had a dedicated class of primary AWPers who took the weapon every time, CS:GO has seen a number of its great rifle stars showcase world-class AWPing with regularity. Names like olofmeister, s1mple and NAF could at their peaks be argued to be as good with either style of weapon and often were.

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device was always in that conversation of the best hybrid players, but a mixture of confidence issues in big matches and playing in a team overflowing with hybrids meant in his earlier years he often defaulted to a rifle unless on certain maps. In TSM, the first squad he won championships with, device would AWP on maps like Train or Overpass, but karrigan began his tenure in the team as a solid Mirage CT side sniper and cajunb was famously streaky but sometimes utterly deadly on Dust2, a go-to map for the team in 2015.

Sebastian Ekman
Sebastian Ekman

As the team began to spiral down from near-permanent contender status to facing identity issues in 2016, device essentially became the primary AWPer. He would carry numerous series, sometimes posting massive numbers, only to still see his team defeated. When gla1ve arrived to save the squad's championship aspirations in late 2016 device became an incisive tool in the reclaimed IGL's arsenal. device would hold T mid on Train often simply just to punish peeks into that area by inquisitive CTs and let the rest of his team either rotate inside or setup for an alley push.

Under gla1ve and in particular with the current line-up featuring Magisk, considered the consensus best five-man team to ever play CS:GO, device has become arguably the best sniper in the world over the last two years. s1mple may be a better fragger with the AWP, due to his prodigious talent and penchant for taking absurdly aggressive angles and still killing enemies, but he is far from the paradigm established of a primary AWPer. device conserves the values of what has made a great sniper in history and his past as one of the world's best riflers ensures he is still effective even when denied the weapon.

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Moves like devve

The most immediate and obvious hallmark of device's sniping style is his high mobility. Players like HEN1 or woxic are very mobile around the position they play, with their games relying so much upon incredibly quick firing speed and re-peeking a spot, but device has an AWPing style that is unique in the game's history. An opponent can never truly know where he will be on the CT side of the map. He does not have to play one site or one spot within that site, as one thinks of when considering AWP legends like GuardiaN or kennyS, but switches up entire sites seemingly at will.

The difficulty of playing more than one CT side spot at a world-class level, the standard expected from Astralis and the opponents they face deep in tournaments, cannot be overstated and it is no surprise few players, even great snipers included, fully commit to such a philosophy of surprise over stability. s1mple is again a bizarre example, since he just kills everyone in every site at any time seemingly, and his attempts at such rotations seemed to be largely to cover zeus, whose poor fighting skills made him an easy target to be singled out on certain maps. Given his choice, I suspect s1mple would have stayed and covered his original positions and site.

device is a tool gla1ve and zonic can work with to great effect because he not only is self-directed in his style, putting in much preparation individually, but has honed himself into a fantastic plug-and-play piece from so many CT positions. zonic must feel entirely at home with such a rare and powerful ace up his sleeve, as his mTw.dk line-ups of 2008-2009 utilised sniper Sunde in a similar fashion to bamboozle and frustrate opposing offenses.

When a team, even the best or most skilled in the game, cannot be certain if a CT position contains an AWPer or a rifler, it can change entirely how they must mentally and tactically approach attempting to take certain fights and control that area of the map. This can often mean free utility is drawn from offenses, who must waste flashes, smokes and even molotovs trying to clear out a potential sniper. Any time it is not device there, they are down utility headed towards the site.

More often than not

device's style has been one which has focused upon harnessing the often underestimated depths of the game's fundamentals. Despite being one of the most skilled players in Counter-Strike, device's AWPing is famed far more for its sturdy consistency than flair. He will go for the high percentage safe tracking shot over the wild flick that if missed causes the AWPer to reposition, potentially fall back, give up ground or even die immediately. This aligns near perfectly with gla1ve and zonic's philosophy for the team and its general style, which has always been a model of playing out the numbers of man-advantage situations and finding the high percentage plays.

When teams or players attempt to rush him, device has developed one of the most consistent and terrifyingly clutch close range noscopes. This gives Astralis a sniper who can move around the map, take the highest percentage angle, kill a player and fall back and is highlight clip bait if the opponent attempts to push him en masse. The coach's dream becomes the opposing IGL's nightmare.

For a sniper, device is also one of the most clutch in the world. As a player formerly with a reputation of being a choker in big games and under pressure, device has been a strong clutch round player for many years now and his exploits in such scenarios have helped Astralis win many a game and trophy over the last couple of years.

The master craftsman

One of the most admirable traits device has brought to the sniping world has been his intensive dedication to the craft of both sniping and analysing how it fits into the context of general match play. While players like kennyS and GuardiaN are known for hitting you faster and more often and locking down a spot with their intimidating skills, device is both one of the best AWPers and one of the smartest to ever play. That AWP intelligence comes as a result of diligent preparation and study.

device has previously mentioned in interviews that he studied both demos of opponents, MiBR's FalleN as a particular example, and also heat-maps of the opposing team and his own. When studying said heat-maps, device is both learning where the opposing team's sniper likes to position himself, helping the Dane determine the most effective angles to use, but also, and so intelligently, looking at his own positioning. Knowing where he himself has a tendency to go and makes the most shots from means he can counter-act attempted scouting by an opposing IGL or coach.

This scenario is reminiscent of a story told by the legendary all-time great NFL Safety Ed Reed, a Super Bowl champion with the Ravens in 2012 and the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year. Reed was a phenomenal pick-off artist and this was known by opposing quarterbacks who faced him. Peyton Manning, the great tactical QB of Reed's era, was known to be someone who put in untold hours watching game film of opponents to determine how he would play against them in the coming week. Reed, thanks to team-mate and fellow defensive great Ray Lewis, had become a film junkie himself and in a game against Manning's Colts used Manning's reputation for study against him.

Manning noticed when studying that when Reed lined up at a certain position in the middle of the field he would go to Manning's right, so the Colts' star waited until he saw Reed there, pump-faked a pass and then threw it to his left. What Manning could not have known, is that Reed intentionally on this occasion lined up there, had a tell that when Manning pump-faked in a direction he often threw that way and then instead wheeled left and managed to intercept the ball. What your opponent thinks he knows can be a powerful tool to use against him, as any chess great can tell you.

Similarly, when SK Gaming came into the PGL Krakow 2017 quarter-finals, they were the number one team in the world and expected to beat Astralis and go on to win a third major for the core. Instead, IGL and sniper FalleN found himself picked apart by device on Overpass, often considered the Brazilian's home map, and to the extent he had to tip his hat after the game and acknowledge he had been taken to school.

An economist with an AWP

The knock on device earlier in his career was not just that he was a choker but that, with similar implications, he played too scared and saved or took conservative angles more often than one would expect from a super-star player. This criticism had some merit from 2014-2015, but in 2016 was often more a function of his team falling apart in key matches and forcing him to need to play for himself and hard carry the ailing Astralis somewhere towards a victory.

From 2018 onwards, this narrative has been transformed, as device is arguably the smartest in the game at calculating when to save the expensive sniper rifle. With the AWP capable of killing an opponent in a single shot and thus sometimes without taking any damage, even a half buy around one can be a game-changer. Certainly, one can imagine he collaborates on such calls with his IGL and coach, but it is in line with his own past tendencies as a player.

Adela Sznajder
Adela Sznajder

Experts of CS:GO would be unable to name a player who better walks the tightrope of saving and giving up chances to win a round, the latter being the infamous knock on 2019 break-out Jame of AVANGAR, and going for a round with a numbers disadvantage. device is never baiting when he saves his weapon; instead selecting the right time to keep the weapon alive in his team's arsenal so that, coupled with his team's always impressive economic control, they can steal more buy rounds than they would otherwise get. As a strong clutch player, it's not as if device is afraid to go for a 1vX situation.

Let me clear my throat

device's past as a choker seems largely behind him, with only the occasional flare-up and even then with him often coming back strong into series if his team can extend to a third map. Those who saw him play in the FACEIT and IEM Katowice major finals will see that he is a player who has begun to thrive in the spotlight of the game's most important matches. Indeed, he was the driving force and MVP of the recent major primarily as a result of his play-off excellence and against even some of the world's best teams.

Beyond the weight of big game pressure and strain of expectations, device has conquered the mental game in a manner that is both inspirational and even admirable. During Astralis' most dominant runs of form, the Dane has been suffering from stomach issues that have made traveling difficult, made eating tricky, and increased his potential pain on stage, with stress being a trigger for his condition. Despite no clear cure in sight, those only observing his play in the server would never know he was dealing with a lot more than practically anyone else in the building and is sometimes even literally in pain as his team are on their way to hoisting another piece of silverware.

A champion plays the cards he is dealt. Is it any wonder device is essentially the game's greatest winner now? What's more, at age 23, he is the coach's dream star and sniper and as long as he has his game right, Astralis will contend for the top spot in world Counter-Strike and many major titles to come.

Starladder
Starladder


Image Credit: Twitter: @papieroweDrzewo