Analysing SK's 17-0 streak on Train
With one of the longest winning streaks in the history of CS:GO coming to an end, we've decided to take a look at SK's Train to highlight some of their best strategies and players on the map.
In the variety of results we have been seeing in CS:GO for the past half a year, there has been one constant: SK's domination on Train. From May 11th, when the team under Luminosity's banner lost to G2 on that map in ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals group stage, to December 2nd, the Brazilian side did not drop a single Train in offline competitions.
When they were still part of Luminosity, multiple teams took Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo's five to close scorelines, including Astralis, who still played with Finn "karrigan" Andersen at the time, G2, Liquid, and NiP.
Since their transfer to SK the team established utter dominance over the entire scene on Train. During that time SK got so good on the map that even teams such as Virtus.pro and Natus Vincere, who were at different points in time considered two of (if not the) best teams on Train, couldn't stand a chance.
In fact, one of their biggest victories on it came against the Poles, at EPICENTER: Moscow where the two squared off on Train in the semi-finals and Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas's team only got a single round. Only a day before that, G2 were shamed with a 16-0 debacle and since haven't figured out a way past SK's formidable defense.
Only one team got close to the all-important 16 rounds while SK were thrashing everyone else on Train. That was Astralis, who were leading 13-7 at IEM Oakland and failed to close out the map on the Terrorist side. In the end, the Danes were the ones to end the 17-0 winning streak in the ELEAGUE semi-finals, beating the Brazilians 16-12 following a fantastic CT side worthy of 12 rounds.
|12/11||SK||16-8||Natus Vincere||ELEAGUE Season 2|
|11/11||SK||16-10||Natus Vincere||ELEAGUE Season 2|
|1/10||SK||16-8||Virtus.pro||ESL One New York|
|30/9||SK||16-10||OpTic||ESL One New York|
|10/7||SK||16-7||Liquid||ESL One Cologne|
|24/6||Luminosity||16-12||Liquid||ECS Season 1 Finals|
|24/6||Luminosity||16-12||NiP||ECS Season 1 Finals|
|25/5||Luminosity||16-10||Cloud9||ELEAGUE Season 1|
|24/5||Luminosity||16-0||Renegades||ELEAGUE Season 1|
|15/5||Luminosity||16-13||G2||ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals|
|11/5||Luminosity||16-13||Astralis||ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals|
With that in mind, what is it that made SK so successful on Train? Let's take a look at each side of the map and see what they like to do and which of their players have the most impact.
We got in touch with Nicolai "device" Reedtz, Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas and Jimmy "Jumpy" Berndtsson, whose teams played SK on Train in the past few months, to get the players' and coach's perspective of the Brazilians' strengths on the map. You'll find some of their thoughts in several quotes within the article.
The team has most often been praised for their Counter-Terrorist side, which is more than fair considering some of the scorelines they've put up on the defense: 14-1 against Virtus.pro, 15-0 against G2, 10-1 and 9-0 versus Natus Vincere not that long ago in ELEAGUE groups.
In the 17 wins they've garnered over the last seven months, SK have a 73% round win rate as CT (an average of an 11-4 half), a part of which comes down to their successful pistol rounds and ability to survive the next one or two rounds.
With Marcelo "coldzera" David often taking point on the B bombsite, scouting for information and trying to get a few kills while the rest of the team holds down A, SK hold a 71% win rate on their CT pistol rounds. They've also never lost the following anti-forcebuy or anti-eco on both sides, which often gives them a buffer of three rounds before they have to face real weaponry and utility.
"The strengths of SK on the CT side are that they have small moves early in the rounds to get the information where their opponents are. coldzera sometimes plays super close to the smoke in ivy to hear when people are coming, fer is inside ladder a lot to not let them go there and deny map control. FalleN rotates everywhere, TACO gets aggressive on B sometimes to see if they go B or not, and depending on where the T's are, they do something to deny them doing an execute without getting a kill." - Óscar "mixwell" Cañellas
In the gunrounds, FalleN's squad are extremely versatile, switching between aggressive pushes and passive setups. In the early rounds, especially if they kept some SMG's from the first three, you'll see Epitacio "TACO" de Melo calling on Fernando "fer" Alvarenga and sometimes one other player to push the stairs from lower to find a pick.
"SK had one aggressive push from B site with three people that took us off-guard several times." - Jimmy "Jumpy" Berndtsson
When FalleN has the AWP, he likes to aggress towards ivy from time to time, or he calls for early incendiary grenades towards main with two players getting close to gain map control and pick off players trying to get out of the flames. All of that early aggression forces their opponents to slow down the pace even if they don't want to, to prevent situations like that getting out of hand. That, in turn, saves SK some of their defensive grenades in the following rounds which they can use to their advantage late-round when an execution is happening.
When SK opt for a passive setup, FalleN switches angles all the time anywhere between ivy, around or on the six train, and the bombsite. Thanks to that mobility, he's creating situations for himself in which he's able to get picks with his sniper rifle.
"FalleN uses his aggression at the start of the round to destroy the default of the other team. For example, if he plays against G2, he will push lower to kill the guy that goes to clear B. I've seen him doing this a lot, or he will push ivy to get a kill, or he will play close mid to kill someone when they're executing." - Óscar "mixwell" Cañellas
Thanks to his positioning and mechanical abilities, the AWPer and in-game leader is possibly their most important player on the defense. Some of his world-class numbers in the 17 wins on Train, such as a 72% success rate in opening duels (63:24) and 0.15 opening kills per round, go on to prove his worth. And, of course, it doesn't hurt to have a rock like coldzera who often works around FalleN near alley and puts up the most kills on average.
"Everybody on SK is in their comfort zone, you know that cold loves playing alley and the way he plays it is so unique, because he was really good at just letting it go, whereas other players would take too many duels. He just takes defensive angles and he's really good at getting multiple kills when T's execute, it means that he can have a faster rotation towards B as well." - Nicolai "device" Reedtz
Compared to their 73% round win rate as CT, their T side falls off, but not as much as with most other teams. With a 57% win rate as Terrorists (8-7 half on average), SK are still sitting pretty with their offense, seeing as it is a CT-sided map.
Their pistol rounds drop off quite a lot more significantly, down to 41% (7 out of 17 pistol rounds won), but if we consider that in six of the ten cases when they lost the pistol SK managed to win the following forcebuy, that becomes a much more impressive number.
It's no surprise SK have been that successful in the second-round forcebuy. They like to use up all of their money for one of their go-to tactics: they run down the clock in a default for a while, gather in front of main and pop dog, and throw a couple of smokes to block off the CT's vision. It's designed to get as close as possible without giving your opponents long range battles: they run between the six and five train, flash themselves through one of their favorite smokes and explode on the A bombsite. Very simple to execute but well thought out.
If they have more money when they manage to get the bomb down in the first round, they run a variation of that strat, in which they use a few more smokes and run a B split through connector and brown halls.
SK decimated Na`Vi with one of their favorite forcebuy strats
They usually prefer the A bombsite, but if they do go B, it's usually after a fake which is often yet another usage of very similar smokes to A, with TACO playing bait on the A bombsite while the remaining players go B. Ideally, it pulls one of the B players towards A, which allows easy entry into the B bombsite and gives SK a few more seconds to take advantageous positions further down the tracks.
"It's very difficult to play against SK as CT, because if FalleN knows where you are, he knows exactly what to do, which smokes he needs to finish the round. He doesn't need to execute you with a perfect execute with three or four smokes, he needs two and then they trade you very easily, because they know where you are. So if you lose the first two aim battles, you lose the round." - Óscar "mixwell" Cañellas
To mind-game their opponents even more, SK often do a similar execute, send TACO in on his own, wait several seconds and run the rest of the attack to that same bombsite. With variations like that, it's next to impossible to read what SK are doing until it's too late. One fairly basic layout of a tactic, endless variations based on it. There are naturally several different tactics they've been using, such as their surprisingly quick A split from pop dog with next to no nades. However, the aforementioned one has been one of the strongest in their arsenal and one of their most used executes.
It also shows TACO's role in the team, at least on Train. More often than not he runs in first or makes noise to fake while the rest of the team gets most of the kills and the credit.
What did Astralis do to break the streak?
It all came down to the preparation and the right plays at the right time from players such as Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye and device. Astralis got the win on Train mostly thanks to a fantastic CT side, where it was clear Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander had done his homework.
The Danish side countered both of the aforementioned forcebuy strategies. SK attempted to do their B split with added utility due to a bomb plant in the first round, but Kjaerbye was set up in between the six trains to pick off the two players running through the smoke next to him, while two more players sat on the bombsite, ready for the information to come in.
"We've had a pretty big success on Train as well and I think in the end we are probably the second best team on it right now."
"We couldn't close it out, but I still believe we can become better on it than them." Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen said in our interview after losing Train to SK at IEM Oakland, two weeks before Astralis broke SK's streak on it in ELEAGUE semi-finals.
They also had four players towards A almost all the time, while Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth sat in the back of the B bombsite to keep SK away from pushing further. In rare cases he sat behind the spools or on highway, which also caught the Brazilians off-guard a couple of times.
With SK's 17-0 streak coming to an end, Virtus.pro hold the longest winning streak on a single map with seven wins in a row on Nuke. Gambit are at six on Cobblestone, and Natus Vincere and SK are tied for third place with five wins in a row on Overpass and Dust2, respectively.
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