Meta changes: SG553, Galil & FAMAS update
Valve's most recent update returned the increasingly popular SG553 to its original price and buffed the rarely-used FAMAS and Galil. These changes are certain to affect the metagame, but where exactly will we see the biggest shift and why did the developers decide to make weapon adjustments again in the first place?
Unless you haven't been watching CS:GO for the past half a year or so, there is no way you missed SG553's increasing popularity among pros lately. With its price lowered to $2,750 in an extensive gameplay update in October 2018, its affordability was on par with the conservative AK-47. If you add to that the considerable advantages with the scope, the better accuracy, and the overall higher damage per second stemming from a higher firing rate and armor-ignoring penetration, it made for an obvious choice over the Russian staple.
Interestingly, it took the vast majority of the scene over seven months (or over five years, if you consider that its stats have remained unchanged since 2014) to realize the SG553's true power, and it's possible it only happened as a natural response to its CT counterpart, the AUG, which had been a big source of frustration for Terrorists due to the defense's ability to hold more aggressive angles in the first half of 2019. Whatever was the root cause, in another four months it became the preferred choice and by this November, the SG553 had gotten to a point where it was overwhelmingly the most prevalent gun, leading many players and pundits to call it overpowered, with Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen going as far as to label it the most "OP" weapon in the history of Counter-Strike.
Although it's difficult to know what exactly made Valve revert its price back to $3,000, you can certainly see where they are coming from. It could be that they simply planned on doing that whenever people got a proper chance to discover its power, which may have been the reason why it was made cheaper in the first place. The developers always seem to strive to balance the weapons in line with the every-gun-should-be-viable sentiment, and the recent update was yet another example of that, as the tendencies in the pro scene as of late show that the SG is much more versatile rather than situational and certainly warrant changes.
But is that nerf sufficient?
Probably not. The SG553 is just as powerful as it always has been — the stats remain exactly the same, after all. It has only been made slightly more difficult to buy. Terrorists will still be able to afford it in most of the same economic scenarios, at worst at the cost of one piece of utility, and given how almost everyone has switched to it by now, it seems unlikely the pros will be willing to give up the advantages outlined above just to save an extra $250, especially in cases where they have enough money not to sacrifice a thing to purchase it.
If you're not convinced, just look at how things went with the AUG. Valve opted for the same course of action with it in March when it went from the lowered $3,150 back to the original $3,300 price tag and it barely made a dent in the gun's usage. It quickly spiked back up and reached peak popularity in May, shortly before the developers introduced much more substantial changes in June, reducing the rate of fire and unscoped accuracy and causing its popularity to tank almost immediately.
The one area in which we are bound to see some effects are the economic scenarios where Terrorists can no longer afford the SG553, most notably in the highly-criticized post-plant forcebuys in the second round, which became standard practice over the last few months. After planting the bomb in the pistol round, Terrorists forcebought 77% of the time in the SG meta compared to only 42% of the time during the AUG meta, which made CTs' lives harder early on as they had to face those kinds of buys much more often. However, they were also far from overpowered as some pundits would have you believe, with just a 41% win rate versus over 50% in the preceding metas where the SGs weren't commonly purchased. As to why the win rate in post-plant forcebuys specifically decreased despite the superiority of the SG, the pattern below suggests the more forcebuys are attempted the less they are successful, a trend that is most likely a result of teams becoming much more expectant of those buys nowadays, purchasing weaponry and positioning accordingly as Counter-Terrorists.
To be clear, it will still be possible to buy SGs in those rounds, but only for the players who get at least $300 in bonus money from kills or from being the one to put down the bomb in addition to the $1,900 loss bonus plus $800 Terrorists get from a round ending via bomb defusal. But with utility being a scarce commodity there already, the $250 difference in price might just sway the offense to opt for ecos more often again or towards other forcebuy choices, which have now notably widened thanks to the other important recipients of the recent update: the Galil and the FAMAS.
Having become quite a rarity a while ago already due to most players preferring SMGs for their mobility or even shotguns on maps like Nuke, the two weapons that used to be secondary rifling choices to the AK and M4s moved even further down the pecking order during AUG and SG metas. The Galil and FAMAS had stayed untouched by Valve practically since the start of CS:GO, as outlined in the first chapter of the Meta changes series, and only after six years of competitive play was their price reduced by $200 to $1,800 and $2,050, respectively, and their spraying accuracy improved.
What Valve is hoping to introduce with this is a step between the SMGs and the strongest rifles that players will take seriously and start considering again, which you can see in the graphic below. It's nothing new; a very similar progression has existed from the very beginning of CS:GO, but it should help visualize just how big the jump between SMG buys and the main rifles is — $1,200 to $1,900 — and how that extra Galil or FAMAS step can help with both sides' options when it comes to scenarios where you have a sub-ideal economy.
We can use the T side post-plant forcebuys again to illustrate a specific scenario, one that sparked a conversation immediately after the update happened. The $1,800 price of the Galil introduces a whole new option there, as the $150 you keep from a kevlar buy in the first round plus a $1,900 loss bonus plus $800 for a plant equals a Galil and full armor, and the kills you get on top give you utility and a very real gunround instead of the rather shoddy and individualistic double SG (or AK) drops that have been so prevalent in recent months.
With the aforementioned gap being even wider on the defense, the CTs' added option will also help. As an example: those who previously opted for an SMG after a pistol round win with $3,400 in the bank — assuming $150 extra from a kevlar start again — could instead get a FAMAS and full armor for $3,050 and have $350 plus whatever kills they got on top for utility (or $600+ in defusal scenarios).
In the same way, this could serve as a great alternative in the third-round buys after a pistol loss where you have around $4,300, which is enough for AKs and some utility, but for CTs it might be more swallowable to go for some more FAMASes on players who got no kills in the first two rounds rather than going for SMGs or one of the bigger rifles with next to no utility. And this naturally applies in any scenario where the money works out in a way that you don't have enough for the primary rifles but still want to have the advantages of a rifle (range and damage) instead of the more situational SMGs.
All of this could become more standard as players and teams get used to the Galil and FAMAS and the slightly different options and, as a result, should lead to a better balance between them and the currently vastly more popular SMGs. It all depends on how players will view the new cost-effectiveness of the two buffed guns after these changes, but with the scene being rather slow to change historically as Jesper "JW" Wecksell points out, don't hold your breath for sudden changes later this week at ECS Season 8 Finals, where the new update will be used for the first time — it's much more likely that we will start seeing real results when it comes to the Galil and FAMAS some time at the beginning of next year. In regards to the SG, don't expect much change until Valve nerf its stats as they did with the AUG.