By: Trevor Schmidt
Boasting one of the largest followings in all of Counter-Strike, SK.swe maybe the closest thing eSports has to a true franchise team. They have solid teams that also compete in other games and have one of the strongest histories of any active clan with a CPL Cannes win, two CPL USA wins in a row not to mention a host of other tournament wins including SEL season 3. All of that said they still come into CPL with just as many questions surrounding them as many of the other heavyweights, after a change in leadership with Potti stepping aside as team leader for the newest member Element. What will SK.swe have to do this coming weekend to prove their lineup is the best in professional Counter-Strike?
‘There has never been a ‘problem’, said SK|Element, ‘Not while I`ve been there at least. We’ve changed something in our gameplay that should work better than the previous game style, that’s it.’
The first place they’ll start is the same place we will be looking ‘de_train, where SK.swe suffered their tough loss to zEx at ESWC. One major observation for their opening half as T was the lack of creativity by SK.swe. In a 15 round match SK.swe played a base 2-1-2 about 11 rounds. The strat had Potti and Heaton push alley, holding until the rest of the team was ready and then normally attacking on a delay after the middle guy, fisker, flashed next to the train car. Brunk and ahl would both push ladder, coming out very fast once fisker flashed. Problem with this strat was that they ran it too much. zEx wasn’t stupid: they would simply have lower guys flank and also have them push z-hall, catching fisker coming out. Fisker’s role was to get up into the sniper point and provide cover but this was pretty worthless, as zEx didn’t go into the open area. Potti and Heaton were left doing a ton of work to clear the back of the site of zEx members. When they pulled it off, SK.swe won but when they didn’t zEx picked up the round pretty easy.
SK.swe will need to mix things up and work on developing some fakes off of this base strat that tactically was very solid. Holding either Brunk or ahl above ladder and picking off the flanker might have been a good start. Maybe have fisker and the other one not holding above ladder push out middle, showing the CTs their position, and then fall back to ladder and go lower with the guy watching for the flank. This diversion would have worked several times as zEx abandoned the lower site to stop Potti and Heaton in alley.
The early second half of the match favored SK.swe as they got lucky, taking out Sunman with less then a second left in the round. The next round SK.swe, thinking zEx would save out again, bought a few Colts. This would have been a great idea if zEx had actually tried to save out the round because then SK.swe could just buy armor instead of having to buy a Colt after purchasing an MP5 second round. zEx surprised them with deagle armor rush and Sunman’s huge performance, fragging four guys, left SK.swe in shock and in serious trouble. After the game progressed past the pistol/save rounds, the gun rounds didn’t last long because of SK.swe’s poor T performance.
In the guns rounds that did take place SK appeared somewhat weak against middle rushes, which isn’t too surprising as most teams score their round wins on those types of rushes. The problem was that zEx, following a similar blue print that I gave SK.swe above, showed two guys in middle but didn’t attack alley; they just had three remaining guys hit lower bombsite hard. SK.swe, with only two guys in middle attacking them, rotated their entire team into the upper bombsite and left the lower site completely open. A team with this much experience can’t afford to do this against such a skilled team. They’ll need to keep guys at home as long as possible until the bomb is planted in the other bombsite. Professional teams often fake and by leaving bombsites open the reaction back to the bombsite is delayed costing valuable time during the 35-second bomb fuse. The placement of SK.swe seemed solid though, leaving most of the upper bombsite guys in the back of the site and with Potti and Heaton both near alley they had a very strong cover.
‘We weren’t prepared enough for the game, mentally and tactically. I hadn’t been involved in train because we had 4 days to play 4 maps, so we decided that I would skip de_train, and we thought that it was supposed to only be played in the 1st group stage,’ said Element, ‘The guys had played together on that map for several months, so I thought they would win it, but unfortunately zEx was much stronger than us that game and great credits for them, they really showed that they’re a top team in that game. BTW, sunman.. grrr=P’
While SK.swe will be working on de_train to improve their strats, one map they won’t have to do much on is de_nuke. SK.swe’s de_nuke strats are among the best in the world for any team on any map. 3D and SK.swe are so far ahead of anyone on de_nuke, I have a tough time seeing either team losing on them. SK.swe’s strength comes from a solid ramp room, which just like 3D shows signs of being untouchable. Fisker and Heaton cover ramp, giving any team attacking their little room for error. Potti plays above ladder, watching outside more then most people I see play there, leaving Heaton in ramp room even longer. Unlike 3D though, SK.swe abandons the outside, leaving Brunk and ahl in upper bombsite. Element’s position could be interesting here as he may take over for one of the guys in upper bombsite. While outside looks like a promising place to attack this team, once SK.swe spots or hears you out there Potti will sneak out onto the upper catwalk area overlooking outside. Heaton will stay on the ground and get out by the red box near the main entrance to upper bombsite. Combined with someone from upper bombsite, Potti and Heaton will hit the outside group hard. This rotation is one of the keys to success of any major Counter-Strike team. Teams that rotate, and rotate players at the right time, are often the most successful. Having three guns to hit an oncoming rush versus only two can make the difference between winning and losing.
On T side SK.swe really looks like the old NiP still against X3. Constant ramp pressure, looking to rush there almost every round, was the SK.swe formula for success. In this match first against HLO that I’m spotlighting for the SEL Championship Season 3, Megaton played ramp; he is one of HLO’s best players. He seemed very inadequate. SK.swe ramp pressure combined with great flashbangs is almost unbearable for any ramp room team. It would have been very interesting to see this SK.swe team face 3D on de_nuke, as they would have to work against a Geffon/Morgan duo in the ramp room. SK.swe will have to feel comfortable though playing almost anyone on de_nuke; other maps could be different but Element feels confident about facing the very teamwork-oriented Team9.
‘We really want to play Team9, I`ve never played versus them in SK, but every time SK has met Team9 the outcome has gone in SK`s favor, said Element, ‘Don’t get me wrong, Team9 is a great team, but every time Team9 meets SK, some persons in SK play like they’ve never played CS before, and why? That story goes way back’
SK.swe showed signs of Team9 type strats on de_inferno, where their base setup for T was 2-2-1. Just like Team9, one man watched banana hallway while two people pushed up halls and two more pushed up middle. SK.swe also like to boost a guy into the window. This practice has really died out compared to the really old de_inferno. The original de_inferno saw a lot more boosting into the window because the grate into hallways didn’t exist. Boosting gave the attacking team another entrance into the bombsite but now with the grate there it has virtually died out. SK.swe didn’t seem to like the idea of breaking the grate and instead used the boost to catch the middle CT defenders by surprise.
With SK.swe’s attacks and bomb plants going almost 90% of the time into the primary bombsite, Infernum at ESWC often would retreat remaining guys into the secondary bombsite to save their guns. SK.swe was doing a great job of getting entry kills with its surprise boosts and good work waiting for hall guys to peak and then picking them off, and Infernum often gave up rather then try and retake the bombsite 2v5. SK.swe then would pursue Infernum, which I found interesting, and probably not worth the risk of dying. They seemed to do this a lot more then any other clan, rushing almost nonstop into areas where they knew CTs were camping out the bomb timer.
By pursuing any defenders who retreat to protect their guns, SK.swe can force them to buy a new gun’ if they can frag them by the end of the round. But one round Infernum took out three SK members after they rushed to kill off the two remaining players; this shows the risk of such strats, and I’m not sure it’s worth that even if your team has the money to buy the guns if you do die. Against top teams a change in momentum can happen very fast, even in the dying seconds of a round after the bomb goes off, and if SK.swe pursues members from Team9, 3D or another top team they would be in serious trouble giving players like that the advantage of hearing them coming.
The CT side was very basic for SK.swe on de_inferno with the only interesting part being that they left Element alone in the secondary bombsite quite a few times. He seemed well suited for that position and should provide SK.swe a lot of security in rotating an extra guy into the other bombsite. Four men in the primary bombsite makes it nearly impossible for anyone to attack, especially with the quality of those four guys for SK.swe.
‘We’re quite even on all maps at the moment; as long as we got the flow with us on the day we play, we are able to beat any team, unless sunman is on fire =),’ said Element, ‘Counterstrike is a game where any team can win on ‘any given Sunday’. I have lots of respect for teams like GX, 3D, TEC and zEx, and I think all of them can have a good chance to beat both us, and Team9.’
SK.swe should be looking to make it deep into the bracket, with a spot in the finals firmly in mind. If they do get that far they’ll be dealing with de_dust2, which they are very strong on. Their bombsite B rush is a work of art with great flashbangs over the walls and good teamwork, with the entry fraggers protecting each other very well. They also cover the bombsite better then anyone I have reviewed for The Playbook. They spread out, leaving guys in the dark halls, while also getting guys on both sides of the line of sight through the double doors. This gives them a great crossfire and back up for protecting the bomb against the CTs looking to retake the bombsite. Their bombsite A rushes look very good as well, with solid timing and an emphasis on Long A over catwalk.
Interestingly the CT side saw an opening pistol almost identical to 3D’s pistol round strat against TEC at KillerLAN. I even had to double-check the names of the players to make sure I wasn’t watching the wrong demo. Both teams rushed guys middle on to catwalk, pushing up into middle and the main choke outside of T spawn. Unlike 3D though, SK.swe caught the Ts already pushed up into Long A and were able to come round on the flank and win the round. This is a very risky strat that I don’t expect either to use against a top team at CPL. Risks like that tend to backfire more often then they succeed. Both teams will come up with some new tricks though; indeed the best part of CPL is always finding out what the top teams pull out of their hats. One issue I hope SK.swe has worked on is their coverage of bombsite A as CT. One of the few gun rounds I saw they pushed three up at Long A, which I have yet to see be a truly successful strategy.
SK.swe won’t be able to take too many risks, as they face a ton of pressure now. With the release of their SK Insider and their increasing fan base they must continue to keep the winning ways of old in the biggest tournament of the season. Defining matches against top American teams can wait but all of Sweden and myself, not to mention SK.swe, is looking forward to a Team9 match up. With the current seeding it looks like we would see such a match in the semi-finals if both teams were to win out. Either way with Element in control and SK.swe fully loaded with the best players in the world, the pressure is firmly on their shoulders.