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Maximizing Utility in Counter-Strike

Cody Luongo | 
The efficient use of utility in CS:GO can mean the difference between victory and defeat, especially as competition stiffens in more competitive settings.

The efficient use of utility in CS:GO can mean the difference between victory and defeat, especially as competition stiffens in more competitive settings.

At face value, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) appears to be a simple game – and to some extent, it is. In terms of mechanics, you can move and shoot, and that’s about it; when you start to dig a bit deeper however, there’s a myriad of complexities within CS:GO that can keep any student of the game occupied for quite some while. One integral facet of Counter-Strike that has been around since its inception is utility – the more commonly and universally used term for grenades. The efficient use of utility in CS:GO can mean the difference between victory and defeat, especially as competition stiffens in more competitive settings. So why is utility so crucial in Counter-Strike? Let’s get into that.

The Importance of Utility 

As mentioned, Counter-Strike appears to place a heavy emphasis on gunskill, accuracy and positioning when observing the game first-hand. However, as a player progresses through the rankings and finds themselves within a more difficult skill bracket, you’ll find utility plays a major role in the game’s meta. The competitive standard of CS:GO utilities the demolition game type which leaves the Counter-Terrorists (CT) or Terrorists (T) to either attack or defend one of two bomb sites. This concept of infiltrating a bombsite or fotifying it relies heavily on the use of utility to either penetrate or negate pushes from opposition. For the sake of simplicity, let’s break utility down between the CT-side and T-side.

T-Side Utility

In short, the objective on the T-side is to enter a site, plant a bomb and defend it until the bomb is detonated after a set period of time. There are a number of instances where utility is extremely useful through the course of a match as a Terrorist. On the T-side, your opponents will have the advantage of having control of the bomb sites in terms of their positioning; this means that strolling into a site through any of the entry points is likely resulting in a death sentence if your opponent is anticipating it. Though, with utility, one is able to mask, push or deny entry for the CT-side whether entering a site or trying to achieve good post-plant positioning. The primary use of utility on the T-side is to be able to enter a bomb site that is littered with opponents – if there are grenades left over after the bomb is planted, it’ll make the retake more difficult for the CTs. Once the bomb is planted, the clock shifts in favor of the T-side and it’s up to the CTs to traverse into the site and defuse the bomb. Therefore, utility such as smoke grenades and molotovs can help wind down the clock in a scenario where every second counts.

CT-Side Utility

Counter-Terrorists rely heavily on utility in any given round for a collection of reasons. For one, aggressive CTs can push into more neutral areas on the map that will limit options for the T-side. For example, on Inferno, control of the narrow street known as ‘banana’ will remove a critical avenue in which Ts tend to push through when entering the B bomb site. Having control of neutral regions will then give valuable information for the team in knowing where your opponents may be lurking or intending to plan their next attack. Terrorists in general have more affordable weapons and utility which places a weighty emphasis on the precise usage of utility on the CT-side. The game revolves around the effectiveness of defending the bombsite, therefore boxing out opponents with incendiary and smokes is crucial in this equation. Retakes are a very tricky situation for CTs as well and the success of that round can be dependant on utility, given the circumstances. Deploying utility can be used to flush out enemies hidden around the bombsite by either obscuring their vision with a smoke, or dealing fast damage with an incendiary grenade. Flashbangs are also a great tool to take out an enemy by blinding them and storming around a corner.

Flashbangs

Flashbangs are used to blind an enemy (or your teammates if you’re not careful) and can be an incredible kill-assist tool if used properly. The effectiveness of a flashbang depends on the proximity in which it pops as well as how directly a player is looking at it which will determine the duration and strength of its blinding effect. At full-strength, a flashbang will leave an enemy staring a blank white screen with only hopes of blind-firing in the direction of their assailant – needless to say, it’s a valuable part of the weapon arsenal.

Flashbangs rely heavily on timing because its effect can be diminished if the target looks in the opposite direction. In course with your peek, a timely flashbang can either leave an opponent blinded, or have their cursor pointed away from you which can both lead to an easy kill. Getting the timing of flashbangs can be take some time to master and it may be worth going into a private server offline to practice a bit before implementing it into the big leagues. One thing is for certain, though – the tighter the flashbang peek, the more threatening it is.

Flashes can be used to push enemies back as well which can open up some space when taking over an area of a map. Knowing the lanes of where an AWPer is typically stationed can come in handy when tossing a flashbang – a sniper is only so useful if they can’t see, right? A flashed AWPer will have no chance but to start backing off when flashes start coming in. Unless firing from point-blank range, an AWP is practically rendered useless from distance and thus a witty flashbang can send them back a few paces and be used to coordinate more advancements into a bomb site.

Smoke Grenades

A smoke grenade creates a smoke screen that disrupts visibility around its cloud. A player can walk through a smoke cloud but they won’t know what they’ll be met with on the other side and that’s the idea. Smokes are typically deployed in chokepoints of a map in which the smoke will completely fill the gap to completely remove visibility. High-level players will very rarely take the gamble on traversing through a smoked-off area to see what’s on the other side as those stationed outside of it will always have the advantage of seeing them emerge from its cloud before they see them.

At it’s best, a good smoke can negate a hard rush by removing vision at a crucial chokepoint. However, as with flashes, timing is everything when deploying a smoke grenade. For example, using a smoke to block a chokepoint when there are no enemies in the vicinity is wasteful as it’s not slowing down your opposition. Instead, a smoke should be used when an attack is anticipated or happening to slow the pace down. This will result in one of two ways, an aggressive push through the smoke where your enemies are at a disadvantage or they will be forced to back-off and reassess the situation – either scenario buys a team valuable time.

While smoke grenades are typically viewed as a defensive maneuver, they can also be used aggressively. Smoking-off an alley for your team to cross is a tactic seen frequently on maps such as Dust ll and Nuke; this can be used to send a number of players into an area without your opposition knowing for sure how many are pushing into a site, if any. In this sense, smokes can also be used a diversion and are often incorporated in fake plays that can add a layer of mind games into a round to spice things up. In addition, smokes can be thrown above buildings and across a map to land in specific areas or chokepoints that can leave your opponents anticipating an attack while you are planning to infiltrate a different area.

Molotovs & Incendiary Grenades

Often abbreviated as a “molly”, this grenade creates a patch of fire that rapidly deals damage to anyone standing inside it. At full health, a player will last roughly 3.5 seconds before being burnt alive by a molotov. There are two variations of this utility, the molotov for Terrorists and Incendiary for Counter-Terrorists.

Molotovs & Incendiaries are essentially one in the same, however, there are slight differences between the two. First off, the Incendiary lasts slightly less than that of the molotov, but only by half a second (6.5 seconds total). The key difference between the two really is the price tag; the molotov is $200 less than the incendiary which is valued at a whopping $600 on the CT buy menu – that’s a pretty lofty expense for a disposable item.

The molotov is an incredibly valuable piece of utility to carry, specifically for its area denial affect. In most cases and at full health, it’s possible to run through a molotov to get to the other side of its burning flames – however, it comes at the expensive of your health and doing so will likely leave you as easy-pickings for your opponents. It’s important to note that a molotov or incendiary can be extinguished with a smoke, though. If you find yourself with a pit of flames burning beneath you, quick reaction to drop a smoke can provide some relief and cover. More often than not though, a molotov will be used to flush out enemies and can actually prove to be somewhat of an extra set of eyes. Think about it like this: if you have a hunch there is an enemy behind a corner that you don’t want to risk peeking, throwing a molotov in that location will instantly give you your answer as it’ll force an enemy out or cause them to drop a smoke. This can also be a great way to bait out some of your opponents utility.

Frag Grenades

The high explosive grenade or more commonly known as the frag grenade, is a piece of utility which explodes a few seconds after throwing it. A frag explosion creates a blast radius which deals a hearty amount of damage to players standing within its range. It can be near fatal at point-blank but still deal a decent amount of damage likely to give you the upper-hand if your opponent is in its proximity. The frag grenade is a nifty piece of utility but has a far less critical role in the competitive meta compared to any of the other aforementioned items. In the grand scheme of things, a frag is generally viewed as a bonus piece of utility if your economy is rich.

There are certainly ways in which a frag can be hailed as the most brilliant piece armory, though. Up against an aggressive push that pits a group of enemies next to each other, tossing a frag in between them can garner more bang for your buck by dealing out damage across their team. Nadestacking or doubling up on frags with a teammate can be the most devastating if pulled off correctly; two frags being thrown in close-quarters where enemies are is a surefire way to wipe your opponents off the map with ease.

Perfecting Your Craft 

All in all, utility is a key component of winning rounds in Counter-Strike; its usage adds an additional layer to the game which involves a wealth of strategic planning and quick-thinking. It’s also important to know the physics of these grenades – how the bounce, fly and etc. The best way to start getting better with utility is simply to practice with it. Understand when and where utility is useful to deploy and start getting creative! As mentioned, utility can be used as a diversion and if coordinated with a team, can open up some serious room in a round to take or retake a bombsite.

Cody Luongo
An American journalist specializing in business, gambling and Counter-Strike - Cody was a competitive gamer first before starting his career in esports. Competing in several titles including Halo, Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six prior to his career as a journalist where he would go on to write for ESPN, Esports Insider, SickOdds and many more.
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