From Pasha to S1mple: The Evolution of Aggressive AWPers in CS:GO

Most people know S1mple as one of the greatest
AWPers to play the game. But while his aggressive and consistent AWPing style is unique, it’s
really a culmination of a history of memorable AWPers, and the meta changes that created
them. To truly appreciate the level of dominance s1mple has right now, we have to look at the
history of aggressive AWPing in CS:GO. Let’s start in 2014. When CS:GO transitioned
into a more complex system of top teams and tournament, PashaBiceps briefly became the
best AWPer in the world. While KennyS and Guardian eventually became more popular AWPers
using a more free-flowing, dueling style, Pasha was the first to really bring aggressive
AWPing onto big stages around the world. At ESL One Cologne 2014, we saw a great example
of Pasha’s ballsy awping style in the quarterfinals against LDLC on Dust II. We see that LDLC
are on a weak buy, unlikely to have an AWP. Pasha, knowing this, looks to assert early
mid control with his AWP, posting up on the mid doors. He hits a nicely timed shot onto
KQLY through the smoke as he peeks behind the boxes. Pasha then looks to maintain his
aggressive tempo, repeeking top mid, nading, and then falling back when uzi flashes apEX
through doors. Pasha is able to pick apEX, then repeeks AGAIN to find Happy at top mid.
Pasha then quickly repositions to short to catch Uzzii in-transition before riskily running
down short with a CZ for the ace. The key factor that makes all of this happen is Pasha’s
level of aggression. LDLC was completely unprepared it. As time went on, Pasha’s style of AWPing started
running into problems. First there was the AWP nerf of early 2015, which lowered the
scoped-in movement of the gun, making aggressive peeking more difficult. The second major setback
for Pasha’s aggressive style was a change in the general metagame of CS. As teams became
more aware of aggressive awping, they began to adjust their play to counter it. This is
where KennyS and JW come in. Both KennyS and JW emphasized a flicking style
of play that hinged on fast, tight movement to hit seemingly impossible shots. While Pasha’s
confident repeeks were slowed down by the nerf, KennyS and JW’s flicks weren’t reliant
on scoped movement. This new wave of aggressive awpers studied the meta for openings and sought
to catch enemies off-guard with their brave timings and ridiculous risk/reward style. To see this, let’s compare a JW Dust II clip
from mid-2015 to that last clip of Pasha. Facing off against at the Gfinity
Spring Masters 2 in the grand final, JW similarly expects a shaky buy from the Terrorists and
posts up on mid early. A T jumps to suicide as KQLY did, with JW firing the same shot
pasha took through the smoke. This time though, the T hides behind the boxes, knowing an AWP
could be posted up on the angle. The T’s are FAR more careful in how they deal with
JW around mid thanks to the evolving meta. JW isn’t given anywhere near the same amount
of openings as Pasha had a year prior. Still though, JW looks to keep up the pressure.
He holds his forward map control and hits a tight shot onto TaZ crossing top mid. He
looks for the repeek as pasha did, but this time there’s a flash there from the T’s
anticipating the peek, forcing him off the angle. The objective of Pasha and JW in these clips
is the same, but because of how the meta has shifted, JW is forced to approach the situation
under far more pressure and awareness from the T’s. It’s this same awareness though, that JW
would use to his advantage. When the meta adjusted to counter old AWPing patterns, JW
countered that counter with surprise timings. A famous example of this was his push through
a long-door molly to catch a T-side Dust II default off-guard. As 2015 came to a close, we would see FalleN develop this
aggressive style even further, bringing the crazy decision making and off-kilter timings
of JW into clutch situations. Often in a 2vX scenario with Coldzera, FalleN would be pulling
off JW-level highlight clips but in even more pressured and intense environments of play.
The key factor in FalleN’s evolution of aggressive AWPing is his awareness. By IGLing and AWPing
at the same time, FalleN brought a supreme level of map awareness and gamesense to the
role. In this clip from IEM Katowice 2016, we see FalleN hit ridiculous shots like JW,
but then out maneuver NA’VI in a 1v3 scenario, winning a seemingly impossible round. This
combination of insane flicks, unpredictable timings, and a seemingly supernatural level
of map awareness, further pushed the bounds of what was possible with the big green gun. Then we get to S1mple in 2017. S1mple takes the elements from all of these
historical greats and manifests them into the highest peak we’ve seen from any AWPer
in Counter-Strike history. He’s not only playing the best CS:GO of all-time, but against
the best teams and most intense pressures of all-time. This round from Dreamhack Marseille 2018 against
Gambit on Train does a good job of showing the nuance of his skill. In round 8 we see, s1mple push up to A Main
with the AWP aggressively, pressuring the CT defense. Gambit are in a default and mou
looks to cross safely back to main, but s1mple hits a tight shot onto him crossing. This
immediately lets flamie push into main, securing lots of map pressure. Gambit back up through
B halls and explodes down lower B. Zeus finds a kill but gets traded out. Immediately after
Adren takes out flamie as he rotates through Z. With no utility and very limited weaponry
to work with on the retake, this round largely rests on s1mple’s shoulders. Watch how he
swings wide around the Z smoke, out-dueling AdreN who was holding the angle. He then jumps
up onto the train to pick Hobbit who was positioned perfectly to find the trade. S1mple is using
ridiculous in-game awareness to find not one, but 2 kills onto players directly countering
his positioning. He then trades-out seized through the smoke to close the round for a
4k. Each kill in this clip is s1mple defying direct
counters Gambit put in place specifically to stop him. He uses individual skill, awareness,
and movement to completely undo the puzzle — from working the opening pick into the
round like JW or pasha would, to winning the AWP v AWP duel like KennyS or Guardian would,
to then closing out the clutch with in-game smarts like FalleN or device. This is just
one clip though. S1mple does this EVERY. SINGLE. TOURNAMENT. As the CS:GO scene continues to grow, we’ll
continue to see the metagame shift, throwing new obstacles at aggressive AWPers like S1mple.
Who will bring us the next evolution of AWPing, then? Given how talented S1mple is, there’s
a good chance he’ll still be at the top.