Adaptation: Understanding Opponent's Habits



Sat 23rd Dec 2017 - 5:34pm

Let’s say you’re in a very close game and you notice that the one of the guys keeps pushing the smoke on A-Main Cache over to Forklift, so you decide to station yourself Catwalk or get boosted Shroud to watch this push. You kill him and because of that man advantage, your team goes on to win the round and later on, the match. This concept is called adaptation. By understanding what your opponent likes doing and his various habits, you can adapt or change up what you are doing in order to combat this.

This is an extremely important part of Counter Strike that often determines games. In some matches, you’ll see one side go up 8-0 and then promptly lose the next 7 rounds to have the half end up at 8-7 simply due to some adaptation from the other team. More commonly, you see this back and forth as both teams try to figure out what works and what doesn’t work against each other. If your team fails to adapt to what the opponent is doing when they are winning rounds, you will end up losing. To help you out with this, I’ve listed some general concepts that help with adaptation on both the T side and CT side.

  • Positioning

Let’s say you’re playing B site on Mirage and you are losing A site every round and you are just playing the rotate game. In order to start winning rounds, you might need to position players better on the A site or play more players on the A site. You can tell the guy at Ticket Booth to play under Palace and the guy who’s been playing Stairs to play Triple/Default. Tell your Mid player to focus on A, while one of your B players can watch Mid from Catwalk or Ladder Room. Let’s also say that this guy keeps pushing the smoke on A-Ramp. Well, you can place a person close A-Ramp and kill him as the T pushes the smoke. This kind of positioning shift could potentially swing the match back in your favor. Play different angles as a CT; switch up where you play and the timing of your peeks. If they notice you play Forklift on Cache a lot, then they’re start prefiring Fork or mollying it, so switch up and play Catwalk or Truck.  

This also applies to the T side. Let’s say you notice that the CT on Mirage keeps on going under Palace on A-site and the AWPer jumps up on Ticket Booth. Ask a teammate to push fast Palace and kill the Ticket Booth AWPer while you deal with the guy under Palace. Maybe the CT player keeps pushing Underpass every round. If you station yourself in B-Apps with an off-angle watching Underpass, you’ll catch off this aggression and land an easy pick. However, don’t always hold that angle because soon they’ll expect that. Remember, if you switch up your positioning to mix up your opponent, your opponent cannot predict your angles and positions, forcing them to take more time to clear angles and not position their crosshair appropriately for your differing positions. Attached here is an article by fellow Team Dignitas writer Rasco that may help you out with your positioning.

Figure 1: Example Off Angle on Mirage Site as illustrated by Raso

  • Level of Aggression

Switch up your level of aggression depending on the flow of the game. If you have been playing passively in sites as a CT, start pushing for more information and map control. If you surprise the T side with your aggression, it might lead to easy picks. If you have been too aggressive and getting picked off early, then maybe turtle up in the bomb site. If the T side has been super aggressive, it might be against your best interests to go for aggressive AWP peeks as you might get rushed down.

On the T side, if you’ve been playing this nice steady default, maybe explode out onto a site and surprise the CT side which might be caught playing too aggressive or prepping utility. If you’ve been extremely aggressive popflashing through smokes, running through molotovs, and running and gunning, maybe you want to bait out their utility and then do a nice late round execute. Read what your opponent does and based on what you think you can expect from your opponent, switch up your level of aggression to catch them off.

  • Utility Usage

Depending on the level of aggression, you can also mix up your utility usage. If the T side loves to rush every round, putting down the standard molly and smokes to prevent this is probably a good idea. If they play passively and wait until the last second to start pushing bombsites, it may be a better idea to save your utility until they start executing. There have been many times when utility has destroyed a late round execute, as if the Ts are aggressive and push through the molly/smoke/flash, they either take damage or take a duel that they are unfavored in.

If they are too passive, they might run out of time to plant the bomb and might take not clear positions as thoroughly. As a T side, it might be important to use utility early in order to force the CTs to be more passive. This way, you could potentially be more aggressive as you know that your opponent will be a little more passive. The alternative to that is save your utility in order to do a late round execute if you notice that the CTs are extremely passive. Saving mollys, flashes, and smokes will lead to more successful late round executes. 

  • Watch Demos:

Watching demos is important, no matter whether your own or others. You can see the general playstyle of the team you are facing and maybe see some of the bad habits that you have. If you tend to push smokes and signal this via a popflash, you might want to consider changing it up. If you notice that you play the same exact way on your site, maybe learn some differing angles to play from. This is especially relevant to bombsite anchors, who often are entrusted to hold a bombsite alone and get a few frags if the Ts come pushing.

If you watch Twistzz play A site on Inferno, Device on A site Overpass, or Taz as the Train B site solo player, you will notice how much they switch it up in order to throw the Ts off no matter how often they go onto those sites. In addition to this, by watching demos of other players, you can begin to learn how to play against them. If you know that your future opponent is an extremely "puggy" player, you might throw some utility to stop him from being aggressive and watch for this aggression. You can also notice who plays what sites and what they tend to do on T side. Watch demos; it does help you immensely. 

Figure 2: Loading up a demo to watch

  • Conditioning

This last section is a brief little discussion of conditioning, which is doing some sort of action to make your opponent think you are doing that action over and over again. An interesting thing is the amount of mind games you can thus play. You can manipulate your opponent into reacting differently than they would normally react based on what you have made them expect. This is a rather difficult and advanced concept, but to put it simply, it combines all of the above aspects (along with other aspects not mentioned) in order to try to gain an advantage of your opponent’s adaptation.

A simple example would be mollying A-Ramp every round on Mirage CT side. Your opponents will undoubtedly notice this, so they will probably either wait for the molly to disappear or stop watching A-Ramp in the early round. Because you have conditioned your opponents to expect a molly on A-Ramp every round, you can switch up the next round and maybe push aggressively with a popflash or even go for a big flank. Through the flow of the game, you can expect your opponents to adapt to your playstyle, so by changing it up, you will surprise them.   


Adapting to how others play is so crucial at every level of CSGO. At the professional level, we see various teams adapt to players like EnVyUs’ Happy, who likes lurking, Rogue’s Hiko, who plays squeaky on Cache and lurks, and C9’s Stewie2K, who enjoys being aggressive. Because of what other professional team have learned about these players, they are able to limit their effectiveness somewhat. This same exact concept applies to you. Even though many of the players you play against in various matchmaking, scrims, and practice situations, you will either never play again or play very rarely, you can still adapt to what they are doing in that current game you are playing. Unless you are absolutely stomping a team, there is always room for adaptation and it often decides the close matches. If you understand your opponent’s habits, you will always remain a step ahead of them, regardless of the difference in skill level.

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