Become a Better In-Game Leader in CSGO - A Guide With Xizt
Thu 14th May 2020 - 6:21pm
In-game leading is one of the hardest roles to master in CS:GO. Trying to lead to team to victory in as volatile an environment as a match of Counter-Strike relies on many things that a good IGL will always try to have under control. Naturally, it’s something that can never be done at 100%, as there is another captain on the other side of the server trying to do exactly what you’re doing and push his team to victory.
To try and help you improve your IGL skills, I’ve talked with Richard "Xizt" Landström, one of the legendary CS:GO in-game leaders, now currently captain of the Dignitas lineup. Not only did he lead his previous team to a Major victory composed of almost the same players, he was also the IGL during the legendary 87-0 NiP LAN win streak. Having played for some of the biggest esports organizations in the world - Ninjas in Pyjamas, FaZe, fnatic, and now Dignitas - the experience under his belt is something to be amazed at.
What is the most important characteristic of a successful IGL?
“You need to have a good understanding of the game and be calm, collected, and firm. Even if you are not 100% sure it's going to work, you need to "fake" it to your team so they believe in you and in your call.”
As IGL is a role that always needs to be performed under pressure due to your team depending on it, being calm and collected will do wonders for your results. There’s no point in leading if you can’t manage to keep calm while losing the match or being a man down. You need to have your player’s trust, or else they’ll probably ignore your calls and end up doing whatever they feel is best at the time. The “fake” call comes into play there: even if you’re not sure if what you’re calling is the best strategy, your team needs to be confident that it is.
“Another really important thing is to utilise your players to the best of their abilities - I want GeT_RiGhT to lurk and clutch and I want friberg to get the good flashes out and help opening up bombsites. Work with what you have and make the best out of your players.”
If you usually play with the same players, you’ll start to know them and understand what their strengths and weaknesses are - you should use them to the best of their ability. If one player is really good at entry-fragging, maybe you shouldn’t have them throwing utility to open up the bombsite. Instead, have a support player do that so your players can go in guns blazing.
Freedom: how much is enough?
Because Counter-Strike is a game that can change a lot in just a few seconds, knowing when to give your players some freedom can be a really good thing to have in mind. But how much freedom should you give your players to try something on their own? Xizt referred to his team when answering this question:
“I want my players to act on their feelings and what they think our opponent is doing, but I also want them to communicate what they're doing so that we can build a strategy around it. I encourage freedom.”
Although it depends on the type of player you are and the type of team you’re trying to create, freedom should always exist in your matches. The amount you need is entirely up to you, but experimenting with different approaches is a good way to find out what way you feel more comfortable leading. But then this issue might arise: What if give your players way too much freedom, how can you control them?
“You want to have a good mixture of control and freedom for your players. You don't want to have a super controlled environment where they can't do impulsive things, because I think gut feeling is very important in CS. You should be able to understand what they want to do and make calls around it.”
It’s also normal to wonder what style of leading you should implement in your team. You can have a looser playstyle, where you let your players play freely, or a strict one, with a more controlled environment and rehearsed setups. According to Xizt, it is better to know how to balance those two styles and use them both on the same team. The best teams are the one that use it the most and they’re the best ones for a reason.
“It can differ a lot, to be honest. I think Astralis has a really good mixture of a strict and loose playstyle. They know when to switch them. As I said, I think you need to have both to be successful.”
But what are the advantages over the other?
Being two very different styles of leading, one has advantages over the other, naturally. While having a looser playstyle can make your players shine individually, it can also give you more situations where you’re unable to trade a kill. On the other hand, having a more strict approach will make sure that those individual plays are reduced to a minimum as much as possible, allowing for more effective trades and counterstrats.
But being way too strict can make your team easier to read, which eventually leads you to being antistratted more and losing situations that you rehearsed and repeated times.
“Obviously if you have a more loose playstyle you're going to be more unpredictable, and that's a big advantage.”
But how are you able to counterstrat a team that has a looser playstyle? It’s not as easy as a stricter team, because there are so many situations where you can be surprised since you never know what to expect. Just because you found two players in a spot does not mean that the most logical play is about to happen and that can make you lose advantages that you'd otherwise never lose.
Although definitely harder, it’s possible to counterstrat these type of teams. You just need to know what you’re doing.
“Against those type of teams, it's easier if you try to antistrat player by player. Let's say you find one or two players that like to play together. Understand what they try to do and antistrat them with some nade stacks, popflashes, and catch them unaware. Focus your efforts on players instead of the team as a whole.”
According to Xizt, it’s better to counter the individual players instead of the team as a whole. Of course this gets “easier” when you’re used to playing against the same teams over and over again, as you’re more keen to know your opponents and study their playstyle and strategies. But it’s also possible to do this in PUGs, since the players are not as unpredictable and can been read after a few rounds of doing very similar plays. The more you play, the better you’ll be at reading these players.
Can you practice the role?
Since IGL is a very mental role, how can you practice it? It’s not as straightforward as practicing aim, but it can be done. When asked about it, Xizt answered:
“Watching POV demos of other IGL can be very good to try and understand what they're seeing, how they rotate, and what they're calling. You can also check demos with TeamSpeak communications in YouTube, from very big tournaments back in 2015-2016. Having a big knowledge of the game is really important. Watch a lot of games, play a lot.”
As expected, being a better IGL revolves much around studying the game and not as much as playing it. While playing the game is really important as well, most of the work is done behind-the-scenes. That’s why it is not a role for everyone and only a very selective group of players eventually become great at it.
Thank you for reading this article and hopefully you’ll be able to take something from it that will help you improve your game. You can reach out to me for feedback or suggestion through my Twitter.