The Change Towards Aggression in the AWPing Meta

Analyzing the value of proactivity as an AWPer

DEC 14, 2017

Much of the talk surrounding AWPers revolves around questions of their quality of play, yet we spend too little time discussing the characteristics determine the success these players have. Mostly, we talk about mechanical skill. But times have changed, and an AWPer’s aim is no longer sufficient to make him a valuable AWPer. Over the past two years, there has been a change in the meta. Proactivity has become a primary variable in an AWPer’s success.

I take proactivity to mean an AWPer’s ability to pressure his opponent in various ways: the position at which he holds an angle as well as the pushes he makes. Much of this can be called aggression, but leaving it at that omits an essential portion of the concept. A proactive AWPer needs more than just aggression: he needs versatility. A good opponent can adapt to a single new variable: a team can adapt to an AWPer in Apps or a mid-push on eco rounds. But the presence of an AWPer like FalleN can overload the opponent with variables. The opposing side has no idea when and where he’s going to push; they can’t feel safe around smokes, lest the Brazilian leaps out of one. A dynamic AWPer carries an air of omnipresence that imposes respect and timidity onto their opponents.

Such a presence can be felt in different ways. One of the wonderful features of device’s AWP play is that he flows seamlessly from one position to another. He can’t be everywhere, of course, but device’s mobility forces the enemy to consider that he could be anywhere. Other players impose respect in different ways. S1mple may go for a crazy push into A Main on Cache; kennyS may get a triple from re-peeking Outside three times over on Nuke. But all these styles share in their unpredictability, and all the boons of this pace come along with it. Pushing the pace will always force your opponent to react to your actions. For example, a team may have to alter its default because it cannot deal with an AWP. Your execute may falter because of the aggressive stance defending a site. You may get caught off guard by a lightning-quick re-peek from KennyS. On T side Overpass, you may be forced to post an AWP of your own watching Party, lest you give up an early frag to a bloodthirsty draken. These AWP plays get you sweating, they keep you on your toes, and they impose respect. Unpredictable plays slow your game down; they might even make you fidgety. You may use more early-round utility for fear of getting caught with your pants down. It can single-handedly ruin your execute, or your retake. And the AWPer doesn’t even need to be there: he only needs to implant the idea in your brain that he could be past this next corner, or that one, or the one after that.

There are clear advantages to dynamic AWPers, but theoretical arguments should be supported by statistics whenever possible. Let us then examine the most successful AWPers in the world, whose statistics are divided into CT and T sides respectively.

This data is filtered: 2017, Gun rounds in which the player is using the AWP, Tier 1 LANs.

Matches Rounds rW% +/- ADR Net Dmg
draken CT 57 277 0.5704 84 80.4765 17.9242
kennyS CT 95 520 0.5712 184 82.6865 17.2346
GuardiaN CT 78 384 0.5703 132 83.3646 16.8099
device CT 88 435 0.6299 148 79.7057 16.1724
FalleN CT 119 587 0.5571 153 79.6951 13.6678
mou CT 64 345 0.5101 105 82.5043 13.1826
jdm^v^ CT 61 343 0.5219 78 78.0525 12.8076
cajunb CT 63 274 0.5657 64 70.5949 12.6752
Skadoodle CT 73 333 0.5285 58 70.1772 4.3754
s1mple CT 36 121 0.4545 23 77.5041 3.8678
s1mple T 30 93 0.4194 27 89.7634 15.1398
dev1ce T 81 347 0.5187 60 80.6772 5.5504
FalleN T 108 408 0.5074 47 75.8824 1.0294
Skadoodle T 69 283 0.4735 23 70.3746 -1.636
GuardiaN T 72 339 0.4956 28 70.4867 -5.0678
kennyS T 97 401 0.5212 25 66.5112 -5.2269
cajunb T 66 265 0.5019 23 65.3358 -5.7811
mou T 62 288 0.4549 3 68.7118 -9.066
jdm^v^ T 58 282 0.4823 -3 60.734 -11.7872
draken T 56 235 0.5021 -7 60.0468 -15.6681

Data from Michael Luxion,

The statistical pattern is difficult to find in T side AWPing. The rW% (round win %) suggests that aggressive AWPers are much less pivotal on the T side. Specifically, it would seem that most structured T-sides make little use of aggressive CT AWPing: NiP, North, and jdm are obvious examples. That is not to say that a remarkable AWPer can be effective in such a system, as dev1ce’s placing in this stat sheet reminds us. On the T side, a mobile AWPer can add another weapon to your arsenal, but he isn’t as crucial as he is on CT side.

This is in part because Terrorists are the offensive side. The pressure to aggress is already on their shoulders; it’s their job to push the tempo. By aggressing, you are walking into defending (and expecting) CT players, making it much harder to poke holes in their defense with an AWP. Flashbangs, smokes, and molotovs are much more successful at breaching their defense than a regular AWPer.

Yet there is a potential use for dynamic AWPing on the T side. They may make use of it in different ways, players like dev1ce and s1mple share the ability to gauge their enemy’s vulnerability and exploit it. Poking holes in the CT defense may be difficult, but it is nevertheless valuable.

Moving onto CT side, we can see that dynamic AWPers are very effective. They have a high ADR, and most of them have a high damage delta (damage given minus damage taken) as well. Meanwhile, passive CT AWPers like skadoodle and cajunb have a dramatically lower ADR (predictably), but also a much lower damage delta. They also seem to have a generally lower rW%, though the small sample size of AWPers could lead this to be merely noise. Nevertheless, it certainly seems like being proactive is an essential feature of an effective CT AWPer.

The problem child of dynamic AWPers, as far as the CT side is concerned, is s1mple, who sports a surprisingly low damage delta of 3.8. It ought to be noted, however, that he still sports an upper-middle ADR. There are two possible reasons for this. First, s1mple is too proactive, and he’s punished far more for his aggressive plays. Second, s1mple’s team has been terrible on CT side (he has a 45.4 rW%). Such a bad CT side could lead him to take greater risks, considering his importance to his team as a fragger. Moreover, Na’vi’s level of play this year suggests the amount of support he receives in his AWPing may be limited compared to someone like dev1ce.

Otherwise, the data suggests that dynamic AWPers are considerably more successful than their passive counterparts on the CT side. This makes sense on an abstract level as well. The CTs, by nature, are defending. The movement of the round flows toward them. But by pressing forward, the Terrorists are taking risks. They are risking a player being there, and there, and maybe there. And there aren’t enough players nor grenades to snuff everyone out before you push forward. The CTs can thus take the wind out of their opponents by countering their punch with a body blow, or in this case a bullet in the chest.

Meanwhile, passive CT players struggle to make an impact on CT side. Cajunb and Skadoodle may well be the most static AWPers in Tier 1. Their impact is severely diminished by their reluctance to take risks to find opening picks. In the absence of that impact, they become retake players, as it’s rare they’ll surprise the enemy and outwit their utility. And while a player like skadoodle is skilled in late-round situations, both his ADR and his damage delta suggest that such a narrow point of success does not make up for his absence of impact in the early part of the round.

The change in the meta is clear. It’s not 2015 anymore. You can’t stand like a turret and expect someone to dry-peek you. As the game has developed, teams have become too diligent, too good at flushing people out of anticipated positions. Standing still, watching the same angle every round simply won’t do. You’ll rarely win an AWP duel sitting in Window on Mirage; you’re much more likely to get shrouded in smoke. You only need to post up at Car in Banana once or twice before a molotov is thrown at your feet. Static AWPing doesn’t work against elite teams. Instead, you now need to take a risk to find a reward. To find a pick, you’ll need to push mid with a teammate. On A site on Train, you may need to stand at a wider angle than the enemy expects. Being both crafty and aggressive is now necessary to be a successful CT AWPer. You need to surprise your opponent, and that requires you to up the tempo and become a proactive AWPer.

Photo Credit: Daniel Ránki