Eastern point-of-view: The Inexplicable TyLoo

A one-of-a-kind brand of CS being pushed from a unique region

SEP 11, 2018

TyLoo defies replication. Their internal structure birthed from unique external factors make them an ugly duckling on Counter-Strike’s international stage. They have always represented the best of a region looming with potential, but have only recently started to manifest this into results in a consistent fashion.

They were one of three teams who ran the post-player break gauntlet of attending all three of ZOTAC Cup Masters 2018, Dreamhack Stockholm, and the FACEIT Major. At ZOTAC, they were bested by third-string Polish side, Kinguin in upset fashion. This loss though, would only serve as the grounding contrast for their map win over Astralis in Stockholm, qualification for the Legends stage at the major. It’s fitting that the map to take them into the validating world of ‘legends’ was a big over-time game against a lower tiered European side - something they’ve made a habit out of recently.

They take teams to the edge, and ride or die on a style that leaves most of their opponents perplexed. But just because most can’t articulate what make them tick, (and given their tri-language system they probably can’t either) doesn’t mean they haven’t remained rudimentary in this strange mould. TyLoo have been a team evolving for a long time, especially with Xccurate, and their win over the best team of all-time in Astralis and subsequent qualification the legends stage is worth pause. How has a team representing the Asian region made such big strides and how do we set about defining their game?

Cohesion through (or in spite of) division

TyLoo have long been in the public’s consciousness largely via the novelty of being Asia’s sole representative force. For most, they arrived on the international stage at DreamHack Malmo 2016, where they beat then champions of the MLG Columbus 2016 Major and soon-to-be best team in the world, Luminosity Gaming, in a Bo3. TyLoo were unranked at the time. This history-defining upset would be the platform which TyLoo used to justify their place in big competitions.

But they would never be able to match this high benchmark. While they dominated domestically, there was a failure of translation to international play. Their alleged superstar in the summer, then Fancy1, would post with ease 1.2+ ratings at home but would have his confident strafing punished by the watertight play of European sides.

While TyLoo’s story started, in the grand scheme of things, back in 2016, within the context of their upset over Astralis, it truly began with Xccurate joining at the start of 2018. Xccurate would join fellow Indonesian, and regional superstar BnTeT alongside the long-standing Chinese core of Mo, DD, and Somebody. Originally contracted as the IGL for TyLoo, Xccurate would give calling duties to BnTeT as time passed, to focus on his AWPing and operating as a secondary caller. BnTeT and Xccurate would bridge the gap with their Chinese teammates by calling in what he described as “a mix, [of] half Chinese and half English.” [1]

In-game, Xccurate’s addition, and the subsequent split between himself and BnTeT and the Chinese players would define TyLoo.

The last style-bender

Mo, and Somebody would become the entry-fraggers, with Mo being pushed off the AWP by Xccurate and forced to leverage his relentless aggression with rifles. DD rounded out the fragging core, supplementing key positions on CT-side and being able to trade in post-plants. The three Chinese players push together on T-side, Mo and Somebody out front, DD behind. They often will play in 1-2 set-ups together on CT-side and are the workhorses of TyLoo’s game.

In contrast, was BnTeT and Xccurate. Who, like a bourgeois ruling class, operate behind the fragging core, making decisions about the mid-round, closing out clutches, working off the pressure of the Chinese players and often finding impact in the moments that attract the most attention. Xccurate’s presence is crucial in this sense. He has a unique mindset for a primary AWPer, looking to blend his play with the off-kilter approach of his Chinese teammates rather than define himself apart from them. If somebody wants to push a smoke on CT-side, Xccurate is there aggressively looking for a trade. If DD is pressuring in the post-plant for space on T-side, Xccurate is far away delaying the clock and looking for the tight angle to close. He has a student mentality despite being a key piece of TyLoo’s game. TyLoo are not a side renowned for their ability in the mid to late-round when down men, in this sense, xccurate’s flexibility is key in helping prop up or equalise disadvantages. While he has certainly elevated himself beyond the title, in an interview at IEM Sydney 2018 he considered his play ‘supportive’.

“Now that BnTeT is the in-game leader and I'm the second in-game leader, I need to adapt to the playstyle, the tactic, anything. I'm still be adapting, I didn't find my comfortable position yet. Maybe for now, I'll be a more of a support AWPer, I'll flash for my teammates and stuff like that.”

BnTeT, similarly to Xccurate, is a round-closing glue that helps hold the disparate strands of TyLoo together. In the best sense of the comparison, he is a Coldzera-style player. Considered the best player in Asia for most of 2017 - finishing the year with a 1.3+ rating, BnTeT, quite simply, wins you games of Counter-Strike. He primary calls in two languages, clutches, can secondary AWP and is a monster on the CT-side. He can work with any player on the team, but generally, by virtue of roles, Xccurate, in closing 2vX scenarios effectively. His calling style enables the independent arm of the Chinese core, especially somebody, to do what they do best; create chaos. From the space this generally looser style affords, his talent layered on Xccurates generally allow them to impressively win the round.

TyLoo’s game doesn’t make sense up until it does, in many ways. This is because of BnTeT’s and Xccurate’s (and in many ways, DD’s) ability to pull together the small advantages their fractured style creates in clutch scenarios. They’re momentum based early, being able to explode onto sites and overwhelm off an entry if the Chinese players find their duels, but strangely calm and clinical late if the Indonesian’s are required to close.

Evolution through environmental pressure

This strange dynamic has evolved steadily since Xccurate’s addition to the side. TyLoo have, especially since IEM Sydney 2018, been layering a clear aptitude for the metagame into their own.

They’re able to go toe-to-toe with many of the world’s top ten teams on maps like Mirage and Inferno, while also finding success on off-picks like Overpass and Cache. While this sometimes comes at the cost of not playing to their looser strengths, it often comes in the form of slower defaults and late-round explosions. This was especially apparent in their IEM Shanghai run, where we started to see their layered gameplay on Inferno and Overpass shine through.

Against Astralis on Mirage or any team at the major on Inferno, it was not a heightened awareness of executes or strategies that pushed them over the line. TyLoo made the game scrappy, found waves of individual form and rode them on a system constantly trying to cobble together different nationalities, languages, unique styles and playing philosophies. No other team in the world can boast such an approach, for better or for worse.

TyLoo, even though they mightn’t be a staple top ten team showed at DreamHack Stockholm and the FACEIT Major what they’ve always represented since Malmo 2016. In spite of all the intrinsic issues in their game, their debilitating circumstances and numerous contextual hurdles to launch over, they still beat the best team in the world. They are a shining example of a ‘no excuse’ approach to playing and one that regional teams around the world should look up to, especially after this result.

Photo Credit: DreamHack