Vertigo is a new map in the competitive map pool of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which Valve added to active duty on March 28. The action takes place on top of a skyscraper which is under construction. There are two floors, the terrorists spawn downstairs, while the counter-terrorists spawn upstairs. The main action takes place at three chokepoints — the ramp next to the A site, the stairs leading to the B site, and at the mid elevator corridor and open area. While these three points are the main ways to get from one floor to another, there is another way — you can jump in the elevator shaft and come out next to A ramp.
Both sites are open, so there are opportunities for good grenade throws. It’s a really small, if a bit chaotic, map with a lot of ways to move from one area to another. Its size and layout allow players to make extremely quick rotations, which makes it different from other maps. For example, a player from mid can attack the B site from one side, kill an opponent, fall back, go through the hole between mid and B, join back up with his teammates and attack the site from another side together, all in under ten seconds.
The first time in that Vertigo was played in the competitive history of CS:GO Vertigo was on April 3, 2019 in a match between Nordavind and AGO. Map was picked by Nordavind and during the match it became clear that the Scandinavian players had practiced a lot on this map. They knew the rotations, threw good nades, and understood the value of certain positions. AGO, on the other hand, looked totally unprepared. Because the Polish players didn’t know map that well, they relied a lot on individual skill and risky peeks.
Fun fact — not a single player fell off the map in the first professional match on Vertigo.
At first glance, Vertigo appears to be a good map for a riskier playstyle. It might seem that in the kind of chaos that the map lends itself to, it’d be easy for a team with good aim to beat a more technical squad. But as the match played out, Nordavind demonstrated that good knowledge of utility on Vertigo is extremely important. Thanks to that, they managed to win the map without giving AGO much chance, 16:5. So, how did the first competitive match on Vertigo play out, and what conclusions can be drawn?
You must control mid
Mid control is a crucial element of any CT strategy on this map. First of all, having mid allows your team to make quick rotations and get into flanking scenarios to counter great timings of T pushes. The second thing it gives a team is that the players from that area can help a lot to stop attacks on sites, especially B. They can cut off paths with incendiaries and smokes, peek through a hole between mid and B, stop A rushes with wallbangs and grenades, and push and attack the Ts from behind. And, with good teamplay, that position becomes even more dangerous, because flashes from mid, combined with well-timed peeks from defenders can lead to disaster on sites for the T side.
Nordavind clearly understood the importance of mid. Most of the time, they started rounds with three players there to counter possible rushes and left just one player on each site. It looked like a really good split in general, considering how fast the CTs can rotate. You can move one player from mid to one of the sites, but not more than that. Playing with two players on each site and one mid, or three on one of the sites, one mid and one on the other site doesn’t look to be the way to go. But, it can still work if you are predicting that the Ts will rush one of the sites or just gambling in a situation with no money to spend on gear.
In almost every round, the Scandinavians threw incendiaries in the elevator corridor, used a lot of smokes to deter their opponents from pushing, and overall, gave this area a lot of their attention. And it was all worth it. Late rotations and lurks from mid in some rounds turned out to be absolutely devastating for the Ts. Wallbangs from connector were also really effective in stopping pushes on A, while grenades from mid and the constant threat of a player going through the hole helped the defenders on B.
AGO tried to fight for control there, but it was obvious that they were unprepared and were heavily dependent on their firepower and raw skill. For example, one of the main ways to hold mid is from behind the cement boxes in the corner. A player there can control the elevator area or quickly rotate to B through the hole. One simple Molotov through the hole in the ceiling in the elevator area forces that player to move. Even just one grenade can help a lot, and it’s not the only possible nade; there are others. Nordavind played on the mid boost box position a lot; Ts can clear that position with a Molotov, they can molly the gap between mid and B and cut off rotations. They can cut mid in half to make it easier to attack the sites from mid. There are a lot of opportunities for a good grenade setup, some of them right from spawn.
AGO started the match on the attacking side, and in the first half they tried to mainly play around the B site. It’s unclear why they choose that site. B is good for rushes because of how fast the Ts can get there, but if you don’t rush, it’s harder to take the site without using a lot of grenades, creating a wall of smokes to cut off mid, or taking mid control. The AGO players weren’t really doing that, so their attacking efforts fell short most of the time.
One of the ways to execute on B from a Seangares video. All three smokes can be thrown from spawn.
If the Ts rush the B site, they can reach it really fast, and destroy the defense with utility, especially if the CTs haven’t stacked mid. But if the Ts have great timings, it’s still dangerous to push B without utility. To get initial control of the area, the attackers must smoke off the front area of the site between the two boxes. It will force the defense to either fall back and lose control of the stairs or play on catwalk. If the Ts are prepared for that, they can predict this reaction, hold the angle from bottom floor and kill the player moving to catwalk. Sadly, even when AGO used that smoke, they didn’t try to eliminate the defender from below. On the other hand, the players from Nordavind used that trick multiple times.
That said, later in the round, the same front area smoke can be extremely dangerous for the Ts. It will force them to either push the smoke against players who have already rotated to B or go through catwalk to reach the site, and that creates a chokepoint that’s easy to control. One of the AGO players made that mistake in the 15th round and it led to a lost round. You really need to use your additional smokes if you know that the opposition has had time to react to your push.
On the left, you can see the smoke that forced the players to play on catwalk.
To counter fast B pushes, the CTs can try to use incendiaries on the stairs. But, in many cases, the Ts will get there faster if they’re really rushing. To counter that, the CTs should throw their incendiaries before they get to the site. If one player doesn’t enter the B through the door, but goes right and jumps the gap on catwalk instead, he will have time to jump-throw a nade and close off the stairs to the Ts. That might stall the rush and give the rest of the team enough time to move. Just be careful, if you don’t make the jump, you will fall and die.
This is what can happen on B when you throw an incendiary too late.
The A site looks like it’s much easier to take. It’s hard to control lower ramp as a CT — there are too many angles and you can’t cover all of them with one grenade like banana on Inferno. The position behind the cement boxes might look good; you can get there before the Ts are able to see you, and it’s a decent place to check angles and get some info. But, you don’t have an easy way out, so it’s a death trap when you’re up against a team with good ‘nade usage, especially if you don’t have a smoke. The CTs still can use it, but they shouldn’t expect it to work every time.
Nordavind came up with a cool idea on how to slow down attacks on A. They blocked the lower ramp with a Molotov and wallbanged the scaffolding from above. They did that same thing in many rounds, and Rubino even got a kill this way. Taking up a position on the stack of boxes allows you to easily shoot through the wooden wall while still being protected. That’s one of the reasons that AGO stopped going to A and focused more on the site B. It’s possible that they couldn’t figure out how to counter it efficiently.
There are still ways to defend A from deeper positions on the site. For example, a few times Nordavind positioned a player on the white box, hidden behind the huge steel beam (you can see this position in the wallbang clip). His teammates played more aggressively, and when the Ts were focused on them, he would peek out and kill the attackers. Also, be aware that the blue boxes in the middle of the site is a great place for a one-way smoke. It’s really hard to spot a player on top of these boxes when there is smoke down, and he has a much better view. Nordavind abused that a lot, so players need to be careful while throwing smokes there.
Great A defense from Nordavind
Still, in general, it’s quite easy to attack A for the Ts. On the other hand, if the CTs still have mid control, it’s easy for them to retake and diffuse the bomb. They can pressure the Ts to play on the higher ramp while attacking them from behind at the same time, and it’s not that hard to clear those positions together.
Because of that, Nordavind were willing to give up control of the site in some situations and retake A with quick rotations from mid and B. They boosted players onto the white crates, rotated through the elevator shaft, attacked the Ts from behind and performed coordinated pushes through smokes. So, if your team is attacking A, it’s useful to check behind yourselves sometimes, and possibly even leave one player to control the elevator drop position. That way, he might get a few easy kills on players who are trying to flank.
As the more prepared team, Nordavind chose the A site as their main point of attack in the second half. They made some attempts to enter B, but most of their aggression was around A and mid. The Scandinavians had some nice smokes prepared and their attacks on A were night and day compared to AGO’s. If you want to learn how to attack this site, their gameplay from this match is a great place to start.
For example, one of the main objectives for the Ts to be successful in attacking A is to nullify the main CT advantage on Vertigo- really quick rotations.The ideal way to do that would be to take control of mid, but that can be a challenging task. So they have to rely on smokes and Molotovs to cut off some paths. Nordavind had a few different ideas on how to execute onto A, but in every attack, they would molly or smoke the connector behind the wooden wall above ramp. There is an easy way to engulf that area in fire; you need to hit a certain steel beam with your grenade from a lower position and it will land in that connector.
Nordavind also threw some good smokes from the scaffolding on A ramp which helps a lot when attacking the site. You have to line up the edge of the platform and pillar on top of the building or part of the crane, and it will make rotations through CT spawn much harder. But you also can throw it from T spawn if you line it up with one of the railings.
In general, the open structure of the map helps to set up good smokes and even flashes. One player, left in spawn, can blind opponents in mid or at A or B. Then, he can buy new flashbangs, throw them and resupply once more for later use. It’s unclear if Valve will see that as a problem and address it or not.
Because of how one-sided the first half was, it was impossible to learn much about good plant positions. On A, the main position was behind the blue boxes, since the Ts were attacking from the ramp. But after more people learn the map, that position might become too dangerous. If there are opponents close to plant, they can wallbang those boxes and kill the player planting the bomb. Because of that, it might be safer to plant in the bottom-left corner of the site, so you’re protected from wallbangs coming from mid connector.
The B site saw even fewer success plants. Overall, the best place depends on which part of the map you can control. But, in theory, it looks like the best idea would be to plant for the stairs. That way, even if the CTs smoke off the player on stairs, he’ll still be able to shoot through it and stop the defuse, if he remembers the bomb’s position. If the Ts have mid control, they could plant in the corner of the site behind the blue boxes, so that a player can protect the bomb from the doors.
In the end, utility is king on Vertigo
The match between AGO and Nordavind demonstrated how important it is to have good ‘nade knowledge and coordination on Vertigo. The map is small, there are great ‘nades on every site, and you can’t break a good mid defense without utility. You can not only throw default smokes from spawn and clear positions with Molotovs, but also coordinate great flashes because of the open skybox.
So, to fully rely on shooting ability alone would be a huge mistake. To get good at this map, players have to learn the optimal ‘nades. It should give the players, who are willing to spend the time to learn them, a huge advantage against the opponents who didn’t bother to learn anything besides the basic throws. So, if you want to learn more, Seangares has a great video theorycrafting how this map should be played, and has shown off a few interesting ‘nade spots there
Another option to learn more about the default grenades on Vertigo is a video from Ukrainian analyst, petr1k. The video is in Russian, but it does have English subtitles.