Intel Extreme Masters Sydney 2023: Why SMGs Are Taking Over ‘Counter-Strike 2’

The Intel Extreme Masters Sydney 2023 (IEM Sydney) has concluded in the land Down Under, with FaZe Clan making history and taking home Counter-Strike 2 (CS2)’s first-ever major trophy, along with US$100,000 in prize money.

IEM Sydney Counter-Strike 2 SMGs

Pipped as one of the teams we were keeping an eye on, FaZe overcame an early elimination by beating favourites Team Vitality in the lower bracket. Their momentum grew with each match, featuring a historic 13-0 win in the quarterfinals against ENCE. It culminated in a nail-biting final, where they beat underdogs Complexity 2-1 in a double-overtime rubber match. They were carried by a stellar performance by Robin “ropz” Kool, who was also named the tournament’s MVP.

Aside from FaZe’s epic return to form, surprising upsets, and an electric 9,000-capacity crowd cheering the teams on in Sydney, one particular gun stole the entire show – the P90.

The submachine gun (SMG) has seen extensive use throughout the tournament, with many pros opting for a run-and-gun tactic to outwit and baffle their opponents. This has resulted in some of the most aggressive gameplay we’ve seen in competitive Counter-Strike play so far.

It comes hand-in-hand with a myriad of factors. In a video interviewing teams just before IEM Sydney, BetBoom Team said that they now have a dedicated P90 player rather than an Arctic Warfare Police (AWP) specialist, as the new game made it nearly impossible to hold angles, the team was going to barge their way into bombsites and wide-peek all their enemies. Whether it was said as a joke or not, BetBoom, the 29th-ranked team in the world at the time, sprayed and prayed their way to the quarterfinals of IEM Sydney, a result no one saw coming.

IEM Sydney Counter-Strike 2 SMGs (2)

Is this just all a fad? The SMG hype will die down as CS2 grows and more pros figure out the game, but we think it’ll continue seeing more love at future main events and on the server, due to a myriad of factors.

Here’s why.

1) Smokes are more interactive and responsive

You can now spray into smokes to see through them.

Utility has seen extensive reworking in CS2, with the biggest changes being in how smoke grenades work. Smokes now grow to fill spaces in the map, and all players will now see the same effects of the smoke on their respective screens. No more one-way smokes. More significantly, the plumes of smoke can now be carved through by shooting at them, creating tunnels of vision for players, and the smoke can be entirely dissipated with a high-explosive grenade.

As such, IEM Sydney saw plenty of teams get nifty and more cautious around smokes, allowing many players to close the distances between them and their opponents, entering the SMGs’ effective ranges and facilitating more close-quarter combat.

2) Inconsistent spray patterns and gunplay

Mastering spray patterns has always been a big part of the Counter-Strike series, making the difference between a deftly-placed headshot, and an embarrassing whiff.

In CS2, spraying is still very inconsistent, with spray patterns being more erratic and unpredictable compared to previous iterations. This has resulted in confirmed kills being less likely, even when holding an angle. It has also led to spectacular plays, especially when G2 Esports’ Nikola “NiKo” Kovač 360- no-scoped his opponent, after what seemed like an awful spray.

With peeker’s advantage still being a thing, where players have complained about dying even before seeing their enemies on screen, going guns blazing – combined with difficult-to-manage spray patterns of traditional heavyweights like the AK47 and M4A1-S – SMGs are the way forward (both literally and figuratively).

3) Shortened match format in CS2

Matches have now been shortened to a maximum of 24 rounds per match, instead of the usual 30. Besides the main result being shorter matches, it makes economy in the game more important than ever. There are now fewer rounds for players to rack up kills and afford better guns during matches, with guns still priced similarly between CS2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

This, combined with the additional cash you get for killing an enemy with an SMG ($600 vs the $300 you get for killing someone with a rifle), it is now even more viable to pick up a light weapon during force-buy or eco rounds, to better your chances at getting a bigger-ticket weapon like the AWP before switching sides.

It is now harder to control popular rifles like the M4A1-S, and AK47.

With the ongoing Roobet Cup, we’ll see if the SMGs reign supreme or if their popularity starts dying down in the pro scene. However, beneath the professional level, we think that the SMG will be very much alive, and stay relevant for months to come (unless Valve fixes movement and peeker’s advantage, and nerfs SMGs like crazy).