CS:GO Beginner’s Guide
CS:GO is one of those ‘a minute to learn, a lifetime to master’ kind of games. That’s what makes it so appealing to hundreds of thousands of gamers every day, but it’s also what can make it quite frustrating for newer players. There are thousands of guides for this game out there, and if you want to you can spend an entire day reading up about something as ‘simple’ as peeking out of B tunnels on Dust 2 but this CS:GO beginner’s guide isn’t that.
This guide is aimed at those people who know the basic theory of the game and its mechanics but want to improve their gameplay. This guide contains a whole bunch of tips that can and will help you become a better player and get out of those lower ranks. Of course CS:GO is a very deep game, and some of the advice offered here is a bit general, but I’m not trying to go deep on the best off angles and expand on every possible way a round can play out: this is guide meant to be a framework for beginner/intermediate players to build upon until they start developing their own playing style and diving deeper into the game. I’ve divided the guide up into portions, so you can just skip parts that you feel don’t apply to you.
Note: I’ll be linking to a bunch of Workshop maps in this guide. To use those, simply click ‘subscribe’ on the map page, then launch your game, press ‘play’ and then select ‘workshop maps’ in the upper left. Special shoutout to Yprac; they’ve got some of the best and most user-friendly training maps out there, so do check them out!
I’ll also be assuming you’ve already got a good gaming mouse, headset or headphones, and so on. If not you can check our gear guide or individual guides for more info on the topic.
GET YOUR SETTINGS RIGHT
CS:GO is a game with a ton of customization options. The default options aren’t always the best for competitive play though, so you’ll want to make sure your game is running and looking optimally for competitive performance.
HOW TO DO IT
You can check out our settings guide here.
Tip: even if you don’t want to be bothered by all this and just want to get to playing, make sure to turn off automatic weapon pickup in the game’s settings. You really don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a firefight picking up some random gun lying around.
LEARN HOW TO STAND STILL WHILE SHOOTING AND HOW TO COUNTER RECOIL
First off: you need to stand still while shooting. Doing the old ‘spray and pray’ while running is a recipe for disaster in this game. Most new players know this but have a hard time actually implementing it in their game.
Secondly: every weapon in this game has its own recoil pattern, so unless you’re some kind of one tap monster (odds are you aren’t if you’re new to this game) you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the spray patterns for your favorite guns. You don’t have to know the recoil pattern for every gun by heart but bullets start flying off very quickly in this game so it’s a good idea to get to grip with at least the first ⅔ of the bullets flying out of your most used guns.
HOW TO DO IT
I recommend this amazing recoil training map by Mr. Ulletical to learn how to counter the recoil patterns of your favorite guns. Once you’ve done that you can hop into a deathmatch server (either a Valve one or by finding one in the server browser) to test your new skills in the field. Deathmatch is also an ideal environment to get rid of that annoying ‘shooting and moving’ habit.
You’ll also want to employ a technique called ‘counter-strafing’ (explained in this video). Say you’re strafing right by holding D and you encounter an enemy. You could let go of D and wait for the game to bring you to a stop, but it’s faster to let go of D and very rapidly tap A. This’ll get you to stop faster, and this fraction of a second can definitely win you gunfights.
Tip: don’t get discouraged if you get killed often in Deathmatch. People of all ranks play these modes (this goes for both Valve and community DM servers) so you can’t reasonably expect to top the scoreboard against seasoned players. Don’t try to win, just use it as a learning experience.
LEARN MAP CALLOUTS AND HOW TO COMMUNICATE
CS:GO relies heavily on teamwork and map knowledge. Even on the lowest ranks people will know (most) main callouts, and while it’s not necessary to be able to name every inch of the map (you’re here to play after all, not to study) it is important to know the main calls and what a map looks like.
You’ll also find that most people do use their mic in this game. It’s important that you use your own mic to call out enemy positions and so on, so hop don’t be afraid to hop on voice. While you’re at it it’s vital to communicate properly. Communication is a skill on its own so I won’t go too deep, but I will outline two useful tips to avoid common mistakes that newer/inexperienced players make.
- Call correctly. If you’re holding B site and you hear someone moving in tunnels you should just call ‘at least one B’ or ‘noise on B’. If you start panicking and call ‘ALL B’ or ‘IT’S B’ your teammates will start rotating away from their spots, which can lead to easy frags for the enemy team, or even free bomb plants. Make sure your calls are correct.
- Learn when to be quiet. Example: when your teammate is left in a 1vX (i.e. he’s trying to clutch) it’s not helpful to be a micromanaging backseat gamer. Just call what you’re sure of (e.g. ‘last one is CT’ or ‘last one is 10 HP’) and refrain from making unnecessary comments (e.g. ‘dude you should aim to the left of that box instead of to the right’). Sound is extremely important in this game, and you don’t want to cause your teammate to miss that crucial footstep.
HOW TO DO IT
If you’re completely unfamiliar with a map I highly suggest loading it up in the game yourself without bots or anything and taking a quick stroll through to familiarize yourself with the layout. You can learn the entire map by doing this with a picture of the callouts (you can easily Google this for every map) but that’s not a lot of fun.
I think it’s much more fun to watch a (VOD of) a pro match or streamer on the map with the callout sheet in your vicinity. You’ll pick up the callouts from the casters or streamer (and by identifying areas with the callout pic yourself) and you get to watch how the pros play, which is incredibly valuable in becoming a better player.
Tip: even if you’re frustrated it’s best to not let your teammates hear it, especially if you’re playing with randoms. Comebacks are always possible in this game, but being a negative Nancy in voice can quickly cause the entire team to feel deflated or frustrated. It’s impossible to never tilt but always try to avoid letting your teammates know you’re about to punch a hole in the wall.
STOP CARING ABOUT YOUR KILL/DEATH RATIO
Of course it’s not ideal if you’re the stooge who always gets picked first, and seeing that James Bond scoreline (0 kills, 0 assists, 7 deaths; 007) is never fun but way too many people get too hung up on their KDR (kill / death ratio) to the point where it actively damages the team.
I’m not saying that you have to rush in blindly without any support wherever you want (and on CT side you should generally play more conservatively) but players who provide opportunities by making room for their team (by using grenades and making opening kills) are infinitely more valuable than that one guy sitting in spawn with an AWP for the whole round waiting for some easy rotate kills.
CS:GO is a team game. The stats you see on the scoreboard by default don’t tell the whole story. Don’t be afraid to be the first guy into a site.
HOW TO DO IT
Realize that your KDR doesn’t tell the whole story at all. HLTV, the world’s largest CS:GO website, even has an entire rating system to rate pro players’ performance based on a number of factors that’s far greater than just kills and deaths. You can also read the first parts of this article (or read it entirely since it’s a good one) where Stuchiu talks about how players can have an impact beyond getting kills.
LEARN (COMMON) GRENADES
Utility is a huge part of CS:GO. If you watch high level players you’ll see that they almost never push a site without being backed up by grenades. Technically you can get to high ranks by just being a frag monster, but everyone appreciates a teammate who knows some common smokes and all of that. Learning a couple of cool pop flashes (this means a flash that detonates right after it gets into the enemy’s view so that they can’t avoid it fully) can net you those sweet multi kills too, for example.
HOW TO DO IT
Learning cool new grenade spots is a hobby in and of itself for some players, so you can just search on Google and you’ll find plenty of videos and pictures with lineups. My favorite way of learning grenades is by using the Steam Workshop, though. Just search for ‘map grenade training’ and you’ll no doubt find plenty of options.
Dolnma makes some great grenade training maps, for example. Check out his Mirage training map here.
GET YOUR AIM (AND SENSITIVITY) ON POINT
Precise aim matters a lot in CS:GO. There’s no bullet magnetism or anything like that, so being off by a pixel or two can result in a missed shot. For that reason it’s important to make sure your sensitivity allows you to aim precisely. This isn’t a twitch shooter so having a high eDPI (effective DPI) isn’t really beneficial. Most pro gamers have an eDPI that’s surprisingly low when compared to what most ‘casual’ gamers use, and CS:GO pros are on the lower end of that scale so you should definitely consider lowering your overall sensitivity if you’re having trouble hitting your shots.
HOW TO DO IT
If you’re completely new to FPS games you’ll want to make sure to get the basics right first. This aim map by _kataS is a classic to train your basic aim, for example.
Aside from that you can take a look at the average eDPI of professional CS:GO players in our guide if you want a starting point for your own eDPI. I’ll also link this video by corehaven which I think has an interesting approach to the topic, It’s a bit complicated and in-depth, but if you’re starting off from zero it might be of use to you.
WARM UP / MAKE SURE YOU’RE READY FOR COMPETITIVE
Some people will disagree, but I do recommend warming up a bit before heading into a competitive match, definitely if you haven’t been playing for a couple of days. Some people like to create elaborate warmup routines that can take over an hour, but depending on your own experience and preferences you might be fine with just ten minutes of deathmatch or shooting at bots just to get that muscle memory going and the blood flowing.
Sure, you’ll get warmed up when playing competitive as well, but you might lose a couple of rounds (or even matches) in the process of getting that rusty aim and movement up to par and the official warmup time in Valve’s competitive matches is usually nothing more than an AWP deathmatch or spawncamp festival, so that’s not useful for this purpose.
HOW TO DO IT
There are tons of maps and ways to warm up. One of my personal favorites is Aim Botz by Mr. uLLeticaL combined with some Free For All deathmatch but you can just do whatever works for you.
DON’T ROTATE/PUSH TOO QUICKLY AS CT
Another really common mistake that lower level players make is that they rotate far too quickly on CT side. If everyone’s still alive and you’re holding B site you don’t have to rush towards A the moment a teammate calls ‘I hear someone A’ for example. Doing so leaves your buddy on B alone, and if that enemy on A was just making noise as a distraction you could have just left your teammate on B in a 1v4 situation. In the lowest ranks it’s not even uncommon for the terrorists to walk into a completely empty bombsite even though everyone’s still alive, just because one player throwing a smoke and a flash caused the entire CT team to rotate.
A similar mistake is pushing too often/early as CT. This is a bit more of a grey area since there’s certainly merit to pushing as a Counter-Terrorist in certain situations (and map control is important) but you really don’t want to be that guy who constantly dies first because you rush into the loving embrace of five enemies waiting for you on the other side of long doors.
HOW TO DO IT
This is really a matter of experience, but you can always watch pro matches or high level streamers (note how often this tip comes up) to see how they approach the topic. Just know that, as a CT, you have the advantage (if everyone on your team is still alive) since the enemies can only really come from one or two different spots. Don’t squander that advantage by pushing into the unknown by yourself every round.
LEARN HOW TO PLAY POST PLANT POSITIONS
Once the bomb gets planted the game turns into an almost completely different one. Counter-Terrorists first have to consider if they even want to go for the retake (there’s absolutely no use trying to retake B on Dust 2 on your own against 4 Terrorists, for example) and then attempt to do said retake under immense pressure. These situations can make for the most exciting moments in the game, but they can be extremely stressful for inexperienced players, so here are a few general tips.
- Mind the bomb plant. Generally, you should be aware of where your team planted the bomb and act accordingly. If you somehow end up in a 1v1 on Dust 2 with the bomb planted for short you shouldn’t run to pit since that means that a CT can defuse the bomb before you even have the time to get to the site.
- Don’t overpeek. This is by far one of the most common mistakes in the lower ranks. If you’re in a 3v1 with the bomb planted there’s absolutely no need to go for a wide peek or some sort of risky push to try and get that final kill, unless you know where the enemy is and you properly coordinate it with your team. You can obviously jiggle peek for info or whatever, but just know that if you’ve got the numbers advantage the CTs have to clear every angle while being under a lot of time pressure, and being outnumbered. The odds are completely against them. It’s impossible to win one 1v3 fight, but it’s perfectly doable to win three 1v1 fights, so don’t make it easy on the enemy by creating those 1v1s in post plant situations.
- Use utility. Even if you’re got the numerical advantage it’s a good idea to smoke off as many angles of approach as possible, for example. That’s 18 seconds of time wasted for the retaking CTs, or they’d have to push through the smoke and put themselves at a severe disadvantage. One grenade can win the round. A common example of that is throwing a molotov on the bomb with only a couple of seconds left on the timer. The CT can’t defuse that bomb without dying to the fire, and that’s a round won.
- Don’t be a loser, buy a defuser. This isn’t really a post plant tip, but too many players simply forget to buy a kit even if they have stacks of cash.
- Go in together. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when attempting a retake is going in one by one. Wait until all of your teammates are ready to push the site and then go in together. This greatly increases your odds of winning the round.
- Use utility. You’re now essentially attacking the site, so do everything you can to secure it as fast as possible. This includes throwing incendiaries on common spots and flashing yourself or your teammates into the site.
- Smoke defuses are extremely powerful. When you’re in a 1v1 with seconds to spare and no idea where the enemy is you can always try to throw a smoke grenade on the bomb and start defusing. If you’ve got a kit you’ll have that bomb defused in five seconds, during which the T will have to come out of his hiding spot, potentially even move into the right position, and then basically start spraying and praying. This can be difficult even for seasoned pros, so the odds of a low ranked player not hitting that spray can be quite high.
Tip: most pros and competitive players have all of the ingame music turned off completely since it offers no advantage (and can even cause distractions) but it’s handy to have the ten second warning music active (at a lower volume, if need be) so you know whether or not you can stick that defuse without a kit.
HOW TO DO IT
You can train post plant situations by searching for retake servers in the custom game browser. These are servers where the round starts with the bomb down, pitting CTs against Ts (with varying amounts of utility or teammates alive) in quick retake situations, allowing you to practice these situations.
DON’T BE TOO PREDICTABLE
This seems super simple and logical, and yet many newer players struggle with this concept. If you’re holding A on Cache and you’re always sitting in the exact same spot behind quad then you’re going to get prefired after a couple of rounds, leading newer players to shout ‘how do they even know I’m there?‘ Well, it’s because you’ve been sitting there for the past 15 minutes. Change up your spot every once in a while, try to get a teammate to flash you into A main, maybe even use an off angle every once in a while; change it up and be unpredictable.
The same goes for terrorists; if the basic strat of your team is to rush B every round then you’ll be greeted by a barrage of grenades and a stacked bomb site after a while, so try not to be an open book when it comes to your strats.
HOW TO DO IT
This is really a matter of experience and finding out what spots you like to play. The most glaring issues (sitting in the same spot every round or only using one tactic) can be solved by just, you know, not doing them.
STAYING ALIVE AS CT IS KEY
I can already hear the ‘duhs’ ringing out in unison, but newer players often don’t realize that a trade favors the terrorists. If your bombsite is under attack you should (ideally) get a pick, fall back to cover, and wait for support from your team. Even if you can’t get a pick it’s better to stay alive for as long as possible; use utility to slow them down until reinforcements arrive. How to play CT side is something that differs from team to team, and entire books can be written about just this aspect but I’m just adding it because a lot of inexperienced players feel like they need to meet the rushing terrorists head on once a site gets pushed, which leads to them being erased by the combined firepower of 4 AK-47 assault rifles.
In the same category: corners are your friend. A lot of lower skilled players very often get caught out in the open when they really shouldn’t. If you’re holding a site you should always be near a corner or have some other way to fall back so that you can stay alive. Standing right out in the open is the shortest way to a certain death, leaving your teammate with one less friendly. So use corners and make sure to be mobile, popping in and out of cover every so often so that you’re not standing there like a training dummy waiting to be one tapped.
HOW TO DO IT
Just realize that your life as a CT is more valuable than the life of a T. If they attack your site with 5 people and you’re there defending with 2 then a trade still leaves them with a numerical advantage, and now there’s no way to set up a crossfire or throw supporting nades. If you can stay alive and stall out the attack long enough for reinforcements to arrive (one molly can do that) you’ve been infinitely more valuable than when you’ve just rushed out and made a trade. Yet another reason why frag counts don’t tell the whole story in CS:GO.
MIND YOUR TEAM’S ECONOMY
CS:GO’s economic system is yet another aspect of the game that has hundreds of articles written about it, but rather than going too deep into it I’ll just keep it brief: make sure to coordinate your buys. You’ve got plenty of time to buy at the beginning of a round, so always check how the team’s economy is looking. This happens at all ranks, too; if I got a dollar for every time a team calls an eco only to have one player sheepishly say ‘oops I already bought‘ I would have enough money to buy myself a really nice AWP Dragon Lore.
In short: CS:GO is a team game. You could have enough money for a full (or perhaps a Famas or Galil) buy but that doesn’t mean that the situation is the same for the rest of your team. If you’re that guy (or gal) who buys up when the rest of the team is calling for an eco and you die and lose the round you’re now the only person who can’t buy while the others can. Take that extra second to coordinate your buys.
Speaking of economy: don’t be afraid to do an eco. I’ve seen so many teams throw away round after round because they constantly forcebuy and lose against superior firepower and utility, while one eco round could’ve ensured a lot more full buy rounds. Sure, there are times where you want to force, but things can quickly spiral out of control if you’re constantly running around with Deagles and SMGs versus fully equipped enemies.
HOW TO DO IT
Just take that extra second to analyse the situation. Realize that your money isn’t the same as your teammates’ money.
BE AWARE OF WHO HAS THE BOMB AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO CARRY IT
Common lower level scenario: a bombsite gets cleared out, everyone’s holding an angle, the other approach is smoked off, and then that ‘the bomb has been planted‘ message never comes because some guy decided to ‘watch the flanks’ while holding the bomb and got killed, causing said bomb to be surrounded by all of the remaining Counter-Terrorists. Be aware of who has the bomb and, most importantly, be aware of when you’ve got it yourself and act accordingly. You don’t need to play like a scared child if you’re the carrier (seriously, some people act as if they’re carrying a real life bomb whenever it gets thrown to them) but don’t run off somewhere by yourself when you’ve got it. If you get killed you’ve just made the round a lot more difficult for your team.
HOW TO DO IT
Take note of whether you’ve got the bomb or not at the start of the round. It’s also a good idea to enable ‘always show inventory’ in the settings. That way you can always see when you have the bomb, and you can easily check how many grenades you still have left.
REALIZE THAT COMEBACKS ARE ALWAYS POSSIBLE
This isn’t really a gameplay tip, but far too many people (at all ranks) give up way too easily. Sure, it might be 0-5 right now but if you string together two rounds your enemy might be on an eco and then you’re almost level already. Big comebacks happen all the time at every level, so don’t do yourself (and your team) a disservice by sighing and moaning as if the game has already been played just because you lost the opening rounds.
This works the other way around too; don’t get cocky. I’ve seen people spend all their money on extra guns that they’ll just keep in spawn if they’re up by a decent margin, but if the enemy team suddenly strings together a couple of rounds and you’re on an eco you will miss that 8k that you threw away as if it were fireworks. A match is never over until the ‘victory’ ‘defeat’ or ‘tie’ screen comes up, so act accordingly.
HOW TO DO IT
Realize that comebacks are always possible, and streaks of rounds are a common sight in CS:GO. Pretty much no map is balanced 50/50 either so you might be coming up against a team that’s good at playing CT on a CT sided map causing you to be far behind at the break only for things to turn around spectacularly when both teams have switched sides. You can always Google ‘biggest CS:GO comebacks’ for some inspiration.