The Counter Strike meta is a constantly evolving landscape, sometimes gently prodded by Valve doing their best to prove the virtues of intelligent design, sometimes wiped out in a mass extinction event. 2017 has been no exception with sudden and gradual changes alike.
Starting this review I’ll look at one of the latter, the slow death of the M4A1-S rifle. Whether to pick the M4A4 or M4A1 used to be a favourite forum debate, but at the top level at least the debate is largely over.
Who killed the M4A1-s?
If we look at the rate at which CTs equip the two weapons as 2017 progressed
The two weapons had very similar popularity at the first major but the use of the M4A1 has collapsed since. The M4A4 is now 8 times more likely to be equipped, but the relatively slow decline in popularity isn’t indicative of an obvious significant competitive disadvantage.
If we look at a measure of effectiveness, the kill rates per times equipped, the M4A4 is not obviously better than it’s silenced counterpart.
This illustrates the percentage of times that either rifle gets a kill when it’s equipped by it’s user. The numbers for the M4A1 become more unstable towards the end because the sample sizes are getting so small but for the most part they track very closely. Even as it drops in popularity there doesn’t seem to be an obvious fall off in effectiveness.
Maybe ADR shows us something
Nope, it’s the same story. There’s no discernible objective performance difference between the two guns. So why the big change in usage? The M4A4 is famously better for spraying with it’s larger magazine and allows bullets to be wasted by pre-firing or attempting wallbangs and those types of factors seem to be winning out.
The decline of the UMP (described below) may be a factor for the CT side as well, as of the two the M4A4 is the more smg-like with it’s spray capabilities and no concessions to stealth.
So who are the M4A1 loyalists still hanging onto their favourite rifle despite the change in general attitudes? It seems Gambit is a bastion of support, with Dosia and Hobbit still using it regularly and their former IGL Zeus (now with NaVi) also a regular buyer. Fnatic also has a loyalist in Lekr0 and ex-Fnatic f0rest now of NiP, and in NA AnJ and FugLy both still make regular use for NRG.
Outside of that there are a new individuals here and there but outside a small group usage drops off really fast.
Consider yourselves outed.
Valve’s mid 2017 meteor strike of a nerf to the Tec9 turned it into a dinosaur. Players were quick to adjust to a drop in effectiveness and the CZ emerged from the volcanic ashes and was widely adopted as the replacement.
By September it was effectively completely dead. The CZ goes from being a moderately used weapon that’s a small part of the CT arsenal into a dominant part of low end force buys everywhere.
Examining the weapon performance is slightly misleading however, and a good illustration of how tiny sample sizes can distort results.
In the 9th and 10th month figures you can see it’s kill rates dropping off but after that they suddenly pick up. From the equip rates we can see the sample sizes are so tiny that getting a single kill could easily make these figures absurdly high.
So are there any hardcore adherents of the Tec9 keeping the faith regardless? Not really, although Taco has been buying recently. It’s long past time to update those binds.
The decline of the UMP
In the first half of the year the UMP became one of the most commonly bought weapons in the game, representing an excellent way to rapidly generate money with only a minimal downgrade in effectiveness from an AR due to it’s capabilities at range.
So Valve nerfed it and usage has slowly declined. That decline has revived some of the other SMG options a little, as well as having a wider impact.
May is when it reached it’s peak as it approached 10% of all buys, and that’s the month where it was nerfed and it’s decline started. As we can see it wasn’t immediate, and the trend is still going on as teams adjust. We can also see that the two side specific SMG options have enjoyed something of a resurgence (in terms of incredibly unpopular weapons anyway) with both the MAC10 and MP9 seeing more play.
When we look at kill rates we can see that the UMP has declined somewhat, from around mid 70s to the low 60s in kill rate. This decline shows that it has become less effective in such a wide range of situations and teams should be circumspect about using it excessively. It was already declining from January to May very slightly, and that’s probably to do with it becoming a more widespread buy into slightly less optimal situations.
The comparison figures should be taken with a pinch of salt early in the graph, these are classic small sample fluctuations. However later on we can see that the MAC10 and MP9 have sustained excellent kill rates, which is something you’d expect from a niche weapon only being deployed in very specific run-and-gun or ambush type situations.
Clearly the UMP was preventing some smgs from being used when they were perfectly suitable options but their increase in popularity only covers a small percentage of the UMPs fall in popularity. So what else might account for it?
If we examine the types of buys or times in the game when the UMP was being bought that should tell us more.
The UMP clearly has enjoyed a presence across a wide range of intermediate and full buys in May (the blue bars) but since then it’s use has become stunted, particularly at very low buy values where the other SMGs seem to have enjoyed a big increase. The MP9 has received a massive boost around the 10k mark while the MAC10 weighs in slightly later with a big increase at 12k buy rates. UMP usage is also heavily cut down in the lower level of “proper buys” at around 18k+.
At the higher buy values some of these niche weapons will find themselves picked at a higher rate, but in many cases they will be leftovers from previous rounds or an exceptional poor player on an otherwise rich enough team. The fact is the UMP was also pushing genuine rifles out of the bigger buys and that has decreased sharply as well.
There are also signs that the specific nature of the nerf has affected usage.
Train and Nuke with their long sight lines are much more hostile territory for the UMP with it’s long range damage reduced and it’s equip rate has dropped to a third of what it was. Inferno has tighter spaces where range can be less important, and proportionately the UMP still has more popularity here so it’s usage has only dropped by a half.
Ultimately the nerf worked and the UMP has become a much more niche weapon. It’s not clear if it’s decline is now over and it has reached a stable point or whether there is more to come but the meta choices around the UMP look likely to continue to evolve.