ENCE are one of the hottest rising teams in the world. Their finals at IEM Katowice 2019, top 8 finish at StarLadder i-League Season 7, and victory at BLAST Madrid put them as a solid top 5 team with potential to grow. What makes ENCE is that they don’t rely on individual players to carry the day. Unlike teams like FaZe, they don’t require their superstar player going off. Jere “sergej” Salo cam be alright for a tournament and other teammates can pick up the slack. At the Major for instance, we saw Sami “xseveN” Laasanen carry ENCE over the line with his great clutching. At BLAST, we saw Jani “Aerial” Jussila’s aggressive rifling making the difference. The most consistent factor that defines ENCE’s victory isn’t any of the star players, but rather Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen’s system and tactics.
In some ways, the ENCE system resembles Astralis. Each of the players have a defined role within the system. The system is defined by Aleksib and Slaava “Twista” Rasanen, the coach. While the infrastructure is similar, there are subtle differences in how the roles are divvied up. On the T-side: Sergej and xseveN play the wings, Aleksib and Aerial take map control, and Aleksi “allu” Jalli is the AWPer. On the CT-side Aleksib supports Aerial in taking aggressive rifle duels, Allu is the AWPer, and sergej and xseveN largely play anchor positions. While the roles between ENCE and Astralis are different, the efficacy is similar in that each player can have impact within their designated role. The team does not fall apart if one of their star players happens to have a bad day.
The reason for this is Aleksib’s tactics. Aleksib adheres to the fundamentals of CS:GO and has a level of detail that only the top in-game leaders can match. His tactical vision has established made ENCE’s map pool one of the best in the world. They play six of the seven maps (excluding Vertigo which just came into the map pool). ENCE are one of the top teams on maps like Train, Dust2, and Mirage. They broke Astralis’ win streak on nuke. Even their lesser maps of Overpass and Inferno still give them a chance to upset. On Overpass they go to double-digits against Na`Vi and tied Liquid 15-15. They beat Liquid on inferno at IEM katowice. While it is impossible to comprehensively go over ENCE’s playbook, I’ve picked out core ideas that give a good background to understand what makes Aleksib’s tactics some of the best in the world.
Setting up the Trade Kills
The most important pillar of making a good CS:GO team is ensuring trades. In this section, I’ve picked out a round from BLAST Madrid. This round was from the group stages when ENCE played Astralis on Dust2.
In Round 11, ENCE are go into a 4v4. xseveN got a pick through a smoke at long. When ENCE took short, Nicolai “device” Reedtz got an AWP pick and fell back. In this round Aleksib calls for an A-split. What’s interesting is how ENCE play it out. ENCE have sergej use two smokes from short. One for short and one to cover between car and long. ENCE then have three players push long.
By using this chain of events, ENCE diminishes the trading power of Astralis while increasing their own. By having sergej throw the smokes, device cannot commit to trading the players at long. Sergej understands this and holds his position knowing that device will have to split his attention between short and long. This allows ENCE to have stronger trade potential for the three man pack as they clear pit. While ENCE are unable to close this round, it displays ENCE’s ability to use a passive lurker to allow increased trade potential for their main hit.
Structured 3 man setups
ENCE is a team that also has a clear idea of what they want to do if they get in a small man situation on either side of the map. The two examples I’ve picked out from this section are two games from BLAST. One against Na`Vi on the CT-side and one against Astralis on the T-side.
ENCE played Na`Vi at BLAST Madrid on Mirage. In the 14th round of the half, ENCE were in a 3v4 situation after losing out in the trades for mid control. In response to this, ENCE do a creative setup. They have Aleksib take control of B halls with his AUG, have Allu control short from window, and have sergej hold near connector towards A-site. In this scenario one of three things happens:
Na`Vi push out B. In this scenario Aleksib will get a favorable duel because of his AUG.
Na`Vi take short control. If this happens, Allu can get a kill. If he misses, he can fall back and call the info. Depending on what he sees, he can have sergej swing out and trade.
Na`Vi go towards A. In this situation, sergej gives ENCE a chance to do the retake as he is cutting off players from pushing all the way into jungle or ticket.
In this particular round, it’s scenario number 2 as Na`Vi try to do a B split. Allu gets his shot off and sergej swings to get another player, leaving ENCE in a 3v2. From there they win the round.
The second example comes from the finals against Astralis on Train.
In the sixth round of that game, ENCE go for their standard four man execute on the B-site with xseveN lurking. Device gets two players in the hit, but ENCE are able to kill the two riflers on the site and plant the bomb. In this scenario, xseveN has some leeway in how he wants to play this round. He can rejoin his team, play from ivy, play from tcon, or hold ladder. In this instance, ENCE and xseveN understand that xseveN needs to buy as much space as possible.
ENCE understand that a typical CT-side default is two on A, two on B, and a rotator. They have killed the small-site anchor and the rotator. The last remaining player is device at the back of the site. They have the utility they need to close the gap, but they need time to make it happen. Astralis understand this too, as both Emil “Magisk” Rief and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen start to look for potential aim duels against xseveN. XseveN cleverly runs out of T-main to olof. While he gets zero kills here, he forces both Magisk and dupreeh to run over and clear him out. This let’s his two teammates close the gap on device, kill him, and get a better postplant scenario in the 2v2. ENCE is one of the best teams at understanding how to maximize their positional advantages in the 3v3 scenarios and this has been on of the key reasons why they have been successful in 2019.
Staying a step ahead of the meta
ENCE often have clever setups or tactics that counter the established meta. The best example of this comes from their battle against Astralis on Train at BLAST Madrid.
One of the typical ways of clearing out popdog as the T-side is to throw a molly to flush out the pop player. Then have someone throw a flash over T-main, and have a third play come out and kill now blind player. This is exactly what ENCE did to Astralis in the eighth round of this game.
In the 22nd round, Astralis decided to use a similar tactic. Aerial had been playing fairly aggressively around olof for most of the half. In response, Astralis first cleared out that position. Upon realizing that he wasn’t there, they intuited that he was likely in popdog. They used the same molly, popflash combo to kill him. ENCE’s setup however was a counter to that typical tactic. When Aerial was mollied out of popdog, he strafes out of popdog and looks directly into the wall. At the same time, Aleksib throws his molly at T-main. Aerial then swings aorund and kills Dupreeh.
This sequence is clever for multiple reasons. First it allows for Aerial to get a 50/50 duel against Dupreeh. Secondly, the timing of Aleksib’s molly means that only one player can make it out of T-main, so if Aerial wins the duel he cannot be traded. Finally, Aleksib can trade Aerial in the event that Dupreeh is the one who wins the duel.
This attention to detail is one of the reasons why ENCE have been one of the best teams in the world.
Setting up the long game:
One of the trends that all of the great in-game leaders have is conditioning the opponent. They are able to string a bunch of rounds together that can manipulate or convince the enemy to run a certain type of aggression or setup. Aleksib has this characteristic as well. Two examples of this are from BLAST Madrid against Astralis and IEM Katowice against Na`Vi.
ENCE played Astralis on Train in the finals of BLAST Madrid. In the first seven rounds of Train did not go for any structured take of ladder room. In the third, he had Allu rush it. In the fifth, sergej took it in mid round. In the sixth, they went for a 4 man hit on the B-site. It is only in the eighth we see ENCE use mass utility to take control of pop and in that round, they get two opening kills for their trouble.
This round ordering seems to be by design. In the first few rounds of the half, ENCE didn’t do a safe clear of pop. They realize that Astralis will recognize this and will naturally start to put someone there. This is what happens in the sixth round as Dupreeh takes control of pop early. Later on in the round, xseveN lurks out mid and sees that Dupreeh was in pop. Once this information is relayed to Aleksib, that is when Aleksib decides to call for the molly take of pop in the next rifle round. He understands that there is a higher than average possibility that Astralis will go for pop control as they haven’t seen ENCE call for a full utility take of it yet and that is when Aleksib calls for it.
Another example of Aleksib conditioning his opponents is from the semifinals of IEM Katowice Major.
The game was also on Train. ENCE stuck to their bread and butter for most of the half as they opted for fast paced executes to either win rounds or grind down the economy of Na`Vi. What is notable here is that every time they went for the A-site, they always made sure to have xseveN lurk at ivy. He varied up the timings throughout the half and this sometimes caught Na`Vi off guard.
By the time the 13th round starts, Na`Vi are conditioned into thinking that someone will lurk out from ivy. This was all a setup by Aleksib though as in this outer execute, he has xseveN join the pack. In addition to that, he has the team throw the smoke to cut off ivy from yard, rather than having it be in lane.
This sequence of rounds allows for a few things. First it gives ENCE a better line of sight down lane so that they can trade. With 4 players instead of 3, there trading power is stronger than their previous hits. Secondly, they’ve conditioned Denis “electronic” Sharipov to focus on ivy, and this allows them to close the gap and kill Ioann “Edward” Sukhariev before electronic can adjust. Finally, by calling this round at this point in the half, Aleksib increases his chances at both winning the round and breaking the economy of Na`Vi.
The Push Back
2018 saw ENCE grow throughout the season as they climbed up the competitive ladder through the tier two scene. In 2019 we have seen the fruits of those labors. Second at the IEM Katowice Major, top 3 at BLAST Sao Paulo, top 8 at StarSeries i-League Season 7, and a victory at BLAST Madrid.
While each of the five players stepped up throughout this time period, the most consistent factor in ENCE’s success has been their tactics. These five months have been an incredible showing for Aleksib as one of CS:GO’s leaders. The next five months will be a push back from the elite teams in the world. Teams like Astralis, Na`Vi, and Liquid will now start to study ENCE in earnest. All of the top teams will soon recognize that ENCE’s greatest strength is their tactics and teamplay. Soon teams will specifically start to anti-strat ENCE’s trading tendencies, 3v3s, CT-side aggression, and multi-round setups and find ways to either counter it or diminish its effects.
For Aleksib, the next five months will be a turning point in his career. If he can weather the storm and stay a step ahead of the competition, he will establish himself as one of the great tactical leaders of modern CS:GO.
If you enjoyed this piece on ENCE, consider reading: ENCE, the Consolidation of Finnish Esports.Follow the author on Twitter at @stuchiuWriter.Image courtesy of BLAST Pro Series