Valve released the version of Cobblestone that we’ve all come to know–and perhaps loathe–in February of 2015. There have been handful of cosmetic tweaks and bug fixes since then, but we haven’t seen any substantive alterations to the map’s gameplay in a considerable time.
All that changed this past week, when Valve shipped another update to the map–this time, instead of revamping it, they’ve opted for a more conservative approach: adding a single staircase to the map’s B bombsite.
Before we dissect this new addition, let’s review a bit of history. It’s important–trust me. The map overhaul that shipped in early 2015 was an undeniable upgrade from the old version of Cobblestone, which was a jarring maze of winding, claustrophobic corridors, unnecessary side areas, and intimidating open space. And there were those stupid toilets in that stupid area at the back of the stupid B bombsite.
For the sake of both historical context and general amusement, it’s worth checking out 3kliksphilip’s analysis of Cobblestone from December 2013.
Even after Valve’s rework, it took a while for the community to come to terms with the new Cobblestone. The true test of the map came only a month later, at ESL Katowice 2015. With limited time available for preparation, the professional scene faced a difficult choice: should teams spend their valuable for the Major focusing on Cobblestone, or was it a better idea to invest their efforts into improving on the other maps in the pool?
For many, the latter choice was the clear answer. The previous incarnation of Cobblestone had been vetoed extensively by almost every top-tier CS:GO team, and there was no reason to expect that to change, especially with only a month left until event. To give you some perspective, Cobblestone was only played twice at DreamHack Winter 2014, and both times were aim-heavy wipeouts–Natus Vincere destroyed Dignitas with a 16 – 3 scoreline, and LDLC had systematically dismantled the German ESC squad to win the map 16 – 4.
Fnatic’s road to first place at Katowice 2015 was propelled partially by their secret preparation on Cobblestone. Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson hinted at the team’s ace up the sleeve in an interview with HLTV.org just prior to Katowice, stating: “[w]e have something planned for this event.”
The Swedish juggernauts crushed Natus Vincere on Cobblestone during the group stage, showing off an unexpected level of coordination and preparation. Of course, Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson’s unparalleled ability to melt faces with the pre-nerf Tec-9, especially on Cobblestone, certainly helped.
Virtus.Pro were the next victims of Fnatic’s unanticipated commitment to Cobblestone. While Natus Vincere had been unable to pose much of a threat to Fnatic, Virtus.Pro refused to go down without a fight, managing to take Fnatic to overtime on Cobblestone on the first map of the semifinals before eventually crumbling. Fnatic took the series 2 – 0, progressing to the grand finals.
After Katowice 2015, teams could no longer enjoy the luxury of being able to ignore Cobblestone. Fnatic were the best team in the world, and the best team in the world was good on Cobblestone.
If you wanted to be the best team in the world, then it was time to start playing Cobblestone.
The B bombsite is the beating heart of Cobblestone. The gameplay of the entire map revolves around it. If you’re playing on the Terrorist side, you’re going to send someone towards B Plat every single round, unless you’re attempting to quickly take the A bombsite–a rare occasion, even at the top echelons of Counter-Strike.
Because of the easy rush timing for Terrorists, who reach Plat at roughly the same time that the Counter-Terrorist defense arrives to prevent their arrival, a successful CT side requires a heavy emphasis on Plat during the start of the round. It’s common for the CTs holding B to expend at least half of their utility before even seeing a single Terrorist.
The difficult task of defending the B bombsite leaves Counter-Terrorist sides often stacking four players towards it, leaving a single teammate on A. When this happens, the four players on B will commonly divide their presence equally between the two entrances–two CTs are playing in or near Drop, while the remaining two focus their attention towards Plat.
The thing is, there aren’t really any options available to Counter-Terrorists. The map’s gameplay is static, especially for the defense. You want to push out of A for information? Enjoy getting picked by the player who’s waiting patiently in T Mid. You want to stop the Terrorists from gaining control of Drop? Enjoy dying to the hailstorm of grenades and molotovs while you try to boost a teammate. Challenging the Terrorists on Plat is an even taller ask–even if you manage to reach the back corner of B plat, a spot that Olofmeister helped make popular, you can easily be removed with the careful application of a single molotov–if you’re not killed by AK-47 spam through the smoke first, of course.
More Than Just a Staircase
The staircase on B Plat might not entirely revolutionize the flow of the map, but it provides some breathing room on a previously stifling bombsite. Counter-Terrorists now have an option for aggressive play, as well as a new position to hold from.
It allows for deeper, more complex decision-making, especially during early and late rounds. It’s always been possible to jump onto Plat from Broken Wall, but the frequent pre-nading of the spot at the start of the round has meant that the safer option has always been to have a teammate stand where the staircase now is and boost you onto Plat. While the boost could be accomplished quickly, it left both players vulnerable and exposed, providing yet another a window of opportunity for Terrorists to catch the defense off-guard with a well-timed push. With the staircase in place, the CTs no longer have to dedicate almost half of their resources towards Plat–it’s now feasible to hold Plat with a single player, thereby freeing up the remaining defenders to focus on other parts of the map. Perhaps we’ll even see CTs making aggressive pushes into B Halls through Plat now that they have easier access. The Plat area might even start to function like a tweaked version of Banana on Inferno–two CT defenders taking aim duels against Terrorists, backed up by the utility grenades of their teammates.
Of course, it’s up to teams to make the most out of Valve’s latest map improvement project. For their own sake. After Katowice 2015, the scene has, one hopes, learned their lesson about ignoring maps.