Counter-Strike: Global Offensive isn’t simply a run-and-gun experience. The money you make across rounds and how you manage it can mean the difference between victory and defeat. It’s time to take Econ 101 with the High Ground Gaming CS:GO Economy Guide, right after the break.
CS:GO Economy Guide: Economics & You
Money makes the world go ‘round in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. With it, you and your teammates can purchase bigger and better guns as the match progresses — as well as utility like grenades — in an attempt to gain the upper hand on your opponents.
Of course, the best guns in the game can’t make up for poor crosshair placement and positioning, but that’s a guide for another time.
As we’ll discuss the economics of CS:GO, there are a few key terms to watch out for:
|Full buy||Buying a primary weapon, full armor, and full utility (usually something like two flashbangs, one smoke grenade, and one incendiary grenade).|
|Light buy||Functionally equivalent to an Eco/SMG round buy; consists of a cheap primary weapon, partial armor, and partial utility (perhaps one flashbang and one smoke – feel free to adjust as the situation dictates).|
|Force buy||A CS:GO force buy occurs when you don’t have much money, but choose to scrounge together a loadout anyways.|
|Full armor||The full $1,000 armor item, consisting of Kevlar and a helmet. Note that a light armor buy can be upgraded to full armor for the difference in cost.|
|Light armor||Just the $650 Kevlar armor; offers no head protection.|
|Drop(s)||Weapons purchased on behalf of and dropped from one teammate to another. Limited to primary and secondary weapons; no utility can be dropped as of this writing.|
|Pistol/SMG/Rifle upgrades||Generally the more effective, higher tier variants of their respective weapons. A Glock might be upgraded for a P250, an MP9 might be upgraded for a P90, or a Galil might be upgraded for an AK-47, for instance.|
|Save/Saving round||Choosing not to spend all of one’s cash in a given round, looking to accumulate for a better purchase later.|
Bringing Home the Bacon
The actions that earn you cash in CS:GO are as follows:
- Eliminating an opponent. The amount varies depending on the weapon and the game mode
- Planting or defusing the bomb. Everyone on the Terrorist side earns a cash bonus when the bomb is planted even if the round is lost; use this to your advantage
- Winning a round. This one is fairly obvious; win the round, get some moola.
- Losing a round. The loss bonus increases for up to four consecutive lost rounds
You can only carry a maximum amount of $16,000 with you in a competitive match or $10,000 in casual, so keep that in mind as we discuss the team-oriented economic strategies later on.
Most of the methods we talk about in this CS:GO Economy Guide are fairly obvious. Complete the objectives you’re given, eliminate your opponents with bullet, blade, or *BOOM!*, and win the round. Less intuitive is the loss bonus, which ensures that you’re never truly out of the fight even when you’re struggling to put together rounds. It reaches a maximum amount after the fourth round lost in a row, and resets on a round win. Note that winning and losing alternating rounds will offer you the most inconsistent and paltry income possible, and as such should powerfully affect your decision-making process.
The Bank of Counter-Terrorism
How you handle your cash reserves is a bit more complicated than just buying the best weapon available to you. Like many a CS:GO Economy Guide before this one, let’s break down the different types of rounds you can expect and how they should inform your purchases.
|Pistol Round||The earliest rounds of each half in every match. The focus here is on surviving and picking up a few cash bonuses with minimal investment.||Pistols (e.g. P250, Specialty Pistols)|
Light armor (Kevlar only)
|Eco/SMG Round||The rounds following a pistol round or after losing a rifle round. The goal here is to maximize return on investment and maintain or regain momentum.||SMGs (e.g. P90, UMP, MP5-SD)|
Cheap rifles (e.g. Galil, Famas, Scout)
Full armor (Kevlar and helmet – the helmet is ideal when facing SMGs)
Full utility (SMGs require getting up close and personal – bring a smoke)
|Rifle Round||The core rounds in any CS:GO match. Bring your tactical best to bear on the battlefield and spend wisely yet decisively to stay on top.||Main rifles (e.g. AK-47, M4A1-S, AWP)|
Full armor (The CTs can forgo head armor is strapped for cash, as the AK-47 largely ignores the helmet)
Full utility (Whatever it takes to get the job done)
As you might imagine, the specifics of each round type in this CS:GO Economy Guide will vary depending on the side you’re on. So let’s break them down one by one…
CS:GO Economy Guide: Round-by-Round Breakdown
CT – Pistol Round
The best buys for CT on pistol rounds:
- Pistol upgrade (e.g. P250, Five-Seven)
- Light armor (Kevlar only, can’t afford the helmet)
- Defuse kit
For the Counter-Terrorists, the pistol round is going to be an all-out brawl — that is, if the Terrorists can get up close and personal as their pistols prefer. The CTs have the advantage with accuracy with the USP-S and the P2000, so while pistols can’t truly be said to be marksman weapons, they will favor engagements at medium range and careful headshots on charging Ts. But if you plan to be up close and personal, you may want to upgrade your pistol or bring some armor to bear. And if you buy nothing else, don’t be a loser, buy a defuser!
T – Pistol Round
The best buys for T on pistol rounds:
- Pistol upgrades (e.g. P250, Tec-9, Desert Eagle)
- Light armor (Kevlar only, can’t afford the helmet)
- Light utility (Decoys, or the odd flash/smoke if the strat calls for it)
On the Terrorist side, the agility offered by pistol rounds plays to your advantage. Most T pistols, from the Glock to the Tec-9, favor run-and-gun tactics, slinging lead downrange as fast as you can click. This means closing the distance and never stopping is imperative. Don’t stop, rush B!
Picking up Kevlar is key to ensure you come out on top as the CTs give up hope for headshots and start leaning into body shots. A few decoys might not be remiss as well — feign an assault on one site only to explode out onto the other. But whatever you do, just keep going and trying new things.
CT – Eco/SMG Round
The best buys for CT on Eco/SMG rounds:
- SMGs (e.g. P90, UMP, MP5-SD)
- Cheap rifles (e.g. Famas, Scout)
- Pistol upgrades (e.g. P250, Five-Seven, CZ-75, Desert Eagle)
- Full armor (The helmet is essential when facing other SMGs and pistols. If the Ts are on a rifle round, consider settling for Kevlar only and putting that money elsewhere.)
- Light utility (Smokes to help slow down the Ts, flashbangs to create tactical openings, and don’t forget a defuse kit.)
You made it through the pistol round. Or perhaps you got rocked on a rifle round, leaving you to check phone booths for loose change. Either way, the name of the game in an Eco/SMG round is maximizing return on investment and making magic with minimal resources.
If you know that the T side is on SMGs as well, you’ll want to prioritize a full armor buy with a helmet. Even if that means sacrificing an SMG yourself in favor of a pistol upgrade. Head armor wins firefights in SMG duels. But if the Ts are carrying rifles into battle, feel free to forgo the head armor and pick up a better gun or more utility instead. That helmet won’t be helping you much.
CS:GO Eco rounds are often prime save rounds, and when properly used, can turn your fortunes around. They’re also key rounds for team-focused economic strategies. Keep an eye on your teammates’ cash reserves as well as your own. If you’re rolling in dough while they camp on pennies, it’s time to offer drops. That doesn’t mean SMGs across the board — unless you can afford it. Sometimes allowing a teammate to spend all their cash on armor while you drop a P250 or a Five-Seven can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Coordinate purchases when need be in Eco/SMG rounds in order to give everyone on your team the best shot at a win.
T – Eco/SMG Round
The best buys for T on Eco/SMG rounds:
- SMGs (e.g. P90, UMP, MP5-SD)
- Cheap rifles (e.g. Galil, Scout)
- Pistol upgrades (e.g. P250, Tec-9, CZ-75, Desert Eagle)
- Full armor (The helmet is essential when facing other SMGs and pistols; remember that CT rifles can’t penetrate a helmet in one shot like T rifles can.)
- Light utility (Smokes to create opportunities for taking sites, flashbangs to blind any would-be snipers, and perhaps a molotov to block off rotating CTs.)
Like the CT Eco/SMG Round, the T-side Eco/SMG loadout favors full armor with a helmet when available. Unlike the rifles of the T side, the CT rifles can have their headshots hindered with the added protection, so buying full armor is almost always favorable when facing down SMGs and rifles alike. But of course, you mustn’t forget the Eco’s role as a save round. Don’t be frivolous with your spending.
If you’re on a map that supports it, buying a Scout also fits the bill for an Eco/SMG round. With all your opponents likely to be fielding SMGs, keeping them at range is crucial to winning firefights. Given the incredible armor penetration, an AK-47 with light armor may also fit the bill, but be advised you’re betting the farm on surviving the round. When in doubt, save what you can for the rounds to come.
CT – Rifle Round
The best buys for CT on rifle rounds:
- Main rifles (e.g. M4A4, M4A1-S, AWP, AUG)
- Pistol upgrades (e.g. Five-Seven, Desert Eagle)
- Full armor (If you can afford a helmet, get one. But if that $350 would be better served elsewhere, a CT can choose to forgo one with minimal functional impact.)
- Full utility (Generally two flashbangs, one smoke, and one incendiary grenade.)
- Don’t forget a defuse kit! We’ll stop bringing it up when it stops being an issue.
Ah, the meat-and-potatoes of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive experience. The Rifle round is where matches of CS:GO are won or lost. Eco rounds are spent trying to reach the next Rifle round, and Rifle rounds are spent trying to stay on top. As such, proper management of your team’s economy is imperative to reach the rifle round and remain there as long as possible.
This is where you’ll be putting all your hard-earned money to work. The M4A4, the AWP — no weapon is off the table so long as you can comfortably afford it. Even the AUG, costly as it may be, can help even the playing field for medium to long-range engagements. And the small cost-saving measures you learned in the Eco rounds still serve an important role, like forgoing a helmet against rifling Ts in order to get a better weapon or more utility. Don’t forget to check your team’s cash reserves and be ready to drop if need be. Rifle rounds function best when every member of the team fields maximum firepower.
But if you can afford it, buy it. Never let it be said that the round was lost because you lacked for flashbangs or got outgunned due to failing to upgrade a cheap rifle.
And don’t forget a defuse kit!
T – Rifle Round
The best buys for T on rifle rounds:
- Main rifles (e.g. AK-47, AWP, SG-553)
- Pistol upgrades (e.g. Tec-9, Desert Eagle)
- Full armor (Buy yourself a “double dink” with a helmet and survive to see the next Rifle round.)
- Full utility (Generally two flashbangs, one smoke, and one Molotov. Substitute a decoy for a flashbang as needed.)
It’s commonly said that most maps in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are T-sided, meaning if all things are equal, a round is more likely to fall in favor of a T-side victory. The reason for this comes down to the superiority of the T rifles. The AK-47 is the sort of gun that all Ts aspire to get, and all CTs are hoping to scavenge from the battlefield. Head armor is of little consequence with that classic wood and burnished metal weapon in hand.
Likewise, the SG-553 — Or is it the Krieg? Perhaps it depends on how long you’ve been playing CS — is a formidable weapon in the right hands. Like the AUG, the SG is ideal for medium to long-range battles where tapping triumphs over spraying down opponents with bullets. For those who favor a roaring campfire and the great outdoors, the AWP stands ready to join you on the camping excursion of your dreams.
Remember that range and well-placed headshots are the ideal ingredients for a T-side Rifle round. And don’t forget to plant the bomb — CS:GO isn’t a team deathmatch, after all. Not in the core modes at least.
Scared Money Don’t Make Money
Regardless of which side of the fight you find yourself on, remember that a dollar in the bank may be saved for a rainy day — as long as you live to see it. The eternal struggle in this CS:GO Economy Guide is judging when money is better spent and better saved. And regardless of what your Gold Nova teammates claim, they probably haven’t figured it all out yet, either.
Is there’s one point we must hammer home in this CS:GO New Economy Guide, it’s to always trust your gut. Never be stingy with drops when you find yourself flush with cash. And if you think an AK-47 and light armor on an Eco/SMG round might turn the tide in your favor, go ahead and give it a shot. Just warn your teammates so they can pick up your AK should you fall.
As with all things in CS:GO, good communication is critical. Your economy is not your own, nor is your teammates solely theirs either. You must all work together for the greater good of winning rounds, and that means coordinating buys and agreeing upon the classification of the round you’re facing, whether that’s Eco, Rifle, or Save. Don’t be afraid to talk it over with your team in those fleeting seconds before the round starts proper.
Soon enough, it will be second nature, and you’ll be buying, saving, and dropping like a true professional.
Become a High Grounder
Hopefully this CS:GO Economy Guide served to shed some light on the metagame surrounding the in-game economic situation. If you liked these words and want to read more like them, be sure to give us a follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Questions, comments, or concerns? Feel free to voice them in the comments section below. We’ll see you in the next guide.