Valve style guide reveals the true meaning of CSGO skin rarity

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Materials provided by the Dream & Nightmares skin design competition have revealed Valve’s true definition of CSGO skin rarity, something players have long wondered about.

All of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s nearly 1,000 unique skins fall into one of eight rarities. These eight tiers represent escalating levels of desirability. The most common rarities are the five featured in CSGO cases. Thanks to designer recommendations published by Valve, we now know more about CSGO’s cryptic skin rarities than ever before.

Valve announced the CSGO Halloween skins contest on July 22. Workshop creators from the CSGO community were formally invited to contribute skins in pursuit of ten $100,000 prizes. Valve provided several guidelines for aspiring artists to follow, including instructions for how to handle skins according to rarity. These notes included a style guide and instructions for which skins are meant to appeal to different players.

CSGO Case skin rarity explained

Mil-Spec skins are the lowest rarity possible to get from a paid CSGO case. These make up the vast majority of any unboxing session. For Dreams & Nightmares, Valve asked creators to design Mil-Spec skins that are “harder to read at a distance, and might look somewhat similar to each other.” This explains the gunmetal bases and minimal flair found on most Mil-Spec skins.

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Mil-Spec Galil AR | Black Sand

Purple CSGO skins are labeled as Restricted. These guns usually don’t match the price of a key but can be valued for their aesthetic. CSGO developers define a Restricted skin’s intended audience as “the player holding the item and other players in close quarters.” This tier is when loud colors begin to appear in moderation.

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Restricted AUG | Arctic Wolf

Classified skins are when the CSGO box starts paying for itself. These cosmetics feature complex and exotic patterns mean to attract the attention of everyone in your spawn. Valve’s definition states that Classifieds “are distinct noticeable patterns, make broad use of contrast, and often make use of vibrant colors.”

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Classified M4A4 | 龍王 (Dragon King)

Covert is the absolute rarest CSGO gun skins players can open from a case. These skins are very rare and represent the absolute limit of CSGO skin design. While skins of lesser rarity can blend together, new Covert skins must look entirely distinct from previous releases. Above all else, Valve demands that these ultra-rare skins are “recognizable at a distance.”

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Covert AK-47 | Asiimov

Exceedingly Rare Special Item meaning

The highest possible rarity that players can get from a CSGO case is gold, which Valve vaguely labels as an “Exceedingly Rare Special Item.” This rarity refers to knife skins. Knives in CSGO have become an icon of fashion in all of video games due to CSGO’s loot crate-based economy. Based on statistics taken from Anomaly’s 4,000 CSGO crate unboxing spree, the chance of opening a knife are close to 0.3%. At that rate, CSGO players open one knife in every 333 case openings.

Knife skins are not contributed through the Steam Workshop. Instead, Valve does all the modeling and textures of knives in-house. That extra attention contributes to their sky-high price tags, but not all knives are worth the same amount. The price of CSGO knives can be as low as $65 and as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars.


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