Let’s Break It Down: How Overwatch Competitive Mode Works
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The long-awaited Overwatch Competitive Play mode was released June 29. Players are joining by the millions to reach the top ranks of the Overwatch leaderboards. Yet, don’t think you can just waltz into Competitive Play from the beginner Quick Play mode 7 Overwatch Tips for the Complete Beginner 7 Overwatch Tips for the Complete Beginner You've seen the gorgeous cinematic trailers on YouTube and you've decided to buy Overwatch. There's one problem, though: You don't have any idea how to play! Here's how. Read More . There are certain differences to look out for.

Elements such as Skill Rating, Seasons, Point Systems, and Rewards have changed the dynamic of the game. Here’s the skinny on Overwatch‘s first season of Competitive Play, which ends August 18th.

Competitive Play Seasons

Competitive Play seasons emulate the seasons of the year. Every season lasts three months — two and a half months of the regular season and two weeks of off-season play.


After the fourth season, player ranks will reset. The seasonal transition is particularly important for Overwatch, as developers are waiting to install further fixes and changes to the Competitive Play.

Skill Rating & Ranking

The ranking system for Competitive Play has been through a fair amount of scrutiny from Overwatch‘s user base. Players have noted that the skill rating system seems to praise persistence rather than skill.  There are also instances wherein players are punished more so for losses than are rewarded for wins. These are the basics of skill rating as they stand today.


At level 25, players unlock Competitive Play mode. Players must compete in 10 placement matches. According to the amount of games won and heroes used, players are granted a skill rating. These skill ratings are out of 100. The higher the ranking, the greater the skill.


The specific placement number required to achieve certain skill ratings is unknown. Blizzard takes many variables — including gold medals earned and character types used — into account. They have not yet released the specifications for skill ratings. Online resources such as overwatchtracker.com track the range of player skill ratings across PC, Xbox, and PS4.


From then on, climbing the ranks depends on how many matches you win. Some matches will rank you farther up than others. Competitive Play matches teammates based on an average skill rating rather than player level. Certain matches are considered Underdog matches. Underdog matches occur when the average ally skill rating is lower  than the enemy skill rating. Losing Underdog matches will affect skill rating less, and reward wins more so, than regular matches.


Hero Limitations

As of the July 19th patch, team cannot have multiples of the same characters in Competitive play matches. Only one of each hero per match is allowed.


This prevents hero spamming and increase the amount of unique character abilities in every game.

Maps And Game Modes

There are three game types, all which their distinct challenges, player requirements, and maps.

Escort & Hybrid (Payload) Maps

Escort maps are like Hybrid maps because hybrid mode combines elements of both assault and escort modes. The Escort maps are: Dorado, Route 66, and Watchpoint: Gibraltar. The Hybrid maps are: Hollywood, King’s Row, and Numbani.


In escort maps, the attacking team must escort a payload to an ultimate destination. There are two phases to the match. Each phase has two rounds: an attacking and a defending round. If the first phase results in a point tie, the second phase begins. In hybrid maps, the team must assault a map location first before moving the payload.

If both phases result in a tie, players enter Sudden Death.

Control (King Of The Hill) Maps

Control maps work off of a best-of-five, single objective system. The Control maps are: Ilios, Lijang Tower, and Nepal.


Both teams aim to capture and control their objective. The first team to score three points wins. Points are scored by achieving a 100% tally on the map objective. The more players on the point, the faster the point is taken. Sudden Death mode is not available on Control maps, as a complete match results in three out of five wins and there is no time limit.

Assault (Capture) Maps

Assault maps have one team play as offense, and the other, defense. The assault maps include: Hanamura, Temple of Anubis, and Volkaya Industries.

Teams take turns defending and attacking certain objectives. Wins are contingent on the point system, which a possibility of two points each map. If the ally team scores more points, thereby taking more objectives, than the enemy team, the ally team wins.


Assault map matches split into attacking and defense rounds. If the first couple of rounds end in a tie, teams run again using the remainder of their time. Time is added to your clock by capturing objectives, and the specific time added by each objective is subject to change based on patch updates. If any of the teams had less than two minutes remaining before the second phase, their time limit is set to two minutes.  Teams enter Sudden Death mode in the case of a tie.

Sudden Death

If teams in any of the map modes tie, a Sudden Death match takes place. Players are randomly selected to attack or defend the objective.


The objective of Sudden Death is for the attacking team to capture a point. The defending team must defend said point. Sudden Death mode has received some slack concerning its utility. Blizzard officials learned that the ratio of wins to losses for Sudden Death was unfair. Scott Mercer, Overwatch‘s Principle Designer, commented recently on the mechanics of Sudden Death.

“With the current competitive mode, players really don’t like the Sudden Death mechanic we have in place…The thought was that the coin flip, while it was a little random, would be balanced so that the chance for the attacker or defender to win would be really close. But it turns out it wasn’t close enough and in some cases wasn’t close.”

Sudden Death mode has been scheduled for removal for Season 2. Developers have already released patches which decrease the duration of Sudden Death matches. Sudden Death matches will be replaced with ties.

Competitive Play Rewards

Competitive play wouldn’t be competitive without a rewards system. These rewards are subject to change with the upcoming seasons.

Player Icons and Sprays

Once a player has completed the placement matches, they are officially members of Season 1. They will earn a special spray and player icon at the end of the season.


New icon and spray sets will be released every season, giving players an incentive to keep playing Competitive. Additionally, a special icon will be available to the top 500 players of the season.


Rankings are reset after every season.

Golden Weapons

By far, the most appealing item received through Competitive play are the golden weapons. Golden weapons cost competitive points, which players receive whenever they win a Competitive match.


Currently, all golden weapons cost 300 competitive points, or 300 wins in competitive matches.


These weapons do not provide added damage to the character. They are for aesthetic purposes only.

Leaver Penalties

Blizzard has instituted hard penalties for players that leave matches early in Competitive play. For one, you will not be able to join a new match for the span of the original match. If you experience issues with connecting to a match, you are able to Rejoin matches. Failing to rejoin a match will result in a penalty.


Continued infractions will lead to locked Competitive play. Players will no longer be able to join Competitive matches for a certain period of time. Further infraction may lead to a season-wide ban and the forfeiture of any rewards acquired during that season, along with a skill rating penalty.


If a player leaves a beginning match, the match is canceled and skill is not affected. If, however, a player or players leave(s) while the match is well underway, the match will continue and you will be given the choice of leaving the match. Although you will lose skill rating for leaving the match, the leave will not count as an infraction.

Tips For Taking Over The Competition

These tips will tilt the scales of Competitive Play towards your favor. Use them to prevent a Skill Ranking free-fall.

Use a Mic

No matter how skilled the enemy player’s Genji is, there’s no better indicator of a winning team than communication. All Overwatch maps feature choke points — individual map locations designed to narrow a team’s maneuvering ability. The team that meets at a point and pushes towards the other points as a unit is often the team that wins. This is true for all maps and skill levels, so if you can, use a mic as often as possible The 4 Best Budget Gaming Headsets for Under $25 The 4 Best Budget Gaming Headsets for Under $25 Here are the best gaming headsets for when you have a limited budget and just can't afford to spend that much. Read More to group, warn, and communicate with other players.

Exploit Map Vulnerabilities

Every map has certain vulnerabilities that players can use to reach target objectives faster. Don’t settle for the main path. If your character has the ability to jump, fly, or otherwise maneuver around a map, take that into account when maneuvering the map.

Keep Track Of Character Usage / Patch Updates

The better you can counter the most-used heroes in Overwatch Competitive play, the more likely you are to defeat the players. That’s why sites like MasterOverwatch provides seasonal statistics ordering characters by popularity, win rate, K/D ratio, etc.


Character popularity will change according to the different nerfs (performance limitations) and buffs (performance additions) Learn The Lingo: Common Gaming Terms You Should Know Learn The Lingo: Common Gaming Terms You Should Know All hobbies have their own terminology; sets of words and phrases that are only known to those actively involved. Gaming is no exception. What follows are 20 of the most common terms associated with gaming,... Read More of future patches. For example, after Blizzard released a patch with the new character Ana, most players missed out on the fact that Lucio’s wall-ride was buffed to create a smoother and easier transitions between walls.

Minor character fixes like this will push your game to the next level before players even realize where your added edge came from.

Read Guides

It’s surprising to note just how much information is out there for competitive players already. Excellent players will gladly create large write-ups for free, and post them online for everyone to enjoy. If you want to get good at Overwatch Competitive, read character and map guides online.

Group & Go

The best teams in Overwatch are those that commit two simple actions: group, and go. Solitary runs towards objectives will result in death, while team runs towards objectives often result in wins. You can only overwhelm objectives as a team. The faster everyone on your team can reach a point together, the faster you’ll win.

Balance Your Team’s Abilities

A team cannot rely on a single player in Overwatch. Unbalanced teams can and will lose to teams that are not as experienced, but are much more balanced. If the team does not have a tank, fill the void.


This increases character familiarity — not to mention role familiarity — which is vital for success in Competitive Play.

Overcome Overwatch Competitive Play

Overwatch Competitive Play is a serious matter, and should be treated as such. Quick Matches are for character testing. Competitive Play is the training ground for players attempting to prove their worth. If you’re thinking of playing Competitive Mode in Overwatch, gear up How to Optimize Windows 10 for Gaming and Performance How to Optimize Windows 10 for Gaming and Performance Are you gaming on Windows 10? You can optimize Windows 10 for gaming with Game Mode and other tips and tweaks. We show you how. Read More , study up, and get ready for an arduous climb Think You Have Skills? Can You Compare To These Guys, The Best Gamers In The World Think You Have Skills? Can You Compare To These Guys, The Best Gamers In The World Some call it competitive gaming, others call it eSports, but regardless of what you call it, one truth remains: some players are just so insanely skilled that it almost feels superhuman. Read More .

Although Overwatch has just entered the Competitive Ranks, the game is already joining the E-sport market The Newbie's Guide to Getting Into Esports The Newbie's Guide to Getting Into Esports Competitive gaming is getting serious! Need some resources to learn more? Here's all you need to know about the swelling phenomenon of esports. Read More in full force. Recently, Eleague announced a televised Overwatch tournament finale on TBS. This news comes after renowned football club Manchester United entered a bidding war with Fnatic over a competitive Overwatch team.  With all the hype surrounding Overwatch, it’s the perfect time to start getting competitive with Overwatch‘s Competitive Play.

Have you tried Overwatch‘s Competitve Play? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Voltzi
    August 20, 2016 at 11:03 am