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For many people, Overwatch is a game they play to relax with friends and have fun. For others, who crave the thrill of victory, the game’s competitive mode calls to them. Players can compete against others to prove their expertise in the game at seven distinct ranked tiers of competitive Overwatch.
Each season of competitive mode lasts two months. And every season, players are required to play 10 placement matches. After these matches are complete, players are given a numerical skill rating (SR) that determines their placement in a tier. The actual equation that Overwatch uses to determine skill rating is still a mystery and has never been fully explained by the development team. At the very least, skill rating gives players a place to start in competitive mode and “climb” by winning games and increasing that skill rating.
Here are the ranks of competitive Overwatch and how to thrive—or at least survive —in each tier.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Achieving a skill rating between 500 and 1499 places you in Bronze, the lowest skill tier tracked in the competitive Overwatch system. Any SR below 499 is listed as “unranked.” Eight percent of Overwatch competitive players fall into Bronze, according to Overwatch’s game director Jeff Kaplan in February 2018. In this tier, players should be focusing on building the basic skills required to move up in competitive mode, like attacking targets as a team and positioning correctly to stay alive during team fights.
An SR of 1500 to 1999 earns a Silver competitive rank. Kaplan said 21 percent of players fall into Silver, but this is a tricky rank to excel in or escape out of. At this level, teamwork is shaky at best and some players are unfortunately trying to “throw” (or intentionally lose) their way to Bronze. Excelling at multiple heroes across different classes will allow you to flex and help your team win. This is also a good rank to practice target prioritization and positioning during fights.
This is the most populous rank in competitive Overwatch. Nearly a third of all competitive Overwatch players (32 percent) earn an SR of 2000 to 2499 and get placed in Gold. Considering the amount of players in this rank, it’s not hard to find friends or teammates to group up with. Gold games are often hot and cold; one game, the team is coordinated and talented, but the next is a disaster. Grouping up with reliable teammates removes some of the mystery and gives you a chance to move up in the competitive world.
If you achieve an SR of 2500 to 2999, you become the most discussed Overwatch rank, at least in the minds of Twitch chat. When viewers begin to comment their own half-baked strategies in the chats of Overwatch League broadcasts or professional streams, many start saying that “plat chat” is taking over. They aren’t necessarily wrong; a quarter of all competitive players are Platinum rank. Platinum is known as a “stasis” rank that’s rough to get out of. Specializing in certain heroes and understanding the basics of high-tier team compositions can help.
Overwatch’s competitive mode changes into a different beast after 3000 SR. At the Diamond level and beyond, players must play a set amount of matches per week or their skill rating will “decay.” The algorithm isn’t exact, but most people have to play at least five competitive games per week to push their “deadline” for decay— approximately 25 SR per day—back.
In addition, as of January 2018, all matches above the Diamond rank have the “performance modifier” bonus for SR removed. In lower tiers, a very minor bonus is given if a player statistically stands out with their play. A flat SR number is given for wins and losses in Diamond and above to encourage teamwork. This teamwork, especially the ability to use ultimates intelligently and in unison, is a critical part of moving above the 3499 SR Diamond cutoff.
The level of “elite” theoretically starts at the Masters level, where only three percent of competitive Overwatch players reside. A skill rating of 3500 to 3999 gets a player to Masters. At this rank, the more intricate parts of Overwatch gameplay become critical to success. Being able to track enemy ultimates and work with your team to manage your own ultimates is necessary. If you’re knowledgeable about team compositions for specific maps and mechanically talented enough to make them work, you may be able to get closer to the highest level of competitive Overwatch.
Grandmaster, or GM for short, is the top tier of competitive Overwatch. Only one percent of players have an SR of 4000 and above. This is the tier that most Overwatch League players, professionals, and popular streamers fall into. As of competitive season 16, Grandmaster players can only play with one teammate; they can’t “stack” beyond two players. This makes teams more fair to play against.
The team compositions in this tier take their cues from professional-level play in the league or Overwatch Contenders. Winning in the GM tier requires high mechanical skill or top-tier game sense and strategic ability. A SR of 4200 to 4500 is normal for players in this tier, but a few have made it to the 4600 to 4700 mark.
This tier exists as a “bonus” beyond the Grandmaster tier. North America, Europe, Asia (which includes Oceania), and China each have their own region of competitive Overwatch. The 500 players with the highest skill ratings in the region are ranked in order and can try to climb to the top of the leaderboard.
To qualify for the Top 500 leaderboards, players must play 50 competitive games with a phone connected to their account for SMS protection. Two weeks after the competitive season begins, the list of Top 500 players is released. Players can move up or down the leaderboard based on their skill rating. The race to achieve — and maintain — the top spots on the leaderboard is a popular pastime for many top Overwatch players.