Overwatch is one of the most popular shooters on the market, and it’s easy to see why. Not only are the characters bright, colorful, expressive, and able to offer distinct gameplay options from the others, but the barrier to entry is very low. Depending on the character you pick to play as, you don’t even need to be that great at first-person shooters to have a good time. On the other hand, the skill ceiling is tremendously high for players who want to push the limits of their skills and strategies.
Like most online shooters, Overwatch comes with multiple online modes, including competitive. This is where players who want to take the game a bit more seriously can team up and test their skills against other like-minded players. The best players even compete in major tournaments with thousands of viewers and cash prizes. Still, despite the name, competitive mode doesn’t only cater to the most skilled players in the game thanks to the ranking system. Competitive ranks can take a little while to wrap your head around, so here’s everything you need to know about this mode.
What are Overwatch competitive ranks?
Just about every game with a competitive mode has some sort of ranking system it gives players. They come in all forms, from raw numbers to military ranks, or some unique naming system. Whatever they’re called, ranks all are attempting to do the same thing: Make sure players are matched up against opponents of a similar skill level. That doesn’t always work out as intended, but for the most part, the system works well enough.
In Overwatch, competitive ranks are distinguished by different metals that relate to your Skill Rating, which we’ll go into detail on further down. In short, Skill Rating can go from 0 all the way up to 5,000, with different ranks breaking up that range.
Bronze: This is the lowest rank on the list and is where anyone with a Skill Rating between 1 and 1,499 will sit. This is where most new players will end up should they choose to jump into competitive mode right away. Bronze rank is very casual and mainly serves as a training ground for new players to get a grip on playing Overwatch in a slightly more serious way than other modes. Learning things like how to work with other members of your team, how exactly your heroes’ skills work, and what hero, or heroes, you want to focus on are done in this rank.
Silver: Make it up to 1,500, but below 1,999, and you hit the silver rank. This level tends to have a larger pool of players than bronze, but is still where most players fall while figuring things out. At this point, knowing which character you like, or do best with, becomes a major component, as well as how they function in a team dynamic to win games. You will be expected to at least know the layout of all the maps at this point, as well as some basic positioning to be as helpful as possible.
Gold: Now things start to get serious, but this also tends to be the rank where the majority of Overwatch’s players end up. Encompassing everyone with a rank of 2,000 to 2,499, gold-level matches are where team composition, teamwork, and communication really make or break your chances of victory. Going in alone is hit or miss with this rank. You may find some people who are willing to coordinate, but other times you might get matched with some uncooperative players and not have much chance if the other team is a group. Getting through gold means finding a team you work well with.
Platinum: Players with a Skill Rating of 2,500 up to 2,999 hit the platinum rank. This rank is seen by many to be kind of a wall in the competitive Overwatch scene. Breaking through here will require intimate knowledge of not just the maps and everything your hero is capable of, but nearly every other hero as well. You will need to be able to identify threats and mitigate them, as well as opportunities where you have the advantage on someone and can press them when the time is right. Team composition is key, plus being able to counter the opponent’s composition.
Diamond: If you make it to diamond rank, by getting between 3,000 and 3,499 Skill Rating, you’re already a dedicated Overwatch player. At this point, you and your team need to have preplanned strategies, callouts, and backup plans for every match in the game. Coordination becomes the edge you need to overcome similarly skilled opponents. Every misstep that puts you out of position, or getting just a bit too aggressive at the wrong time, can turn the tides against you and may be too difficult to come back from. Oh, and to add a bit of stress to the equation, if you don’t play enough matches in any given week, your rating will decay until you fall back into platinum rank.
Masters: Only a small fraction of the Overwatch community can get the 3,500 to 3,999 Skill Rating to be in the masters rank. While still technically achievable by normal groups, you and your team will need to go beyond a casual enjoyment of the game in order to break into masters. In short, Overwatch will have to be something you and your team put in practice for to reach this level of play, and even then you will all need an above-average skill level at the base mechanics of the game to even attempt to get to this rank.
Grandmaster: This is technically the highest rank in Overwatch. You will need a Skill Rating of above 4,000 to be called a grandmaster. This is not a rank your average player can realistically hope to achieve, and mainly houses professional players who either play in tournaments or as dedicated Overwatch streamers. There’s really nothing that can be said about this rank you can’t glean from the name itself. Unless you have gone beyond mastering the game, don’t even worry about this rank.
Top 500: Not technically a rank, but every region the game is played in, such as North America, Europe, Asia, and China, has its own exclusive top 500 ranking. As you could probably guess, this rank is only given to the top 500 players in terms of Skill Rating above 4,000. Everyone in this rank has their own specific number, and each match they can see it rise and fall as they, and other players around them, win and lose matches.
How to get placed in competitive rank
Now that you know what all the ranks are, let’s get into how to start earning your competitive rank. You see, you aren’t automatically given a Skill Rating of 0 or 1 when you first start Overwatch. Instead, when you first enter the competitive mode, you will play five placement matches. Depending on your performance during these five matches, the game will attempt to determine your skill and give you a base Skill Rating to start from. That means you might skip right up to silver or gold right off the bat, or need to fight your way up from bronze.
Where things get a little complex is in the fact that there isn’t just one Skill Rating you’re working with, but four. Depending on what role you pick — tank, DPS, or support — you will get a Skill Rating exclusively for that role. If that’s the only role you ever play, then that’s the only rating you need to worry about. If you like switching things up, you’ll need to play an additional five placement matches with the other roles to get unique rankings for those too.
The fourth and final Skill Rating is exclusive to the Open Queue mode, where you aren’t required to pick a specific role to play. This was how competitive mode used to function, and was brought back alongside the new mode to allow for more flexibility. Again, do your placement matches in Open Queue to get this ranking.
How leveling up and down works
So, you’ve done your placement matches for whatever role, or roles, you want to play and are given a ranking. Now you will obviously want to try and move up those ranks, which is done by increasing your Skill Rating, which we’ve mentioned throughout this entire article. To boil things down to their simplest, winning games will increase your Skill Rating, and losing will drop it. A typical win can earn you somewhere around 20 to 30 points, with losses taking away around that amount. The range is to account for your individual performance during the game.
One modifier to this that players have noticed is that when they are winning multiple games in a row, the amount their Skill Rating goes up will increase until they get a loss. This is suspected to be the game trying to more quickly place you with people at your skill level when it thinks you’re placed too low and winning too easily.
We already covered the ranks and their Skill Rating numbers they encompass, so leveling up or down just means earning enough points to breach those thresholds into the next rank. However, ranking down is a bit more forgiving. If you just make it up to silver, gold, platinum, or diamond and then lose your first match, rather than being kicked right back down a ranking, you are given five matches as a kind of grace period to get back up above the threshold before actually losing that level.
Playing ranked with a group
Naturally, you will need a team of like-minded, and skilled, teammates to reach the higher rankings in Overwatch. However, to limit boosting, as well as prevent higher-ranking players from matching with their low-level friends, there are some rules as to who you are able to play with in the competitive modes.
For any player at diamond rank or below, you must be within 1,000 Skill Rating of everyone else in your group. If you’re in the master rank, that range shrinks to 500, and becomes even smaller at 350 if you’re in the grandmaster rank. Also, if you or your friends haven’t completed all five of their placement matches, they won’t be able to play on a team with anyone at or above diamond rank until they’ve done so.
How seasons work
The last thing you need to know about competitive ranks in Overwatch is that they are not permanent. Overwatch runs their competitive modes through seasons that change on the first Thursday of every other month, meaning each one will last around eight weeks at a time. When one season ends and the next one begins, you get a little breakdown of how you did in that season, including the highest Skill Rating you managed to get to, as well as earn some rewards based on that rank. These rewards include things like icons and sprays, but also Competitive Points. These points are exchangeable for special golden weapon skins. You will get Competitive Points for every match you win, plus a bonus for what rank you hit at the end. Bronze will get you 25, silver 50, gold 100, platinum 200, diamond 300, master 500, and grandmaster 650.
Each new season puts everyone back on an equal playing field, meaning you will need to start all over with your placement matches. However, assuming you do well, you can easily start off right where you left off, or close to it. Obviously, the earlier you start playing in a season, the more chances you have of hitting higher ranks, so get out there and see how far you can go!