Today we are turning the reins over to our member “@Fast” to give us the first installment of a series of CoD Competitive League posts. Thanks for the excellent rundown on the basics, @Fast!
Without further ado:
Call of Duty League 101: Part 1 – The Ultra-Basics and the Call of Duty League
October is here and that means it’s time for a new installment of Call of Duty. Shortly following the release of the new game comes a new season of the Call of Duty League, which means Competitive Call of Duty is right around the corner. While Pork Chop Platoon is a casual gaming community, there are still a few of us who like to dip our toes into the turbulent waters of competitive play from time to time and possibly others who’d be willing to give it a go.
This series of blog posts (I’m currently planning four, but who knows?) is intended as a “primer” for all things competitive Call of Duty. Whether you’re interested in jumping into Ranked Play when it releases or are simply interested in watching the Call of Duty League (aka “CDL”) and understanding what you’re seeing, this primer should give you everything you need to succeed (except gun skill, the reaction time of a teenager, or tons of free time to grind and practice free of work or other adult responsibilities). Now, with that said, let’s jump right into the ULTRA-Basics and talk about the CORE of Competitive CoD. There’s a lot to know when it comes to the CDL and competitive play, so grab a cold one or three, put on those reading glasses, and let’s get after it.
What is Competitive Call of Duty?
Competitive Call of Duty, in simplest terms, is Call of Duty the way the Pros play it. To keep things simple, we’re going to focus on the two main “flavors” of Competitive (Comp) CoD, which are the CDL and Ranked Play. It’s worth noting that there are other forms of competitive CoD, including Game Battles, Wager Matches, etc., but we’re just going to focus on the two you’re most likely to encounter. In this post, we’ll discuss the CDL. We’ll save Ranked Play for another time.
History and General Info
The Call of Duty League (henceforth, “the CDL”) is the official professional eSports league for Call of Duty. Activision (as Call of Duty’s owner) runs the league. The CDL is a franchised league that grew out of the old Call of Duty World League (CWL). The inaugural CDL Season was in 2020 where teams competed on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019). The upcoming fourth season will be played on the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The season is slated to begin with a Major Tournament on December 2nd, 2022 and will likely run through the spring and early to late summer (dates still TBD). The CDL currently consists of twelve teams (although Activision has hinted at expansion).
Each CDL Season is comprised of the following:
- Qualifiers (5 rounds)
Qualifiers are played online and typically run for three consecutive weeks. Matches are typically played Friday through Sunday. During Qualifiers, teams earn CDL Points for each match they win. Matches consist of a best-of-five format of maps (more detail in the rules section). After the Qualifiers, teams are seeded for the upcoming Major based on the points they earn during the previous three weeks of qualifiers, so points are super important to get a good seed at the Major. Points earned in the qualifiers also count toward entry and seeding at the Call of Duty Championships, so points are valuable for more than just seeding for the upcoming tournament (more on this later).
- Major Tournaments (aka “Majors”) (5 total)
After each qualifying period, a Major is played. Unlike Qualifiers, Majors are played on LAN and are hosted by one of the League teams in their home city with fans in attendance. Majors are double elimination tournaments consisting of all 12 teams, seeded based on the CDL points earned in the qualifying period for that Major. Major matches are also best-of-five, except for the Grand Final of the Major, which is best-of-nine. Like Qualifiers, teams earn CDL Points based on match wins, as well as bonus points awarded to the top placing teams. These points don’t count toward the next Major but are crucial when Champs comes around.
- Playoffs & The Call of Duty League Championship (aka “CoD Champs” or simply “Champs”) – Top eight teams only
Once Qualifiers and Majors are done, it’s time to tally up those CDL points and head into the Post Season. Only the top 8 teams earn a seat at Champs and are seeded based on their points earned. Playoffs and Champs are played in a Major format in the same weekend (Thur-Sun) with Playoffs comprising the first three days and Champs being on Sunday. Last team standing wins it all!
Rules, Matches & Modes
Competitive play is a bit of a hybrid between Core and Hardcore, with some hitches thrown in. Health, HuD and Minimap settings are the same as Core, but Friendly Fire is enabled. Unlike online modes, competitive CoD is played 4v4. (The inaugural season featured 5v5, but players and fans hated it and the league ultimately reverted to 4v4 play in the 2021 season.) As such, teams are comprised of four starters and one or more substitutes.
In addition to these settings, competitive play has other restrictions. Weapons, perks, score-streaks, field upgrades, tactical and lethal equipment, maps, and even specific attachments are all potentially subject to restrictions. These restrictions are decided upon by both the league and the teams/players to provide the most “balanced” experience possible. While specific restrictions are unique to each Call of Duty title, there are a few items that are generally restricted regardless of the game. These include LMGs, Launchers, UAVs/Counter UAVs, Marksman Rifles (typically), AI controlled score-streaks (attack chopper, etc.) and shotguns to name a few. The CDL maintains and enforces all restrictions and other rules for Pro play. Copies of the official rules can be found on the CDL website.
Beyond the official League rules, there are occasionally additional restrictions imposed by the players on themselves but not strictly prohibited by the League. These restrictions are known as “Gentlemen’s Agreements” (GAs) and are intended to weed out things the players on the whole deem to be “OP”. Often, GAs eventually find their way into the official rulebook.
- Matches & Modes
Matches consist of five games (referred to as “maps”) played across 3 different game modes on maps voted on by the teams using a “veto system”. The two primary game modes are Hardpoint and Search and Destroy which appear twice per match if needed. The third game mode is generally Control. However, since this year’s CoD is created by Infinity Ward, Control seems unlikely since they typically do not have that mode in their games. In the past, either Domination or Capture the Flag (CTF) have comprised the third game mode. While nothing has yet been confirmed, rumors suggest that this year’s 3rd game mode will be CTF. All matches (except for Grand Finals at Champs or Majors) follow this structure:
- Map 1 – Hardpoint
- Map 2 – Search and Destroy
- Map 3 – TBD (most likely CTF)
- Map 4 (if needed) – Hardpoint
- Map 5 (if needed) – Search and Destroy
Okay, let’s wrap this thing up. Before I let you go for this episode, I wanted to provide a little bit of extra info for anyone interested in watching the CDL this season. First, in case you forgot, either due to age or inebriation (no judgment either way), the new season of the CDL kicks off on December 2, 2022. Matches are streamed live on the official Call of Duty YouTube channel and on the official CDL website. If you’re not able to watch live matches, that’s okay too. All matches are available as Video on Demand (VoD) on both sites, typically the next day if not sooner. Finally, a fun feature of the CDL site is called “Pick ‘em”, which is a bit like a March Madness bracket for the CDL. You make predictions and earn points when you get them right. There are official prizes from Activision for Global/Regional winners at various points, but we’ll also likely have our very own PCP Leaderboard for anyone who is interested.
Wow. So that was a LOT of information. Hopefully you took a break along the way to grab another beer, stretch, and use the bathroom (or at least had an empty “emergency” bottle nearby). I’m not saying that’s ever happened to anyone in this clan, but I’m not NOT saying it hasn’t happened either (you know who you are…) Anyhoo… That’s it for this post. Hopefully, you learned something new and interesting and will come back again. Looking ahead, I’d love to do Ranked Play next, but since we don’t have all the details on the new system, we’ll push that further down the line. Instead, the next post in this series will cover the basics of playing competitive modes. Don’t worry, even if you never plan to participate in competitive CoD, there will be plenty of information that will help you develop as a CoD player regardless of how you choose to play.
Until then, keep your powder dry, your beer cold, and your bacon crispy!