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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War League Play is off to a rough start

The long-awaited Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War League Play launched last night, and it's already run up against a number of issues affecting players.

League Play is the ultra competitive portion of Black Ops Cold War's multiplayer that sorts players into a skill-based division and challenges them to move up a ranking ladder.

It strips the game down to 4v4 (standard multiplayer is at least 6v6), and puts restrictions on loadouts in a bid to recreate the ruleset used by professional players in the Call of Duty League.

Only three game modes are playable (Control, Search and Destroy, and Hardpoint), across a limited number of maps. Restricted items include all LMGs, tactical rifles, shotguns and launchers, with a rafter of attachments, scorestreaks, gear and perks also banned.

I spent four hours in League Play last night, and found it to be as brutal as experience as you'd expect from the most hardcore competitive mode in Black Ops Cold War.

However, fans have criticised Black Ops Cold War's version of League Play, which is very similar to that seen in developer Treyarch's previous game, Black Ops 4, for not going far enough.

One of the chief criticisms revolves around the ranking system. To move up ranks you need to earn gems by placing at least in the top 25 in your current division. This ranking system is seen by some as one that rewards playtime, as opposed to skill. You can, over a long enough time period, earn enough gems to hit the top rank simply by finishing in the top 25 out of 50 in each League Play event. It means the top 25 players in a bronze skill level, 50 person division can farm the exact same 30 ranks as players in the top two per cent purple division.


But there are a raft of other criticisms. League Play supports custom classes, including weapon blueprints, which means players are able to use scorestreaks, gear and perks some had hoped would be banned.

The inclusion of the Smoke Grenade tactical, the Jammer field upgrade, the Gearhead perk (which reduces the Field Upgrade cooldown and lets you store up to two Field Upgrade charges), and the Lawbreaker wildcard, which lets you equip any weapon class in either slot and equip multiple perks from one perk category, has come under fire for creating smoke grenade and field upgrade spam in matches.

League Play also carries over Black Ops Cold War's controversial streak system, which does not reset scorestreak upon death. Scorestreaks allowed in League Play include the RC-XD, Armour and War Machine.

Treyarch had said League Play would include default classes made up of presets used by every team in the 2021 season, but these are not currently live in-game. Some are hoping these presets will become the only way to play League Play.


When you start League Play, the game asks you to complete five matches before it places you in an appropriate division. Some players are reporting unexpected placements, although it's worth noting 50 per cent of players are placed in the Competitor division. Treyarch has said it uses a skill rating to determine which of the five skill divisions you are placed in, but it has not revealed what determines your skill rating (k/d perhaps?), and the game does not reveal your skill rating, either. All players currently have to go on are the colour-coded skill divisions (bronze, green, white and purple).

There's confusion over the League skill divisions. As mentioned, the Competitor division is meant to house 50 per cent of players. The top 50 per cent of players by skill are arranged into three divisions: Advanced (top 20 per cent to 16 per cent); Expert (top 15 per cent to 11 per cent); Elite (top 10 per cent to three per cent); and Master (top two per cent).

As you've probably noticed, there's a gap there from the main 50 per cent (bottom?) to the beginning of the Advanced skill division, which houses the top 20 per cent to 16 per cent. Perhaps Treyarch means of the top 50 per cent of players by skill. Either way, it's confusing and poorly worded.


Moving on, League Play clearly has an issue with players leaving matches, or matches beginning with fewer than four players on each team. It's not a big deal when players leave a standard multiplayer match, but it can be devastating in League Play, which has fewer players per team and ladder points on the line.

Treyarch has said it takes match integrity seriously, "and poor sportsmanship isn't tolerated." To this end, players who quit a League Play match receive a Ladder Point penalty and a match loss, with increased penalties applied to players who quit before anyone else on their team does. However, it seems that early days, this penalty is not enough to put off players from quitting in League Play.

There's a horrible bug currently affecting League Play that causes a player to sometimes start a match with empty loadouts - and thus no guns. Treyarch has acknowledged this issue and said it's working on a fix.

Are we serious rn Treyarch? from r/CoDCompetitive

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And, of course, there are early reports of some players running into cheaters in League Play. It's unclear how prevalent this issue is, but I've already seen some console players turn off cross-play in a bid to avoid PC cheaters.

State of Legue Play can we share this around from r/CoDCompetitive

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Treyarch's David Vonderhaar has responded to some of the negative feedback on Twitter. Replying to one Twitter user who asked why the developer used the same format for Black Ops Cold War League Play as it did for Black Ops 4 League Play, rather than the kind of ELO system you see in other competitive shooters, Vonderhaar said:

"I don't have enough characters to do it justice. Keywords: Scope. Accessibility. Deadlines. Franchise.

"We got some work to do IMO to evangelise how it works after we clean up some of the obnoxious bugs."

Then: "Won't lie. Been a challenging year with COVID. For example, we lost our livestreaming studio where we would normally introduce something like this, acknowledge what people are saying, tell you what we think about that (etc, all)."

It sounds like Treyarch would have loved to have launched Black Ops Cold War League Play with a video explaining its design philosophy and goals. This would have gone some way to manage expectations, I imagine.


In its introductory blog post on League Play, Treyarch said Black Ops 4's League Play "was by far our most-played ranked competitive mode in Black Ops series history, setting new records for the number of matches played and time invested by the community".

"Its accessible Ladder system kept players coming back for more, and its core design solved several fundamental problems with Black Ops 2's model by introducing a progressive rank system, running more frequent Events in shorter sprints, and ensuring faster and healthier matchmaking for participants.

"We're building on that foundation this year, implementing a total of 30 new Ranks to achieve, returning to the classic 4v4 format of the Black Ops 2 days, and providing players with more flexibility in gameplay rules, such as available Scorestreak selection, compared to the full official CDL 2021 ruleset."

In this context, perhaps it's no surprise to see it used as a template for Black Ops Cold War's League Play.

What may Treyarch change? Some players have called for the introduction of "GAs". These are "gentlemen's agreements" between professional Call of Duty players, and would result in a more restricted ruleset. For example, the GAs for Black Ops Cold War ban the AK-47, sniper rifles, smoke grenades and jammers - all of which are currently allowed in League Play.

On Twitter, Vonderhaar suggested it's more likely Black Ops Cold War's League Play will focus on fixed classes than GAs.

"This will sort itself out," Vonderhaar said. "I hate GAs. I want to do fixed classes so it's not about restrictions/bans but picking a class that everyone can understand/learn that doesn't have all the things that would be GAd. For League, many others think I am nuts."

And will Treyarch reveal the numbers behind Black Ops Cold War League Play's skill rating? That's another thing Vonderhaar was asked about on Twitter, and he responded to say it's a maybe.

"I will say that when we do expose the math it creates tension the other way," Vonderhaar said.

"People get 'mad' the number didn't go up as much as they wanted or went down more than expected."

Then: "I think it's worth exploring if we can expose some of the math. It's clear that people are asking about it. I need to think it over and talk to some people about it."

However Treyarch reacts, it's clear the developer has some work to do to get those into Black Ops Cold War League Play on-side.


On February 8,Call of Duty developer Treyarch released the hotly-anticipated League Play for Black Ops Cold War, a mode that had been heavily requested since the launch of the game on November 13, 2020. 


With expectations from the passionate community extremely high after 12 long months without any form of a competitive playlist, players were expecting Treyarch, the developer that has provided the most support to the competitive scene, to provide the most complete iteration of League Play ever seen.

After just a few days of playing, Treyarch appears to have completely missed the boat in regards to what the player base wanted from a competitive playlist. Despite League Play containing exactly the same maps, game modes, and rules that the Call of Duty League (CDL) uses, the unrewarding and confusing ranking structure rehashed from Black Ops 4’s measly attempt at a competitive playlist has left several players, including myself, extremely disappointed.


League Play: At Least It's Something...

Although there are several things wrong with Black Ops Cold War’s take on a competitive playlist, Treyarch implementing some form of mode is already a big step forward compared to what Infinity Ward offered on the 2019 reboot of Modern Warfare. 


The competitive nature of matches complete with official rules does make a welcome change from the public lobbies that have been injected with a hefty dose of skill-based matchmaking. Having some form of League Play, even though it isn’t ideal, is certainly better than no League Play altogether. 

Black Ops Cold War League Play is a terrible attempt at a competitive playlist and a huge step backwards compared to just a few years ago when Call of Duty: World War 2 offered a comprehensive, clear, and understandable ranked playlist. 


Matchmaking: A Shambles

After spending several hours attempting to decipher the three unrewarding layers of progression, I eventually completed my placement matches with a solid four wins out of a possible five. Expecting to be placed in one of the higher skill divisions on offer, I found myself placed in Expert, the top 30% of players. Not bad, but not great. 

As professional players completed their placement matches, it turns out Expert is a rather impressive rank to achieve. Florida Mutineers player Joseph “Owakening” Conley managed to win all five of his placement matches alongside an impressive kill-to-death ratio often only to be placed in Competitor, the lowest of the five skill divisions. How can a player competing against the very best players in the world receive the lowest rank in League Play?!

Once I got placed, the difficulty of matches varied drastically. The first game in my respective ladder was a 250-0 whitewash on Hardpoint while the next match was a hard-fought defeat in a close Control match. Competitive Call of Duty pioneer and Treyarch Multiplayer Designer David Vonderhaar took to Twitter, explaining that there could be issues influencing matchmaking. He went on to say that he may reveal some of the factors that determine the skill level of players and how matchmaking works but opted to hold back in case even more criticism was hurled in his direction.

Considering Treyarch has had over three months to create the best competitive playlist that Call of Duty has ever seen, this is certainly one of the worst iterations of a ranked playlist that has been added into the franchise.

Ranking System: Complex And Unnecessary

The vast majority of triple-A titles release with some form of competitive playlist that is simple to understand, and contains a clear path to the top rank. For some reason, the Call of Duty franchise has never been able to implement such a playlist, much to the annoyance of those after an alternative to casual matches. 

As I mentioned earlier, it took me nearly three hours to fully understand the three layers of progression and their respective functions. Skill divisions determine your skill in relation to other League Play players while Gems can be earned to increase your League Play Rank. The higher you place in your 50-player ladder, the more Gems you earn, resulting in a faster increase in Rank. The Gems are a totally unnecessary feature to League Play. What’s wrong with a simple ELO number that is calculated based on wins and losses and you get placed in a division ranging from Bronze all the way to the Top 500? World War 2’s ranked playlist was way ahead of its time and would’ve been the perfect addition to Black Ops Cold War. If it isn’t broken, then why not implement it across the board and have it within the game as soon as it releases?

As a whole, the ranking system is one of the most unrewarding systems that I’ve ever seen. With only Calling Cards and Rank icons to change rather than having to work your way through the ranks, is there really any point to attempt to reach Rank 30?

Once I managed to reach Master Rank 1 all the way back when Black Ops 2 first released League Play, it felt like a great achievement that I was able to show off to other players. If I told someone that I was Rank 30 on League Play and had a flashy Calling Card and Emblem, the likelihood of them caring is slim to none.

The likes of VALORANT and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) are prime examples of how a ranked playlist should be implemented into a game. With a clear path to the top, and cool names such as Radiant and Global Elite used to showcase your immense skill at a game, how hard can it be for Call of Duty to follow a similar system rather than disappoint one of its most committed areas of the community on an annual basis?

Is There Any Chance Of Change?

The chances of Treyarch implementing drastic changes to its League Play mode are extremely unlikely, much to the disappointment of those that are simply on the lookout for a fun and rewarding take on competitive Call of Duty.

For those players wanting a taste of World War 2’s ranked playlist, the servers are still online, and I would highly recommend jumping into some ranked matches to fully understand the mess that Treyarch has created.

While it is positive that League Play is finally in the game, it’s left a sour taste in the mouths of competitive players that such high hopes for Treyarch to take League Play to new heights, especially with the second season of the CDL kicking off in just a few days.


Images via Treyarch | Eurogamer

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Everything you need to know about League Play in Call of Duty: Cold War

The Call of DutyLeague returns soon. The esports competition might be essential viewing for some fans of the blockbuster shooter, but it's very hard to actually break into the league without a staggering level of time and commitment. For those that can't participate in the esports competition, your next best choice is League Play in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.

This ranked multiplayer mode was available for previous CODgames, and it just came to Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War in an update on February 8. This is everything you need to know about League Play if you want a taste of what it's like to be a pro COD player.

But first: How did gaming get you through the pandemic? We want to hear from you! Take this quick Inverse survey.

How to unlock League Play in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

League Play should be available through the game's main menu to anyone who's fully updated Black Ops Cold War. To get started, you just have to choose this mode, set up your classes, and start playing. Your first five matches in League Play are very important because they determine which Skill Division you are initially placed in.

If you're familiar with ranked modes in games like Valorant, this setup shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. This system makes sure that players of similar skill levels are grouped together, so low-to-mid-tier players aren't constantly demolished and beaten by people who should be in higher ranks.

All new players should be able to access it as soon as they boot the game up for the first time.

How does ranking work in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War League Play?

League Play is a special COD ranked mode where players can try the same modes and maps that pro players experience in the Call of DutyLeague. That means you'll be playing 4v4 matches with the official CDL 2021 ruleset. The mode does have preset classes that players can use, but this mode still lets players bring in a custom loadout if they have a class and loadout they like more.

There are 30 ranks overall for players to work their way through. Players can increase their rank with Gems they earn by placing in a Division during a League Play Event. Weekday League Play Events run from Monday to Friday; meanwhile, Weekend League Play events are held from Friday to Monday. These events have 5 Divisions:

  • Competitor
  • Advanced
  • Expert
  • Elite
  • Master

Players climb up each rank's Ladder with every win while losing or quitting will cost one's Ladder Points to drop. Your final position in these Divisions during a League Play event will earn you the gems that can be used to advance rank.

Obviously, you'll want to place highly in a League Play event to rank up the fastest. To practice, you can also make private matches with the new CDL Pro setting.

What are the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War League Play Rewards?

There are several rewards that players can get for making their way through League Play. Every five ranks, players will get a special League Play Calling Card that can be shown off across Black Ops Cold War, Warzone, and Modern Warfare. If you finish a League Play event in first place, it'll add a Victory Flame behind your rank.

This flame will get stronger with every consecutive first-place win of an event, but it will go away if you don't get first. Any XP players gain here will also get applied to their battle pass, just like any other Black Ops Cold War mode, so you don't have to worry about losing out on progression because you focused on League Play.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

How to Get DIAMOND RANK + MASTER DIVISION on Cold War League Play (Ranks + Skill Divisions Explained

Black Ops Cold War League Play: All Ranks and Ranking System Explained

League Play has finally released within Black Ops Cold War! 

The long-awaited game mode may not have been what the community was expecting initially.

But, nevertheless, players all over the world are grinding away at the new game mode to achieve the highest rank.

If you are unaware, there are multiple ranks within League Play. But, the system can be a bit confusing.

Here's a quick rundown of how the ranking system works! 

All Ranks

In an announcement blog post that was posted yesterday by Treyarch, they have detailed all the ranks players can obtain within League Play.

In total, there are five separate ranks you can be placed in.

They are: 

  • Master: Top 2% of players
  • Elite: Top 3-10% of players
  • Expert: Top 11-15% of players
  • Advanced: Top 16-20% of players
  • Competitor: 50% of players
click to enlarge

How It Works

You may be wondering how you will make your way from the Competitor division all the way into Master per se.

Thankfully, Treyarch has posted the following statement in regards to ranking up. 

Wins will award Ladder Points that increase your position on the Ladder. Losses will decrease your Ladder Points and can drop your position on the Ladder. Winning consecutive matches will earn you a Win Streak Bonus, and you can earn a Daily Bonus by playing every day.

We take match integrity seriously, and poor sportsmanship isn’t tolerated. Any players who quit a League Play match will receive Ladder Point penalties and a match loss, and increased penalties will be applied for players who quit a match before anyone else on their team does.

So, like most ranked game modes the better you perform over a stretch of matches, the more likely you are to advance in divisions! 

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How League Play Works in Black Ops Cold War: All Divisions, Ranks & Rewards (UPDATED)

League Play in Black Ops Cold War

Last night, League Play finally went live in Black Ops Cold War. We explain in detail how League Play works, what divisions and ranks are available, how to improve your rank, and what rewards are available.

Wow, we can hardly believe it, almost four months after release we finally get a Ranked Mode in Black Ops Cold War! League Play went live last night and is selectable in the game menu as its own category alongside Campaign, Multiplayer, and Zombies. Why is it separate from multiplayer? Quite simply, it is based on the Call of Duty League and adopts all the rules and restrictions from it. But don't worry, we'll explain everything in detail in a moment.

How does League Play work?

As already mentioned, League Play is based on the Call of Duty League. The same game modes and maps are played, and the restrictions on weapons and equipment are also taken from the CDL rules. What does that mean exactly?

Maps & Modes

The following maps will be played in Hardpoint:

  • Checkmate
  • Crossroads
  • Garrison
  • Moscow
  • Raid

In Search & Destroy you can expect:

  • Checkmate
  • Miami
  • Garrison
  • Moscow
  • Raid

These maps will be played in Control:

Prohibited weapons and items

The following restrictions also apply:

BOCW League Play forbidden weapons and items


After many players complained that some attachments, Scorestreaks and Perks that were still allowed were too op, Treyarch has published a list with more restricted items. They are not yet listed in the rules in the menu, but can already no longer be selected when creating a class.

Due to the restrictions in place, all class setups created in multiplayer are not available. Before you start your first league games, you should first create new classes, as well as re-select your scorestreaks. You don't have to pay attention to the restrictions yourself, all forbidden items have already been removed and can't be chosen. If you want to look up the exact round times, respawns per team, etc., you can do that in-game at any time.

Top 7 Coolest Black Ops Cold War Weapon Skins View gallery

Divisions & Ranks

All well and good, but how do I get matched against other players and how can I level up? We can explain that as well:

League Play will offer constantly changing events within which you can work your way up the rankings of your division to earn rewards. Before you can work your way up a leaderboard, you must first complete five placement matches - either in a team, with friends, or with randoms. The number of wins, as well as your personal performance (unfortunately we don't know exactly what all counts in the rating) in these five matches, will determine in which division you will be placed.

BOCW League Play Divisions

There are a total of five so-called skill divisions:

  • Master: Top 2% of all players
  • Elite: Top 10%-3% of all players
  • Expert: Top 15%-11% of all players
  • Advanced: Top 20%-16% of all players
  • Competitor: 50% of all players

Each player will be ranked within their division with up to 50 other players at the same skill level. Within this, you can then work your way up during the event to improve your rank. Wins move you up in the rankings, losses move you down. To prevent unsportsmanlike conduct, leaving a match early will be penalized with a loss and additional minus points.

At the end of each event, you will earn gems based on your ranking, which will permanently increase your rank and thus your rank icon.

  • 1st place: 5 gems
  • Top 5: 4 gems
  • Top 10: 3 gems
  • Top 25: 2 gems
BOCW League Play Ranks

Initially, your rank symbol is bronze. If you place in the top 10 once, it becomes silver. After a top 5 placement, it becomes silver gold. After 1st place it becomes gold, and if you make it to 1st place six times you get the diamond rank badge.

For the pros among us, there are also the Victory Flames that you can earn for consecutive 1st place finishes. With a 1st place finish you get yellow flames around your rank badge, if you make it to 1st place several times in a row, the flames change color to blue and finally to purple. The flame effect lasts until the end of the next event and then slowly or completely disappears if you don't make it to 1st place again.

Now you know how League Play works in Black Ops Cold War. If you still have questions or just want to tell us what you think, feel free to write on Facebook or come have a chat on our Discord!

Original article by EarlyGame's Lukas Ballat.

Road To Master Division - League Play Cold War (Ep. 1)


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