Even the most casual of Call of Duty esports fans has heard the phrase “SnD wins championships”.
It’s a logical statement – there are always two Search and Destroy maps in a best-of-five, and being the last map in a series means a tight match often rests on teams’ skill in this mode. It stands to reason, then, that great Search and Destroy teams are more likely to find greater success.
When it comes to the big one though – the Call of Duty Championship – how much has this held up? Does history actually show that SnD is the key to victory in the most important event of the year?
If you take a look at the bracket runs of the World Championship winners to date, the results imply that Search and Destroy may not be as critical as the aphorism suggests.
As a brief disclaimer, it’s worth mentioning here that all statistics and analysis from here onwards are based on the play-off sections of the competitions.
Winners of the inaugural Call of Duty Championship on Black Ops 2, Fariko Impact entered the event as heavy favourites looking for their third consecutive title.
Despite what many remember as a period of dominance by the Impact squad, this first World Championship was the most closely contested to date.
Through the bracket stage of the tournament, Impact lost more maps than any winner since, and are also the only team to have won the title after losing a series in the winners’ bracket.
At first glance, the fact that Impact also had the worst Search and Destroy record of the winning teams might suggest a correlation, but on further inspection Impact’s SnD shortcoming doesn’t seem to have limited them too much.
Following the group stage, Impact won only three of the eight SnD’s they played – a win rate of just 37.5%. In the first three series of bracket play Impact dropped three maps – the Search and Destroy of every series.
Of the three SnD’s they won, one actually came in the only series they lost: Impact took the first SnD against EnVyUs in the winner bracket final, but ultimately lost the fifth map to go into the loser bracket.
Of the four maps they won in the grand final to defeat EnVyUs, only one was a Search and Destroy – arguably now the most well-known SnD ever played, the map that clinched the victory.
Just because a map comes last doesn’t necessarily make it more important than the others, however, and there is perhaps another factor that could correlate to Impact’s struggles relative to their later counterparts: Fariko Impact are the only winner of the Call of Duty Championship to do so without a flawless game mode. That said, it’s also worth noting that the addition of Uplink as a fourth mode has perhaps made such a feat easier in recent years.
What Fariko Impact lacked in Search and Destroy they made up for in Hardpoint. Though not quite managing a 100% win rate, they won ten of their twelve Hardpoint maps.
As a result, Hardpoint accounted for two of the requisite three wins in four of the six series that Impact played in the bracket, and as such it was this game type that was largely responsible for their success – though in the grand final, it was CTF that accounted for two of the four wins they needed to take the title.
In contrast to their predecessors, compLexity’s World Championship win was the most dominant we’ve ever seen. Conceding only three maps in the entirety of their bracket run, it’s therefore worth noting that compLexity were particularly unusual in their dominance, even amongst world champions.
That said, where coL did struggle, if anywhere, was again Search and Destroy. Of their three losses, two came in SnD, with the third being a narrow loss to OpTic Gaming on Warhawk Blitz.
Once again it was the primary respawn mode that proved they key to victory for the champions, as compLexity didn’t drop a Domination. As with Impact’s Hardpoint this was also their most played game mode, taking all seven that they competed in. By comparison, they won four of their six SnD’s and four out of five Blitz maps.
The fact that compLexity were so good at absolutely everything makes it hard to pin down one particular mode that could be counted as their key to victory – at the time, they were perhaps the best team in the world at all three. Having said that, it seems clear that once again, the winners of the Call of Duty Championship were by no means reliant on Search and Destroy for their success.
Denial represent the first team to win the Call of Duty Championship for whom SnD was not their statistically weakest game mode in the tournament – their 1-3 record in Uplink took care of that.
While this accounted for 50% of their map losses, Denial weren’t making up for the deficit in SnD – instead finding most of their success in the other respawn game modes.
A single loss in Hardpoint to Automatic Reload denied them a flawless win rate there, but where Denial really shone was in CTF, taking all five maps they played in this mode.
Outside of Uplink, SnD was actually the weakest of the other three game types, with Denial losing two of the seven they played. Though they may only have lost SnD to a single team – both losses coming against Team Revenge, the second map in the winner bracket and grand finals respectively – this shortcoming paired with their Uplink deficiency could be said to have been responsible for the only five-map series the team played throughout the bracket.
The most recent winners of the Call of Duty Championship, EnVyUs are yet another team that relied more on their respawn game modes than Search and Destroy. Though not their weakest game mode, this is only perhaps by virtue of having played it slightly more frequently.
Throughout their bracket road to victory they lost two maps in both Hardpoint and Search and Destroy, resulting in a 60% and 66% win rate respectively.
Meanwhile, it was in games three and four that EnVy really made their mark. Losing only one of the five Uplinks they played and winning 100% of their four CTF’s, it was these game modes that enabled EnVy to stand above the rest.
When you look at the results as a whole, they paint a surprising picture. Far from being the key to victory, Search and Destroy has been one of the weakest game modes for every team to ever win the Call of Duty Championship.
It becomes even more damning when you take a look at their challengers: EnVyUs had a higher SnD win rate over the bracket stage of the competition than both Impact in 2013 and compLexity in 2014. In 2015 Team Revenge had the statistical edge over Denial in SnD, as was the case for Splyce in comparison to EnVyUs in 2016.
On the two occasions that the World Championship was decided in Search and Destroy – 2013 and 2015 – the team with the weaker record prior to that last map ultimately prevailed, which suggests perhaps that the ability to perform under pressure, or some “clutch factor” was key in those crucial moments, more than an innate talent for Search and Destroy.
The Call of Duty Championship will always be won by teams that are exceptional, and teams that are sub par in any game mode will always struggle to find success.
While the phrase “SnD wins championships” certainly shouldn’t be entirely dismissed, if you’re aspiring to a World Championship title and looking for words to live by, perhaps “respawn rules” would be more apt.