The Case for Smokes in SnD

Search and Destroy, or SnD, has been a beloved game mode in Call of Duty since the beginning of competitive play. Unlike the variant game modes, SnD can create thrilling moments due to the change of pace and the lack of respawns. At a competitive level, SnD is played more methodically, giving teams a chance to showcase their hard work through strategies, counter-strategies, and high-risk plays.

While the switch to 4v4 SnD gameplay in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (BOCW) has improved the overall SnD experience over previous years, we think there is still room for improvement by bringing back smokes.

To examine the potential impact of introducing smokes in BOCW SnD, we’ll start by looking at the effect of smokes in Infinite Warfare and the lack of smokes in Black Ops 4.

Smokes in Infinite Warfare (IW) SnD

To understand the effect of smokes on SnD gameplay, let’s look back at SnD during IW. Luminosity Gaming was one of the best respawn teams in the game, but it took them half a season to figure out an SnD strategy that resulted in a championship event win and changed the SnD meta: the four-man wall run hit.

The four-man hit was a simple strategy where all four players would hit the same site and trade out the two or one defenders there. Due to the advanced movement in IW, teams would pull this off by having some players running on the walls while others stayed low, completely overwhelming the defenders.

The Luminosity team of Saints, Slacked, Octane, and Classic had finally figured out how to bring their respawn success into SnD. The problem with this SnD strategy? It was the same tactic over and over again! It was a straight hit, lacked complexity, and was solely dependent on gun skill and teamwork.

OpTic Gaming was quick to sniff this out. Not content with relying on a linear strategy, they added another twist to the four-man hit, which involved the creative use of smokes by Karma.

Below are a few examples of OpTic using smokes against Faze at IW Champs. The first major upside of having smokes in SnD is the ability to create feints and misdirect the enemy team, adding additional complexity and raising the SnD skill ceiling. The clip below shows OpTic smoking off a bombsite to fake a plant and bait out a mis-rotation from FaZe. After a near first blood, OpTic wraps to the open bombsite and is able to plant uncontested:

This next clip shows Karma pushing mid map aggressively to get first blood. He is able to do so, and pulls out a smoke to make his escape. This is the second major benefit of smokes in SnD — it allows players to engage and disengage more creatively from positions they would normally be unable to make a favorable play. You can even hear Matt “Mr X” Morello take note of OpTic’s use of smokes: 

Black Ops 4 SnD

Everyone remembers the crazy sniping clips from SnD in Black Ops 4. Players like Simp and Dashy would take over entire maps with the sniper rifle. However, a major reason for the strength of sniping in Black Ops 4 was the distinct lack of smokes.

In retrospect, Black Ops 4 SnD had a myriad of issues, ranging from the inclusion of the stim shot (allowing players to easily shoulder, then regen, for information), to the 5v5 gameplay (favoring individual plays over teamwork). Through these major changes, the lack of smokes in Black Ops 4 is frequently overlooked until you watch back clips of players trying to matrix around snipes without having smokes to block lines of sight. This brings us to a third point: smokes help mitigate map and weapon balance issues and can lead to more balanced SnD gameplay.

The infamous sniping clips of Dashy and Simp sprinting at people were thrilling to watch, but there were deeper issues in Black Ops 4 with snipers sitting in the same spots, without having to re-position.

Below is a clip of Attach of Evil Geniuses using the sniper against Splyce on Arsenal SnD. In this clip, we see that without smokes, the planter has no chance of getting away with his life. The Splyce players can’t protect the planter without entering Attach’s line of sight. If smokes were in the game, Splyce could have thrown a smoke in front of the bomb on the extended platform. This could have allowed the Splyce player to plant and get away to set up for a post plant defense.

Smokes in Black Ops: Cold War (BOCW)

Upon release, smokes in BOCW were plagued with visual errors, offering one-way vision to players standing inside the smoke and “blooming” in an unusual pattern. Basically, smokes in BOCW have oddly undefined edges, and by positioning inside the smoke, players can see through them and also avoid gunfire (shooting into the smoke would throw off an enemy player’s auto-aim). Many of these particularities were patched, but additional tuning would make smokes a huge asset to competitive SnD and CDL gameplay. 

That being said, there are some instances in which smokes could still be instantly helpful in BOCW. For example, in Miami SnD, smoking off the player on the docks heady would create more variation in A-site post plant play. The A-bombsite on Miami is very difficult for defenders to retake if a player is in the docks position staring at the bomb. Having a smoke to block that line of sight would force a variation in standard tactics.

Providing variation in tactics is another reason why smoke grenades are made for SnD and can add to the game type. At a basic level, smoking off common lines of sight will force teams to adapt their set ups and strategies, leading to a better, more dynamic SnD experience for players and viewers.

Without smokes in BOCW, will we see enough variation in the current SnD map pool? Or will we see the same rounds of SnD played out for a full year? Maps like Garrison and Checkmate, with their long lines of sight, make it difficult for offensive teams to get creative. In order to keep SnD fresh this year, smokes are a definitive answer.

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