It’s that time of the year again. Season 3 is almost finished, and everyone is frantically trying to climb up the League of Legends ranked ladders. Who can blame them when a Gold level placement will earn them a nice new Elise skin along with the standard issue glory. My own adventures in ladder climbing have led to both joy and some questions being raised about the good ole match making system.
First, a little bit about me. I am not the biggest fan of solo queue. I like working with people on a team…but solo queue isn’t really that. Solo queue, as someone once adequately put it, is much more like five strangers thrown together to try and bake a pie. Everyone thinks they know how to do it, and ends up tripping over everyone else to get it done.
I have come to really enjoy putting together teams and challenging the ranked team queues. It is often quite hard to get five people together to play, so I have ended up playing a lot of the Twisted Treeline. In fact, I believe I have become quite good at threes. This made it all the more frustrating when our team, meaning myself and the two gentlemen who let me boss them around for a few games here and there, found itself soundly stuck in Silver III.
It wasn’t like we couldn’t get to the promotion series, but during those series a weird thing would happen. My guess is that the game was looking to promote us up a few divisions at once, which would have been fine by us, except that the level of competition during those promos would suddenly become ridiculously hard. We would go from stomping teams of Bronze and Silver level players to fighting teams consisting of Diamond and Platinum players.
It would have been one thing if we were consistently playing against players of that caliber, that is how you get better at this game, but we only ever seemed to hit those players when we made it up to the promos. At first I didn’t mind this “problem.” Gold is generally considered only above average in solo queue. For ranked teams Gold is considered difficult enough that you frequently find teams that have multiple Diamond and Plat players on them. We probably simply weren’t ready to ascend to that level.
Then I noticed some of the kind folks that we have played threes with before were also grinding for Gold. They had logged quite a few more games than we had and were making their final push into Gold. I expected their opposing teams to be chalk full of high level players, but I was mistaken. Instead, they were facing off again a few low Golds and Silver players. I knew I should be happy for these gentlemen, and I was because they are a great group of gamers, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit miffed that their Gold promos were involving weaker competition than our Silver II promos.
This brought up an interesting quandary for my team. We were grinding away in Silver, clearly with a decent or even very strong MMR (hidden elo), but with only a few days to go before the end of season it seemed unlikely that we would be able to grind to Gold. Recently, both of my partners had reached mid level Gold in solo queue. I am still down in Silver, but I had a thought. Maybe, just maybe, it was time to try our luck with a new team and a new set of placement matches.
The placement matches were a lot of fun. You would think that this would be a good thing, and I am never one to say winning five straight games on Morgana is a bad thing, but it terrified us (from an MMR perspective) to see that we spent each game destroying players who were primarily ranked only Bronze and Silver. In our minds, this suggested to us that the game was considering placing us somewhere in low Silver – a place we did not want to be stuck again.
Our final placement match proved to be our toughest. Two Bronze level solo queue players and one Silver player gave us a heck of a run for our money. Their Wukong got ridiculously fed, and they spent the entire game ahead in kills, but we picked our fights well and controlled the map to the point that we were able to take a gold lead and the game. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that there is no tactical thought involved in threes. As the game ended and the glorious placement presentation occurred we all feared the worst. “Is that, is that Bronze?” I stammered to my teammates. No, no it was not. It was Gold IV.
I was exuberant. Getting to Gold in threes had long been a goal of mine (as pathetic as that may seem to some of you) and this seemed to validate the idea that we really did know what we were doing. Even in the midst of this glorious moment I couldn’t help but feel like I had no clue how this happened. How had a team that was struggling with Diamond and Plat opponents just to get out of Silver III been able to sneak into Gold IV?
There is an idea out there that you should choose fame over fortune because once you have fame then fortune will follow you. From what I am seeing, that seems to be the case with ranked team placement matches. A team of all Silver players will be hard pressed to be placed better than Silver, regardless of how well and who they play. A team with a couple of Gold players on it should be able to make it Gold even if their competition is much less stiff than what they had been facing at Silver III.
I still contend we deserve to be at the Gold level. Even in Silver III we were playing well enough to be in Gold, and perhaps that was our problem. Match making was throwing us against much better teams because there was no one else for them to fight. The problem with this was that those other teams were already comfortable in Gold or Plat, and we were still trying to get out of Silver. I get that the game is trying to find good matches for people, but should the lower ranked people really still be losing 20 LP (which we were) for losing to teams several tiers higher than them?
And why were our placement matches so much simpler? Looking back, I do see that a few of the teams we fought against were ranked Gold in threes and did have a few Plats and Diamonds on them. The best part remains that pretty much every team we beat was ranked higher than our old Silver III team, and we were destroying them. Where were these teams when we were still in Silver III? Why were we playing ridiculously high level matches when there were teams much closer to our skill level we could have been playing?
Match making, placement matches etc have always had a certain level of mystery and a strong level of frustration to them. I know the odds of us ever understanding them is pretty slim, but the odds of us continuing to be frustrated by them are pretty good. I do not want you guys to think that I am in any way complaining about playing tough games. Playing tough games is how you learn, it’s what made us better. My only complaint is the fact that in a game where so much praise and compensation is given to those who rise to a certain level it seems unfair that the matchmaking system has the power to allow some teams and players to rise easily while others are left with little hope of advancement.
Maybe it is time for Riot to clarify exactly how matchmaking, placement matches, your hidden MMR, how all of that works. Would that tempt people to exploit the system? Of course it would. But it would also clearly define for us what we need to do to advance to that next almighty tier, because apparently advancing to the next tier is all this game is really about.
I hope what I was trying to get across made some sense. I have a definite idea of what I want to say but very little hard facts to back it up. This definitely ended up being more of a rant than a piece of hard reporting. To be fair, I don’t think there are a lot of hard facts that exist on this subject, which could be a problem, Riot?
Do you, my fine readers, have any interesting stories/frustration related to matchmaking, your MMR etc? If so, I would love to hear about them to get some idea of just how people feel about the current state of this system – especially with a new season fast approaching. No other game I have ever played has had such a mysterious system controlling how fast we are able to advance in it.