Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Climbing the Ladder

The vast majority of participants in this sub are here for one reason; they want to have a higher solo queue rank. The questions and methods vary, but that's the point of most of it, isn't it? And hey, it's not a bad sub. Many questions are answered to the point, and succinctly. The biggest problem I'd say is atrocious grammar. (You people know who you are!)

But, the fact of the matter is that there's a lot to do with this game that has nothing to do with the game. My favorite post of this kind is a variation of “how do I not get mad at people who make me mad?” My apologies, but most of us aren't really qualified to answer that question, unless you've got plenty of life experience or a psychology degree that no one knows about.

So, I'm going to get my thrity-year-old ass typing and try to help you out. Here's a bunch of stuff that you probably won't hear elsewhere that can help you. Tips are in boldface, so you can just skim through and read only those if you want. Enjoy.

There's no need to convince yourself that you're better than your rank. You already are better than your rank. League of Legends isn't soccer, where the outfielders (that's everybody but the goalkeeper) have relatively similar roles and skillsets. Everyone can run, pass, defend, and use their head. It's much more like baseball, where the players' skillsets are all over the place. Half of the players can't hit (pitchers), the other half can't pitch (everyone else), many players can't field (designated hitters, pitchers, and most overweight power hitters), many players can't run (anyone who bats third through eighth), and so on. In baseball though, that's understood. No pitcher is really expected to be a good hitter. Instead, pitchers are measured on their merits as a pitcher, and most everything else is ignored.

That's not the case in LoL. Your rank is the result of every ranked game you play, and that means you have to suffer the consequences of not only the ragers, trolls, and idiots, but also other circumstances. For example, can you really play each position equally well? I bet you can't. I'm willing to bet that most of your success comes with one position or one champion; if you took that out, your record and rank would be much worse than it is today. This isn't a bad thing, no one expects you to be good at everything. Well, actually, most people will expect you to be good at everything, but ignore those mouthbreathers. The point is that your current rank is an average, and it includes those games where you played out of position, had disconnects, or what have you.When you're playing your best game in your best position, you are better than that average. No two ways about it.

Elo Hell exists. It's just a few bad games you remember. Have you ever heard of confirmation bias? This is the thing that kicks the shit out of people in all walks of life, not just in this game. It's the phenomenon where people look for things that they want to believe, find them, strengthen that belief, and then go look for more things that they can believe. US politics is crippled by this, along with most major industries. I bet even your family has one person that just won't shut up about something they believe, and they LOVE saying “see? What I've been believing all along is TRUE!”

In LoL, the fact of the matter is that most players are losers. I don't mean that the lose games, but I do mean that they're ready to. I know you've seen it; when one player trounces another in lane, it's NEVER because the trouncer is good, it's ALWAYS because the victim is bad. The narrative is “I'd be so much higher if my teammates weren't bad”, and people LOVE proving to themselves that this is true. People think about it, put energy into it, and reap the returns. It takes effort and is noteworthy. Right now, I bet you could tell me a story of a game where there was just this one idiot on your team that fucked everything up, and if it weren't for him you'd have won that game easily.

But what I bet is that you can't tell me a story where the opposite happened. Do you remember a game where the other team was hamstrung by one idiot who singlehandedly threw the game for them? What champion was he playing, and which were you playing? How exactly did the laning phase go? Etc. Unless this game just happened today, I bet you won't be able to tell me, because almost every human being remembers the bad stuff more than the good stuff.

Climbing is the result of making better decisions than your opponents, over time. There are two types of decisions in LoL; “noncombat”, which is everything outside the actual game (runes, masteries, champ select, etc) and combat (laning, combo execution, rotations and objective choice, etc). All you need to do is make the right decision for this game here, over and over. That's all there is. This is not a super-reflexes game like competitive fighting games, where players will scratch and claw to get a 3-frame window (that's one twentieth of a second) of advantage time. It's more akin to chess, where the better player is better because of the decisions he makes. There are mechanical needs and it's possible to swing a game by being a badass with the mouse and buttons. But, for every game that is swung by a Reddit-worthy play, there's a boatload of much less interesting, simpler games where the best team won just by pressing advantages and backing off when they're unlikely to succeed.

Now, I know many of you watch pro streams and the like, where you see these guys keep coming out on top over and over again. But, the truth is that you're not going to win every game, so don't expect to win every game. In fact, you don't need to do much more than a 50% win rate. Not 50% +1, 50% will do. So, just keep making the right play, don't sweat short term results, and in the long term it will work out. After all, did you know that...

The ranked system is on your side. Really, it is. I've tracked over 200 games along with my LP movement, including a rather amazing stretch where I played about 60 games without winning or losing three in a row (and went 50% throughout). Know what I learned? If your rank is right where your MMR thinks you should be, you will win more LP per game than you lose. I've tested this a lot and can confirm that if you're where you're supposed to be, you'll win about 20 LP and lose about 17 per loss. What this means is that if you can maintain a 50% win rate, all you need is time. So...

Put in your time. It's distressing to see the posts that say “I'm nervous about playing ranked”. Quite frankly, you're not going to climb if you don't play. Furthermore, we've already established that everyone's better than their rank, if they play their best game. So, if you're in a good mood and thinking you can play your best right now, get in there and play.

Noncombat decisions are the most important ones. No, not those. Earlier, I described “noncombat” and “combat” decisions. To be blunt, this sub is almost entirely about noncombat decisions: build advice, runes and masteries, what champion I should play, etc. While that's all fine and dandy, there's other very relevant decisions that you're making that I bet you're not even aware of. For example, are you about to play a ranked game with a champion you're not as good as your best with? How about deciding to play ranked instead of practicing with a friend, or even alone against bots? How about deciding to play without even knowing what your champion can do, like the Gold player I did a replay review for last week that didn't know he could use Caitlyn's net to jump through walls? The truth is that this is life, and life's not like a video game, where you do something over and over until some experience bar fills, and then poof! You're better. That's not how it works. Here's how it really works:

You need to practice; mechanically and mentally. The truth is that you can spam games all you like, but getting better means that you need to automate all of your actions. I don't mean macros or botting, I mean that you need to be able to do all of the little things automatically, without thinking. When playing Singed, do you get your autoattack off while the other guy's in the air from Fling? Can you still CS well when the gas is making the minions die at inconvenient times? How about tossing an opponent over a wall when you're being chased? That's champion specific, but what about global skills like checking the minimap often, buying wards and finding time to go drop them, or analyzing the teamcomps and deciding what your strategy is for the next teamfight? (Hint: If they have a Katarina, you need to deal with the Katarina.)

Furthermore, are you even prepared to make the right decisions? For example, take your main champion, whoever it may be. Against every opponent you could conceivably see, are you prepared to play the matchup? You'd better be, because if you don't know what to do, you will make wrong decisions, and you will lose. If you're not, get in there and find a good guide. isn't good enough, it doesn't tell you what to do. Hell, even most guides are trash, and don't tell you what to do. Fortunately, there are some good ones. For example, here's InvertedComposer's Singed guide. In the matchup section, he tells you if it's a farm or bloody lane, what items to emphasize, and general pointers about the matchup. That's a good guide. After all, if you climb by playing your best game, improving your best game will just let you climb further and faster. So, take the time to improve your best game.

Play your best game. If you can't, play another game. This piece of advice is actually a two-way street. Sometimes it's you that will hold yourself back. If you're playing mad, tired, scared, or distracted, you're only hurting yourself. But, you can also be thrown off your game through no fault of your own. Let's say you're a good mid player; but what if you're picking 5th? Best of luck getting mid. Or, what if you're really good on a champ, but they have a common hard counter and you can't pick them first? So, you need to be versatile and not have these things happen. You don't need to play every role well, but you need more than one and one of them should be support. Why support? It's the least popular position. So, if you get stuck with it, this way you can at least be useful. I'm sure you've all see what happens when one team's support is competent and the other's is not. Other than that, bring a couple of champions with you to champion select, in case your champ gets banned or hard countered. Or, better yet, be comfortable in hard counter situations. I had about 400 ranked Singed games last you have any idea how many fucking Teemos I saw? Well, it got to the point where I wasn't afraid of that bastard anymore. Want to pick Teemo into me? All right. See you at level 6.

But what about yourself though? If you just got robbed last game by a ghastly throw by someone who ignored you pings and just had to clear that jungle camp, trading the entire game for about 60 gold, you've got to prevent yourself from taking that into another game. Some people say to quit after a loss, or at least take a break. That works for them, and it may even work for you. For me, I go into team builder and play the champ I want in the role I want. It's my form of LoL stress relief. It works for me. If it doesn't work for you, find something that does.There's a whole world out there, from the internet to real life, that you could be experiencing instead of playing LoL while pissed. Do yourself a favor and don't play LoL pissed.

1 comment:

  1. I love this perspective on climbing the ladder, thank you

    And while I admit it'd be nice to climb the ladder, at the same time, I don't enjoy or support League's matchmaking or ranking systems.

    I do however, love 'playing my best game', as much as possible. :)