English is a strange and often muddy language. Words like average and decent, which have totally different meanings, can seem like synonyms if squinted at long enough. The truth is that I am an above-average DotA player, but that doesn’t mean I’m much more than decent at the game. Part of that is because most players are even worse, and part of the reason for that is the gulf between being decent and actually good is much harder for most people to bridge than the one between bad and decent.
With Valve’s implementation of a ranked matchmaking system that finally allows players to see their overall place in the pub game picture, I have decided it’s time to do some documenting, for the sake of posterity or whatever. So far I have played 1 solo ranked game and 1 team ranked game, which I didn’t even know was ranked till it ended, and for which I got an abandon because the person who invited me to the party had a BSOD or something a few minutes in. See that? The excuses are already flowing. I am much better at those than I am at playing.
However, that’s not why I’m doing this. This is more of a personal evaluation, but one where I’m also laying all my cards on the table.
For the purposes of a before and after comparison, here are said cards: Back in the early beta, when I first got my invite, every player was asked to categorize themselves before their first game. The choices were along the lines of neophyte, intermediate, and expert, and I was trying to be frank, so I picked intermediate. This ranking was there to determine initial matchmaking scores, and I figured that’s where I was, because I had not been playing that regularly in a while. It didn’t matter much since I didn’t solo queue, but I had a fairly easy time of my party games, mostly carrying with mid heroes, and when I finally did start solo queuing I was already at “Very High.” Not a great feat, really, but I’ve maintained that general level through most of my solo queuing history, and occasionally land myself in games with or against stacks of well known and fairly good streamers, and–less often now that the player pool is higher and there are plenty of options for invite leagues (and most pros are not queuing on US East)–pro or semi-pro players. I even get a game on the front page of the watch list (Which is ordered by the overall skill ranking of all players in the game versus the skill of players in every other game.) occasionally. Those games are always awful and someone disconnects within 5 minutes, but they still happened.
The difference between my solo queuing and party queuing is also significant. The simple fact is that I am better in most important ways than everyone I play with regularly. That is no slight against any of them: they are all fine people and represent plenty of talent and potential. I have just been playing DotA longer than most of them combined. On a longer time line I am sure many of them will at least catch up to me. But that means that I had a relatively easy time when I played with them, as I said before, and often carried games with minimal effort. That is the sort of environment that breeds bad habits, so much so that I seldom feel like playing more aggressive roles in my solo games. For me, playing mid takes a very particular mindset, so when I’m not feeling it, I’m not feeling it. Playing carry is a different matter, since I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to last hit and don’t like most carries anyway. Offlane is a different matter, but I find that role is usually filled quickly when I solo queue, and I only like a few offlane heroes anyway. So I end up playing supports in most of my solo games, and I don’t mind that very much. I’m comfortable enough in a 4 role, as a lane support. I like to win lanes, and I do win lanes often enough that I’ll wear that hat whenever it’s offered. Of course, bouncing between playing a relatively stationary support role in solo games and then having to play something more momentum-based in party games has caused some issues. That, and my noted history of not really caring. Thing is, I play DotA for fun, which doesn’t mean I’m not going to try, but it does mean that in any situation where, say, I have a 30% chance of making a big play, and a 70% chance of just dying, I will aim for that big play almost every time, instead of playing it safe. What I mean is that I have a lot of really stupid looking deaths on record. That’s probably what I’ll be addressing most in ranked play.
According to Valve their matchmaking skill ranking bread down like this:
5% 1100 10% 1500 25% 2000 50% 2250 75% 2731 90% 3200 95% 3900 99% 4100
So anything above about 2500 should be considered above average. But as I said at the start, there is a difference between what is average and what is actually good. By most measures I am above average, but I do not consider myself to actually be good. Depending on how my games play out, I expect to land in the 3000-4000 range. If I have 10 fairly good games where I play well enough and there are no freak lag spikes or player disconnects I expect to land higher, obviously. With enough bad games I might even end up around 2500, but I really doubt that.
(Games below are the 10 solo queue matchmaking games required to get a visible ranked MMR. Depending on how this goes I may also do my ranked party placement games as well.)