So I'm in Bronze III. Never thought I'd see the day. The strange thing about games down here is that they are generally balanced except that there is usually one player on one of the teams with a tremendously higher number of kills and CS that is deciding who wins the game. Earlier today there was a 14-3 Jarvan IV three levels above everyone with 40 more CS (in the *jungle*) and at least 7k more gold than the next highest and over 90% kill participation---hmm. My last game I won, and no thanks at all to myself. There was a --17-1 Morgana--and a 12-1 Miss Fortune on my team. I'm watching this Morgana kill their team as she's running from four champions at once and thinking gee good old Bronze III eh? I look at her profile (http://na.op.gg/summoner/userName=morajo) and am completely baffled. Eight wins in a row, some with 8+ CS a minute and most with a 10+ KDA and (most important of all I think) always 20+ kills. Here's another player I played with the other day: http://na.op.gg/summoner/userName=blackosaurus . a 71% win rate with scores like 19-3 , 13-3, 19-5 28-7, etc. on Nunu, always 50%+ kill participation and around 6 CS a minute.
Look at this profile though http://na.op.gg/summoner/userName=terry+two+toes. Here's the Jarvan IV I mentioned earlier. He clearly carried the game. No one on my team could kill a Jarvan IV 4 levels higher than them with 6 items and the most CS in the game and 90%+ kill participation. Looking through his profile I see a match with Diana 34-7-9, 70%+ kill participation, 7.5 CS a minute. That kind of kill participation and CS in a Bronze III game to me is stunning. I guess he is someone who knows how to play the game at a high level, but remains in Bronze III for some reason.
Anyway I was somehow in Bronze II or I in Season 2 or 3 (I think placements put me here), but progressed out of it without much trouble. The game has certainly changed. I wonder that the ladder is even functional in many ways. As games are decided by players such as the 19-3 Nunu, the 17-1 Morgana, the 13-4 Jarvan IV, and they seem to have a very competent understanding of the game but remain in Bronze III for some reason, where can you go from there? What is silver? What is gold? I might suppose that the players there perform well more consistently, while not actually having better CS or kill participation, but in fact a 15-1 player in Bronze III to me seems the very definition of inconsistency, and that is what wins games down here. The 20-6 Riven, the 12-1 Miss Fortune, etc.
It is interesting how the game has changed. My memory of bronze (which may be somewhat shaky) is of nexuses crumbling down with Ashes being killed in one empowered shockblast, and Renektons slicing and dicing between their mid turrets to go to their wolves after double killing their top and jungler, and of being quietly and quickly and understandably ushered out of there. The games were too fun and helpless ever to be part of a balanced match making system, and I seem to remember lots of Brazilian players, etc. Bronze two today (which I suppose was Bronze I then) seems more like Silver I then.
One thing I notice now is that the so-called "comeback" bounties in this game are not that at all. Often they are given out more or less at random when the teams are dead even, and even from the only successful player on a losing team, often to players that are already doing very well, tipping the scales even more. More often than not a comeback bounty either cements the lead of the winning team even more, or funnels gold into a high damage champion that was already the top gold in the game, leading to a very imbalanced scenario where someone has 5k or 6k gold more than anyone else in the game. As you can die in a few seconds in this game very easily, they aren't well deserved. It also places a high emphasis on killing other players, as "bounties" are generated seemingly for nothing at all. Basically if you aren't always dying in the game--you have a bounty on your head. 2 assists and no deaths? Bounty. 2 kills and respectable CS? Bounty--and a 650 gold one at that. An exceptionally well executed early game? 1000 gold bounty--no exceptions--guaranteed to be given out to a random champion that CC locks you as you dare to stand in front of your turret mid game. I've truly lost count of the times this 1000 gold bounty is given up right in front of my turret, with no chance to move or flash at all. There's some bizarre discrepancy between the weakness of turrets and the imperative need to defend them closely, and the quickness with which you can be killed trying to do so, and furthermore give the enemy team 1000 gold when they do so. I have also watched some challenger games, and despite what I have read on these forums about dying being a mistake, a bounty is a reward for beating a stronger player, the players in challenger seem to give them up without a second thought--they aren't even building defensively. They seem to be playing the game the way they always did, with the arbitrary "bounties" simply being a strange and discordant thing that swings the balance from one direction to another with no rhyme or reason at all.