I just want to say in advance, thanks for reading this. This will absolutely be a rant post, but I want to try to frame my experience with Ranked Solo/Duo
in a way that can help you understand where am I coming from.
I've been playing for a long time. I first created my account in beta under the name thalathon and didnt enjoy the game immediately. Later on, in college I took the game back up again, after falling in love with Anivia. Despite loving her, I stuck to normals as nothing about ranked interested me at the time; i like the fun of it all.
I finally took the dive one day and jumped into ranked, season 6. I was placed bronze V. I think this is totally fair, since I had no idea about the game and it was my first ranked experience and went in without any kind of gameplan.
The next season (7), I was committed to giving it a real shot. I would spam games by playing one champ at a time, and spamming it for probably 20-50 game stretches. When a champ wasnt working for me, i would give it up and go back to normals or seek out vidoes of others playing it so i could learn what was wrong with my approach. I cared deeply about my performance. I ended up at about 2000 games, with positive winrates on my top 5 champs.
Season 7 Results: https://imgur.com/a/pjX7iIP
I really thought I was doing everything right, but I wasn't going anywhere. In fact, I had an overall negative winrate.
I went back and really committed to a few champions, mainly swain and Azir at that time. At a point where I was really struggling, my favorite streamer midbeast helped me out. Below I've added a clip of his thoughts.
So it would appear that I was really doing a ton of things right, but whatever i was doing just wasn't giving me enough wins. It was at this point that I had a hard realization about how ranked works. It isn't about having a good game, or taking the time to get extremely intimate with a high skill champ. It's about consistency. mind numbing consistency, and the only thing that actually matters is a win.
Sure, there are the intrinsic rewards that come with playing something like azir and doing well with it. And it feels great to see yourself getting a little bit better each time; winning the all in, or getitng a little more cs, or hitting that amazing combo. But when it comes to ranked, your skill doesn't matter. What matters is if you are winning. A win is a win, regardless of how close (or stompy) it turned out to be.
This was really heartbreaking for me, because after spending all that time polishing my moves, and checking the damage numbers, and learning I ended up right back where I started. I know for a fact that I improved a lot, but it wasn't being reflected in game. While my motivation was crushed, I spent a ton of time in pre-season playing it all again and working out the optimal strategies. I was ready.
In season 8, I didn't play as much azir. it didnt work for me before. I played a huge variety of champions, and basically became a fill main. Perhaps this was because i wanted to learn more what every champion could do. Maybe it was because my attempts at going deep on one champ didn't get me anywhere.
I learned a ton this way though, and had a blast. Despite a negative winrate, I climbed to silver 4 before finally giving up for the season. I would have played more, but I worried that I would fall back down to bronze.
Now here I am in season 9, still at silver 4 after a couple hundred games. Unfortunately, I've found that in this meta there is a fair degree of coordination required between mid and jungle in order to start off the early game on the right foot. If even one of them messes up, it can quite literally be gg (not necessarily because the enemy got a gamebreaking lead, but because people tend to soft int when the early game doesn't go their way).
I haven't been a huge fan of this season, because about 60% of my games are stomps, roughly 30/30 in my favor and in the enemy teams favor. The remaining 40% are competitive, but knowing that on average, if I queue up for a game it's going to be a meaningless stomp that I either faceroll and win without thinking or I get camped so hard I never get a chance to affect the game... really dissuades me from giving it a go at all.
It's not like i'm completely terrible. I have a number of friends in diamond+, and I'm at least able to have some good moments against gold+ in normal games. But I don't get to play these kind of games in ranked. Instead, I'm stuck deciding between having a competitive and somewhat enjoyable experience in normal drafts or a game that offers little room for growth (and perhaps a slight touch of toxicity) in ranked queues.
In fact, during the time I was writing this very post, I played a ranked game of shyvana jungle and went full ap. I did not look at the lanes, I considered nothing. I clicked attack move on the camp location, then alt tabbed to come here and present this post. I only looked away from this post during my full fury windows where I could throw out dragon form E's and then proceeded directly back to this post.
... and the sad part is I won that game. While completely distracted and doing almost nothing that requires thought, energy or regard for ones teammates in any form at all. That bothers me deeply.
The victorious skins are nice, and I would very much like to have one someday. But the fact that I get objectively higher quality games in norms is completely absurd. I now understand that ranked is fundamentally a numbers game, and as long as you are winning your skill really doesn't matter all that much.
In normals, I can try something new, whether it be a champ I'm bad at or as small as a different sequence of item purchases on a champion mastered long ago. People will even share tips from time to time and people are excited to go for risky plays just to see what happens.
In ranked, If I so much as suggest something like an item to deal with an upcoming situation, or a change in priorities or playstyle the person I'm directing it at will just take it as a personal attack on their character. The game fundamentally rewards teamplay, but team communication is considered in poor taste.
In fact, communication as a whole in this game has become less and less clear to me as time goes on.
Riot Chat Restriction Explanation: https://pastebin.com/eRuqdSah
This is a chat I had with a very kind rioter who tried to help me understand what the new rules of acceptable communication are. I urge you to read it for yourself, but the TL;DR is that it is unacceptable to 1) talk about how people on your team are performing, 2) talk about their poor behavior, 3) become argumentative in any way, for any reason. This feels awful to me, especially because I had all the honor ribbons under the old system, but now I'm an honor zero guy with thousands of hours of game knowledge... and I'm being told that sharing my knowledge is just generally unwelcome.
I'll probably play just enough ranked to get the split icons. But after that? Why bother.
I really don't know what else I can say, other than how deeply disappointed I am in my ranked experience.
I do hope that eventually something changes, but I'm not enough of a matchmaking designer to have any ideas on what that might look like.
But if you read this far, I hope you can understand at least a little bit of how I got to this point and I thank you for your time.
If you are in NA and like to play normal games, discuss strategies or otherwise just want someone to share your passion for the game with... hit me up!
But if you ever see me in ranked, don't even bother typing.... sharing my thoughts is bannable anyway.