ELO Hell: A Survival Guide
Okay. Take a look at my ranked record on lolking, and I may seem like an unlikely person to be writing any kind of play guide for LoL. At the time I'm writing this, I have almost 600 games in solo queue and a current ELO of 1344. However, aside from my first 25 games in ranked or so, I've played the majority of my ranked games mired in what LoL players hatingly refer to as "ELO Hell" - that perceived quagmire of trolls and baddies that make up the ranks of the ELO between 1000 and 1400 (or so). I think 600 games in ELO Hell qualifies me as a bit of an expert on this cross-section of ranked play. And, as I've painstakingly climbed back above 1200 from the lower 1000s eight times, I've learned some things along the way that I feel might help some players deal with ELO Hell just a little bit better...and maybe keep their sanity intact as well.
(Note: the numbers/statistics I will use in this post are not based on any painstaking research, but rather come from my own general observations, or are simply made up. They're used primarily for illustration purposes, not with any intention of strict scientific accuracy, so please take them that way.)
I've written this guide in sections, so feel free to read the whole thing, or just skip to the sections you're interested in.
I. Why is there an ELO Hell?
II. Why are there so many players in ELO Hell?
III. How does a player get stuck in ELO Hell?
IV. What makes ELO Hell so hellish?
V. Surviving ELO Hell
VI. Trade your EGO for ELO
VII. 10 Tips for Escaping ELO Hell
VIII. The Bottom Line
If you enjoy this guide or find it the least bit useful, please post a reply to bump it, so that others can see it as well. Thanks.
I: Why is there an ELO Hell?
There are a lot of factors that contribute to ELO Hell. Perhaps the biggest determining factor of ELO Hell is that everyone needs to start somewhere. Without any previous performance to base an ELO rating on, all new ranked players are placed at 1200 by default. Due to this lack of information, the matching of evenly balanced teams in ELO Hell is a random and unpredictable occurrence because few players are actually 1200 by skill.
Think of it this way - every 2000+ ELO player started at 1200. So did every 800- ELO player. Players from each group were put on teams with and against each other, but without the system knowing who is who. If you're at 2000+ ELO, you've earned it, and teams at that ELO will always be fairly competitive. Likewise for 800- teams. But at 1200, any team could be harboring future 2000+ ELO players, 800- players, or anything in between. And the system has no way of knowing.
II: Why are there so many players in ELO Hell?
People don't like to play games they are utterly incompetent at. That means that while a 2000 ELO player and a 400 ELO player are equidistant from the average, there simply won't be nearly as many 400 ELO players as 2000 ELO players. Instead, there will be a huge number of players at, say, 800 to 1200 ELO.
III: How does a player get stuck in ELO Hell?
The truth is, for most players, it is extremely difficult to reach the “escape velocity” necessary to travel past the masses in an ELO system. The nature of any ELO system is to pull most players back to the middle, while propelling the few truly exceptional players (whether good or bad) toward the ends.
Consider an example game: Team Derp plays at 1200 ELO. If all the competitors are equal in skill (accurate ratings), Team Derp has a 50% chance of winning the match. If Derp wins, the Derp players will gain ELO and play a tougher team the next time out, making Team Derp more likely to lose its next game. Although there will be small rises and falls in the short term, the long term outcome should be that Team Derp will return to 1200 again and again (unless the players improve).
Now, consider the same game, with ONE player who is inaccurately rated. Say 1 of the Derp players is actually a 1400 ELO player. That should increase Derp's chances of winning against an accurately ranked 1200 ELO opponent. But how much do their chances improve? While a 1400 player may be markedly better than a 1200 player, he still only represents 20% of his team's players. And a 200 point ELO advantage can be mitigated by laning role, bad team communication, team composition, etc. The truth is, that 1400 player will have to work very hard, and maybe get a little lucky, to earn his 1400 rating, simply because 1400 is too close to the masses at the average ELO.
However, the more exceptional a player is, the less true this is. A 2000 ELO player should be strong enough to overcome most obstacles presented by games at 1200. And the further a player rises in ELO, the more accurately players will be rated and the more consistent the team play will become, making skill increasingly influential in the outcome of the game. This is how ELO systems propel exceptionally good, or exceptionally bad, players toward the ends of the spectrum.
But, for the rest of us, the natural gravity well created by ELO will tend to pull us back toward the mean.
IV: What makes ELO Hell so hellish?
The long answer: In addition to the all the inherent probabilistic difficulties arising from any ELO system, the League of Legends community introduces its own cultural factors which make the middle ELOs even more unpleasant for players.
The short answer: Trolls, baddies, and noobs.
The truth is most trolls aren't trolls, most baddies aren't bad, and most noobs aren't that new. People have good and bad games at any ELO. Add to that the facts that most 1200 players probably deserve to be at some other ELO (lower or higher), too many people start playing ranked games too soon, and the frustration of ELO Hell works the last nerve of just about every resident, and you get...trolls, baddies, and noobs.
The good news is that this is the part of ELO Hell we (the community) actually have control over. The rest of my guide will discuss exactly this – how to survive, and even thrive, in ELO hell.
V: Surviving ELO Hell
The best way to survive ELO Hell is to keep your visits there as brief as possible. Turn ELO Hell into ELO Purgatory by learning its lessons and working your way out. In my experience, there are just a few keys to achieving this.
1. Practice OUTSIDE of ranked games.
2. Be a team player.
3. Stay positive.
4. Keep your cool.
5. Learn when to walk away.
Here's what I mean:
1. Practice OUTSIDE of ranked games.
Practice is key to improving – that's nothing new. However, ranked games aren't a good place to practice if you intend to rise out of ELO Hell. Bot games and custom games are great places to learn the mechanics of new champs. Normal drafts are a great place to practice team dynamics and get used to playing different roles. Ranked games aren't the place to be doing new stuff – not if you want to make your way out of ELO Hell.
2. Be a team player.
This is a big one, with lots of components:
a) Don't be stuck in a role. Be ready and willing to play any role the team needs. Also be flexible with others who aren't ready and willing to play any role. You may feel that people like that are trolling you, but it's your choice of how to react. If you want to climb out of ELO Hell, you may have to swallow your distaste a bit, suck it up, and play your third choice.
b) Communicate. Starting in the Queue, try to talk about team composition, what roles people want. In game, call mias AND ping them. Try to help other players, especially your jungle, by keeping an eye out for invasions, team fights that might be forming, and fleeing targets you can cut off. Call out targets in fights. Let people know when you are going b. Simple messages like these can make a big difference in your team's chances.
c) Have a team plan. If you need to come up with it, do so. If you need to follow someone else's lead, do that instead. Who do you focus first? Are you going to ambush? Baron bait? Go for objectives, extend the lane phase, or knock down turrets and force a team fight?
3. Stay positive.
This one can be tough. Trolls will troll. However, the vast majority of trolls in ELO Hell aren't true trolls. They're just people who are pissed off at being in ELO Hell. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe they've lost 5 games in a row. Who knows? The point is, if you poke the grumpy bear, he's going to show you his fangs. Try to be patient. If teammates get into a conflict, try to bring their focus back to the game. A few positive comments or compliments can go a long way. Whatever you do, no matter how frustrated you get, try HARD to avoid creating or escalating conflicts on your own team. Players that dislike their teammates are less likely to help each other or coordinate well.
4. Keep your cool.
This may seem like a repeat of point #3, but it's more. Obviously, the more you can keep your cool with the occasionally annoying teammate, the better. However, you also need to keep your cool when you have pleasant teammates, but your team is still doing poorly. Don't start playing recklessly because your team has fallen behind. In ELO Hell, games can turn around in a flash. Other games can be won if you're just willing to grind them out. Remember the goal – getting the heck out of ELO Hell. And that means saving some games from the brink of defeat. So keep a level head.
5. Learn when to walk away.
If you're like me, you hate to walk away from a winning streak. You also hate to walk away after a bad beat. Well...that doesn't leave many chances to walk away. Often, the best scenario is to walk away from a hot streak after a certain amount of time or number of games. Fatigue sets in, or overconfidence, or the queue just starts to turn. If I'm up 2 or 3 wins on the day, I've gotten better at banking those ELO points and walking away. Likewise, I've also gotten better at walking away after a bad game. Too often in the past, I'd lose a game and queue up for the next instantly. The problem was that my frustration from the previous loss would carry over into the new game, and I'd play recklessly, or act much more negatively towards my new teammates.
Walking away preserves the ELO gains you make, and prevents significant backslides. If you haven't fulfilled your taste for LoL that day, but it's a good time to walk away from ranked, go have some fun in normals for a bit. Then go back to ranked at some later point when it's more advantageous.
VI: Trade your EGO for ELO
Here's the thing: most people in ELO Hell don't feel they deserve it. Guess what? Most of them are exactly where they should be. If you're finding it impossible to get out of ELO Hell, there are only a few reasons you are there. One, you don't have the skill to get out. If that's the case, then PRACTICE! Two, you have the skill but the wrong attitude. If you feel like your teammates are always dragging you down, you haven't adapted to the environment. Chances are pretty good that you're shooting yourself in the foot from time to time. Maybe you trash-talk your teammates. Maybe you get stubborn about your preferred role in queue. Maybe you have a short temper and get overly critical at the first mistake. Whatever the issue, it starts with you. Practice patience and positivity. Barring that, learn to love the /ignore command. To get out of ELO Hell, you can't afford to sabotage yourself by turning teammates into enemies.
VII: 10 Tips for Escaping ELO Hell
1. Don't start playing ranked games until you can play at LEAST three different roles well.
2. Everyone plays support sometimes. Learn how to play Soraka and Alistar at the very least.
3. Learn 3 or 4 different champs for each role you play, and learn their counters.
4. Ward. I don't care what your role is. Wards = wins.
5. Protect your jungle. If the other jungler invades, make him pay for it.
6. Win objectives. Know the timers, ward effectively, and move to take them quickly and safely.
7. Don't surrender unless the game is truly lost. Rage surrenders are like throwing away ELO.
8. Focus fire. Coordinate your top targets with your team and commit to killing those targets.
9. Don't over-commit. Enemies will sometimes escape. Learn to love small victories and live.
10. Build for the game you're in. Learn what all the items do and customize for your current game.
VIII: The Bottom Line
ELO Hell is only as unpleasant as we make it. I've met a number of very cool players in ELO Hell. I've played many excellent, exciting games. And, I have to admit, I've had a lot of fun, even stuck in ELO Hell. When I get frustrated with Solo Queue, I go play normals with friends, or find a random ARAM in the custom lobby. There are so many ways to enjoy League of Legends, that it seems silly to keep banging my head against the unyielding walls of ELO Hell. But I always head back, because I like to see how I measure up. Maybe I'll get out of ELO Hell someday. But, in the meantime, I'll try my best to enjoy myself while I'm there.
I hope you've found this guide useful in some fashion. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to let me know what you think.
Bump, this is good
wait new players start with 1200? i thought its 1000? no wonder i see actual good players on 1250 elo and they say its low
yes im unranked, i dont go to ranked games for these factors
1. possible technical difficulties
2. i dont feel skilled enough to go there
3. i cant see how to play a ranked game without muting my entire team
4. i hate this meta when im forced to play as a support, i prefer meele fighters/assasins or ap mids, no saying im bad as a support, but its the LEAST fun role in this stupid meta, and gold per 5 items is whats keeping it alive
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