MMR Hell in HotS

When Attitude Hits Rock Bottom

Ranking systems in various sports and eSports titles are based on the Elo system, which was originally developed for  Chess.  Several adaptations have been made by game developers, like Riot Games and Blizzard, to adapt a system meant for a 1v1 game to a system that provides a fair representation of individual skill in a very team oriented game.

But while the consensus is that the adaption was a success, there are still people who feel treated unfairly, who feel like their Matchmaking Rating (MMR) does not actually represent their skill level. Those people claim to be in MMR Hell.

A Long Road Down

While there is no official definition for MMR or Elo Hell, it’s generally viewed as a certain bracket of play where your teammates are playing so poorly that winning the game, and rising above that bracket is impossible.

The idea of an MMR Hell is inherently flawed. One way to prove MMR Hell can’t be real is to look at professional players, in any competitive game. No CS:GO, LoL, or HotS player that plays on a professional or semi-professional level will have trouble climbing the ladder. Especially in League of Legends, so-called Bronze to Challenger streams are quite popular, with streamers starting out at the lowest possible tier (Bronze) and climbing, often with an insane win / loss ratio, until they reach the highest tier. The consistent allocation of good players to the top ranks ridicules the idea of an MMR Hell.

There’s also an inherent logical fallacy in the concept of MMR Hell. Presuming player X, who is complaining about being stuck in MMR Hell, is not a bad player himself, his team will have four bad players, while the enemy team has five, making it possible, if not easy, to heavily influence the outcome of the game. So if MMR Hell doesn’t exist, why do so many people, especially in the HotS community, believe it does?

Ultimately, the problem lies within the attitude of Player X. Since he believes that he is in MMR Hell, his attitude will go downhill, every loss will frustrate him, every win will seem to be worth nothing compared to the monumental task ahead of him, every time a teammate makes a mistake, no matter how benign, it will irritate and infuriate him, further harming his attitude. As his attitude gets worse, so does his play. He starts to make uncharacteristic mistakes, he gives up earlier and he loses all trust in his teammates. In a game built around the idea of teamfights and team coordination, this lack of trust is a death sentence.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

But while attitude is at the core of the problem, it’s not the root. The root of the problem is how we view both our own and our teammates’ mistakes.

Every player has his own metric on what makes a player good or bad. Some might put emphasis on game knowledge, others on good map awareness or crisp mechanics. When we decide what abilities are important to us, we usually value those we possess and devalue those we don’t. We then apply those metrics to our teammates, and judge them based on that.

The best example for this is contrasting players who watch competitive games to those who don’t. Somebody who has never seen a pro game might not know what the meta picks are or what lane setup works best, but instead of watching pro games, he just grinds away. Maybe he has mastered each and every Hero, even those most people consider weak. Maybe he is possessed of godlike mechanics, an insane reaction time, and an understanding of what to do to win the game.

But you don’t judge him based on that. You judge him based on one thing he does, which you believe to be incorrect. You make up our mind based on a single misplay, or one talent he takes that is considered bad, or the early death by over-extension.

And when you make those same mistakes? You justify them. You make up excuses. You hamper your chances of improving and climbing. You put yourself in MMR Hell.


Igor “v1gor” Javimovic

Quadrilingual gamer and writer. Started with League of Legends in 2009, playing mid Lane at a low Diamond level. Switched to HotS in September 2015, currently sitting at Rank 1 on EU. Distinguished Master Guardian in CS:GO.

Love MOBAs, especially the teamplay and tactical aspects. Craft wild theories on a regular basis. Hope HotS overtakes League as soon as possible. Hope people stop believing in MMR Hell.

Find and flame me on twitter @vvv1gor or on reddit /u/v1gor.