After 11 years of reigning as one of the biggest MOBA games, Dota 2 has one of the best, most challenging, and state-of-the-art ranking systems. The company prioritizes its ranking system to serve millions of daily gamers searching for equally skilled teammates and opponents, and yearning for a competitive environment.
The current ranking system in Dota 2, which was released in 2017 was a huge upgrade from its previous version. While both versions serve the same purpose of reflecting a player's skill level and abilities through MMR (Matchmaking Rank), the latter one is more sophisticated not only because it replaces MMRs for medals but also provides a more accurate reflection of a player's rank.
The image above is the ranking system before the big upgrade in 2017. It shows a player’s match history and the MMR changes after each game. Matchmaking Rank or MMR is a numerical score that reflects your rank and basically says how good you are overall. A player receives an average of +25 MMR for every game won and loses -25 MMR for a game lost depending on the quality of that game played.
The MMR of 4000+ shown in the image above tells us that the player has won approximately 150 games and probably played way more in total. The 2013 analysis conducted by Valve showed that players with 4000+ MMR ranked in the 99th percentile, meaning that they are better than 99% of the total population playing Dota 2.
OpenDota also analyzed public players’ profiles in 2013 which showed an average MMR of 3000, a relatively high number. However, this average skewed upwards because newer players with lower MMRs were not part of the analysis as they were less likely to display their MMRs in public matches.
This changed in 2017 when Valve introduced medals next to the player’s profiles. It can be daunting for new Dota players to take on this challenge and move up the tiers. There are now a total of eight tiers a player can climb in the new and upgraded ranking system. Each tier except for the Immortal contains five sub-tiers represented in stars. Here are the Season 4 MMR-Medal rankings by Dota 2 Wiki:
The ranking distribution has significantly changed after Valve introduced medals. While the 2013 analysis of players’ profiles projected an average MMR of 3000, a recent analysis done by eSports Tales shows an average player holding Archon 2, an MMR of 2500. This drop in the average MMR might have caused due to medal rankings and the transparency of the player’s profile. Furthermore, players ranked in the 99th percentile have MMRs of 5000 or more, compared to 2013.
The recent distribution depicts a more accurate spread of players’ ranks among the Dota 2 community. This allows even better matchmaking and game quality for beginners, intermediates, and professionals. All in all, it goes to show that the game has gotten more competitive and raised its ceiling when it comes to competitive gaming.
A beginner player must log at least 100 hours of unranked games in order to be eligible for ranked games. This rule is put in place so that total beginners aren’t matched against experienced players with high ranks. Once ranked matches are unlocked for you, you have to play ten games and win at least one in order for the system to calibrate your MMR and receive your first badge. Then, you are ready to play against those within your skill levels and begin the quest to reach the highest rank, Immortal!
Furthermore, Steam requires players to link their phone numbers to their accounts in order to prevent smurfing. There have been tons of cases of experienced players creating new accounts to play in games below their ranks or even to sell them to beginners.
It is important to note that ranked players do not receive MMR and higher badges based on their individual performances, but based on their win-to-loss ratio. After being eligible for ranked matches, players simply have to win more games to increase their MMRs and receive higher badges. Similarly, losing games also demotes you to lower ranks and decreases your MMR.
As you will learn more about Dota 2 ranking below, it is worth remembering that your rank can recalibrate after each ‘season’. Each rank contains 5 levels and if you don’t reach the last level by the end of the season, your rank will be demoted to the first level of that same rank. For example, if a player fails to reach Herald 5 by the end of a season, then that player’s rank will be reset to Herald 1. You can learn more about Seasons and Recalibration dates here.
Herald-ranked players arguably face the steepest part of the learning curve in Dota 2. They focus on passive play with little understanding of when to engage and disengage. Players have little knowledge about what each hero’s abilities do.
The jump between Herald and Guardian isn’t that huge, as much is the same in terms of relative skill level. Players in Guardian, however, tend to have a bit more experience and understand the mechanics of the game a little better such as last hitting, laning, and using the hero’s abilities at the right time. It will take them at least 20-30 more ranked games to enhance all aspects of the game.
This tier is when things start to come together for beginners. Crusader players tend to have decent in-game knowledge just based on the fact that they have spent enough time playing the game and reading up on heroes, items, abilities, and other concepts in the game.
It is fairly easy for beginners to get to crusader if they have experience playing other MOBA games such as World of Warcraft: Frozen Throne or League of Legends. Crusaders are also knowledgeable about the little but important aspects of the game such as map vision, ganking, initiating, and building items.
Archon tier represents the last step before hitting the global average. Players in this bracket will likely have more than 100 hours of gameplay under their belts, with the game sense and mechanical skills to match. Winning their respective lanes with the last hitting and gaining experience in the first quarter of the game becomes crucial for Archon players.
These players are not semi-professionals just yet, but they are getting there. Communication becomes key, the fate of their game depends on their synergistic lineup, and teamwork is their greatest priority.
Legend tier is where most players hit the wall and the learning curve flattens, mostly because of their team dynamics and poor decision-making. In this tier, they have learned everything they need to about the game, hence creating a thin line that separates a win from a loss. Even a slight mishap, whether it's choosing the right heroes pre-game, or losing the mid-lane in the first ten minutes can change the course of the late game.
Ancient players are known for their role versatility. They can dominate in all five roles and even spam the most complicated heroes such as Invoker, Meepo, and Chen. Advanced tactics and finger dexterity are their strongest suits.
Ancient tier is made-up of Dota All stars veterans with a hefty knowledge of making unique and unorthodox in-game decisions. They stand above most average players solely based on the hours played and experience gained. If ancient rankers can find a way to rise above and go a little further, whether it is through constant training or making adjustments to their regular style, they have the potential of an average professional who competes in Dota tournaments.
Immortals are a different breed of players. They have mastered the game in such austerity, that they are not just ‘playing’, they are playing to win. You will find the majority of divine and immortal tier players competing at a professional level. While Divines may be the best there is, Immortals are the best of the bests, the top one percent. They represent the pinnacle of Dota 2 skills, creating highlights and what the rest of the Dota community watches for entertainment.
It gets even better: The ‘Immortal’ players that have reached the top 1000 get their own unique medals. Even the skills gap between the four immortal groups (shown above) is known to be massive as players move in and out of these rankings on a daily basis. As of today, Arteezy from Team EG currently holds the Top 1 position in the United States, followed by Team BC’s Wisper, who previously reigned at the top.
The biggest change seen in the new version of Dota 2’s ranking system is the addition of medals. The medals and their levels provide a more accurate description of one’s skill level. The previous version of their ranking system also allowed players to hide their MMRs which brought uncertainty and ambiguity. Now, the player’s medals are easily seen on their profile, which brings more transparency to the Dota 2 community.