Feb 152015 Tagged with ,

My Solo-MMR 4k Journey

It’s common place today to call Video Games an addiction. While not everyone who plays games is labeled as an addict; I would be hard pressed to find someone who would not claim to know someone “addicted to games.” This may stem from the casual Candy Crush to the hyperbolic World of Warcraft raider. While some of the negative aspects of addiction most definitely matriculate to games, say the potential to dictate your life, I do not like the term. Addiction makes me think about the bottle, or makes me feel like when I ready up for a game of Counter Strike I am just jamming the needle into my arm for a fix.

Aside from Ice Cream, playing games is the closest thing to an addiction I could claim. While I would not describe myself as someone predisposed with an addictive personality, video games has been my one consistent bastion through, well, all my life. I bet it’s not a stretch to say something similar about you reading this.
Compounding the enjoyment of video games is this often times overwhelming competitive drive. I feel like everything in life is a competition. I don’t just treat every game of Starcraft like I am in a grand finals. I’ll turn things into contests that are just ludicrous. Sometimes walking to class I’ll just challenge myself to get to point X before person Y in front of me does. It’s a problem.

With that being said (yeah sorry that was a lot of personal ranting), these past six weeks have been a pretty dark time. I feel as if I was able to step outside my body and look at myself, sitting on my computer, and just wonder why I could not stop. Why? What was I so fixated on? 4k.

4-fucking-K. Dota 2 solo MMR 4k. I started playing Dota for the first time in invite-beta. Never played a moba before. My experience was CAL Day of Defeat and Counterstrike when I was 11-16 years old. From there it was Starcraft ladder where masters always seemed to allude me. I enjoyed Dota for the game and the camaraderie with friends, because Starcraft just got so lonely.

When Solo MMR came out for Dota 2 I was quite bummed out to get put in the low 3000’s. I knew I was better, and I could be better. As soon as I saw that number, 4k was a personal goal. I was embarrassed to be caste as an average player.

This should not be misconstrued as a guide to 4k. While there might be some advice you can take from my story; I do not have a Billy Mays pitch for you. You know there is no easy way to reach your solo goals.

I mostly played a strong offline, and a good one role. I knew that I could out farm most people in my bracket by testing the waters after a few ranked games. This was back in the day where there was no ranked all-pick mode. I would lock heroes like Lycan over and over again. I could jungle, I could safe lane, hell if I really had to I could mid. Before the end of TI4 in the summer this strategy worked pretty well for me. I could win games by 20 minutes with a necrobook and howl. It felt good to carry the team on my back, but at the same time it felt like I had no soul.

During this time I think I made it up to 3.6 with Lycan and Terrorblade. I would get unreasonably frustrated and tilted when we would lose games. It seemed like most losses could be attributed to: A lack of communication (read as: yunospeakenglishonUSW), team composition (because we all love the 5 core dual mid lineups), or having tilted toxic players on my team. I fell victim to the last of those three when I would lose a few games and play tilted. Odds are depending on how many eyeballs see this that I flamed someone reading this for feeding or just making poor decisions. I’m sorry. Seriously. Everyone needs to make those shit decisions to get better. I know that I have made a bunch and in order to improve really had to analyze them. When games were lost because of me I had to watch the replay and write down what I did wrong. I asked friends to watch and tell me how I fucked up. I kept notes. It really helped.

About 4 months ago I set aside three days when I was free from work, school, and all worldly responsibilities, to dedicate to Dota. I wanted to grind harder than highschool proms. Boy was this a mistake. I lost more MMR in that span than I even care to remember. I think I have PTSD from those days. I was so worked up, and legitimately angry, that it affected my game. I stopped playing carry’s because of the nerf, so this time was also my genesis of being a support player. I thought I would take the high road by playing the 5 when everyone else picked heavy farm heroes. I thought I could peace the team together.

I was wrong. I lost so many points. In retrospect however, I almost feel okay about it. During that time I played so much support that I learned a completely different side of Dota. While I love the glory of being the one getting the kills; I became a better all-around player after dozens of Jakiro, Witch Doctor, and Ogre games. I would read so many people on reddit say “learn to play support and it’ll make you a better carry.” I don’t know why I ignored that advice for so long. It’s great advice not to just make you a better carry, but a better player. Learning to play a role that I knew very little about did not help the MMR climb at all and contributed to the steep decline. It put me back with players where I could learn how to support better.

Never play ranked games tilted. That’s the most key piece of advice that I learned While I would identify as a fun easy going guy, stupid shit in ranked games, seeing that -25, would get to me like not many other things would. I did embarrassing things. Scream, slam my fist on the bed, throw a water bottle. I was worked up and quite frankly embarrassed. I took a break.

Then I had a shift in my personal life. I started school at UCLA. I became the captain of their CSL team. I was playing with players who were legitimately good, and I was again embarrassed by the number attached to my name. I also had to play the support role. I started to climb the ladder once more. The team didn’t care. I cared. I went into ranked with a new mindset. I am going to be helpful to my teammates. I am going to be relentlessly nice to them. I am going to pick last (at this point Ranked All-Pick was now a thing) and play whatever role we need.
I started every game with:

“Hey guys! I’ll wait to pick last, and play whatever we need <3” The plan worked for a while. Sometimes I was a mid. Sometimes I was in the offline. I very rarely got to play my favorite 1 position, and instead got stuck with a lot of position 5. I was never upset at having to pick last and play the support now. I knew that by building a good composition and creating a good environment on the microphone with my team was infinitely more impactful to winning this game than just my individual play. I needed to facilitate my team however I could. That was my goal. This plan worked. I had fun games and was very infrequently frustrated. Yes it sucks to lose a game because the guy who picked Void or Medusa does not know how to last hit. That’s the burden you sometimes have when you’re chilling on Lion just enjoying your ward life. Games like that made increasing my MMR harder, and became the leading reason for losses. When I would lose two games, I instantly stopped playing. I knew it would be no good for my sanity to lose that third game and then dwell on it when I get out of that chair for the rest of the night. Often times I balanced losing with doing a piece of homework, or crossing something off my to-do list, before I went looking for another game. Unfortunately this story doesn’t have a happy ending here. After grinding and grinding I found myself stuck at the 3.5-7k range. I could not get over this hump after weeks of my strategy. 4k was so close that reaching it started to become a serious problem in my life. I found myself withdrawing from social situations, and procrastinating on real work just to play one more game. Just to get 25 points closer. I thought I would mix it up over this last week and conform to the meta. I would drop the Jakiro, drop the Venge, and play……….Juggernaut. Ya know what? I hated playing Jug and thought he was overrated. Actually couldn’t stand it. I then went to Axe for a few games, who I enjoyed a bit more. Really tho, the third hero of the holy spinning trinity was the one who grabbed my heart. Troll Warlord. I loved Troll upon his hero release. I always have done really well with him and enjoy his core mechanic of attack speed and being both ranged and melee. He was also doing very well in this meta, and by playing Troll I found I could just win games. In 6.83b and 6.83c I won 70% of my Troll games. I felt bad being that guy who just picked the carry, but it was working. Sometimes, we did have rage inducing compositions because no would play support and I would kick myself for not waiting and filling that gap. Sometimes I lost games for having poor farm relative to their cores. But most of the time I was winning. 70% in dot air really good. Unfortunately when you have to net 20 games in dota to reach your goal, that’s still A LOT of work. Last night, I did it. Almost a year later I found myself win 4 games in a row under my own power with a team who I enjoyed to hit the dream. While part of me feels dirty because I spammed an “OP Hero,” at this point I don’t care. The joy that I felt when I knew I was going to win that last game was overwhelming. I legit stood up and did a little dance. I smiled for hours. I went to get some of that aforementioned ice-cream. While I know that 4k isn’t great, hell I’d argue it’s not even good, I am so happy. I don’t know if I will ever quest out for 5k. I know that I can with some dedication and work. I always want to be better at everything I do. While today I say no to the thought of ever pressing that ranked button again for fear of a single loss, I know in time it will happen. I also know that I will never be as fanatical about reaching the next goal. I can relax. I can focus on other things for the first time in weeks. It’s a great feeling. If you’re reading this to try and gleam tips for your own ladder climbing experience, I think I would boil it down into two things. Be nice to your team, always. Bite your tongue. Don’t get in fights with them. Understand that if your goal is to gain MMR because you know you’re better, than your teammates are worse than you. Help them get better two. One friendly voice on your team telling you good job and calming people down when things get tight makes all the difference. Be that guy. Second, never play tilted. Just don’t. You will want to, bad. Just don’t. I wish you nothing but luck on your journey up the ranks. <3 Leaf