Dota 2 ranking system explained to beginners

Multiplayer games let you play with strangers online. You can play casually to polish your skills or try something new. What most want to do, however, is to climb the leaderboard on ranked matches. This is where everyone has to bring their best to help the team win no matter what. 

With such a heavy task, you have to rely on your teammate’s cooperation and skills. It’s impossible to meet such demands if you are paired with a toxic playmate. Likewise, your efforts may be brushed aside if you are matched against a player who has a lot more experience than you. 

Thankfully, Valve’s matchmaking algorithm for Dota 2 is not completely random. It measures every player’s individual performance then uses that as a basis to find other players with roughly the same level of skills. It’s not a perfect system as many would point out but it helps lessen the case of unfair balance per match. Here’s a quick rundown of how all of this works.

Introduction to ranks and MMR (matchmaking rating)

Ranking systems appear in all competitive games. The idea is to separate veteran players from the newcomers. However, experience does not correlate with skills so even a long-time fan of the title can still be beaten by a talented newcomer. That’s why a complex system has to be developed rather than relying on account levels or number of matches played.

Every account is measured by matchmaking rating (MMR) as soon as they play their first ranked match. Afterwards, they become relegated to one of eight ranks depending on their performance. Ranks are titles given to players depending on the milestones they have reached. 

Matchmaking in Dota 2 is only limited to the player’s rank. You can only play with players whose account is slightly lower or higher than your own. Creating a custom team with someone from a different rank is possible as long as the gap between you isn’t too big. The acceptable gap size varies every season. Sometimes you can draft with someone from two ranks over but other times you can only team up with someone directly above or below you.

Besides your rank, the MMR is also considered when choosing placements in a match. The MMR is the numbered value based on your win rate and performance as a player. That means that you are likely to be paired with other great players within your rank if you played skillfully in every match. 

Rank tier list

Dota 2 divides its players into 8 ranks. The names of these ranks are inspired by divinity and heroism in fantasy role-playing games. Those names are listed as follows starting with the lowest rank to the highest.

  1. Herald
  2. Guardian 
  3. Crusader
  4. Archon
  5. Legend
  6. Ancient
  7. Divine
  8. Immortal

Each rank is also divided into numbers from 1 to 5. Herald 1 is the lowest and Herald 5 is the highest but both are found in the same tier except with Immortal. Players are measured by MMR once they reach the last tier.

How to begin climbing ranks

New accounts cannot participate in ranked games immediately after being created. As part of Valve’s anti-smurf system, players have to play 100 hours-worth of casual games and pair their mobile number with their Steam account. The hours of games required discourages smurf creators because it’s too much time to invest. Pairing a contact detail, on the other hand, verifies the identity of the account owner.

Once you get to play ranked games, complete 10 ranked matches so the system can give you your starting placement. You can reach as high as Immortal if you won all 10 games and with a high K/D/A rating on each of them.

It’s important to know that you won’t lose your rank if you play poorly. You will stay at the highest tier that you have reached but your MMR can drop. If your MMR is low enough, Dota 2’s matchmaking system will begin pairing you with players from lower tiers or other players with a losing streak. Likewise, you will begin playing against other skilled players if you have a winning streak. Keep in mind that fewer MMR points are rewarded to custom teams so climbing is faster in a solo queue.

Dota 2’s ranking system development history

Valve initially started Dota 2 with only the MMR system. No players are divided into tiers so every matchmade team is chosen based on their most recent performance. It was inspired by the Elo system which was used in zero-sum games like Chess.

They later adopted the rank system that you see now inspired by the one they have implemented on their other popular title, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). This 8-tier system began in November 2017 and it is cemented as a permanent part of the game today. 

Unfortunately, the permanent rank as mentioned above made it enticing to sell high-ranked accounts. Valve responded with the anti-nerf and anti-griefing mechanics that barred new players from playing ranked matches.

The meaning behind every tier

Dota 2’s rank system is only meant to divide players based on skills so they developed a sense of respect for each other based on their tier. They have also developed a rule of thumb that loosely summarizes the population of each rank. Those who were placed between Herald and Archon are assumed to have a limited understanding of the fundamentals. People who are barely reaching Legend have to improve on their cooperation with teammates.

Players between Legend and Divine are assumed to have a full understanding of the game’s mechanics. They just have to master hero or team composition matchups and how to respond to get the best outcome. Dota 2 is a tactical team game with plenty of nuances that can affect every match. Mastery of these elements greatly impacts your chance of winning and, by extension, your rank.