+35 LP Per Game: How League of Legends Players Abuse Ranked MMR for Elo Gains

Every season of ranked play in League of Legends brings its new shenanigans, but this may have truly been the wildest ride yet. First, players figured out how to improve their future rank through boosting MMR Normal games. Then, some other clever SoloQ players started exporting ranks from less skilled servers to KR and EUW. Let’s take a look at some of the antics.

A bit of crash course into terminology is required to see what exactly is going on. 

Normal League MMR vs Ranked MMR

MMR is Matchmaking Rating, the hidden score that reflects your standing relative to other players. Each victory gives increases your score, while each loss reduces it. The League’s implementation is based on the Elo system, which is most prominently used in chess. The difference is that while the governing chess body, FIDE, updates your MMR monthly, League does that instantly.

The Elo system, however, is much more complex than +5 / -5 points, especially when we’re talking about team games. When every match is concluded, League calculates the average MMR of players who played it. From there, everyone’s gains and losses are calculated. A victory when your MMR is way below the match’s average will give you a solid MMR boost. Similarly, a loss when your MMR is much higher than the average will result in a significant deduction. Such extreme scenarios in League, however, are usually avoided, thanks to the high population (100 million Monthly Active Users reported in 2016) enabling rather even matches.

What happens when a TOP 100 CHALLENGER visits BRONZE | Challenger Zoe vs Bronze Elo

Alas, ranked matchmaking is still vulnerable to smurfing and dealing with low population on some servers

Here’s where the fun begins. As is tradition, Normal MMR and Ranked MMR are separate. Your Ranked MMR is not penalized for losing Normal games, and vice versa. It may very well be this distinction that gave us the League’s greatest competitive player, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. Poor lad (in)famously kept grinding Normals only until the queue time became so high he had no choice but to play Ranked. SK Telekom scouted Sang-hyeok when he started storming the Korean SoloQ ladder, and the rest is history. 

League MMR/Elo vs LP

Now, while MMR is an actual representation of your standing within Normal or Ranked, it’s not what you’re expected to pay attention to. Since Season 3, Riot Games stopped showing Ranked MMR in favor of Tiers (from Iron to Challenger) further broken down in Divisions (Iron – Diamond have 4 divisions, the Master – Challenger have just 1). You advance between Divisions by breaking the 100 LP threshold, and it additionally takes winning 3 games out of 5 to push into the next Tier. 

Your League Point gains and losses are generally tied to the difference between the match’s average MMR and yours, but it gets a bit more nuanced than that. You see, League has an idea of its own as to players with what MMR should have which rank. If the game believes that you have a Gold I MMR while stuck in Gold III, you are looking at greater gains and softer losses until you either climb to Gold I or lose enough MMR to match Gold III. It works vice versa as well: while it takes a lot of defeats to be demoted from something like Platinum IV 0 LP, getting LP after a string of losses will be much harder.

The last important mechanic to remember is early boost. You may have noticed that, for a few seasons, the 10 Provisional games that you play at the start of the season carry huge LP gains and no LP losses. The defeat screen simply states +0 LP instead of deducting it. This is used to help single out smurfs and accelerate their climb so they don’t ruin too many low Elo games. Note that, although being more prominent during the first 10 games, the early boost lingers for about 20-30 games more. While regular players get frustrated that games past that point yield lower LP gains, high Elo players make the most out of the boost. They abuse the fact that if an account hasn’t played Ranked (ever), its Normal MMR is used as a starting point. 

Funneling Normal League MMR Into Ranked MMR

The pioneers of SoloQ troublemaking have had this on their minds for a while, but it’s Season 11 where the Normal MMR abuse truly started to flourish. The idea is simple: you start a new account and level it up through Normal games (not CoOp vs AI, which is faster). Then, you continue winning Normals. It’s only after a while of stomping normals that you move to Ranked matches, which results in astronomical gains.

Unlike some of the previous one-off tactics, using insane Normal MMR to get a higher rank works for more than the first few days of a new season. In late February, a reddit user Folldoll recalled the case of a Rengar one-trick pony that was getting +17 / – 15 LP on their main account ranked Master. The same person’s brand new account with tons of victories in Normals went on a long streak of +33 / – 7 LP. Other users noticed a high concentration of Grandmaster players with Ranked win rate of <50%.

The differnece between gained and lost LP is insane

Now, you may think that this method is truly for the top 0.01% of the players, but it really isn’t. Even though there is a smurf queue in place for Normals, a group of coordinated Golds/Plats can easily stomp Normals (especially in Blind Pick). It’s even easier if playing in off-hours later in the process to avoid people with high MMR in both Ranked and Normals. From there, it’s not taking too much effort for this creative bunch to at least shoot higher than they were in Ranked. After all, the most extreme documented scenario took the Rengar one-trick-pony to lose 4-5 games to even out their gains from one victory. 

Transferring League MMR From Other Server

Now, it is common knowledge that some servers have higher levels of play than others, especially with Riot supporting a dozen separate regions. While the banter between NA and EU lacks factual evidence here, a high Elo player from EUW can certainly find themselves near the top in certain servers. In fact, I know a person who did just that. Back in Season 4, a friend of mine barely missed Diamond I on EUW (note that there was no Master and Grandmaster back then) but achieved #1 Challenger on the Russian server. 

The server transfer system, however, fails to consider this difference. When you move an account to another server, you become Unranked but need to play just one game to get placed. As one might expect from such a low sample size, playing one game changes nothing in the grand scheme of things. Players who transfer to another server, no matter the average skill there, retain MMR from their original server.

Things do, however, get worse (or better – if you’re one looking to abuse the mechanic). League’s spin on the Elo system requires a healthy player base to create balanced matches and increase/decrease MMR of participants in a reasonable manner. For context, while Korea has 4.24M accounts ranked in Season 11 and EUW is at 3.31M, there are servers like Oceania with just 188k users completing their placement games by late July 2021. Reaching Challenger is arguably easier when matchmaking crumbles and starts feeding you, a hypothetical Master player in Oceania, mid-Diamond players.

OCE (left) is underpopulated from top to bottom compared to EUW (right)

This method is even more disruptive early in the season. Due to the flawed transfer system, we’re essentially looking at MMR as an absolute value, not a relative number within just one server. If one stomps an underpopulated server and does that faster than genuinely good high Elo players climb through Platinum and low Diamond, sneaking a Challenger after moving servers is even easier. 

Abusing MMR Threshold for DuoQ in Challenger

Although not something that actually helps one climb, MMR and LP being separate things affects genuine high Elo players, too. You see, a while ago Riot Games banned Master+ players from queuing up as a group of two, thus truly making SoloQ a solo experience for the top of the crop. The justification surprisingly resonates with the issue behind treating high- and low-population servers equally. Riot’s data shows that it takes the server’s best Jungler on the other team to balance the odds against a premade bot duo, and there are only a few dozen Junglers ranked Challenger per server.

While genuine SoloQ players rejoiced, some people took the news harder than the rest. For instance, professional Support and ADC players suddenly couldn’t practice in Ranked together anymore. They either have to make accounts after accounts and crush Gold-Diamond players together or practice separately. Either way, once you start (and continue) to win a lot of games, reaching Master and locking yourself out of DuoQ is inevitable. Or is it?

Players that would like to face Challengers while playing SoloQ found a neat way out. They simply dodge promotional games to Master. Dodging there counts as a loss, so users of this technique get to stay in Diamond I. Their MMR, however, keeps increasing slowly by surely, so they eventually reach Challenger MMR while staying in Diamond I. Even the likes of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle, who have a dozen LEC titles between them, have no choice but to abuse this mechanic. While, unlike the two other mechanics, DuoQ beyond Master won’t really make you a Challenger unless you are a Challenger-level player, it still disrupts high Elo matchmaking. 

What can genuinely get you close to Challenger is our League companion. It analyzes data from Ranked matches and your games to come up with champion and item suggestions that end up victorious more than others. Come take a look at nemo.gg.

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Summary

Why have my LP gains slowed down?

You have the highest LP gains during your first 10 games of the season. They are used to calibrate your placement relative to last season and also help send smurfs closer to their real rank. You still earn get quite a bit more LP than you lose for another 30 games or so. After that, gains and losses even out.

How does League of Legends MMR work?

League of Legends matchmaking is notorious for seemingly putting you against high-ranked opponents while giving you trailing teammates. Unless you’re playing late on a small server, however, there is a reasonable explanation. It all comes down to the interactions between the visible LP and hidden MMR.

What is MMR in League of Legends?

In League of Legends, MMR is the sole criterion that the game employs to pick your teammates and opponents. You have separate scores for each queue, which could explain those Diamond players that you may occasionally run into while playing Normals. The good thing is that unless you have been queueing up with players that are way better/worse, Normals are a decent way to warm up or learn new champions.

How do some players get so much LP per win and lose very few after defeat?

Chances are, they use the trick that allows them to start playing Ranked with high MMR in the first place. When you first go into SoloQ on a fresh account, it uses your Normal MMR to assign you a provisionary rank. Maintaining a very high win rate in Normals can give you Ranked MMR of roughly up to Masters. Early in the season, it’s not uncommon to see groups of five stomp Normals and then get Grandmaster and even Challenger with negative win rate in Ranked.

by Denis Matusovskiy
July 22, 2021

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