Ranked is here, are you prepared?
Ranked queue is on its way. With patch 1.02, we’ll finally get access to the game mode which allows us to put our skills up to the test. In order to be prepared for the challenges ahead, you need to know the enemy. How does the ranked system work, how can you use it to your advantage and how can you prepare?
How does the ranked system likely work?
The exact algorithm is a mystery, and for good reason. Once a formula is out, it becomes too accurately gameable and changes which would otherwise go unnoticed would cause an uproar when it isn’t necessary. However, we have fairly rigid rules of thumb that have stood the test of time in the gaming sphere and working from the impressions we’ve received from beta, we can make statements with relative certainty.
How is the ranked queue unlocked?
The first thing we can anticipate being the case based on beta experience is that you’ll likely need a certain amount of normal games played before the ranked queue is unlocked for you. In beta, you needed to have played 20 games to unlock the queue and it’s likely that this amount will remain. Matches prior to the launch of 1.02 should count towards the number, allowing you to unlock the ranked queue on day one.
How many placement matches are required?
In beta, it was five placement matches but this could be one of the values that change. It is, however, unlikely to go past ten.
What’s MMR and why does it matter?
Matchmaking Rating (MMR) is an invisible number which assesses your level of play behind the scenes. While it will be correlated with your in-game rank, especially in the very beginning, it will either be ahead or behind your real placement, moving you towards the ranking you really deserve. At the start, it’s possible that your MMR very quickly places you as an Immortal, but you’ll need to play a large number of games to arrive at your destination.
While VALORANT doesn’t give you numerical indicators how much rating you gained, it does give you arrows to look at to see just how much your rank has changed based on your performance in the match. It’s worth keeping an eye on this indicator.
Upon release of the game, Riot stated that all beta progress has been reset, suggesting that MMR was part of that. Anecdotally by the strength of opponents we faced, this seems to be true.
MMR matters as it’s the actual evaluation of your skill and will determine the trajectory you are on in the pursuit of higher rankings. It decides who you get teamed up with and who you play against. You will have noticed that you had lower-ranking players on your team that still could hang with the rest. That is because their rank has not caught up to their MMR that is likely roughly equal to yours.
It is likely that Riot Games will use MMR information gathered from your normal history and will use it to initially place you at an approximate skill level that you have shown in your normal matches.
Post-placement rating and contributing factors to your rating gain
You’ve likely had experiences in other games in which you finished your placement matches with an equal score to your friend, yet they ranked higher than you. Given what we know about the ranking system in VALORANT, this could be based on two factors: Either your individual MMR was lower than your friends based on how they performed in their normal matches or they had better individual performances in their ranked matches.
Another crucial aspect to understand, in order to get the most out of your rating, is that VALORANT uses a ranking system that relies on more than just a win/loss ratio to evaluate your play. Additionally, your individual performance is taken into account. While no specifics are known, it is likely to at least be loosely correlated with your Match Score which is made up of a formula rating your performance based on (First) Kills, (First) Death, Econ Rating and so on.
Your first goal should always be to win matches no matter what as you’re unlikely to ever meaningfully outperform the rating that you will lose from a loss by the rating you will gain based on your individual performance. Therefore, the player that gains the most rating consistently is the one that makes plays which allow them to win the most matches. Playing aggressively might boost your individual performance score by getting more kills, but you have to have the skills to back it up when flying around the corner. Calm and calculated play will less often throw rounds away, leading to a consistent rating gain in the process. If you are a player that gets a lot of value out of playing aggressively, it is, of course, advised to do so.
How are your teammates and opponents chosen?
Each team will have an aggregate MMR rating which will determine team strength (potentially with some unknown modifiers). The matchmaker will try to put you against opponents of equal skill level but will sometimes fail to do so. In these cases, you will gain more MMR and rank from winning if you’re the underrated team while you will lose less in the case of defeat.
Another factor in aggregating these MMR ratings per team is the group size that everyone is queueing with. While again, specifics are unknown, it is likely that Riot will first try to find a stack of a similar size and strength and put you in a match against them. If this fails within a reasonable time frame, you will be matched against solo queue players who are likely ranked higher than you are but lack the bonus of team play to even out the match.
Queueing with a stack
Because of the aforementioned information, it is paramount that you and your friends do your best to work together as a team. The system likely has an inherent weight attached to stacks and it expects you to perform better than a group of random players of equal skill thrown together. If you don’t exceed the effectiveness of that value, you will have a hard time climbing in with a group of friends at some point.
- Read more: Korea Plays VALORANT A Little Differently
The beauty (and for some the beast) of this system is that you can absolutely outperform your individual skill rating by being more effective as a team than the matchmaker expects you to. If you see top players bemoaning the fact that flexible queues from 1-5 players exist, it’s because these pros have internalized the importance of team play and will reliably outperform expectations based on their team play. In a game like VALORANT, playing together is of the utmost importance and the higher you get, the less your individual skill will matter, especially as long as Riot Games decides to run with these flexible queues.
Therefore, the best way to climb is a group of friends that are eager to play with each other as a team who also aren’t of wildly different skill levels. While Riot has stated that they are increasing the allowed rank range, there will still be a cap to it.
Preparation is key
With your normal matches out of the way and now armed with the knowledge of the matchmaker, we can now turn to the actual game, though we aren’t quite ready to play yet.
It is advised to once again look at your settings and optimize them in accordance to your system. GGRecon isn’t leaving you alone here, as we recommend our VALORANT Settings Guide for Performance. Walking you through step by step for all the settings required, we set you on your way so pesky technical decisions aren’t a problem anymore.
Now we’ve finally reached the stage where we can talk about the actual game of VALORANT and each match starts with the decision of which agent to pick. Fortunately, we also have a helping hand here with our stats assisted agent tier list. Keep in mind though, you want to consider which other agents your team is running. Does your team have a Duelist to enter a bombsite? Do you have a smoker that eliminates crucial sightlines from lethal angles? Do you have an anchor agent to hold bombsites on defence? With time, you will get a feeling for which composition of agents works best for each map.
Quite a few agents require extensive map knowledge in order to make the most out of their kit. Some of them are easy to use by the nature of their interface such as Omen and Brimstone, who can just point and click their smokes.
For agents like Sova and Cypher, however, there’s a lot to learn. If you are determined to main one of these agents which require a lot of line-ups on each map, it is advised to look for educational content which is best served on YouTube.
For more educational VALORANT content, stick around with GGRecon.
Images via Riot Games