The MMR Plateau: Is It Possible to Break Through the Ceiling?

Update: I did eventually hit my goal of 5K! Once I settled on it and really worked towards I eventually made progress, :).

“I’m a fairly accomplished DotA 2 player currently sitting at about 4300 MMR for my solo and party ratings (usually it is 4400 solo and 4200 party) but I’ve been noticing that for the past few months I have been hovering around that rating. Now, there is nothing wrong with being at whatever particular rating someone is at but I like to always try and improve as I play games (as you may have come to realize while reading my posts) so, in the interest of improving my play and creating some interesting content, I’m going to air my perceived weaknesses and see if I can improve on them over the course of the week. Ideally, I’ll see an appreciable gain in my ranking as a result of such reflection.

Off the top of my head, I can list a few things that I think are likely limiting my success.

1) Picking a hero that I feel like playing as opposed to a hero that really fits the composition and does exceptionally well against the enemy team.

Everyone has a hero that they treasure dearly and love to play. Sometimes we let that affection get in the way of reason and logic and play them despite it perhaps not being the best decision for the current situation. My heroes that I am guilty for picking despite there perhaps be being better options are Tiny and PL. These are two heroes that are a lot of fun but I often find myself frustrated by a loss despite having done exceptionally well in the game. But if we look at these occurrences over a period of time a pattern begins to emerge. That despite my most valiant efforts I am handicapping myself and my team by picking a hero that isn’t quite optimal simply because I feel like playing said hero at that moment.

Now, obviously my choice of hero isn’t the only determinant of how the match goes but if we look at the games below we can see that it definitely contributed to our loss in some sense in all of those games. Tiny is an awesome hero (and one of my very favourite ones) but he is not a hero you can pick blindly against any lineup.

So hero choices is one part of the equation, the next big thing is item choices.

2) Item choices.

Looking at Tiny again we can see that there are certain items that I favour and pick up in pretty much any situation. Looking at my last 20 matches I get a Shadow Blade, Agh’s, and Bottle pretty much every game. And, if given the time, I get BoTs and AC and maybe Manta. Now, these are all pretty good items for Tiny, but perhaps I need to reexamine my choices based on the heroes I am against and whether we are leading or not. BoTs are great because they allow me to push and farm much better, but, at the same time, that’s 2500 being put towards an item that doesn’t really help me fight immediately and I could be getting a BKB instead. Speaking of BKBs, I like to avoid getting it on Tiny because in the late game he is so tanky and has so much stun and burst that often times you don’t need but I think I need to reexamine my item choices in game and consider getting one based on the other team’s composition despite my disdain for it. Sometimes, it just makes sense to get a BKB. Even if I really really don’t want to.

I see this trend in my other games and am generally aware of it but so far, I haven’t really done much to improve on it. I also notice that I neglect items like Wand (which makes sense in a lot of cases and can really be a lifesaver) and in-between items like Wraith Bands, Bracers and Drums. These items don’t allow me to accelerate quicker towards a late game state (which, given the long term point of view I tend to take in a game is what I am generally aiming for) but they will likely help me make it through the mid game and could prove to be the difference in team fights that we are losing and make the late game less arduous.

3) Lack of leadership.

Just today, I played a game with my brother which meant that I am generally queued with people who are lower in MMR. I drafted what I felt was a pretty excellent team (Luna, Venge, Alch tri safe, Clock off, Huskar mid) and did quite well in my role but after a decent start the tri-lane started dying and getting picked off and generally doing badly. I kept trying as well as I could and Clock and I managed to stave off the enemy team for a while but it wasn’t enough in the face of the constant feeding by our supports and our carry. Additionally, I let my temper get to me and wasn’t thinking clearly and got picked off a few times myself.

This is a situation that I am sure you are familiar as we all have those games of DotA where we are just getting pummeled mercilessly. However, I’ve found that if I am able to rise above the current situation and continue playing calmly, identify the causes for our lack of success (in the case of this game – bad positioning, being picked off and poor initiation), seek to rectify them and provide guidance to my members that often times we can reverse the situation or at least put up a much more substantial fight. It’s difficult to do when the human response is to play the blame game or to simply withdraw due to frustration and abdicate all responsibility but those are not the right things to do. If you truly do want to improve, being a good leader (or at the very least, a good team member) is an incredibly important component of that. Everybody wants to do well and if they are struggling to catch a break in the game do your best to give them a break and get them back on their feet. When you win that big team fight and the mood on the team swings and you start pushing the enemy team back it’ll be worth having held back all the f-bombs you were so tempted to release in a fiery storm of rage.

4) Playing when tired.

DotA is a demanding game that asks much more of you than most. If you fail to pay attention for even one moment then you can find yourself dead, missing an opportunity or just generally falling behind. Therefore, it is imperative that you be able to perform at the required level. Unfortunately, for most of us, being tired takes away from our potential to perform at an optimal and, despite my more analytical side, I have played many a game at a point in the day where I was tired, sleepy or just out of it. So, if you really want to focus on improving your MMR you need to take proper care of yourself and make sure that you’re ready to go when you choose to accept a queue (and take steps to wake up like running on the spot, splashing your face with cold water or having some sort of stimulant). If you don’t feel up to the task have  a nap, go to sleep or play an unranked game instead. If you are really tempted think about it this way, if you are tired and end up playing badly you’re likely to feel shitty about the game you just played or get angry when things don’t go the way you would have liked them to and be worse off than when you started.

This is a lesson I really need to apply seriously and will be trying my best to do so in the next week or so as I undergo this experiment.

5) Keeping the push up when we have an early-game oriented team.

Another one of my weaknesses is my tendency to favour the late game. This works out just fine from time to time, but with the current shift in the meta towards early line ups it is not a luxury that I am always able to count on. I have found myself in one too many games where my team has had an early advantage but failed to capitalize on that advantage adequately and let the other team catch up and eventually overwhelm us. Though it’s fun to farm and certainly less stressful than pushing and taking objectives, ultimately, the game is about destroying the enemies’ Ancient (which VG and Newbee demonstrated quite powerfully during TI4). If you have an early game focused team don’t let your early successes fool you. You need to build on that advantage and keep on beating the other team or else you’ll find yourself at a growing, irreconcible disadvantage as the other team gains more gold and experience.

Don’t let your emotions get to you.Think about what it is that you could be doing wrong and actively seek to improve those things. Just remember, you’re the common factor amongst all the games you play. So, at some point it becomes a matter of you not getting any better rather than your teammates failing you. Look to yourself for answers and you will improve. Look to others for excuses and you will never improve yourself.

Look to yourself for answers and you will improve. Look to others for excuses and you will never improve yourself.

As part of this experiment I will be looking through my replays (and perhaps casting some of them) in order to see if there are any other mistakes that I make on a regular basis and are dragging me down.

Come check this out again on Friday for another update!

That’s all for now. Have a pezant day!

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