DOTA 2’s MMR Ranking System Explained

Dota 2 is one of the most lucrative esports out there, so it’s not a surprise that the competitive... Fragster | 27. October 2021

Dota 2 is one of the most lucrative esports out there, so it’s not a surprise that the competitive ranking ladder is the subject of scrutiny— and even sometimes, undeserved hate. But do Dota 2 ranks accurately reflect a person’s skill level? Do they actually work?

DOTA 2 Ranks Explained

The DOTA 2 Matchmaking Rating (MMR) is pretty simple conceptually. Players are awarded 30 MMR points when they win a game, and subsequently lose a similar amount when they lose.

Herald to Divine spans from 0 to around 5500 MMR. The Immortal bracket scales indefinitely.

Herald to Divine spans from 0 to around 5500 MMR. The Immortal bracket scales indefinitely. (via Dota 2 In-Game Client)

MMR is used to weigh the general skill level of a player, which makes it easier to pit players with similar ratings against each other. Statistically, this means that a player that has not settled into their correct skill level will win/lose games more often until they reach the equilibrium point— or what seems to be a forced 50% win rate.

MMR brackets are divided into subcategories that are signified by a Dota 2 medal. Here’s the order starting from the beginner bracket: 

  • Herald
  • Guardian
  • Crusader
  • Archon
  • Legend
  • Ancient
  • Divine
  • Immortal

Unlocking DOTA 2 Ranked

Valve has placed barriers to ranked queues to mitigate smurfing impacts, and to give new players more time to understand the basics of the game via unranked matchmaking. A minimum of  25 games is mandated for new players in order to be eligible for ranked matchmaking. Players must also verify their account first by linking to a mobile number or Steam Guard. After the preliminary twenty-five games, the system accounts for your skill level and assigns you an arbitrary number of games to finish (around 0-100).

The Dota 2 ranks distribution of 4.3 million players (via OpenDota)

The Dota 2 ranks distribution of 4.3 million players (via OpenDota)

Types of Ranked Queue

DOTA 2 has two systems for queuing in ranked matchmaking. Most players will use the Role Queue option that provides them the option of choosing which roles (Core or Support) they would like to play in their next game. On the other hand, there is the Ranked Classic queue that is mostly used by the highest-ranked players because they are  versatile to play any roles, and to compensate for the longer queue times due to the relatively lower player pool in higher brackets.

There is also the option of queuing with friends in a party for 20 MMR points. As of now, parties of 2,3, and 5 are allowed in ranked party matchmaking. In instances where the matchmaking is having a hard time finding suitable combinations of similarly skilled players, it may queue solo players with 2-man stacks (you can tick the “strictly solo role queue matchmaking” in the advanced options to opt out of this). The MMR gain/loss remains the same for solo and party players.

Does MMR rank reflect players’ skill?

The short answer is yes. Contrary to anecdotal evidence, there really is no “MMR trench”. It might seem like you are constantly dealing with lower-skilled players or smurfs. This is a common misconception because players tend to highlight teammates’ mistakes instead of their own. 

The fact of the matter is that if you are constantly performing better than most players in your bracket, you will eventually climb out of your conceived “trench”. And if a person already knows what mistakes they themselves are committing, then improving as a player is easier as well.

There are a lot of factors that decide who wins a DOTA game, but if you are always a positive factor, you are essentially skewing the “forced 50% win rate” in your favor. The goal is focusing on winnable games, and not dwelling on games that are almost impossible to win. 

You can only see a noticeable improvement after a significant number of games. Don’t expect to suddenly “get good” and climb two medals in one night. Climbing DOTA’s ranks gets exponentially harder as you face players who are as invested as you in improving.

How to Climb Dota 2 Ranks

As we mentioned, performing well on average is the only way to climb MMR. Losing streaks and winning streaks are short-term events that get ironed out as you inevitably regress to your mean skill level. This explains why spamming a hero you are good at is a good way to boost your MMR in the short term, but take note that as soon as you play another hero, you are suddenly at an inflated MMR bracket.

Climbing ranks might seem like a long arduous journey of self-improvement— and it is, so here are a few tips to keep in mind if you really want to climb MMR.

  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses
  • Accepting mistakes and adjusting
  • Communicate with willing teammates
  • Watch replays
  • Play and learn with higher-skilled players
  • Manage tilt

Climbing DOTA 2 ranks might be toxic but understanding the MMR ranking system from a macro-perspective may help you deal with expectations and goal orientation. Accepting that you are in the correct skill bracket will help you understand which areas to improve upon.


(Header image via Wykrhm Reddy)