Before someone tries to link me the old post about this, I’m going to drop a link right here. What is Elo Hell does it Exist?
Everything I say is going to cover stuff in that post and from other discussions I’ve had elsewhere. I’m going discuss the major schools of thought surrounding Elo Hell, and what I feel they are missing. I hope I’ve managed to re-cement a bit of a reputation for objectively oriented analysis with some of my recent threads. I say this because Elo Hell was quite a personal topic for me as well, for a very long time, so in some ways this thread is intended to help those who got stuck like I did (over a year in T7, for instance). As such, I’m hoping people don’t think I’m doing this as a “cathartic” salt rant - because I’m not. Hit the “x” button on the upper corner of your screen if I’ve already managed to put you off with a “totally biased” opinion.
I think we can generally agree that the colloquial definition of Elo Hell is where a specific player finds themself unable to gain Elo for reasons “apparently” beyond their control - with teammates as the main source of frustration. Elo Hell is often associated with specific tiers, but I feel this is primarily a function of who rages the most. Elo Hell is not tied to a specific tier. We also cannot say there is NO grain of truth to the “Elo Hell” problem - it is very common advice to party up in ranked, especially in HIGHER ranks. This is both for communication and to reduce the extreme variability in teammates.
Now, there are several big schools of thought regarding Elo Hell:
A. It doesn't exist!
The main proponents of this school are high tier players, idealists, and people who have watched high tier players climb on new accounts with no trouble. They tend to write off the Elo Hell complaints as the ravings of bad players who don’t know how bad they are. Their belief is that because certain players have no issue climbing through lower tiers, that Elo Hell cannot exist. To them, no tier is uncarryable. Vorv in the linked post above, falls into this camp.
B. "What do you mean Elo Hell doesn't Exist?!? I'm in it right now! My teammates are !@$%"
Here we have the opposite side of the spectrum - the habitual denizens of the salt mine. The only reason they don’t outnumber School A 10:1 here is that most players haven’t come to the forums yet to rant. Their belief is that Elo Hell absolutely exists, and that they are held back by their teammates. “If Only” there was a magic bullet to solve all their problems, they would break free of Elo Hell and make it to the magical next tier which has lovely matchmaking and amazing teammates who never let you down.
C. Elo Hell is a state of mind!
This be the most nuanced of the groups and is realistically a subset of School A but with an ideological split. Their belief is that Elo Hell is a fabricated mental construct from specific players. The kindest stance from this group is that players hold themselves back by believing they cannot advance, but if they believe in themselves and git gud, anyone can climb. The less pleasant insinuate that people use the term “Elo Hell” as an excuse.
Now, all of these are actually right in some form, but they are also wrong and don’t see the whole picture. Yes, this is possible guys, just like in real life. My view with the benefit of major hindsight, is a bit different. I like to think it’s because I understand both high level and low level gameplay in a way that a noob or a pro won’t. Purely by virtue of genuine experience in both shoes, and a little game knowledge.
First thing I should get out of the way: Just as Vorv says in the linked post, its physically impossible for “most” players to be held back because of their teammates. It’s hard to envision a situation in which most players are underrated. Its just not possible, since elo works off of your relative ratings in comparison to one another. Its a ladder system, not a measurement. What’s more likely, is that many/most people who are “stuck” in elo hell, are instead suffering from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The essence of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that incompetent people believe they are better than they really are. Sequel studies from the same group have shown that competent people tend to believe they are worse than they truly are. This is due to cognitive bias - the same process that makes you blame that Ardan for not Vanguarding you to save you from OverExtending - or makes you believe your rage pinging is “not toxic”. So basically, most of you deserve your current rank, because that is to a large extent an aggregate of your overall skills. Not a subset.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Elo Hell doesn’t exist. I’m saying that most people are not as good as they think they are, and they are not in my definition of Elo Hell.
So who is in Elo Hell? Truly unable to climb because of their teammates? The technical answer is “nobody”, since there is always something more you can try to do to raise your win rate. However, this only falls through if you expect players to aim for literal perfection in their game-play. Which is stupid and unrealistic. Practically speaking, there are a noticeable number of people who are lower ranked than where you might think they belong. You won’t notice them if you are self absorbed or don’t have a good understanding of the game in question. Certainly not if you ignore/delete anyone above/below specific skill tiers.
Here’s the important thing to understand. Because of cognitive biases and/or denial, people tend to not see the issues in their own gameplay. Sometimes, the issues are more subtle, but generally visible patterns will emerge with careful observation. However, these players truly stuck in “Elo Hell” don’t see these problems and as a result can’t see how to improve (bias comes through in their questions). Usually, these players either have wide disparities in their skill between roles and heroes they play in Ranked, or are horrible at working with or around sub-par allies. Some have flashes of brilliance, so to speak, in which they can hard carry some games on their strengths, with their weaknesses being a nonissue, this allowing them to “hold their own” with much stronger players. The end result is that they might have superior game knowledge or mechanics, but they are incapable of winning consistently all the same. This is despite being noticeably better in a vacuum than their allies.
The problem with all of these scenarios, is that the players in question were actually doing something right, occasionally at a very high level. That’s how they got to where they were. The problem is that they usually don’t know how to adapt to changing scenarios or just can’t. To climb, especially in soloque, adaptation is one of the most underrated qualities of a highly skilled player, and the one most commonly missing among those in “Elo Hell”.
Those in School A will not see this, because they focus on good players who are capable of forcing out wins, instead of the players who don’t know how to. The players in School B clearly don’t see this, because they are the ones who are stuck. The players in School C tend to assume that these gameplay issues just go away if players are not so negative, and/or forgot how they themselves made the transition. It should be clear by now that I feel they are all missing part of the bigger picture.
To simplify things, my point is NOT that Elo Hell does not exist. The crux of the matter is that hard-stuck players in “Elo Hell” don’t know/can’t fix the remaining mistakes in their gameplay, and so zoom in on their allies mistakes. This holds them back from capitalizing on their strengths. While some players can show much higher skill in specific areas, they are usually too inconsistent as a whole to make their win rate rise and enable them to climb.
Sometimes, you have to make the “wrong” play to win. You are going to likely lose the games with a Jungle Grace rushing Clockwork, but most games are salvageable with the right approach and mindest.