The goal of this post is two-fold. First, I'd like to help those who like me (until recently) are 'stuck' in Bronze or Silver and desire to climb out.
I realize that as someone in gold I am still very much a potato (albeit now a different color potato) and have a lot left to learn, and I also realize that similar posts have been made on this subject but I do think that my perspective could perhaps be beneficial to some. I can say this because in every similarly themed post I've read, I always took away something different.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly is that I firmly believe the continued sharing of knowledge can only serve to help the community. We've all had games where we legitimately could not even fathom any possible logical explanation as to why X teammate decided to _______ (fill in the blank). The more this information gets around, the better the quality of all our games will be.
Obviously I am by no means claiming to be the authority on everything I'm about to mention, I'm merely stating that it worked for me. I fully welcome & encourage any critique from those who are more experienced should I provide some bad/misleading information.
Just a little pretext before I get into it… I was very recently like many of you. Fluctuating up and down in bronze & silver, seemingly making no headway at all. I often felt like I'd take two steps forward and then three steps back. What's worse is I felt it was completely out of my control. I was losing… but surely it wasn't my fault. I had top dmg, fewest deaths, and even top exp. It had to be my pepega teammates right?
Well… yes and no. It's quite possible to be the 'best' player on your team and lose. It's quite possible that your teammates had the greatest influence on your loss at least proportionally in comparison with you but what you have to stop doing right now is assuming this means you could not have performed any better. If you genuinely think you are doing absolutely everything you can do to win then we've already diagnosed your first problem… its your mindset because I can promise you, you're not. Until you're willing to accept this, there's no point going any further, you are effectually your own greatest roadblock to success.
Assuming you are willing to swallow your pride and admit that perhaps you're not playing as well as you think you are (despite what the stats might lead you to believe), we can move on to what things you can actively work on or keep in mind while attempting to improve and climb.
- You Will Not Win Every Game This sounds silly but its important to remember. There are some games you simply cannot win no matter how well you play. Even Fan loses games during his Bronze-GM challenges… yes he's typically playing a requested hero and not something draft perfect, and yes he often employs silly strats like taking out every well, but there are still games he tries to win and just cant. Now that you realize this, forget it. Pretend for now that every single game is within your grasp. The goal here is to always give it your all and never assume that this game is the one you just can't win…. you might surprise yourself from time to time.
- Stop Caring About Climbing I see this advice offered all the time but I don't think it can be overstated. You have to completely let go of your care to climb… I don't know how to explain this fully but I do believe there are good reasons for this. Some people fear losing so much because of their great desire to climb. This causes them to play more tense which can have the effect of causing you to tunnel vision more often and not think as clearly. It also likely has a strong correlation to tilt. When you care so much about climbing and only see yourself going in the opposite direction after a few losses, you are much more likely to tilt which will have a negative effect on your mental clarity, ability to focus, and thus your overall growth & learning potential. I can attest to this and still have to make an active effort at combating it.
- Your Primary Goal Every Time You Queue Should Be To Improve "Okay gee… thanks, that's helpful." No really, every single game you queue, you have to go into it with a mindset actively thinking about how you might improve. What does this actually look like? Well, my advice would be to pick one or two things about your hero or the game in general (or a combo of both) that you recognize could use some work. Throughout the game, have it on the forefront of your mind to practice while still doing everything else you currently think you should be doing to win.
An example might be that you decide to work on your stutter stepping, or perhaps your camp timing. It could also involve practicing a combo your character has… for some of you it might even be something as silly as reducing the amount of times you stop to type in chat. An example for me recently was with Sonya… someone brought to my attention that I'd often Q into someone and then immediately start spinning. This was causing me to lose out on lots of burst dmg and often times it wasn't even necessary to spin if I was near full health and not being focused. I made it a point in my mind that every time I Q'd a target, I would follow up with at least an auto and a W before evaluating whether I should now spin or continue with auto's and Ws.
- Your Hero Pool Should Be Small How small? I honestly don't know. What I can say though is that if you really desire to climb… the smaller the better (you'll never hear a woman say that… so take advantage of it in HotS). Almost every single time I check someone's profile in draft and they have a KDA of 2-3 with a sub 50% winrate, their heroes played that season is so long I have to keep scrolling.
I get it… I do. HotS has a lot of fun & unique heroes. But you have to decide for yourself what your primary goal is. Do you truly want to improve and thus climb, or do you just want to play everything. Pick one… you cant have it both ways, unless you're extremely gifted mechanically and my guess is… you're probably not.
Anecdotally.. I started climbing much quicker when I basically reduced my hero pool to 2. I even went through stretches of 20 games or so where I'd only play one hero. Does this mean I picked that hero even when we had no tank or no healer? Yep. What I found over time is that when I would fill to what our comp "needed", I would lose more often than not.
There's a couple reasons for this. The first is filling often meant me playing a hero I don't play very often. I might know their abilities, I may have even played them many times in the past. But if its not someone I'm regularly playing, I'm much more likely to be 'off' when I pick them up to fill. The second reason is… if you're in bronze or silver, your comp rarely matters. I've won plenty of games with the weirdest comps… some with no tank and no healer, some with 3+ 'specialists', I've also lost games to comps like these. Everyone in bronze & silver is so stuck on "MUST HAVE TANK, HEALER, BRUISER, MAGE, AND AA" or they flip. The comp is the least of their problems. Does that mean you should never fill? No… I'd say there are definitely some times where you should be able to evaluate that your team would 'work' much better together if you had X hero. Maybe you have no tank, other team has a couple AA heroes, and you're on Tomb and happen to have very little waveclear… Johanna could be a great pick!
The problem I found while filling in addition to everything else I've just mentioned is that filling often meant playing a tank or a healer. Unfortunately there are very few tanks or healers who can do what teams in bronze/silver often fail to do… such as waveclear & camps. In addition to this, when I'd play games with Joh for example, I'd have teammates feeding in lanes I'm not in and obviously I cannot peel for everyone at all times since I cant be in all 3 lanes. Then in teamfights we'd lack both damage and follow up to my engages. This is not to say you cant climb with tanks & healers… many have done it, I just found more success with heroes that had a bit more agency.. and for me that was Sonya & Greymane.
- The "Right" Play Is Sometimes the Wrong Play & Vice Versa This is a big one that actually took me a while to recognize. I still struggle with it at times truth be told. There will be times when your idea of what you should do next is correct in a perfect universe… where the rest of your team is also doing what is correct but since they're not… in this instance it could be very wrong. If I know my fellow potatoes are about to get themselves caught on the enemy side of the map in what will likely be an outnumbered fight and we're to the point where death timers are really long… I have to recognize that I should abandon my "right" play (whatever that was) and go with them because I cannot afford to risk them getting wiped in a 4v5 and then having 1 min death timers.
This is a small example but I'm sure you can think of other applications. You constantly hear people on this subreddit mention a cliché that goes something like this, "sometimes its better to do the wrong play with your team than the right thing by yourself" there is great truth to this. Unfortunately what this ultimately means IMO is that the way you play the game in each rank will likely differ if your goal is to win. You will have to be adaptable and recognize when to change the way you play as I'm sure it changes as your rank changes. I highly doubt I could play the way I play now and have it work in Diamond and I'm also fairly certain that a Diamond player would have to adapt the way they play to win games in Silver.
- Value If I had to sum up the goal of every game and every decision made within that game into one word it would be this. You should constantly be thinking about where you can get value. This requires weighing all the current options available to you in any given scenario, and deciding which of those options grant you and your team the greatest value. Obviously your knowledge of what these options even are or the ability to figure out which to take in a timely manner isn't something you'll have inherently… it comes with time. Eventually the better players are the ones who can more accurately determine this and do so faster than other players. If you're new and still learning I would say this… If in doubt, go with the option that nets the most exp.
Typically at low ranks this would iron itself out to mean simply soaking. Everyone in bronze-gold completely undervalues exp. Experience is what gets you level leads… level leads are what get you talent advantages, talent advantages are what allow you to more easily stomp the other team the next time a fight breaks out, stomping the other team is what allows you to take more structures more easily… whether by straight up sieging or by objectives…. and finally, taking structures is what wins the game. If you think you're soaking enough, you're probably not. I used to think I was… I was wrong, watch a replay and you'll see all the soak left on the table throughout games, its disgusting.
Sometimes I will even purposely decide to not show up at all to objectives at the risk of tilting my team in an attempt to get us ahead on both exp and structures. There are some maps like Shrines, Volskya, or Alterac Pass where the first objective is fairly week. Particularly in bronze-silver people just don't tend to get a lot of value out of the first one… so sometimes I will just hard push the lane on the opposite side of the map which generally results in a net gain in exp even if my team suffers a couple deaths. Sometimes I even get a fort… and then there are even better times where the enemy team has no idea what to do, finally sends someone to stop me but not until after I've already soaked a ton, then my team wins what is now a 4v4 at obj so we get both extra soak exp and the objective. Stuff like this will typically snowball into easy wins from that point forward. Beware if you do try to employ this sort of strategy that you may get flamed heavily by your team… if that is something that will tilt you its better you mute chat & pings.
While the aforementioned strategy might work in some scenarios… it's not a 'one size – fits all' blanket that you can toss over every game and blindly employ. Remember… the key word here is value, and this is something that will always be dynamic due to the nature of the game. If I know that me not being with my team will result in 3+ people feeding because they seem incapable of recognizing that they are outnumbered or maybe they know but don't care… then I'm probably going to join them because any exp I gain elsewhere would be lost by their deaths.
The last thing I'd like to mention under this segment is the importance of you minimap. Along with soak… I think minimap is right up there on the top of the list of "most valuable resources potatoes fail to utilize." Your minimap is what will enable you to get the most value. You cannot determine where you should be without looking at it. If you're on Alterac and your team happens to be top and 3 of the enemy team just showed bot and 2 are dead… you're probably good to get top boss but you wouldn't know that if you didn't see that the enemy showed bot on map for a second. If you're wandering around and you haven't seen anyone on the enemy team show for a while… you better expect them to be near you, sitting in a bush/fog, looking to gank/invade, etc. Maybe they're not.. but you have to play like they are. Quite honestly there are probably a thousand examples & applications I could think of regarding minimap usage… suffice to say, its hella important and you need to constantly be looking at it*.
Some people have found it helpful to go on youtube and lookup a timer that dings every 5 seconds and use that to look at the map each time you hear it. Eventually you get accustomed to it. I did this at first actually, but ultimately my desire to know what I should be doing next is what kept me looking at my map rather than some habit that had been programmed into me.
- Consistency This one is also super important. At least if you're wanting to both improve & climb. This is one of the reasons why keeping your hero pool small is important. As previously stated, you cannot win all of your games… but if you are playing consistent, you will ultimately win more than you lose which will result in a net climb.
The way this pans itself out in practice begins with your approach to each match. You have to make a conscious effort to not just auto-pilot. If you feel yourself in auto-pilot then you're probably tired or played to many games already. Someone recently told me to aim for top exp every game and no more than 3 deaths. This was my 'target' for consistency sake. The way it panned itself out for me on a game-to-game basis was that I was constantly aware of how I could acquire more exp (this still requires you to evaluate whether its smart to go get it or if getting it would pose a greater risk to your team), and make smarter decisions in team fights so that I didn't feed. It turns out that not dying (which gives up exp to other team) while simultaneously fetching more exp for your own team is a pretty darn good way of maintaining consistency. Were there games that I achieved both of these goals and still lost? Yep…absolutely, but over a large enough sample size of games you will see yourself trending positive.
What you DONT want to do is walk into each game playing wildly different. This usually happens when you have no goals going into a given match. Some other things I do to prevent this is evaluate the comp I'm going up against as we load into the game. This means thinking about who's abilities I'll need to watch out for, which heroes 'counter' me or give me a hard time, etc etc. If they have an ETC for example I know that every teamfight post 10 I need to be looking out for Mosh. If I'm playing a hero who can interrupt it I'll try and save the ability that can stop it. If I'm on Sonya I'll take into account who can stop my spin… is it an ability they can spam or something on a high cooldown? Ill also evaluate who my priority targets are. I don't want to waste my Q on the Johanna… but the Tassadar or the Malfurion might be a good target. However, I also don't want to go out of my way to always target them… there might be times when doing so would mean me over-extending and getting myself killed… these are all micro decisions that have to be made on the fly in a teamfight which is why considering them beforehand better prepares your brain for making them.
- Watch Replays & Have Others Watch Them You will be surprised at some of the decisions you made. Believe me… you will. You'll ask yourself, "why the heck did I position like that??" Or "Why did I target him instead of the guy who was already at 40% HP behind me?" There will also be some things you miss completely even after watching the replay which is why its good to get others to watch them. I recently had someone watch mine which is how I discovered my terrible habit of spinning right after landing my spear. To take it a step further… I watched more replays and learned that I didn't always do this, I did it more often on the tail end of long play sessions… when I was tired. Usually in the first few games of the day I rarely ever did it… weird huh?
- Your Eyes This one is two-fold but I think both are related to tunnel-vision. This might be a bigger problem for some, for me it was such a big problem that I had to make a conscious effort to combat it. It's very easy for me to lock onto my target and then cease to see everything else going on around me.. I don't think I need to state why this can be bad so just make sure you're trying to keep an eye on every player around you, this will help you to also see what abilities are used. The other thing is (and a GM player recently told me this) he never looks at his player. He's constantly looking at everyone else, not the character he's controlling. I realized I was looking at my character often… when I stopped doing that I started seeing more going on around me.
That's all I've got for now, I'm sure there's quite a bit more I could think of but this has already been quite the novel. I sincerely hope some of you can benefit from this. As I already stated, I'm still a potato… but I've gone from a bronze 3 potato last season to a game or two shy of a gold 4 potato two days into this season and hope I can continue improving and that by improving I will climb. Hopefully one day I can reach my goal of Diamond… that would be pretty sweet!
It's also worth noting that I did this entirely solo queue which means despite the prevalence of stacks, you too can climb. I'm also a boomer… so if at the age of 32 I can do it, then any of you can as well because believe me.. there is nothing special about my abilities. Just keep practicing… play enough games with intention and you'll see results. 🙂
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