Heroes of the Storm

Let’s talk about matchmaking, why it seems so bad at times, and why it can’t be improved

HeroesoftheStorm 1 - Let's talk about matchmaking, why it seems so bad at times, and why it can't be improved
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People complain about the matchmaker daily on this forum, and I need to settle the discussion once and for all. People are so quick to scapegoat the matchmaking for losses even though they don't fundamentally understand why the prospect of matchmaking is so difficult in this game. I'm going to tell you a story to illustrate a point that people fail to understand about this game:

A player's skill is not constant and can fluctuate by as much as multiple divisions from game to game. Because of this, it is impossible to always create fair games, even with a "perfect" matchmaker.

I'm not here to tell you that you didn't have a bad game after being matched with someone who didn't perform at your rank. I'm here to tell you that unfortunately, that is an inevitable circumstance that the developers can't do a damn thing about. If they could, it would already be fixed. So let's get right on with the story so I can move on from this dead horse of a topic.

This is the story of the overly aggressive Sonya.

Let's say I'm playing Sonya, and I'm currently Platnium rank. I have good mechanics but mediocre game sense and co-ordination. I like to play aggressive because I know I can land my Ancient Spears and burst down squishy targets hard, then sustain through a lot of damage with Whirlwind. But like I said, my game sense and teamwork are poor, so I often over-extend and take fights I shouldn't be taking.

Ok. So game 1, imagine I have a heavily poke-oriented backline (characters such as Hanzo, Li-Ming, Chromie, Azmodan, Zul'jin and such), so I don't have a lot of front-line support. Meanwhile, they have high burst damage with Jaina or such, and a good amount of CC to deal with Whirlwind. With that setup, here's some events that transpire in this game:

  • Level 1 mid lane fight: I step forward, looking for a good Ancient Spear target, and I see it. Jaina steps a bit far out of position and I dive on her. I get her down to half health, but my team can't effectively follow up because they're long range and have low mobility. Jaina gets away, and I get stunned by their tank, bursted down, and I die.

  • First Objective: I immediately head over, but my team is a little late taking a camp. Not a big deal, we could still contest, but I have poor game sense. So I hang around close to the objective. I don't Ancient Spear onto someone, but their tank comes out of a bush, stuns me, I get chased and bursted down, and I die before my team could get to me. We lose the objective because of this.

  • Level 10 Skirmish: We're a bit behind at this point, in large part because of my aggression. But now both teams have level 10 abilities, and there's a 5v5 skirmish. Our team actually gets the upper hand and we start pushing them back. They have multiple low-health members, so naturally I start chasing kills. But because I'm once again so much farther up than my teammates and they mostly don't have the mobility to follow me, the enemy tank stuns me out of my Whirlwind, the rest of the enemies burst me down, and I die. We could have pressed an advantage after getting them low, but that opportunity is gone because I'm dead.

  • Second objective (or perhaps third, not really important): We're now significantly behind, and fights are going to be pretty tough from here on out. The fight starts alright and I'm still playing aggro. But then our backline starts getting jumped. They get a quick kill on one of our assassins, but it cost them a lot of cooldowns and health, and we could turn the fight on them. However, I don't have Ancient Spear off cooldown because while my team was getting jumped, I've still been trying to get kills on my own unsuccessfully. So I can't chase down their heroes and they manage to disengage for a bit, heal up, and win the fight securing the objective. Had I been more patient and helped my own backline, we could have punished their dive, secured multiple kills, and won the objective, but I was still playing aggro so none of that happened.

  • Final fight, boss throw pit: Fast forward a bit, it's been the same story all game. I've done nothing but play aggro the whole game and my team doesn't have the tools to capitalize on it. Because of this I've died several times and constantly been out of position in fights. We're terribly far behind, down multiple levels and keeps. Our last hope is a hail mary fight over the boss that the enemies are taking. But it's just the same story all over again. Even though my mechanics are good and I land my abilities, I can't secure any kills because of a lack of follow up and also the severe level disadvantage. I'm an easy target for a quick round of CC and burst, and I die. My team falls apart, backline gets dived on, multiple deaths. Enemies secure the boss and win the game.

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I made a ton of mistakes this game, was consistently out of position, and had tons of deaths. Had I been more patient and more of a team player, we could have probably won the game. Overall, I was a severe handicap for my team, and I performed at a Gold, or perhaps even Silver level depending on the rest of the game.


Ok, now onto game 2. This time, the enemy setup is mostly the same, but my allies are much more dive oriented heroes. We have an aggressive tank such as an Anub'arak or a trigger-happy Muradin, and mobile dive heroes in our backline (such as Greymane, Kharazim, Rehgar, Genji, Abathur, and the like). With that setup, here's some events that transpire in this game:

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  • Level 1 mid lane fight: I step forward, looking for a good Ancient Spear target, and I see it. Jaina steps a bit far out of position and I dive on her. I get her down to half health, and my team promptly finishes her off with their mobility, securing an easy kill. The enemies retreat and we start laning.

  • First Objective: I immediately head over, and their team is a little late taking a camp. Not a big deal, they could still contest, but because I got there earlier than them, I can hide in a bush and get ready to jump someone. As both teams start arriving, I immediately Ancient Spear onto the first squishy target I see from my bush and secure another easy kill for my team. We win the objective because of this.

  • Level 10 Skirmish: We're a bit ahead at this point, in large part because of my aggression. But now both teams have level 10 abilities, and there's a 5v5 skirmish. Our team gets the upper hand and we start pushing them back. They have multiple low-health members, so naturally I start chasing kills and my tank and backline are quick to follow suit. The enemy tank stuns me out of my Whirlwind, but the rest of the enemies are under far too much pressure to burst me down. We end up scoring a triple kill and start pressing a huge map advantage.

  • Second objective (or perhaps third, not really important): We're now significantly ahead, and fights are going to be pretty easy from here on out. The fight starts alright and I'm still playing aggro. Then we jump on their backline. We get a quick kill on one of their assassins, but it cost us a lot of cooldowns and health, and they could turn the fight on us. However, I'm right in the thick of things and causing huge problems for the rest of the enemies. I've still been trying to get kills on my own, and my aggression effectively peels for my allies. The enemies are unable to chase down our weak heroes, we manage to disengage for a bit, heal up, and win the fight securing the objective.

  • Final fight, boss throw pit: Fast forward a bit, it's been the same story all game. I've done nothing but play aggro the whole game and it has perfectly complimented the dive tools of my team. Because of this I've set up several easy kills for my team and constantly punished enemies that were out of position. We're extremely far ahead, up multiple levels and keeps. The enemy's last hope is a hail mary fight over the boss that we're taking. But it's just the same story all over again. Because my mechanics are good and I land my abilities, I secure even more kills with my team's great follow up and also the severe level advantage. Their team falls apart, backline gets dived on, multiple deaths. We secure the boss and win the game.

Read:  Just played my first game of HOTS coming from League. WOW.

I was a playmaker this game. I punished tons of the enemies mistakes and set up several easy kills for my team. My aggressive plays allowed my dive-oriented team to steamroll over our enemies. Overall I was an invaluable asset to the team, and played at a Diamond, or perhaps even Masters level depending on the rest of the game.


I hope you can see what has happened here. In both games Sonya made exactly the same decisions and exactly the same plays (and was playing the same hero). I changed nothing about the Sonya player, and instead changed the circumstances around her, mostly her allies. By doing so, I've created a scenario where the exact same line of plays from this player equates to a "skill level" that ranges all the way from Silver to Masters. I now ask you, where is this player "supposed" to be placed by the matchmaker? The best answer is probably Platnium, but obviously this player's performance fluctuates from game to game. So the "best" rank to put them in is merely an average at best, and no rank placement for this player will produce "fair" games all the time. All of this is before we start talking about variables such as playing across multiple heroes, having good or bad days, hero specific matchups (eg Ana vs Alexstrasza), different maps, rank differences within parties, tilt, and half a dozen other variables that make "skill" incredibly volatile.

There isn't any way to "fix" this, it's the nature of a chaotic 5v5 game. There is no perfect matchmaker. Even if everyone were magically assigned the "best" possible rank, you would still have low quality games because "skill" is not a constant variable in this game. Sometimes it's high, sometimes it's low. All the matchmaker can ever hope to do is average across many games, and that's exactly what it does.

I know the whole thing is frustrating, but please, don't be mad at the developers for this because realistically there's nothing they can do about it. It's the nature of a team based 5v5 game. No matter how much you beat this dead horse of an argument, it won't get any better. So just try your best to accept it and move on so we can finally put this topic to rest. Please.

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