Even professional League players have to start somewhere, and while many have been playing since the first few seasons, new players burst on to the scene all the time.
But these players don’t find their way to professional teams after playing in college or the minors. Every single League of Legends pro has worked their way through the ranked ladders to Master, GrandMaster, and Challenger, the brutally competitive final ranked tiers.
LoL Ranking Explained
In any other sport, you play against an individual who somewhat matches your skills. You're both qualifying for the same tournament because of your shared abilities, or in professional sports, you're playing against individuals and teams who have also earned their spots as opponents. E-games shouldn't be any different, which is why there's a ranking system in League of Legends.
The ranking system allows players of equal caliber to play against each other, as opposed to a more experienced player having to take on someone new to the game or an introductory player immediately being outwitted by a long-term LoL champ.
League of Legends Tiers vs. Divisions
LoL's ranking system includes nine tiers and a total of four divisions within each. Once any player reaches level 30 in League of Legends and owns 16 champs or more, they are eligible to play ranked placement games. After an initial 10-game Provisional Series, a player is placed into a tier and division, likely the Bronze or Silver tier, although it's possible to achieve a Gold rank depending on the number of games you've won so far.
League of Legends Tiers
The nine tiers, or ranks, in League of Legends include: Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, GrandMaster, and Challenger. The majority of current LoL players find themselves in the introductory tiers of Iron, Bronze, Silver, and Gold for quite a while, which is a testament to how difficult it can be to rank higher in the game as well as the level of competitiveness you may encounter from other players.
League of Legends Divisions
Within each tier are divisions numbered from four (IV) to one (I), with one being the best division, and your gameplay determines which division you're placed in. The final three tiers, Master, GrandMaster, and Challenger, are not divided.
To move up through divisions and, ultimately, among tiers, you need to win games in a best-of series, which is either three games for division jumps or five games for tier moves. This ranking system is frequently referred to as the LoL Ranking Ladder.
Reaching the Master, GrandMaster, and Challenger Tiers
Players who fight their way through all previous divisions will arrive in the Master tier. Added to the game in 2014, Master is now the last hurdle players must overcome to reach the final two tiers—GrandMaster and Challenger. GrandMaster was added in 2018 to account for the discrepancy in skill level that Riot noticed among its Master players.
The addition of these two tiers also reflects an effort from Riot to create transparency in ranked standings. Since Challenger exclusively hosts the top 200 players in a region, players will now move from Diamond I to Master and GrandMaster after winning their Promotion Series instead of jumping straight into the top 200 players.
Once they've reached Master tier or above, players compete for total League Points (LP). Calculated the same way as in other tiers, a player's total LP determines their position in Master tiers and above. Every 24 hours, players ranked as Master or GrandMaster have the opportunity to move into the next tier, bumping someone else out of a higher tier if they surpass them in LP. This allows top-tier players to see their positions much easier and to immediately determine just how close they are to reaching the next level.
Challenger Tier is the big show. A list of the top 200 League players in each region, this tier is home to pros and aspiring pros alike. Reaching Challenger puts a player on the radar, and if a team needs a substitute or a replacement, this is where they can be found.
Ranked teams are handled exactly like solo players until Challenger, in which there are only 50 spots available. However, Master and GrandMaster provide a more robust place for aspiring pro teams to practice. Riot's continuous tweaks to the pro scene have led to the constant improvement of the game, and the Master and newly added GrandMaster Tier are no exception. With pro shakeups and retirements dominating the news, fans may start looking to Master or GrandMaster to find their next favorite pro player.
LoL's Ranking Distribution
League of Legend seasons take place once a year, usually from January in a given year to the following November or December. Before each season begins, League of Legends releases the ranking distribution of the different tiers. The updated distribution for solo play is:
- Iron: 7.1%
- Bronze: 22%
- Silver: 35%
- Gold: 23%
- Platinum: 7.9%
- Diamond: 2.5%
- Master: .032%
- GrandMaster: .040%
- Challenger: .017%
This distribution tends to remain close to the same year after year, and most players will find themselves with a Bronze, Silver, or Gold rank.
How LoL League Points (LP) Works
Ranked wins and losses earn or lose a certain amount of League Points or LP. The amount is determined based on the difficulty of opponents and the rankings of teammates, among other factors. Once a player has earned 100 LP in their division, they immediately enter a three-game Promotion Series—two victories will allow them to move up one division. Teams are handled much the same way, relying on LP to advance through divisions and tiers. Placement for teams is handled separately from individual rankings.
Progression through tiers is slightly different, with players needing to win three games, or best of five, to enter a new tier. For example, if a player earns 100 LP in Silver Division I, they will enter a five-game Tier Promotion Series to try to enter the lowest division of the Gold tier. If they win the series, they enter the new tier, and if they lose the series, their LP drops back down to zero.
While this system is simple, the ladder climb can be grueling and harsh. If a player's LP drops to zero in a division, they will be demoted if they continue losing games. Demotions can be discouraging and lead to players feeling stuck in a certain division.
Once a player has earned a place in the Platinum tier, they can lose LP by becoming inactive. The longer a player is inactive, the more LP they'll lose.
Matchmaking Rank (MMR) Explained
Matchmaking Rank (MMR) is a number Riot assigns to each player based on their skill level that determines how much LP that player gains or loses in each game. The higher a player's MMR, the more league points they stand to win in a victory game and the less they are likely to lose in a defeat.
However, a player's MMR is also determined by a winning or losing streak, the average MMR of their team, and the MMR of the enemy. If a player's MMR is above average for their team, they will earn more LP in a win.
Solo vs. Duo vs. Flex Play
Before you start a new League of Legends game, you have the choice to play solo, with another person (duo), or with a team (flex) of three or more, including yourself. Since your rank may vary depending on which you choose, it's important to make the decision based on your preferred playing style.
Flex play is geared more toward players who enjoy working with a team, while the solo or duo player is usually most interested in strategic gameplay that allows them to move up in tiers and within divisions based on their own skill level.
League of Legends has more than 80 million players per month, and its popularity can be largely attributed to the ranking system that keeps the game fun and challenging while allowing players to compete against others who are equally skilled. For more League of Legends coverage, follow @RedBullESPORTS on Twitter.