An (hopeful) attempt to put and end to “Elo Hell” posts & giving advice to overcome it

Disclaimer: I am aware of the decision to reduce the number of posts on the god damn topic that is Elo Hell, but I was preparing this post for quite some time, and I tried to give advice and solutions to improve, so here's to hoping it won't get taken down. Second, this post is a helluva read, so I've tried to break it down as much as possible so you can get to the part that interests you.

Hello darlings! As many of you are aware, this sub has been… invaded by quite a number of posts claiming all various things about something called "Elo Hell", usually involving a lot of whining and not really helping anyone progress through the ladder.

Who the f*** are you?

I've been an overwatch player for quite some time now, first on console, then on pc. My main strength being tank and support (diamond on console tank, close to be support pc), as my mechanical skill is quite… limited (never got past low plat on dps.) However, and this will be a shocker, mechanical skill is not the only factor. And I like to believe most of my climbing is due to one thing, and that is game sense, and knowledge in general. I know what some of you might say. "But Melyxis, there's master, grandmaster, t500 and pro players above you, who the hell do you think you are?"

First off, let me live my dreams, second, this post is intended towards the ranks below mine, as I believe they are the main target of Elo Hell mindset. Third, there's a reason I'm still in high plat – low diamond. So far, I don't belong in any higher rank. And that's one of the main points of this post.

That's nice but, what is Elo Hell?

Glad you asked, other me! Elo Hell is a concept used usually by lower rank players (that is, plat and under, if not diamond at times) to explain their inability to climb and get to the rank they deserve. There are a lot of definitions of the subject, and I will go through as many as I can, and tell you all about what you can do to change your mindset and get climbing. To do this, I will use the only tool available to us that is truly impartial. A tool that does not care about your feelings or mine, a tool many despise. That's right, it's your old nightmare… mathematics. Specifically, a branch of mathematics that gathers numbers to represent a bunch of stuff: statistics and probabilities, to prove that not only is it not real, but it is also quite a paradox. Now, other me, let's get the ball rolling.

I am stuck in my rank because my teammates are always throwing. ELO HELLLLL

I already hate you. Now this one is pretty simple to understand. In a game of overwatch, there are 12 players. If we remove you from the throw count (because, after all, you don't belong here) that makes 11 random players. 5 with you, 6 against you. Most of you already get it. Imagine your Elo Hell world is made of 80% throwers (obvious invented statistic for the sake of the argument). 80%*5=4, that means you'd have 4 throwers in your team on average. 80%*6=4.8, nearly 5, which means on average, the enemy team will have 5, sometimes 4 throwers. That's one more than you most of the time! So you should win right? There's two of you that know what they're doing in your team, against only one in the enemy team, it should be a piece of cake, shouldn't it?

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Why is this mentality happening?

For the same reason you're always in the wrong queue in the supermarket, or on the highway. For the same reason anything bad always only ever happen to you, psychology. This is not an area I'm competent in, but from what I could understand based on my interactions with players, there is one thing that causes most of this attitude, and it's the lack of self-reflection.

How to cure it -and actually improve!

Saying "stop thinking that way" would be counter productive and would ruin the point here. The whole idea is to put things into perspective (hey, another maths' concept! no, not that one.) Whenever, you died, take the full 10 or 13 seconds to think through it. After games, when you stop, take some time to rewatch a game or two. Here's a bunch of questions you can ask yourself to see where you, not your throwing rein, not your trolling mercy, could have improved and done something.

– Where was I, relative to my team? the enemy team?

– What cooldowns did I use ? What cooldowns were left for me to use?

– Could I have escaped the fight before dying? How?

– Was there somewhere else I should have been? Where?

– Was it a good idea to engage that fight/enemy in the first place? What could I have done differently?

You'll realize that most of the time, one of this questions (or others, that list isn't exhaustive) will lead you to realize "oh wait, I could have survived if I did X" And then the next time, when you find yourself in a similar situation, you'll remember it, and hopefully, apply it. Otherwise, you're good for another 10 seconds of reviewing your own death. Ultimately, what I want you to realize is that, in many, many situations, you don't rely on anyone but yourself. Another way to put it is to remember that the only common denominator in your games is you. When you understand that, you'll already feel better, and get farther.

A short example, I am an avid Reaper player (despite being quite terrible at dpsing in general.) I kept dying when flanking. And then, boom, divine light struck me. I understood roughly how far wraith form could get me, and I began to improve drastically at flaking, hitting enemies (some rare times, killing them), wraithing away, and living. (Not even exaggerating, I went up by 150SR just playing reaper that way.) I don't need my healers to heal me, I don't require my rein to come and plant his shield in front of me and me only. I just need to focus on my actions and their consequences.

Basically, the first step to get to a higher rank is to understand you don't yet belong in that higher rank, and then to look for ways for you to get there. It might seem obvious, but trust me when I tell you this behaviour is seriously lacking.

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Okay, but…. smurfs!

What's that, other me?

Smurfs! They're the reason I can't climb! They're always on the enemy team and they wreck my team, even though we're definitely better!

So, the first part of this argument seems to stand at first. Remember when we talked about throwers, there were statistically more of them in the enemy team than in yours. And it should be the same for smurfs, right? There should be more in the enemy team than in yours? This falls into another mathematical problem, and that is, probabilities to win.

There are games, where, whatever you do, even if there were 6 "you" in the team, you'd still lose. They indeed have a smurf, you indeed have a thrower, but most of the time, they're just better than you. There are also games where, even if you left the game, your team would have won, for the same reasons. The probability to end up in such an "unlosable" game is roughly the same you have to end up in an "unwinnable" game. Which means, in the end, they cancel each other. The more you play, the more they cancel each other. This is called normal probability, discovered and popularized (amongst others) by our old friend Gauss, and roughly means that the more you do an experiment, the more you'll see a clear average coming out of it. It's the reason the more times you toss a coin, the closer you'll get to a 50/50 heads/tails repartition. If we go even deeper into this concept, the more you play, the closer you get to your average SR.

That's all well and good, but how do I do something about those games?

Mathematics would tell you to keep playing until you reach that point where you even up your loses and wins. That's all well and good, but fuck that, cause it might require a tremendous amount of games. But let's use another detail of this law to turn the situation to our advantage. Normal law tells us that this average…ing behaviour happens when you repeat a same experiment a huge number of times in the same conditions. This is why, in many improvements posts, you'll see the advice to stop, or at least take a break, after three wins or losses within a period. If you win three times out of 4 or 5, you've fucked probabilities! But they'll come and get you the more you'll play. If you stop, you not only do you counter probabilities themselves, but you also feel a butt ton better. Whenever you start again, the conditions will have changed (you'll be less tired for instance), you'll have refocused, and you can start afresh.

For the losing side of things, you might be tempted to keep playing until you break even. And that's the worst idea you could have. Because then, the odds may be in your favour, but you'll face something even more terrible. You will become the thrower. And not even intentionally. You'll play worse and worse, blame others more and more, probabilities won't matter anymore because the conditions will have changed (your level, in this situation), until you've lost 8 games, won 2, and end up with a -6 total win/lose ratio. After three losses, stop there, and then, after refocusing you'll be able to start afresh.

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Alright alright, but now, what if I actually end up in such a situation? I don't want to be doomed because of a smurf or a troll!

And that's more than fair, other me. And there are solutions. A smurf is a player who can, supposedly, single-handedly take down your entire team. So please, for the love of god, stop thinking you can, single-handedly, take them down. Because the 5 other players in your team will feel the exact same way, and the smurf will have accomplished their goal.

In general, don't try to go "do it my way and we win", be more subtle. I saw a comment on this sub that went "6 idiots doing something stupid together is a game plan" to which I'd add "1 genius in a room of idiots is an idiot among geniuses" Your teammates are convinced they are our lord and saviour and will bring wrath upon the enemy team. You may actually be right, but you will look to them as an idiot trying to brainwash them into *shivers* Elo Hell. So go with them. If they take a suboptimal pathing to get to the point, go with them. Cause then, it's a fair 6v6 where you can let your true level shine. Even the best player in the world can't carry a full team of low elo players on his own, for the same reason you can't seem to carry your team to victory.

That's all I got (and that's already quite a lot). I truly hope this will help you realize what you can do to actually improve. I haven't given you much advice on how to get better, and that's because a lot of posts, here and somewhere else, already exist. Go and check them, focus on yourself, and you'll see the difference. If you enjoyed my mathematical approach to this concept, I might do one on other concepts!

Thanks for reading darlings, and I'll see you in game.

TL;DR: To get to a higher level, you first have to deserve it. This comes with self-reflection (ability to understand your own mistakes), a good "playing hygiene" (stop, take breaks, at appropriate times, usually after three wins of losses) and teamwork, even with 5 players with the cognitive abilities of a brick wall. And remember, you can make this work.


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