Dota 2 MMR: Miracle- at AMD SAPPHIRE Dota PIT League Minor.
(Featured image via Dota Pit.)

You Are Not Your MMR: The Dangers of Obsession

Nov 29, 2017
(Featured image via Dota Pit.)

When Seasonal Ranked Matchmaking hit Dota 2 last week, there was some initial confusion about how the game’s new MMR system worked. Evil Geniuses superstar SumaiL was previously mid-8k MMR, and somehow fell to 6.7k in the new system. It turns out that MMR distribution has been centralized. This means that the further you were from the average (2-3k), the more your MMR has been pulled back to the average.

(Video contains volume fluctuations and a bit of bad language.)

(Original Source: SumaiL’s Twitch stream)

There were a number of other discrepancies:

  • Team Secret’s 10k MMR player MidOne didn’t even get the top medal (Divine 5). Rather, he received the third best medal (Legend 4) because he only played party ranked games in calibration matches.
  • Arteezy, also of Evil Geniuses (for now), got the wrong medal as well.
  • Same for [A]lliance’s Twitch stream lord AdmiralBulldog, who received Divine 3 despite previously having high MMR and going 9-1 in his calibration matches.

On the whole, these are just minor blips that should be fixed after they play a few more matches.

Another significant addition was visible leaderboard rankings for the top 200 players in each region. The number under each player’s badge represents their regional ranking. Question marks mean they haven’t finished calibrating yet.

Dota 2 MMR: You can now see player medals in post-game scoreboards.
Midas Mode NA finals post-game. (Image via MoonduckTV’s Twitch.)

These are fun to follow since they’re visible in the post-game screens for official matches, though not every player is visible yet on the current leaderboard. Players will only appear after 15 solo ranked games in the last 21 days on the same region, for whichever region they’ve played in the most, or more recently.

But perhaps Valve’s choice to emphasize rankings further exaggerates the importance of MMR and the Dota 2 community’s unhealthy obsession with defining themselves by this number.

MMR and Pro Players

Let’s look back at the history of MMR milestones. Since seasonal resets now occur every six months, it’s unlikely that we will witness the return of five digit MMR players anytime soon.

First off, shoutout to w33 for being the first 8k player back in June 23, 2015. His new team, MidOrFeed, has just disbanded and he’s returning to his original role in the middle lane after a stint as a position 4 support.

9 0 0 0 M A T C H M A K I N G P O I N T S

On May 10th, 2016, Miracle- became the first player in Dota 2 to reach 9000 MMR. It happened in Moscow, during the biggest third-party tournament of the year, EPICENTER 2016. The event organizers sent complimentary champagne to his team’s practice room. Then they filmed a semi-awkward segment in which he’s presented with a rain of 9000 fake OSfrog bills.

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His team, OG, took third place at the event. With OG, Miracle- was able to rise from pubstar to competitive superstar in the span of months. Together they won two out of three of the year’s Valve-sponsored Majors. But at The International 2016, which featured a prize pool of over 20 million dollars, they were eliminated in 9-12th place after unexpectedly losing back-to-back series in the main event. In the following roster shuffle, Miracle- left OG to join Team Liquid.

1 0 0 0 0 M A T C H M A K I N G P O I N T S

A little over a year later, the first 10k MMR player was crowned. Filipino prodigy Abed became the first five-digit MMR player in Dota 2. With North American team Digital Chaos, Abed made it to Seattle for The International 2017. However, his squad wasn’t able to stand up to the competition and finished 9-12th place. In his overseas stint, Abed didn’t come close to winning any tournaments. Earlier this month, he returned to Southeast Asia to play for Fnatic. They’ve already qualified for two Pro Circuit events and are probably the best team that Abed has played with to date.

Does MMR really matter for pros?

While Abed was rising to the top of the MMR leaderboards, Miracle- was winning where it mattered the most. After some initial struggles, Team Liquid won EPICENTER 2017 and were favorites heading into The International 2017 (TI7). To the dismay of their fans, they lost their first main event series and dropped down to the lower bracket. But somehow, they came back to win six series in a row and were ultimately crowned Dota 2 champions.

Going into TI7, Miracle- wasn’t even the highest MMR player on his team. (He still isn’t, that title is currently MinD_ContRoL’s.) However, Team Liquid was the best team in terms of average MMR. And after calibration, they still are the highest MMR team with four members in Europe’s top six visible players at the time of writing. However, the correlation between team MMR and TI7 results did not extend beyond the top two teams. This is a good time to remember that MMR is regional.

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If comparing MMR across regions is pointless, then why contrast the stories of Miracle- and Abed? Because numbers don’t mean anything if your team is losing.

A few years ago Dendi, the face of Dota 2, said something along the lines of ‘MMR is just a number’ and it became a widespread meme. The truth is that MMR means something, but it’s not everything. Plenty of top-tier professional players don’t have exceptional MMR, such as the ESL One Hamburg Major Mercedes-Benz MVP Solo, who was by far the lowest MMR player at TI7. For aspiring pros, having high MMR definitely helps your reputation, but it doesn’t guarantee competitive success.

The MMR “Trench” Mindset

The general toxicity of Dota 2 players is one of the biggest complaints in the community. This bad mannered behavior shows itself in the habitual blaming of others for losses, while attributing victories to oneself. It’s a gap between perception and reality. There are a great deal of players out there who think that the teammates in their skill bracket are keeping them stuck at a certain MMR. Why are so many players are unable to accept their current standing?

Perhaps it has something to do with the Dunning-Kruger effect. Poor performers often tend overestimate their ability. Irrational confidence causes players to think there are such things as MMR trenches that trap them regardless of their own sense of superiority. We all suffer from this in some areas of our lives. Common examples include thinking we’re better at driving or listening than we actually are.

Obsessing over your Dota 2 MMR is an unhealthy practice. Here's what believing you're stuck in an MMR trench makes you look like.
(Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

Explaining toxicity with the Dunning-Kruger effect isn’t an original idea, but it merits mentioning. Win or lose, the illusion is strengthened, and this phenomenon is one of the reasons why players often feel frustrated about being “stuck” in their skill bracket.

Many Dota 2 players slip into Dunning-Kruger behavior as a defense mechanism. We have a need to justify all the hours we put into the game, so we ignore the evidence that clearly says we’re mediocre. Maybe the new system will help us feel less attached to identifying ourselves through a single number.

Craving MMR Makes You Do Messed Up Things

The last time I tried hard to increase my MMR, I was so uptight that I berated my best friend during an unranked party queue pub match. I acted like a complete asshole. Through Steam chat, I wrote paragraphs of criticism and something like “I don’t think we should play together anymore because I’m trying to get better and you’re getting in my way.”

All that and I was an utterly average 3k MMR player. We’ve been best friends since we were eight. And yes, party matches didn’t even affect your solo MMR.

Later I apologized, he accepted, and we moved on. But from that day forward, it was clear that he viewed Dota 2 differently. Before, he wouldn’t take it too seriously, as it should be when you’re playing fun for with friends. However, after this episode, he routinely went on tirades that targeted the strangers on our team. He said mean personal stuff to them. He would have his hero stand in place for minutes at a time while he expressed his anger through lines of furiously typed text.

Wanting to raise your Dota 2 MMR can make you act like a jerk.
(Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

It became clear to both of us that this wasn’t healthy. He stopped playing online altogether, opting to play against bots instead. Eventually, he drifted toward other games in his Steam library’s endless queue. We started playing Dota back in the Warcraft 3 custom game days around a decade ago. He even named his daughter Lina. And now, we only talk about Dota 2 when some sort of drama comes up.

Essentially, I made my best friend quit Dota 2 because I was being an ass about MMR.

Defining Yourself By Your MMR is Self-Destructive

If you really want to improve, stop making excuses based on circumstances you can’t control, and try to better understand yourself through self-examination. Otherwise, you’ll be unable to identify what you need to work on. This is true of getting good at any pursuit, not just ascending rankings in a video game.

Even though it’s difficult to let go of using MMR as a way to measure your Dota 2 value, it’s also an opportunity to grow and learn from the experience. Facing uncomfortable facts is the only way to free yourself from the self-sabotaging anchors that hold you back.

As of November 27th, Valve has hidden the displayed MMR on the leaderboards.

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Jonathan is a dedicated Dota 2 staff writer for Esports Edition. His writing has also been featured at, Unikrn News, and Of all the heroes in Dota 2, he enjoys playing Tidehunter the most.
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