It took almost 500 games but I finally managed to push my way through and break the 1600 ELO barrier. I’m now officially among the top 1000 players in the ranked Solo 5v5 queue and, I’ll be honest, I had hoped it would be different, though I’m not really sure why.
I think the thing I expected most from high-tier play was more coordination/communication and less finger pointing. It has actually been quite the opposite. In most games I’ve played since 1550+, where I’ve been for a while now, players rarely talk, sometimes to the point that you can’t get a response about comps, picks, and builds in champion select. Believe it or not, it’s really important for the team to know if you’re playing AP Twisted Fate. It’s also disconcerting when a player takes smite on an atypical jungle toon if your team already has a strong jungler. For whatever reason though, whether it’s the arrogance that comes from having proof of success or something else, high-tier players rarely want to talk about this stuff.
Another strange phenomenon at high ELOs are the players who think they can prove that the underplayed champions are actually strong, but that they just require skill. This isn’t just a few people, either. A ton of players do this. In particular, I can think of a guy I see on occasion who picks Gangplank regardless of his team’s composition. I’ve tried reasoning with him, saying things like, “Hey, how about someone else. We already have three melee,” or, “Gangplank isn’t a very strong mid these days,” to which the response has always been some form of “fuck off.” I can understand his frustration. Sometimes it’s fun to play guys like Gangplank, and in some comps, Gangplank fits very nicely. But when you’re locking a niche character the moment the champion selection screen lights up with complete disregard for your team composition, you’re making it infinitely less likely that your teammates have a chance of winning. The fact that I’ve seen him (the player, not Gangplank) in several games, not one for which Gangplank has made sense, and that he’s not only had a bad attitude but then blamed everyone possible for our inevitable loss dissolves any sympathy I might have for the guy.
He’s not the only one, either. A lot of high-level players share this sort of delusion about their level of skill with a given champion. The reality is, some champions just aren’t fit for high-level competitive play. You might see some marginal success with them, but it will almost always be anecdotal, an exception to the rule.
There is one problem with high-tier ranked that I knew would happen. As your ELO improves, there are fewer and fewer people at your rank to be paired with. A couple things start to happen. On the rare occasion that there are ten people of a wide ELO spread from 1600 and up online and looking for game at the same time, you get paired with and against people anywhere from 1600 to 1900. That’s not so bad, because a lot of those players seemed to be very similarly skilled. What happens more often, though, is that you become the balancing factor for someone’s duo queue. Shortly after hitting 1600 I played a ranked game in which I got Corki for another player with my first pick. He ignored my requests and picked me Rammus, even though we had a jungler (lane Rammus is a nightmare). I got stuck bottom with Kayle, who I begged for the first five minutes to “PLEASE STOP PUSHING THE LANE.” I got no response, and the player spammed Righteous Fury until we were slammed up against the enemy turret with Shen and Malphite in front of us and their jungler working up increasingly violent and creative ways to orchestrate our demise. I got out of the game only to find that he was nearly 200 ELO my junior. Either he or someone on the other team was in a wide disparity duo queue and I was there to hopefully balance things out.
At this point, I find myself enjoying normal games at least as much as, if not more than ranked. There’s more champion diversity and players are generally more friendly. I’ll still likely play ranked, but I think that will become increasingly rare. The experience just hasn’t been very fun lately, even since improving my ELO.