New Dota 2 players usually don't understand the differences between ranked and unranked matchmaking. Both of these game types are awesome, in their own regard, and can provide hundreds of hours of fun. In this article, I will analyze the main differences between the two and which one is more suitable for you.
Before I do so, let me explain what matchmaking is in the first place.
Dota 2 matchmaking basics
Like in any other game, matchmaking is a system that pairs two groups of players together based on their individual and team strengths. The skill of each player is determined based on their MMR (matchmaking rating), so the algorithm tries its best to match two teams that have the same average MMR (what’s the average MMR in Dota 2).
Here are a few criteria that are considered when making teams:
- Teams have to be balanced compared to each other (the overall team MMRs should be the same or similar).
- Players should be close to each other in terms of individual skill, usually within 100 – 200 MMR of each other.
- It is especially important to minimize the difference between the best and worst players on the team. That way, each player will have a similar knowledge and skill level. For example, the lowest-ranked MMR player shouldn’t be too far away from the rest of the team.
- Similarly, the best player on one team should have the same or similar score as the best player on the other team. This is especially important given that the best players are usually matched in the middle lane, which can have a big impact on the overall result of the game.
- Besides MMR, the algorithm also considers the number of games played. Although two players might be similar in terms of their matchmaking rating, a player with more games played will usually have an advantage.
- You can participate in ranked and unranked games as a member of a party. However, the party numbers should be the same (if there is 1 two-man party on Dire, there should be 1 two-man party on Radiant). In the case of a five-man party, it can only match with another five-man party.
- Each match is structured so that the players don't have to wait for too long. Ideally, you should find matches on your home server.
What is unranked matchmaking?
Unranked matchmaking is the basic form of matchmaking. It is accessible to everyone from the get-go, and, as the name implies, players do not gain MMR during these games.
However, it is worth noting that unranked matches also have their hidden ranking system. In other words, the players are paired in a similar way as they are for ranked matches. There is a separate system for both unranked and ranked matchmaking, so you will often have much better games in one of them (due to the high average MMR).
Unranked matchmaking is great for a casual Dota experience. You can take just about any hero, and no one will flame you for that. The games are less competitive, and this is the best way to test new strategies.
What is ranked matchmaking?
Ranked matchmaking is a more common mode. Dota 2 players like to compete with each, and the best way to do so is by accruing higher MMR. During every season, you will attain a medal showcasing your current skill level. The badge is displayed on your profile for everyone to see, alongside your MMR rating. To progress to the next category, you will need approximately 600 to 800 MMR (related: how to check MMR in Dota 2).
When queuing for ranked matchmaking, you have fewer modes available. A player can choose between ranked all pick (the most popular one), random draft, and captain's mode depending on what of all heroes you wanna play.
If you wish, you can decide to be queued against a specific player. Furthermore, you need to select a role prior to queueing. Some of the roles make it quicker to start a game (such as support), while others take time (mid-lane). The game will showcase each player's MMR so that you can calibrate roles during the match (related: how to avoid players in a dota 2 queue).
Accessing a ranked match
As mentioned, you can't access a match just like that. There are certain requirements you have to fulfill beforehand. That way, the game remains much more competitive, the players are better calibrated, and it is a bit harder to encounter smurfs:
- Before anything else, you need to verify your Steam account by adding a phone number to it. If you wish so, you can change your official phone at any time, but you cannot reuse that same phone for some other account for the next 3 months.
- You can’t even gain access to ranked matchmaking if you haven’t played at least 100 hours of Dota 2. If one of the party members has played less than that, the whole party will be prohibited from accessing the game. The minimal hour requirement is crucial for preventing smurf accounts and other undesirable types of behavior.
- Another thing you need to do is play 10 calibration games. As the name implies, after playing these games, the algorithm will be able to allocate a score based on your performance. In general, players are ranked below their real skill level and usually have to play lots of games to get to their rightful tier.
What is better: unranked matchmaking or ranked matchmaking?
Truth be told, both of these modes have their merits.
Most people prefer playing ranked matchmaking due to its completive nature. Everyone who plays Dota 2 wants to get better at the game. Furthermore, the majority of players would love to become professionals. So, MMR points give them something to look for as an additional motivation for grinding hours and hours of the game.
Unranked is much better for people who just want to have a laid back experience. You can pick just about anything and have fun with it. There is much less flaming during this type of a game, which is another major perk. We also have to consider there are more modes to play.
So, if you want to play highly competitive games where every mistake matters, I recommend that you go with ranked matchmaking. Alternatively, if you just want to have fun and explore new builds, unranked is the thing for you.