How to Play Ranked in League of Legends
League of Legends remains one of the most popular online games, a fact that’s doubly impressive considering it’s more than a decade old. A significant portion of the game’s appeal and timelessness lies in its focus on competitive matches and allowing players to rise through the ranks as their skill and mastery improve. Playing ranked matches is one of the best indicators of how good you’re getting at playing League, but it might sound like a daunting task for a new player.
From a technical standpoint, playing ranked matches doesn’t come with many prerequisites. Players only need to reach summoner level 30 and obtain 20 champions. Players can meet both objectives rather quickly by playing in other game modes like “Co-op vs. AI” or normal matches. The minimum requirement of 20 champions is due to the ranked system’s utilization of drafting champions for each team.
Luckily, players get a solid champion collection to work with while progressing through the introductory levels before reaching summoner level 30. You’ll also receive a generous amount of BE to jumpstart your collection and craft champions you’d like to use for matches without relying on the free-to-play rotation.
How Do Ranked Games Work?
Ranked games utilize a drafting system in which both teams get a chance to ban five champions (one per player), then alternatively picking champions to play from their respective collections. All ranked games are played on the 5v5 Summoner Rift map, which you’ll undoubtedly get accustomed to before you get a chance to play your first ranked match. The game tries to put teams of equal skill against one another, measured in various ways.
The banning process is shared between teams and the opposing team’s choices are only revealed once all bans are set, or locked in game terms. This can lead to a champion being banned on both sides, which can become relatively common in certain balance states, patches, and divisions.
Once the banning phase ends, the first person on one team will choose one champion to play. After the first pick, two players on the other team pick their champions, with teams alternating until the remaining player makes the last pick. No two players on either team can choose the same champion to play. The 1-2-2-2-2-1 picking system is well established in multiple online games. The player’s pick order does not correlate with role, tier, or skill level.
With all champions picked for both sides, the preparation phase begins. Players have 30 seconds to make final adjustments. This also allows players on a team to swap champions between one another. Champion swapping can become a significant strategic point, especially for roles that rely heavily on counterpicking like top and mid lanes. It’s usually advantageous to put these roles last and hide the main team carries or strategies for later picks to keep the opponent guessing. However, beware that this gives the opponents a chance to pick one of your preferred champions.
For ranked matches, players need to choose their preferred roles to play between top, jungle, middle, bottom, or support. There is also a sixth option – fill – which will sort the player into any role which the team composition needs. You’ll need to pick two options, one for the primary role, which you get most of the time, and a secondary role if the first one is taken. Picking “fill” for the primary option will remove the secondary role choice.
Each player also gets an automatic autofill position. The autofill in ranked allows the Riot sorting system to cut down on queue times due to disproportionate role popularity. Players who don’t play the least sought-after roles might be forced into those roles on occasion through autofill to essentially “fill in” the team when the match finder can’t create two even teams.
When a team gets a player who is auto-filled on their role, there are high odds the opposing team also has an auto-filled player. The autofill parity aims to make the matchups seem fairer since an auto-filled player usually doesn’t perform as well as a player consistently playing that role. After a player has been auto-filled for a game and completes it (whether they won or lost), they are guaranteed autofill protection for several matches.
For ranked games, all players are sorted into tiers and divisions according to their skill level, and rise or fall through them over time. There are currently nine tiers: Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, Grandmaster, and Challenger. Tiers from Iron to Diamond are split into four divisions each, from Division IV being the lowest, up to Division I. Each tier and division has a distinct armor, or appearance, that gets progressively elaborate as players rise through them.
Players within each division are ranked using League Points (LP), between 0 and 100 for each division. Winning a game rewards, you with LP based on your hidden Match Making Rating (MMR). Losing games, leaving the champion select (dodging), or abandoning a game results in LP loss. Riot Games won’t share how exactly the MMR system works, but it works similar to the ELO system in professional chess.
The match finder sorts players in teams according to their MMR and current tier, division, and LP, with the system trying to put teams together that are close in skill. New players will require calibration to assess their skill, so the first ranked 10 matches each ranked season carry additional weight and have significantly inflated LP gains (and no LP loss). A new ranked season resets each player’s tier, division, and LP, making them start on a similar footing. MMR is only partially reset and becomes the primary sorting method for placement matches.
If players reach above 100LP within a division that is not Division I, they are automatically pushed into the subsequent division and any additional LP rolls over. If they reach 100 LP in Division I, they get a chance to enter the next tier by winning the tier promotion series.
A promotion series is played in a best-of-five, with players needing three game wins to advance. Losing the series (i.e., getting three losses), leaving a champion select, or abandoning the game will end the promotion series. If you have lost the series by losing three games, you’ll stay in Division I, and your LP will be set back by the appropriate amount throughout the games in the series. If you win the series, you’ll be pushed into the next tier’s Division IV. Autofill is disabled for promotion games.
Not playing any ranked games for a while can also lead to LP loss in Diamond and above. The longer you’re away from the game, the faster you’ll fall through divisions and tiers, up to Diamond IV.
You can go into your profile page, then your “Ranked” tab to see information about your current tier or rank, promotion series, and decay information.
Master, Grandmaster, and Challenger tiers (commonly referred to as Apex tiers) are not split into divisions and instead use the ranking system. This ranking system solely uses LP to rank players on the leaderboard, publicly visible by all players on that server.
Players who reach 200 LP in Master are eligible for Grandmaster, and players who earn 500 LP are eligible for Challenger tier. These top two tiers are the most exclusive and have limited seats (300 Challenger players and 700 non-Challenger Grandmaster players on the NA server for solo queue). Seat size is fixed for each server and is higher for the more populated servers (NA, EUW, Korea, Vietnam, China, Philippines).
Grandmaster and Challenger tiers are dynamic, with player lists updated every day at midnight UTC. You can see the current player list in Master and above by going into the “Ranked” tab on your “Profile” page.
There are two ranked queues. The solo/duo queue pits players who play alone or with one friend against similarly composed teams. It is considered the primary queue for players who play ranked matches, and you’ll find most people on streaming platforms playing solo queue games. Players in a duo get a slightly inflated MMR score when calculating their team composition to account for communication and familiarity benefits. On average, teams will have an equal number of duos for each game.
The solo queue also has restrictions on duo composition, increasing with higher tiers:
- Iron and Bronze players can only play with players up to Silver.
- Silver players can additionally play with Gold players.
- Gold players can play with Silver, Gold, or Platinum players.
- Platinum players cannot play with Diamond players who are more than two divisions above them. That means a Platinum I player can play with, at most, a Diamond III player.
- Diamond players can only queue with players two divisions up or down.
- Duo queue is disabled for Apex tiers.
The second queue is called the flex queue. There, groups of one, two, three, or five players can form a team to play with and against other teams, with the number of parties usually staying the same on each side. There are no restrictions on divisions, but a Gold player will struggle against the opposition when queueing with their Diamond friends. Teams of four were removed soon after the queue’s introduction when it became apparent that the remaining player received the brunt of the toxicity and was singled out regardless of their performance.
How To Start Playing Ranked
If you want to start playing ranked, all you need to do is get to Summoner level 30 and obtain, purchase, or craft at least 20 champions. You can then choose ranked from the queue list:
- Press the large “Play” button on the top left corner.
- Select “Ranked Solo/Duo” or “Ranked Flex” under “Summoner’s Rift.”
- (Optional) Invite players to your party. You can use the “Suggested” tab on the bottom right or invite players directly from your friends list on the right-hand side.
- Select your primary and secondary roles. The client will also inform you if autofill has been enabled or disabled for your upcoming game below the role selection.
- Once all players in the party have made their choice, press “Find match” to start looking for a game in the ranked queue.
What are the rewards for playing ranked?
At the end of each ranked season, players get rewards based on their maximum rank reached in ranked queues. Ranked seasons last about nine months each calendar year and end around November.
Rewards get progressively more valuable with higher tiers. All ranked players receive one Eternal shard and 300 Orange Essence. Gold and above players receive a unique champion skin (designed explicitly for the end-of-ranked rewards), with an additional chroma for each tier above Platinum. The Eternal shard will always be for the champion receiving the skin.
Each player gets a unique ranked border based on their previous season’s highest rank.
Players also get rewards for playing ranked matches during the three ranked splits, approximately every three months, each season. These can be summoner icons, in-game emotes, Eternals capsules, and ranked armor upgrades.
When should I start playing ranked in LoL?
There is no consensus as to when you should start playing ranked. Some players will suggest honing your skill in normal draft matches to get a better hold of the strategy and enormous game knowledge needed to play effectively. Others will advise you to start with ranked as early as you want and develop your skill directly in the solo queue.
We recommend learning at least two roles and having a few champions you’re good at before starting with ranked matches. Since your primary (“main”) champion can get banned or picked by the opposing side, you can be left with a selection of choices you’re not as adept with and lose the game from the start.
Get Better in Ranked Matches
If you’re learning the ropes, don’t fret about ranked matches for a while. However, if you want a more even playing field with others who are striving to improve, the solo queue will be where the action is. Good luck on the Summoner’s Rift.
When did you start playing ranked in LoL? Tell us about your ranked experience in the comment section below.