League of Legends: Why Unranked to Challenger Series Teach the Wrong Lessons

League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /
Creator Viktor. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /

Unranked to Challenger series have long been a staple for League of Legends content creators, but unfortunately, they teach viewers all the wrong lessons.

The Unranked to Challenger series was born out of streamers getting frustrated at their viewers or commenters complaining that they were stuck in “Elo Hell.” League of Legends content creators decided to prove that, in fact, these complaints were just lower elo players unfairly blaming their teammates. They created fresh accounts, started playing with unblemished MMR (and in some cases, tanked the MMR to make sure they started as low as possible) and climbed through the ladder back to their original rank.

The goal was to show that streamers weren’t being propped up by the MMR they’d built over previous seasons and that they could hit Challenger even if they needed to climb all the way through the ladder. These series also showed their viewers what strategies the streamer would use to win and climb the ladder efficiently, allow a better player to point out and capitalize on the mistakes lower-ranked players miss, and allow the streamer to play in a bit more relaxed of an environment.

Today, Unranked to Challenger streams have become common, with streamers from Nightblue to Tyler1 to IWillDominate doing these series. This type of content has become less of a challenge to those high elo streamers and more as a way for them to get easy content by beating up on lower elo players and to be more entertaining without having to tryhard.

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Unfortunately, as these series became more commonplace, they began to undermine the original point they were attempting to dispute.

Over the course of an Unranked to Challenger series, the arc of the streamer will generally go something like this. They’ll beat up on players from Iron to Gold, starting to hit resistance around high Plat/low Diamond. At this point, the streamer has to try harder and normally has less success, but also begins complaining more about the quality of their teammates or matchmaking for opponents.

Even though these players may be significantly higher than the elo they are playing in, they begin to talk, act, and play like they are in Elo Hell. They’ll get frustrated and tilted more easily, need to be more focused on their gameplay, and generally have a harder time climbing. Most of them do continue to climb, yes, but it becomes far more difficult than it was in Bronze, when they could 1v9 and win 20 straight games.

Thus, the experiment ultimately proves to viewers that, yes, there is an Elo Hell where streamers start to feel exactly the same way that you do when you fail your Silver II promos for the third time because your top laner disconnected. It justifies the feeling that you have to be so much better than your teammates in order to carry games that your rank is largely out of your control.

This sentiment is not only harmful to the community, because it encourages toxicity and trolling, but it also doesn’t give the viewers a positive model for how to push through adversity when their skill no longer becomes enough to carry games. Instead, players are reinforced that their feelings of despair and reliance on teammates are justified, and they’re “stuck” where they are simply because they don’t have the mechanics or knowledge of a Challenger.

Put another way, if you’re a Bronze player who sees a Challenger getting frustrated and stuck in Platinum or Diamond, acting the way you do, why wouldn’t you think that you’re in a similar situation, with the skill of a Silver or Gold player, but just unable to win because of bad teammates?

The end result is that players will think that they can only climb on their skill to a certain level before the games become more due to randomness than their skill. This is one of the big pain points of the League of Legends ranked system, feeling your individual skill isn’t recognized. Challengers aren’t showing low elo players how to get out of their elo and improve, but just demonstrating that you need a large skill gap in order to brute force your way through the bad players around you.

Now, I don’t want to seem all doom-and-gloom. Some Unranked to Challenger streamers and series are actually very informative and helpful.

For instance, Tyler1 has been doing an Unranked to Challenger series playing a completely new role, jungle. Watching Tyler1 in this series is actually extremely beneficial to junglers because Tyler has had to struggle even in lower elos, essentially re-learning how to play the game in a new role. This means that viewers learned and grew with him, while also watching him apply his high knowledge of game concepts in a new way.

Other streamers like Chase Shaco and Forestwithin have taken up the mantle to do a similar challenge in an off-role, and IWillDominate famously challenged Hashinshin to make Challenger in the top lane. Other streamers like TF Blade have done these challenges by going to Korea and challenged themselves on a more difficult server.

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The point is that these Unranked to Challenger series are not necessarily bad, if they’re done the right way. If the streamer is challenging themself by playing a new role, a new champion or set of champions, or playing with some sort of challenge in place, and continues to maintain a strong mental attitude in the face of adversity, the challenge is incredibly helpful. When they don’t, however, this content does the opposite of its original intent and teaches all the wrong lessons.