Season Two Ranked Journal


Back in Season One, VarisNox and I had duo-queued our way to Gold tier status in the final few weeks of Ranked play. When Season Two began, we didn't think to spend much time playing Ranked games, usually preferring to queue with more players so that we could get closer to a full group of five. We did create a Realms Beyond ranked team when that mode came out, and proceeded to run up a 9-1 record with that team before everyone lost interest in further matches. Personal schedules created havoc with that effort, and Varis and I more or less forgot about Ranked play for many months on end. In League of Legends, when not playing any Ranked games your Elo decays down to 1400 over time, although it won't go any lower than that. With the end of Season Two approaching on the horizon, we decided that we would return to duo queuing Ranked games once more, this time several months in advance to avoid any need to hurry. We didn't even know if there would be any rewards at the end of Season Two, or if the four rated tiers would be the same. In Season One, these were Bronze (1250), Silver (1400), Gold (1520), and Platinum (1900). Eventually, Riot did release information about the new Season Two rankings. They kept the middle of the bell curve in roughly the same position, while extending the tiers further at both the bottom and the top. Here's a comparison chart:

Category Season One Season Two
Under 1250
Under 800

This was a far more logical way to divide up the player base. The Season One ratings tiers gave absolutely nothing to the overwhelming majority of players (only about 25% of the players were even Bronze rating, meaning that fully 75% of the players had no rating whatsoever). Under the new system, anyone with a pulse could at least achieve Bronze rating and feel good about themselves. The new Silver rating (1150 Elo) graded out to the top 40-50% of overall ranked players. Gold rating (1500) equaled out to the top 5-10% of players, Platinum rating (1850) the top 0.5-1.0% of players, and the new Diamond rating (2200) the top 0.05-0.1% of players. Yes, that means that only one out of every thousand players on the ladder would qualify for Diamond! Well, we weren't going to shoot that high, but we hoped that Gold would be within reach, and then we'd have to see what happened from there. Another very nice change in Season Two was a ratings guarantee: you would be graded based on your highest rating achieved, not your current rating, so if we hit 1500 and then dropped below it, we would still be classified as Gold rating. This was designed to keep players from hitting a ratings target and then sitting there without playing any more games, which is exactly what thousands of people (including ourselves) had done in Season One. Kudos to Riot on a nice gesture there.

Season Two Ranked Elo Distribution. Mean roughly 1150 Elo. (This chart slightly overestimates Elo rating.)

We kept the same general approach to ranked play when it came to selecting champions, with a few minor changes. Our top goal would remain selecting an AD carry for Varis to play, as this was Varis' best role and AD is possibly the position easiest to carry games in solo queue. Even if your teammates are struggling, lategame Kog'maw or whatever will munch them all for breakfast. My preferred role would be to occupt mid and play one of my strongest AP champs, only taking support as a secondary option. It's simply much easier to carry a game when you occupy the AP mid and AD carry roles, as that way either Varis or myself could potentially take over the game. Since AP mid is the most popular solo queue role, and support is the least popular solo queue role, I still expected to be playing a lot of support. We would jungle or top lane as necessary to fill roles, but it was not our preference. Whoever was jungling would try to feed kills to whoever was occupying the solo lane. This is standard duo queue stuff, taking advantage of your communication edge to snowball at least one player ahead.

I started out Season Two with a record of 19-7 in ranked games. I'm honestly not quite sure where this number came from! I know that the 9-2 record from Season One carried over, but what caused the remaining 10-5 numbers? I definitely did not play 15 ranked games in solo or duo queue... Perhaps it included our Team Ranked games, but I'm pretty sure that I didn't go 1-4 in non-team games in Season Two. Something buggy in Riot land, perhaps? I remember that we were supposed to get more points on wins/losses at the start of Season Two after the Elo reset, and neither Varis nor myself ever got them. Oh well. We'll use 19-7 as our starting point, along with that 1400 Elo mark due to Elo decay. As before, all games include a link to the Livestream to watch them in real time.

Game 01

Livestream Link:
Version: Diana Patch
Record: 20-7 / 1-0
Elo: 1400 (+22) = 1422

Comments: We had the last two picks, and were very happy to get last pick Varis on ranged AD. He took Corki, and I ended up on support, taking Sona because we had no idea what AD we were up against in lane. It ended up Corki/Sona against Trist/Nunu. We messed up the opening of this match, with Varis getting engaged upon when I was warding the river. Varis died to Trist, but I immediately killed her with Sona - a one for one, albeit not in our favor. Super early philo stone with that kill money, heh. We then had another disastrous fight where both of us died, taking Trist and Nunu into the red, and our jungler misplayed the situation and failed to get either of them. Whoops. So although we screwed up the early game pretty badly, we were able to turn it around in lane after that. I died twice more, each time setting up a 2 for 1 in our favor with jungler help. The second one was a bad misplay from me, standing in the corner of Nunu's ult and dying unnecessarily. Tristana was using everything on killing me, only to be instantly cleaned up by Varis, who would then finish off Nunu as well. We could live with those trades.

Three deaths in the laning phase meant some shaky play on my part, but I did much better afterwards and did not fall again. Our jungle Malphite had a very solid game, and his early Oracle allowed us to control vision across the map. I did a lot of roaming once the bottom tower went down, warding up the map and pushing mid tower with Anivia. We controlled the Dragon through some nice attention to timers, and more or less had the game in control throughout. The game would have ended five minutes sooner, except that Malphite missed his Smite on our first Baron, and it was stolen by their Lee Sin. Correct tactical play from our team, failure to execute the Smite. We got the second one though, and that was pretty much it. Varis had the most gold and the most CS in the game once again.

This was a game that we won more on the strategic level than on the tactical level. We did win our lane, but made enough mistakes that their Tristana was pretty farmed. Our team won the game through the control of vision and map objectives. Watch this video and note how I use wards and neutral buff timers to control the action, even when I wasn't playing all that great mechanically. My Sona was rusty and I missed some easy ults, plus dying in lane three times means I messed up. Nevertheless, we pulled this one out and it wasn't all that close. (Final screen can be a little deceiving; Anivia and Riven look great here, but they made some extremely boneheaded plays at times. Both of them suicided into the enemy base for no reason on multiple occasions. Have to see it in real time to get a true sense for how the game played out.)

Game 02

Livestream Link:
Version: Rengar Patch
Record: 21-7 / 2-0
Elo: 1422 (+26) = 1448

We didn't get a chance to play for another two weeks after that first game. Not enough free time on personal schedules. In this second ranked game we were again the last two picks. The first three picks all locked in solo lanes, and so Varis took the jungler role as Skarner while I found myself on Sona once more. Varis took advantage of their jungle Warwick's weakness in the early game, counterjungling Warwick and putting their bottom lane behind when Ezreal and Leona unsuccessfully chased him around the map. They lost quite a bit of early game experience off of that. We coordinated a bottom lane gank a few minutes later, with Varis coming into the lane around their ward coverage, which resulted in first blood for our Graves player. My Graves partner bought an early BF Sword, and at that point we were ahead in lane, the best position for a Soraka/Sona support and then worst possible position for a non-sustain aggressive support like their Leona. We used the early advantage to push them around in bottom lane and dominate the action. I initiated a second fight immediately when Graves and I hit level 6; we had a temporary advantage where we had our ults and they did not, which we converted into another kill. Varis kept pressure on top and middle lanes, our top Rengar came mid and successfully ganked their Ryze a couple of times, and we took the first Dragon uncontested. By the 15 minute mark we were comfortably ahead, and kept on the pressure to continue snowballing from there.

I made one serious mistake in bottom lane, getting caught by Leona's Zenith Blade right when Warwick showed up to gank our lane. This can only be described as a terrible misplay, as it resulted in their team scoring a double kill in bot against me and Graves. It was entirely my fault, bad positioning and nothing else. Fortunately we had already taken Dragon a minute earlier, and they weren't able to get a tower or other map objective off of my mistake. After that, it was all smooth sailing. We grouped to take mid tower, scored the second Dragon, Graves and I killed Ezreal again with a Sona ult initiation, and so on. My only other death came when we stayed slightly too long to take the second bottom tower; we killed the tower, and on the way out Malphite Flash-ulted, then Warwick ulted me. We ended up trading one death on the support for a tower, a Flash down, and two ultimates down. When the other team is using mutiple ultimates to kill the support, you're probably winning the game, heh. Varis controlled both jungles, we had all the timers down (resulting in all three Dragons), I bought Oracles and their lack of wards allowed us to take an uncontested Baron, etc. Even though we misplayed the initial push into their base, their team flubbed up the subsequent fight by sending two champs to bottom lane. We took top base tower, the inhib, and killed them 4-1 in a teamfight. They surrendered before the Nexus could be pushed over.

This was an excellent example of how to control the game with a support jungler and a support champion. Varis and I set up our solo lanes to succeed and together controlled just about all of the neutral objectives on the map. I rarely saw wards with my Oracle, so we likely had vastly superior vision. Despite Ahri's attempts to throw the game with repeated 1 vs 4 dives into the enemy team, we would not allow her to lose us the game. Graves and Rengar both had nice games. A very solid, workmanlike victory.

Game 03

Livestream Link:
Version: Syndra Patch
Record: 22-7 / 3-0
Elo: 1448 (+19) = 1467

After more real-life delays got in the way, Varis and I were finally able to queue for another ranked game. So far, it had been three patches, three games - not too speedy! Varis also had his microphone break down, leaving us without voice chat for this match. Let me tell you, that was a weird situation, strange enough that we only queued for one game this day. Better make it a good one then. We were the last two picks once again, and found ourselves left with the roles of AD for Varis, and top lane for myself. I could see in staging that I would be against either Lee Sin or Udyr in top, and I went ahead and selected Gangplank for his team utility. We already had a Karthus on the team, and two global ults felt like it would be pretty strong. I expected to be up against Lee Sin, only to find that Udyr was actually in top. There hadn't been much laning Udyr for a long time when we played this game, since patches had weakened the amount of sustain that Udyr received from his Turtle stance. This felt like a good matchup where I could Parley the minions in relative safety, and be more useful to the team later on.

We had a near-disaster right at the start, when the enemy team did a late jungle invade and caught our team at the wolves. I managed to Flash the wall to get out safely, and we did not give up First Blood. They took our blue buff, but this put their bottom lane way behind, because they were so late in getting to lane. I went back, bought a ward and some extra potions, and happily farmed under my own tower. Udyr kept pushing the lane and allowing me to sit in a position of safety. Eventually Cho came and ganked the lane, allowing us to score an easy kill. I pushed the minions to his tower, then went back and bought. We did this again a few minutes later, same story. Udyr kept pushing forward with no wards and setting himself up for fast deaths. The key fight took place after we secured the first Dragon, as we chased down Udyr all the way from mid lane to top tower, and then killed Lee Sin when he tried to come in for the cleanup. That put me extremely far ahead in top, and Varis was winning bottom lane despite some questionable play from his Nunu support (pushing the lane with auto attacks, not buying enough wards, etc.) We were able to overcome some very weak play from our mid lane Karthus, who was completely dominated by their Katarina, and eventually were far enough ahead to dive them under middle tower, score an ace, and force a surrender vote.

This was a very easy game, and I didn't even think I played that well. I could have been much better at farming from a mechanical standpoint. Some of my ultimates were misplaced, and I couldn't ask Varis on voice chat when he needed them in bottom lane. Mostly, I just stayed safe and farmed, then used ult as needed to set up kills for the team. Somehow, this worked out to the 6-0-11 stat line for the game.

Game 04

Livestream Link:
Version: Syndra Patch
Record: 22-8 / 3-1
Elo: 1467 (-23) = 1444

We had second and last picks for a change, instead of the last two picks. When our third player insisted on playing mid, I kindly let them take that role, which may have been a mistake. We ended up on Sona (support) and Skarner (jungle). Rengar was buffed to the point of becoming extremely overpowered in this particular patch, and our top laner was able to pick him. Awesome! Unfortunately, our Rengar player took Exhaust/Ignite summoners and clearly had no idea how to play the champion, feeding badly to the other team's Gangplank. That was the first sign that things were going to be tough in this one...

This was a game of "should have been"s and missed opportunities. Varis repeatedly ganked bottom lane with Skarner and made some really nice plays, which came up just short of scoring kills on their Corki. On one of those occasions, I hit a perfect Flash-Ult as Sona, followed by Varis getting a perfect pull on Corki, only we failed to score the kill because Ezreal used his blink to jump backwards instead of forwards for some reason. This cost us the chance to take Dragon, which their team was able to score a minute later when we were back healing. Later in the game, we scored a double kill on their team in top, and had free run to take Baron. Although we did take the Baron, our team needed someone to recall back to the base to defend bot lane, and our teammates inexplicably refused to do so, the lack of coordination costing us a base tower in bot. After taking Baron, our team ran to all four corners of the map and failed to push together, and even though we did win a team fight at the very end of our Baron, it timed out before we could get a tower with it. That was a totally unnecessary waste. Shortly thereafter, we caught their Vlad out of position and insta-gibbed him, then managed to lose a 5 vs 4 fight as we fought in Gangplank ult and under their tower. That was a case of too much impatience; we could have sieged that tower down and looked for a better moment to go in, rather than diving into tons of AOE damage. Ugh. At the end of the game, they caught Rengar and Morgana out of position, picked them off, and then pushed straight up mid for the victory before our team revived.

This was a game that we really should have won. Our execution in the key moments of the game was simply not good enough. Yes, our top lane Rengar was awful, and their fed Gangplank was the clear MVP of the match. (This is why kills/deaths/assists don't tell everything, as their Gangplank did much more to win the game than their Corki.) But we had pretty good games from our Ezreal and Morgana players, good enough performances that we should have been able to turn this into a victory. Although I was pretty happy with my performance here, I still did get caught once and fed an unneccesary death. Varis made a couple of key mistakes, including pulling their Gangplank into the middle of our team instead of a squishier target. Gangplank's Warmogs Armor meant that we could not burst him down quickly, and that caused us to lose the following teamfight. Varis also could not keep an Oracle on his champ for a long enough period of time to be effective. So while we could certainly blame our Rengar player, the fact remains that we didn't execute well enough to win this one. It was a close-run thing and we came up short. A combined 2-10-20 isn't really good enough in solo queue.

Game 05

Livestream Link:
Version: Syndra Patch
Record: 23-8 / 4-1
Elo: 1444 (+12) = 1456

We had the last two picks again, but fortunately were able to get Varis on AD. I was once again stuck on support. This game was characterized by a bizarre duo queue on the other team, with a 1700 rated Rumble playing along side a 900 Elo Taric. Apparently matchmaking put that together and stuck them with our Elo bracket of 1450. In practice though, this meant that our 1450 Irelia got absolutely pasted by their 1700 Rumble player, and Amumu's attempts to aid top lane only saw him feeding more kills to the other side. Meanwhile, their Shyvana jungler got way ahead of our Amumu, and began raiding the neutral buffs on both sides of the map with impunity. Zyra's final stats up there might look pretty decent, but she was also struggling mightily in the early game. (She started out with 1 kill against 5 deaths.) There was one point at the 16 minute mark where our bottom lane was sitting at 5-1 while the rest of our team was a combined 1-12. The enemy team had top tower down and took the first Dragon, and things looked extremely grim.

We were able to turn things around due to a fairly ridiculous carry job from Varis and me. Despite frequent Shyvana ganks, we stomped all over their bottom lane, taking kill after kill and only giving one death away. (I will take the blame for that one, forcing a fight and whiffing completely on my Sona ult.) Varis stayed safe and kept farming, while I warded up our jungle to protect against invasions, later picking up an Oracle that I managed to keep for the whole game. Their team did not group up and force map objectives, allowing us to pick them off one by one and get back into the game. Even when our team got horribly caught in a bad situation at the 31 min mark, Varis and I stayed alive and were able to prevent them from forcing Baron. Their team got caught in a similar fight two minutes later, losing three champs for none, and we turned that into a Baron, killed the remaining two champs when they came to stop the attempt, and snowballed the match from there. The last five minutes or so were a routine pushing of the enemy base, clearing out the base towers, taking a second Baron, and then finishing. Without making any attempt to do so, I ended up with 6 kills - carry Sona!

This is about the hardest we've ever had to work for a victory. Despite this, the matchmaking rated our team as a heavy favorite and only gave me +12 points for the victory. Poor Varis only got +9 points! Since we had just lost 23 points for the last game, that was a real kick in the teeth. Work so hard and get almost nothing in return. At least it was better than losing - we would have gone down 25 points with a loss!

Game 06

Livestream Link:
Version: Syndra Patch
Record: 23-9 / 4-2
Elo: 1456 (-18) = 1438

This game was a classic example of a match ruined by the poor behavior of one player. We once again had the last two picks (due to one of the penalties associated with duo queuing), and found ourselves in the top and support roles. Almost immediately after the match started, our Morgana player in mid began complaining that he didn't get to play the AD role. Our first pick had made it clear in staging that he wanted to play AD, and as first pick, had obvious call on that role. This didn't make our Morgana player happy though, and he proceeded to tell everyone about it. In great detail. Repeatedly. With tons of profanity added. With our team down 5-2 in kills at the 8 min mark, the Morgana player was already insisting on surrendering the game, and stopped making any attempt to win. That was a shame because even though we were behind, we had a real chance to win, if only Morgana made any attempt to achieve victory. Sadly, our Morgana player was more interested in dying nine times and screaming profanity at the rest of the team. With an effective 4 vs 5 situation, we had no chance to win. Game over.

I actually thought I had a strong game here, and Varis did pretty well despite giving up first blood when their team invaded our jungle at level 1. (Failed Flash, very sad face.) But this game was simply poisoned by our Morgana player, and it would have taken a heroic effort to carry this one to a win. This was just one of those random dud games that you will get when playing solo queue - someone goes AFK, or someone goes into a ragefest, etc. You cannot win every game. Some games are simply unwinnable. This is why you need to play a large enough sample size of games to eliminate these random luck factors. Over the long run, you'll see the same number of troll players get placed on both teams (actually more will be on the other team in a true random distribution). So there really was nothing to learn from this game, aside from the obvious lesson to dodge games in matchmaking with this kind of troll. Varis and I just leave the queue now when we see this type of person on the staging screen. It's not worth the likely loss to play the game out when people are already raging in champ select. Feel free to watch this one if you want to see just how badly some people will behave in solo queue. Hopefully this Morgana player picked up nine reports and will be waiting out a ban soon.

Game 07

Livestream Link:
Version: Syndra Patch
Record: 23-10 / 4-3
Elo: 1438 (-18) = 1420

We had the last two picks again, fortunately getting the AD role for Varis and the support role for me. Everyone else on our team spent champion select fighting over who would get the middle lane role, which was probably not the best sign. Our team did get Shen with the first pick, but unfortunately our top lane Shen player didn't appear to have any idea how to play the champ, starting with a Ruby Crystal, no boots, no health pots. Welcome to 1400 Elo. We also had an early LeBlanc pick, which was calling for the enemy team to counterpick her with a tanky champ. They did exactly that, taking Cho'gath as an AP mid and mostly shutting down our LeBlanc. We were going to have to win our lane hard and look to carry as we did earlier in Game 05.

This did not happen. I played my worst game of our whole ranked run, giving up first blood to their Corki player at the 1 minute mark. (I will point out that the game's pathfinding walked me in the wrong direction when their invade came, but that's not much of an excuse.) With the advantage of that early kill, Corki started with a Vamp Scepter and had a giant edge in the laning matchup. They hit level 2 first and pushed us around in lane, zoning us out of gold and experience. This is one place where Taric has a huge edge over Sona, zoning the enemy team in lane if you can get an early advantage. With a level advantage, they dove us under tower at level 5 and killed Varis, and at that point they were off and running. I fed another kill when I walked back from base and stepped right into the brush where Taric was hiding, an inexcusably terrible play. They dove us again under tower after they were level 6 and before we hit the same mark, scoring another kill on Varis. At that point, the game was 10-1 in kills and was effectively over. We did our best to rally back and picked off some kills at times, but everyone's farm on the team aside from Varis was ungodly low, and we simply were too far behind to overcome the disadvantage. Varis played quite well this game, he just needed some kind of front line to keep him safe - which we did not have. It might look like LeBlanc had a good game by KDA (kills/deaths/assists), but that's a bit deceptive, as she lost lane badly to Cho'gath and we were feeding her all the kills to keep her relevant. LeBlanc as a champion has both one of the best KDA scores and one of the lowest win percentages. This game was a good example of how that works. Still, this game was my fault. I was the one who put Corki ahead, and once Corki/Taric got ahead, there was little we could do to win lane. Here in solo queue, we could not rely on the other players carrying us to a win. We had to stomp our own lane, and we simply fell too far behind.

This was an unhappy day for us, as we went 1-3 in our four ranked games. Afterwards, we talked things over and tried to figure out a different approach. Varis decided that he would practice playing more jungle champs, as he was unlikely to get the AD role that often and an effective jungler is one of the best ways to control a game. I decided that I would try to play more aggressive supports, especially Blitzcrank, Leona, and Taric. Although I do believe that Sona and Nunu are better supports for organized team play, solo queue is very much not organized team play. It's all about winning the lane and snowballing from there. We needed to carry these games, and that meant it was better to gamble on getting fed in lane. We needed to *KILL* the enemy team, not simply do a good job of farming the lane. In other words, less Sona and more killing power. Spreekaway also gave us some good tips on solo queue jungling, which Varis intended to try out in our next match. We were still confident that we would reach 1500 rating before the season ended (these players that we were up against were not very good), it was simply a matter of playing enough games to avoid the luck of a small sample size. If we could actually get Varis on AD or myself in the middle lane, something that was rarely happening because the duo queue was penalizing us and forcing us down to the last picks, we were very confident that we could win most games.

Game 08

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 24-10 / 5-3
Elo: 1420 (+16) = 1436

We had the last two picks again, for the seventh time in eight games. We caught a huge break when the other team didn't ban Blitzcrank, and didn't use either of their first two picks on him. Although I was a mediocre Blitzcrank at best, the great steam golem was extremely overpowered for solo queue play in this patch version. Even if you missed nine out of ten pulls, the one that hit could often be enough to win lanes and win games. Varis swapped over to Maokai for this game as our jungler, with the main goal of snowballing our Akali assassin ahead in middle lane. We missed a golden opportunity to kill their Taric in a level 1 invade, because our Cho'gath player was AFK in the fountain and I missed a fairly easy pull as Blitzcrank. I then proceeded to miss about the first ten pulls that I tried, which caused my Corki partner to post all sorts of "THIS BLITZ" irritated messages in our chat. I can't even fault him too much, since I was missing everything. Still, it's not very productive to attack your teammates. Nothing good results from that.

Luckily for us, missing Blitzcrank pulls didn't end up mattering. Varis ganked mid and scored first blood for our Akali, and as the fight dragged on their bottom lane both headed to mid. I followed them, while our Corki stayed bottom and kept farming. We managed to chase down and kill their Trist player together near the middle tower, which set her severely behind in bottom lane, as Corki had never left lane and correctly kept free-farming. By the time Trist revived and returned bot, it was too late. We had control of the lane and could zone them. At the 11 minute mark, their Katarina player jumped on me as I was going to ward the river. I Flashed back under my own tower, then pulled Kat into the tower, knocked her up into the air, and set up Corki for an easy kill. Varis hit the lane at the same time and locked down Trist and Taric, setting up Corki for a very easy triple kill, which then turned into a free Dragon for our team. Since our Cho'gath player had gone triple gold/10 items and was still stomping their Mordekaiser (who went Philo Stone first and rushed Force of Nature + Swiftness Boots... yeah...) that effectively sealed up the game. Varis bought a 6 minute Oracle and kept it the entire game. Very nicely done.

This game is a good example of how not to get baited by jackass teammates. I didn't much appreciate getting mocked for the first ten minutes of the game, but responding back angrily would have only led to bad things. Keep a cool head and ignore their insults. Corki never complimented me on setting him up for free kills later, even when I Flash-hooked their Nautilus at the end of the game. Thanks, man. Sure was fun playing with you. But you've got to have a thick skin in solo queue.

Game 09

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 25-10 / 6-3
Elo: 1436 (+17) = 1453

Finally, I was able to get my hands on first pick. (Varis was lack pick again, sorry!) I was not particuarly interested in trying to be nice and share the first pick with someone else, instead going straight for my best champ in Karthus. This opened me up for counterpicking, but instead their team went with the generic strong pick of Morgana, rather than a champ that countered Karthus. That was perfect, and I was not especially afraid of a 1450 Elo Morgana player. Varis picked up Skarner and headed for the jungle once again. We identified top lane as the key location to snowball, where we needed to get our Kennen player ahead of their Poppy. A fed Poppy would cause all kinds of problems down the road.

I focused on farming the living daylights out of middle lane, confident that Karthus would scale better into lategame than their Morgana, even if we were splitting farm. (I was also confident that I could out-farm their Morgana, but you get the idea.) Morgana and I ran one of the most polite laning phases you'll ever see, neither one bother to harass the other much at all. However, the global ult on Karthus post-6 allowed me to ult into teamfights elsewhere on the map, without having to roam and lose out on minion kills in lane. I would pick up two kills this way, and combined with many clears of the wraith and wolf camps, pulled far out in front of Morgana. The key early play was Varis scoring first blood for our Kennen in top at level 3, saving that lane and swinging it in our favor. This was absolutely necessary, since our bottom lane lost horribly and contributed very little to the rest of the team. We just needed one of our three randoms to give us some help, and Kennen was up to the task. I knew I was in good shape when I had Rod of Ages, Deathcap, Sorcerer's Shoes, and 216 CS at the 22 minute mark. This allowed me to salvage some team fights when our bottom lane was horribly out of position, fights that we would have lost 0-2 or 1-3, which instead broke even as 2-2 trades. Every one of my deaths came in a trade where I killed at least one member of the enemy team, going in rambo style with Karthus. It was pretty funny when I ulted late in the game for a triple kill, and the whole enemy team started screaming at Morgana. Typical solo queue mindset: we are losing! Must blame someone else! Rawr!

Varis had a quiet game by KDA, but was instrumental in putting Kennen ahead in top lane. Without pressure on Poppy, we would have lost that lane for sure. He also bought four Oracles and a metric ton of wards, granting us the vision edge to cover for our team's poor positioning. Sivir and Nunu were really bad in this one, smashed in lane and routinely running forward into suicide positions. Although they tried their hardest to throw the game, we would not let them steal away the victory. In the end, I had a dominant 12-3-8 performance with 300 CS in 34 minutes, and propelled our team to the victory. So far, swapping Varis over to the jungle role had proved to be fairly effective. Now if I could just get first pick again!

Game 10

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 25-11 / 6-4
Elo: 1453 (-18) = 1435

We found ourselves as the last two picks again in this game. Amazingly, none of the first three players wanted to take the middle lane, and I was able to claim mid with Karthus once again, this time against Twisted Fate. Varis was once again relegated to the jungle as last pick, opting to play as Skarner. With the top pubstomping solo queue bottom lane in this patch version (Ezreal/Taric), and myself once again on Karthus in mid, I thought we were in great position to take this game. We even got off to a good start, with Varis clearing red and blue camps then ganking top lane, scoring First Blood for our Singed in top. In theory that should have been enough for him to start winning the lane and snowballing. Varis then went bot and scored a second kill in bottom lane. This one looked like it was going to be easy.

Unfortunately I was a bit off my game in mid. For whatever reason I could not last hit minions to save my life in the early levels, and this combined with Twisted Fate wildcard spam drove me back to heal before level 4. Blargh, just some very poor play on my part. This meant that TF hit level 6 first, and he immediately ulted down to bottom lane and scored a double kill. I could have done a better job here of warning them that he had hit 6 and had ult up, so this was at least partially my responsibility. At the same time, our bottom lane kept stupidly pushing up to the other team's tower (instead of zoning with Taric support against Soraka), then getting ganked by TF ultimate and dying. Warnings can only do so much when you put yourself in a bad position. Overall, after starting the game 2-0, the enemy team claimed 7 of the next 8 kills. Singed absolutely got destroyed in the top lane by Olaf, even with the first blood advantage. I was farming much better and picking up kills with my ultimate, but the rest of our team was increasingly falling behind the curve. At the 15 min mark, I was 2-0 and Varis was 3-1-2, while the rest of our team was a combined 1-7. KDA certainly isn't everything, but that was a telling stat.

Eventually we were simply worn down by the enemy team. Varis had a really good game, don't let that final stat line fool you. He started out 4-2-4 and had set up our top and bottom lanes to win their matches. I had 10 kills against 4 deaths at one point and by far the most amount of gold on our team. In the end though, it wasn't enough to swing this one around. Taric was caught over and over again (9 deaths) and Singed was too underfarmed to be useful. At the 20 min mark, there were four members of their team over 100 CS, and I was the only one on our team at that mark (152 CS). That's usually a sign that you're in big trouble, and it was certainly true here. I could pull a kill or two back at the end of every lost teamfight, but we were still losing them, and they were gaining map positioning with every engagement. Eventually Taric forced a horrible Flash-stun initiation at the 27 minute mark, one we had no chance of winning, we got cleaned up as a team, they took Baron, and that was it aside from the screaming. They outkilled us 9-2 and finished off the game from there without making any serious mistakes. Some might claim that this game was an example of the infamous "Elo Hell", the belief that bad teammates hold you back from rising in ranking faster, or that bad teammates artificially keep people down in rating. And while it's true that our random teammates were very bad in this one, the fact remains that you're simply not going to win every game, even when you play well. Even assuming that you were near-perfect (which we certainly weren't), the nature of a team game means that other people also affect the outcome. Not every game is winnable - life isn't always fair. In turn, you will sometimes win even when you have a bad or unimpressive game, to balance this out. Speaking of that, the next game serves as a counterexample.

Game 11

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 26-11 / 7-4
Elo: 1435 (+18) = 1453

We were the last two picks yet again for this one, which was either the ninth or tenth time in eleven games. (The penalties for duo queuing in Season Two were severe.) Through a happy stroke of fortune, our first pick wanted to play support, and then the next two called top lane and jungle, amazingly leaving mid lane to me and the AD role for Varis. There was just one problem: our team captain had banned out Karthus, having no idea that this was my best champ for the middle lane. He had banned out his own mid player! This is why one needs to be able to play more than one champ for each role, and my plan was to play Lux or Morgana when Karthus was unavailable. Lux was picked by the enemy team as their own mid laner, which meant that it was Morgana for me. She was an excellent teamfighter and AP champ, my only concern was my lack of time spent playing her. I was worried that I would be rusty on Morgana, and I was correct.

I did not play mid very well in this one at all, quite frankly getting outplayed by their Lux in the early levels, and having to limp back to base after taking lots of harass. She did get a Blue buff donation from their Shyvana jungler at level 3, but it still could have been handled a lot better on my end. I resolved to farm and not to try exchanging with Lux, since I was missing pretty much all of my bindings. Meanwhile, Varis and his random Taric partner were frankly destroying bottom lane. Ezreal/Taric was the most dominant solo queue pairing in bottom lane at this time, a complete pubstomper duo designed to win lane early and then snowball. That's exactly what they did. The first kill came from a Lee Sin jungle gank early on, then at about the 10 minute mark Varis simply took over. Zone, stun, kill, over and over again. The dominance of bottom lane opened up our team to easy Dragon control, then invades on their team's Red buff, and so on. Yorick was actually losing top lane pretty badly, but it didn't matter. This was the VarisNox show through and through, starring Ezreal and Taric. When the dust finally settled, he wound up with 18 kills against 1 death. That was a man's game, from the manliest duo of champions in League of Legends: Ezreal and Taric.

This was a game where I was essentially just average. I didn't do much in the way of making plays (aside from catching Lux twice when she tried to roam to bottom lane, killing her both times) and I didn't drag down the team either. That isn't normally enough to win games in solo queue, at least not reliably. The truth is that everyone on our team was carried by the bottom lane, via the Ezreal/Taric duo. In other words, this was the opposite of Elo Hell: getting a free win due to the awesome play of teammates, not losing a game due to their failings. You will hear innumerable stories about the latter on the League forums, and almost never the former. This is one of many reasons why Elo Hell is a complete myth, as our memories selectively forget the games where we were carried and remember the times when we were the ones doing the carrying. In any case, we were simply glad to wipe out the Elo loss from our previous game. All the credit for this one goes to Varis.

Game 12

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 26-12 / 7-5
Elo: 1453 (-16) = 1437

Varis and I had the last two picks for the umpteenth time, and found ourselves left to the roles of AD and jungle. We were happy to get Ezreal for Varis, but were greatly troubled when our second pick locked in Soraka. Although I had played a great deal of Soraka in the past, she was not a strong pick in this patch version, especially in solo queue where winning your lane tends to be the surest path to victory. Their team picked a very aggressive Graves/Taric bottom lane, which seemed to confirm our fears. I went ahead and picked Skarner, who was one of the top junglers in this patch version, and heavily played by the top Korean teams. My top goal was snowballing our top lane Yorick ahead of their Irelia, and I tried to emphasize that lane as much as possible. I started wolves, saved Smite on blue buff with team help, then went to red and Smited the Lizard for level 3, then went to top lane to gank their Irelia. I got there at level 3 and double buff at the same time that their jungle Diana reached top at level 2 with only blue, which should have meant an easy fight for us... but Yorick was letting himself get bullied by Irelia in lane at level 1 (which should never happen) and he was already a level behind in experience. I popped Irelia's Flash and drove her out of lane twice, putting Yorick 15 CS and 2 levels ahead. I thought he would win the lane from there. The best laid plans...

The biggest mistake of the game came at the 9 minute mark, when my ward spotted their Diana jungler heading to our blue buff. We were in good position to counter her invasion and take first blood, but our Katarina didn't react in time and Diana escaped. Then their bottom lane moved up the river into the fight (again, being able to do so because their much stronger Graves/Taric lane could keep the lane pushed against Soraka support) and scored First Blood on our Katarina, who could have easily escaped but dove into a 1 vs 4. Then I misplayed the situation and fed a second death. Zyra and Graves took the kills, then they took Dragon, snowballing them ahead significantly. We then lost another fight at the 14 minute mark where they went 3-2 despite us catching them out of position. We had one last chance, as we took the second Dragon and won the subsequent fight 2-1. We could have disengaged with that victory, but the whole team dove past the bottom tower to get a third kill, and then Irelia showed up from top lane and picked off three straight kills. The total net was 4-3 in their favor - not worth it. At this point, Irelia was fed and started steamrolling Yorick, and that was effectively the end of the game. I was especially disappointed that top lost so badly, despite my repeated efforts to put Yorick ahead. He did not ward and he pushed repeatedly to the enemy team's tower, then would get ganked and die. Too greedy in that dive, and we lost our best shot to turn the game around. It was fairly academic from there.

In retrospect, I definitely could have played this one better. I should have been on top of the red/blue timers better, ready to do the camps when they spawned. I wasted too much time in the early game, when I should have been rushing to level 6. Skarner is not all that useful before he gets his ultimate. We were quite close in a number of the fights, but ended up misplaying them in some fashion and giving away any shot at an advantage. It didn't help that Yorick and Katarina both lost their individual lanes either. Still, I could have been a lot more effective as a jungler, and that might have been enough to turn the tide. As for that Soraka pick... she fed Graves over and over again, dying 5 times in lane and 8 times overall. Varis couldn't do much of anything with such a weak support and Graves being so far ahead. Not the best pick.

Game 13

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 27-12 / 8-5
Elo: 1437 (+18) = 1455

In this game we were again the last two picks, only this time our teammates grabbed the jungle, top, and AD roles. This allowed me to get Karthus in mid lane, although it did mean that Varis would have to play the support role as Leona. I ended up against a Veigar player, which drew criticism from one of the other players on our team in staging since Veigar is known as a Karthus counter. I didn't really care - if I couldn't beat a 1450 Veigar player with my best champ, I didn't deserve to be Gold rated. It's possible to overthink these picks sometimes; taking your best champ in most cases tends to work well.

This match had an odd flow to it. Our jungle Rengar started blue and immediately ganked bottom, scoring First Blood there with a nice Flash-stun from Varis on Leona. Then Rengar went top and got another kill there. We actually pulled out to an early 7-2 lead in kills, mostly set up by Rengar. He totally ignored my mid lane, which was a bit odd since Veigar started with no boots and would have died easily to a gank, but no worries. We were making plays elsewhere, and I was doing fine against this Veigar who seemed to have no desire other than farming the lane. Then Rengar started making life difficult. He tried to counterjungle the enemy red and blue buffs, dying both times. The first fight at red I was able to salvage into a 2-2 trade with some very good Lay Waste placements, while the second fight at blue we were able to trade 1-1 thanks to Irelia's arrival and my ult. But these were still stupid fights to take on; in both cases, Rengar got the buff and then stayed to fight on low health rather than backing out of the jungle with his stolen buff. Foolish. Our Ezreal player in bot was also quite bad, losing tower and dying several times in lane despite the early edge. This caused Rengar to start raging at the rest of the team. Good grief! We were still comfortably ahead in global gold, and he completely went to pieces. You know the type, the one who complains about every other player and types "GG" in chat whenever something bad happens. The fragile egos of some of these people are nothing less than incredible. This guy made the game thoroughly unpleasant.

As I said, we were still in good shape overall. I was the most farmed champ in the game, starting out 4-1 through the laning phase and having Rod, Deathcap, and Sorc Shoes (the core Karthus build) by the 23 minute mark. We took the second Dragon, then used the Oracles on Varis to force a very risky Baron immediately thereafter, which we did take, although Rengar died at the end of it and never used Smite. We lost 2 champs in the subsequent Baron fight but killed 3, coming out extremely far ahead. I don't recommend that kind of move, as we were one step away from a stolen Baron and utter disaster. From that point on it was fairly routine, although Irelia refused to stay with the rest of the team on multiple occasions and we had an insane dive into their double nexus turrets to stall out one push. Fortunately we were already too far ahead. I made one terrible mistake, trying to 1 vs 1 Veigar and getting blown up instantly for my third death. This was completely avoidable, and a major error. Otherwise I was fairly happy with how I did this game. Our Rengar made some plays, but he also fed NINE deaths to the enemy team. That's way too many for a game like this.

Game 14

Livestream Link: Failed to Record
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 27-13 / 8-6
Elo: 1455 (-16) = 1439

Unfortunately this game failed to record on my Livestream, leaving no way to go back and watch what happened. From what I remember, we thought we were in pretty good shape on the loading screen, with two of the most overpowered champs in this version of the game (Jayce and Evelynn) along with a Malphite jungler who was using the Shamrock Malphite skin. Varis and I were paired together in the bottom lane as Graves/Leona against a Vayne/Lux combo. We were in good shape to win our lane and be in position to win the game. We wanted to play aggressively, and went in at level 3. We won the exchange fairly cleanly, but as I was disengaging as Leona, I was caught by a Lux binding, and then bursted down by Vayne. Varis was able to kill their Vayne, but not before their Lux claimed First Blood on me. That was still probably a little to our advantage (Varis getting a kill on Graves, their team getting the kill on Lux) but then their Veigar teleported to a ward behind Varis and scored an easy kill, at the same time that Shaco ganked top lane and scored a kill for their Singed player. This put our team firmly behind, even though Varis was ahead in bot.

We scored a clean second kill at the 8 minute mark on their Lux support, and even though Eve forced a terrible fight behind the enemy team's tower in bot a few minutes later, we were somehow able to escape on low health and go 2-0 in the exchange. At this point, Varis was 3-1 against their Vayne's 0-2, and we were clearly winning bottom lane. Unfortunately, our Jayce player was getting destroyed in top lane, 0-3 against their 3-0 Singed, and he had a mere 11 CS at the 10 minute mark. That was a recipe for total disaster, and it would ultimately spell our doom. I idiotically got picked off in lane while Varis was back buying, probably my worst death in months, and then their Shaco began camping bottom lane, since we were the only lane that was winning on the map. In the end, this was a game that was largely lost in top lane and jungle, despite what the final screenshot might indicate. Still, I did not play well at all in this game, making several crucial errors that cost our team. I gave their team two extremely needless kills in the early laning phase, and my teamfighting later was also less than stellar. Varis was pretty good in this game, his 8 deaths coming because he was the one focused by their team in every fight. A better performance from me might have been enough to win the lane more decisively and turn this one around.

It also bears noting that their Veigar player spent the entire game talking trash, and continued to do so on the postgame screen. We both reported him, and hopefully everyone else did too.

Game 15

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 28-13 / 9-6
Elo: 1439 (+20) = 1459

Amazingly for this game, we were not the last two picks! Instead, we were... third and fourth picks. A little better, at least. Our first pick shockingly wanted to support as Taric, and the second pick called for mid lane. This meant that Varis could play AD and I had my choice of top lane or jungle; after my poor performance as jungle Skarner a few games earlier, I decided to go for top lane. I'd been having success with Gangplank at this time, playing him defensively and concentrating on out-farming my laning opponent with repeated Parleys. Gangplank wasn't going to be winning the lane directly that much, but he was a very safe top lane pick. I found myself against a Lee Sin player in top, and knowing that I couldn't win early trades, made no attempt to fight and simply farmed the lane. Lee's aggression caused him to push the lane to my tower repeatedly, setting him up for easy ganks from our jungler. Udyr came in at the 4 minute mark, allowing us to get an easy kill against the overextended Lee Sin. I got First Blood, and the lane was off to a great start.

My favorite moment of the game took place at the 8 minute mark, when Twisted Fate used his ult to come gank me. He gated in, used his gold card stun, and I immediately used Remove Scurvy to cleanse it and run out to safety. After that, TF never came back to top lane again, his ultimate nullified by Gangplank's skill set. I used my own ult to counter TF ganks in bottom lane, and Lee Sin's continued pushes forward set him up for further deaths when Udyr ganked. This one went just about perfectly from a tactical standpoint. Varis was winning bottom lane, and even though our Heimer mid wasn't doing much, at least he was farming. A triple gank of top lane scored us a kill on Lee Sin again at the 22 minute mark, and then when we saw two enemy champs in bot, we were able to score an uncontested Baron. That gave me my Trinity Force, and the rest of the game was a cakewalk from there. This was one of my favorite games of the whole Season Two run, adapting my playstyle to outdo the enemy Lee Sin. He never stopped pushing, ever. I stayed safe from ganks, and countered when a teammate came to my lane, then added a global ult and lots of team utility in the endgame teamfights. This one really couldn't have gone much better, and Varis and I hard carried with a combined 14-1-14 stat line. Get two carry roles, win game.

Game 16

Livestream Link: Failed to Record, YouTube Spectator Replay:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 29-13 / 10-6
Elo: 1459 (+17) = 1476

The Livestream failed to record this game as well, so I've linked to a YouTube video of the game that I created afterwards using the replay. We had a pleasant surprise in matchmaking this game, as we ended up with the smurf account of our friend Spreekaway on our team, due to pure chance. Spreekaway's main account reached Platinum Elo (1850) earlier in Season Two, a sign that he was a very strong player, and we were able to all join on voice chat to coordinate together as a team. To make matters even better, I was able to claim mid lane with Karthus and Varis was able to take the AD role as Graves, with Spreekaway jungling as Shaco. This meant that this game was likely to be a stomp, and that's exactly what happened. Spreekaway started at red buff, the enemy team did not try to invade and pop his jack in the boxes (major mistake), then he went to blue buff and used Smite on it. This took Spreek to level 3, then he ganked top lane with double buff, used Exhaust on their Shen, and claimed an easy First Blood. Spreekaway knew he was up against an Amumu jungler, a champ who cleared slowly and had a weak dualing presence, so he set up another box trap at Amumu's red, killed Amumu, then took their red as well when top and mid lanes didn't respond to help. This put Spreekaway at level 4 compared to level 2 for Amumu, and at that point he could invade their jungle at will. It was a long, sad game for their Amumu jungler.

There were a couple of mistakes in this one. We weren't able to execute well enough when we went to kill Amumu at his blue buff when it respawned at the 7 minute mark, going 1-1 instead of simply killing him. We also got double killed in bottom lane at the 9 minute mark, largely due to the incompetence of VarisNox's Karma support. (Karma was the worst champion in the game in Season Two, with the lowest win rate and the lowest appearance rate.) Fortunately, these were mere bumps in the road. Spreekaway had put our Swain top laner so far ahead that he scored a double kill when their team came to gank him. Spreek shifted to bottom lane and terrorized them repeatedly, I was farming 10 CS per minute and ulting into all of the fights elsewhere, and we took every Dragon with ease. One of the easiest games I've played in a long time, and they surrendered at 20 minutes. Thanks to Spreekaway for demonstrating the power of a ganking Shaco!

Game 17

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 30-13 / 11-6
Elo: 1476 (+17) = 1493

We had the second and fourth picks for this game, and were able to land our desired roles of mid (Karthus) and Graves (AD). This put us in a great position to carry the game, and we even managed to get Shen in top lane and the stupidly overpowered Rengar in the jungle. Our Rengar player didn't know what role Leona would be playing, which caused us all kinds of worry on the staging screen, even more when it became clear that this was his first ranked game ever. Uh oh. Fortunately he handled himself extremely well. The enemy team had some very strong champs, but placed in strange roles, such as Evelynn (perma-banned in competitive play in this patch) in the jungle instead of in mid, and Darius as a support instead of in top lane. Weird, and not effective. Rengar started red buff, then ganked bottom lane at level 2, allowing Varis to take First Blood. Then Varis initated another trade a minute later, going 2-1 and continuing to farm while Corki was back at base reviving for a second time. This effectively ended bottom lane at the 4 minute mark, since VarisNox's Graves was 3 kills and quite a bit of farm ahead of their Corki. (Varis bought a BF Sword on his first trip back before the clock hit 5 minutes.) Having Darius as a support certainly didn't help their team either.

In middle lane, Rengar ganked their Twisted Fate at level 4, and together with my Wall of Pain + Exhaust, we scored another easy kill. Use of Shen ult countered a four man dive by their team in bottom lane using TF ultimate, allowing us to more or less break even. Shen was winning the top lane without any real help from the rest of us, making the game that much easier. Any time it was a straight 2 vs 2 in bottom lane, Varis was able to kill their Corki because he had fallen so far behind. As usual, I kept farming in mid lane and using ult to have a presence in fights elsewhere on the map. They tried to gank me several times with invisible Eve, but I was able to use Flash or Exhaust to get out every time. This one turned into a total laugher; I was ahead by 50 CS in mid at the 15 minute mark, and their Corki finished 0-10 for the game. They surrendered immediately after 20 minutes.

Game 18

Livestream Link:
Version: Kha'Zix Patch
Record: 31-13 / 12-6
Elo: 1493 (+19) = 1512

I came into this game knowing that one more win would put me over 1500 Elo and achieve Gold tier rating. We had the third and fifth picks on the staging screen, a slight improvement, but enough to allow me to claim middle lane yet again with Karthus. As last pick, Varis was left to the support role and claimed Leona. This meant that we had the aggressive Ezreal/Leona bottom lane against their more passive Sivir/Sona pairing, with aggression being the surest route to success in this version of the game. When the match began, it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a very strange game. Varis and his Ezreal partner caught Sivir in the bottom lane tribrush at the 2 minute mark, killing her instantly and taking First Blood. Then they got another kill in bot before 3 minutes. Then a double kill just after 5 minutes to take Ezreal to 4-0. At this point, the other team's Sivir was 0-3 and had 8 minion kills. Then Ezreal scored a quadrakill against a four man gank at the 10 minute point. This looked to be a steamroll.

And it kind of was... kind of. What followed was a bizarre sequence of plays that seemed to make no sense. Everyone began flooding into middle lane, making it impossible to farm as Karthus. We also had the problem of everyone else on the team being quite weak - Olaf lost top lane, while our jungle Malphite was severely underleveled and built no passive gold/10 items. He went Sunfire Cape first, heh. We were far enough ahead that it wasn't a giant issue, but still... what a sloppy, sloppy game. I also made some mistakes, and this was not one of my better Karthus games. I did feel better watching this in retrospect, not knowing at the time just how crazy overpowered Evelynn was in this patch version. (She was banned in essentially every game at the Season Two championships using this patch.) This was a classic solo queue game: almost impossible to get everyone grouped up together, team refuses to take free Baron, people walk back to base in the most unsafe manner possible, feeding away two unnecessary deaths, and so on. Eventually we managed to group everyone together, win a teamfight, start Baron, and get the enemy team to surrender. We should have won much faster and more easily, but hey, that's solo queue for you.


Winning that last game put me over 1500, reaching the goal of Gold status for Season Two. Unfortunately Varis had been getting fewer points for each game, since he had slightly more Ranked games played, and he ended up at 1496 Elo. We played another game to try and get Varis to 1500, lost that one, then played another game and lost that one too. Heh. At that point we decided that it would make more sense for Varis to solo queue for his last win. Varis was obviously skilled enough to achieve Gold, it was simply a matter of playing enough games to even out the vagaries of chance in each individual game.

We had a more difficult path to hit 1500 in Season Two compared to Season One. This was partly due to luck factors; although we had done well in Season One, I readily admit that going 9-2 over a span of 11 games meant that we had been pretty fortunate. Here in Season Two we had a more natural ratio of wins, consistently winning around 60-65% of our games in the 1400 Elo bracket. It was only a matter of time until we rose in rating and ascended up to 1500. However, we started our pursuit of Gold status too late in the season, and didn't have enough time to play enough games. Running 20 games still meant that we had a lot of luck factors in play. If we had done 50 games, there would have been zero doubt that we would have been placed at the right location. It was also obvious that the League of Legends playerbase had acquired more knowledge of the metagame a year later, compared to the situation in 2011. Back then, we were still commonly seeing idiotic bottom lanes as high as 1400 Elo, lanes that had no support and made no sense from a macro standpoint. We were further ahead of the curve then, and were better able to exploit the lack of knowledge of our opponents.

But the greatest difference between Season One and Season Two was the various penalties that Riot Games put into place over the intervening year. After getting tons of complaints when players would abuse duo queue to godmode lesser players up the ladder (2000 Elo playing with 1200 Elo), Riot imposed severe penalties for anyone duo queueing together. First of all, the matchmaking system applies a large penalty to your team's overall Elo rating, as a way of balancing out the greater teamwork possibilites from a duo queue. This ensured that our teammates were always about 50 points lower in Elo than whoever they were laning against; for example, we would have all 1400 players laning against 1450 players. Because Elo rating is a fairly accurate indicator of mechanical ability (there is no Elo Hell!), this meant that our random teammates consistently lost their lanes, much more than random chance would suggest. They were matched up against better players on average, that's why. Compounded on top of this, duo queueing places a penalty upon your own rating when it comes to team selection, forcing your slot down towards the bottom. This is why Varis and I were nearly always the last two picks; if the ratings on our team were 1450 (me), 1445 (Varis), 1440, 1430, and 1420, then I would be fourth pick and Varis would be fifth pick, due to the penalty. This ensured that we could only claim our preferred roles a minority of the time. Compare that to Season One, where we had the first two picks in most of the games we played, allowing us to set ourselves up in our best roles. You'd better believe that made a huge difference!

In the games where I played mid/top lane and Varis played AD, we went 5-0. But we were only able to get that combo in 5 out of 18 total games, and far too often we were stuck in our weaker roles. I preferred to play a solo lane role over support in these matches, not getting enough control over the action when I supported. Most of my best supports were fairly weak in this version of League of Legends; for example, I was only able to muster a 3-3 record with Sona. She works much better in an organized team than in solo queue. Other sustain/protect supports that I had practiced, like Soraka and Janna, were too weak to be useful picks in this patch version. I tried swapping over to aggressive supports, and went 1-0 with Blitzcrank and 0-1 with Leona. Too small of a sample size to conclude anything. I also lost my only game that I jungled as Skarner. However, I went 8-1 in mid and top lane: 2-0 with Gangplank, 1-0 with Morgana, and 5-1 with Karthus. Not bad. Varis went 7-3 when we could actually get him on AD, which was pretty freaking hard with him having the fifth pick in nearly every game. We went 3-2 when he was the jungler, 2-0 when he was support Leona, and 0-1 when he was in top lane as Jayce. We clearly did much better when Varis played AD. If only the duo queue penalties weren't so severe!

That was it as far as solo queue was concerned for Season Two. We also had achieved Gold rating earlier in Ranked Team play, when our Realms Beyond team went 9-1 in ranked play and reached 1573 Elo. However, there was still one more badge for us to earn in the closing days of Season Two, on a map that we had barely touched in many months. Go on to the next page to read about our quest for Gold on Twisted Treeline.