High elo in League of Legends is a dream for most. Players grind for countless hours daily to improve at the game and reach high elo. But around Diamond 1/Master is where a lot of people find themselves stuck and unable to climb.
The biggest difference between Challenger and Master players is that Challenger players are more consistent with their play. They lane better, help their team more and recognize and execute win conditions better and more often than Master players.
In order to understand how big the gap between Master and Challenger ranks is, we must first look at the various aspects of high elo play that Challenger players perform better at than Master players. These include multiple micro and macro plays, and some mental aspects of the game.
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The first concept that comes to mind when you compare a good player to a better one is the plain difference in their mechanics and micro. No matter how much information you gain about the ‘correct’ way to play the game, you won’t be able to climb unless you learn how to utilize it in your games. Mechanics allow you to convert your knowledge into action and push yourself to the limits.
The best way to practice mechanics is to simply play the game without autopiloting. If you are able to record your gameplay, you can review it and understand the way your clicking affects your mechanics. Challenger players, even if they one-trick an easy champion, have great mechanics overall and are able to react to plays made by the enemy and mechanically use their champion properly.
You will notice that most people that climb from low elo to higher elo, usually do it on a select few champions. A lot of one tricks can become proficient at one champion and reach Diamond just based on that proficiency. Players in Masters tend to not have mastered the champions in their pool nearly as much as Challenger players have.
Challenger One Tricks tend to make a smurf account to learn a new champion and usually end up spending a lot of time in Masters. We can speculate that this is because the game knowledge gained from playing in Challenger allows them to climb up to Diamond/Master but a lack of proficiency on the new champion keeps them from reaching challenger until they have mastered the champion.
The importance of keeping a calm and collected head can not be stressed enough. A lot of players halt their improvement because they are constantly tilted and can not get through this mindset to see their mistakes. On average, players in Diamond 1/Master have significantly worse mental than players that maintain Challenger throughout the season.
This isn’t to say that everyone in Challenger has a great mental or that everyone in Master is constantly tilted. But in a lot of cases, players hit a wall that prevents them from improving and this wall is known as positive mental. Challenger players tend to focus on their own play and mistakes and don’t flame their teammates as much when they make a mistake. Instead, their focus is on making up for the mistakes of everyone and getting the most out of the situation at hand.
Better Matchup Understanding
Simply being good at the champion you are playing isn’t enough to let you dominate. Knowing how to play your role (laning, jungling) against the opposing champion also plays a huge part in determining which rank you belong to. Matchup knowledge is extremely important as it allows you to play your champion to its maximum limits, without actually crossing those limits.
Playing safer than necessary in a winning matchup will lead to you missing out on opportunities to snowball. Similarly, playing too aggressively in difficult/losing matchups will make you a free bag of gold for your opponents. Knowing how to play the matchup to maximize your chances of winning and getting the most value out of your early game is a major difference between Master and Challenger players.
This is a very obvious difference that allows you to spot a lower elo player from a higher elo one. While the difference in CS isn’t as massive between Master and Challenger players as it is between Diamond and Bronze players, it’s still a massive factor. But “Better Farming” does not simply refer to the ability to last hit better.
Of course, last hitting is the most important aspect of CSing better. However, the reason Challenger players are better at farming than Master players is that they are simply better at ‘finding’ CS. Challenger players do not sacrifice waves in lane just to recall at a suboptimal time. In mid to late game, they are aware of perfect timings to dip from vision and then reappear to catch waves in a more efficient way.
When it goes to laning, trading with your lane opponent goes hand in hand with CSing. Master players, due to various factors, are not as good at winning trades as Challenger players. Challenger players tend to understand how to create windows for favorable trades, how to force the opponent to take a bad trade, and especially when they should back out of a trade.
These things allow Challenger players to gain a resource lead over their lane opponent much more consistently than Master players. And since performing in lane is a big part of winning the game, these small leads in lane eventually translate to easier mid to late game situations.
Map Awareness & Vision Control
Master players tend to tunnel vision onto their own lanes. How to trade, how to CS, and how to position; these questions can prevent them from paying attention to the vision they have around the map. Challenger players are very aware of when and where they need to ward to have the highest awareness of the information that is to be gained from it.
Simply putting down a ward is not enough, which is why Challenger players constantly take a look at their map to gain maximum value out of the vision they have obtained. They track the jungler and play safe when the enemy jungler can be around their lane. They achieve this by frequently looking at the minimap and gathering information. Thus, vision and map awareness are massive factors that set Challenger players apart from Master players.
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Rotating At The Right Time
Challenger laners recognize the importance of team play and therefore take every opportunity to get their teammates ahead. This is especially true if they are playing supportive champions (Ornn, Karma, etc). Master players do recognize the importance of getting leads, but relatively speaking, they prefer getting a lead for themselves than sacrificing something to get their teammates ahead.
While this mindset in itself isn’t inherently bad, it goes without saying that solo carrying a game is much harder than simply having multiple members snowball at a consistent rate. If you are playing top lane, getting your jungler ahead can allow them to impact mid or bot lane and lead to an even spread of resources across the team.
Leaving your lane to contest an objective like Rift Herald, Dragon, or simply a Scuttle crab can prove to be very beneficial to not only yourself but your teammates as well. Helping your teammates isn’t always the best choice, and is based on your judgment of the situation. Challenger players are also much more sensible about the fights that they take and the ones they avoid.
Efficient At Jungling
When comparing a Master jungler to a Challenger jungler, we can notice something very obvious right away; Challenger junglers are simply more efficient at everything they do. As soon as the game starts, they are either looking for a ward or preventing an invade. Their pathing allows them to efficiently clear the jungle and recall with enough gold to buy their items.
Efficiency also means that they spend less time walking around without a plan in mind and constantly plan ahead. Which objectives are spawning and which lanes need help based on lane states is something that is planned by Challenger players ahead of time. Master players are usually less consistent with efficient planning.
Understanding Win Conditions
This is one of the biggest differences between low elo players and high elo players. While Master players recognize win conditions obviously present in front of them, Challenger players are simply better at doing this job. Challenger players understand the various win conditions that arise based on team compositions, wave states, and objectives. They are also better at executing these win conditions.
A big part of working on a win condition is understanding the macro aspects of it. This is why you will see that Challenger players close the game easily when they win a decisive teamfight in the mid or late game. Master players tend to struggle when closing games even when they have massive leads. This is a direct result of inferior macro and understanding of their win conditions.
If you ask a Challenger player to describe the difference between their rank and lower ranks, it would be described by this one word: Consistency. A massive difference between Master, Grandmaster, and Challenger players is the amount of consistency found in their play. Master players can also hit very high peaks, and that can give them a false impression of their skill. Challenger players are more consistent when they are performing at their peaks.
While the gap in LP between Master and Challenger is not massive, the skill required to evolve from a Master player to a Challenger player is significant. Being a Challenger player is all about doing everything a Master player does, but better.
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