Den here to talk about the subject card game players always want to know more about: how to efficiently climb the ladder. Except for this time, I won’t be talking about which deck to play or how to attack the meta.
My main goal as a coach when trying to help players is to try and provide them with a method and a clear path they can follow in order to get better over time. Card games are too volatile and things are changing too fast nowadays to only be talking about the current state of the game and its meta.
So today, we’ll focus on things you can improve in the areas that lie outside of the pure gameplay aspects of LoR. We are going to dive into the basic concepts of your mental preparation. These will make you into a better ladder grinder and help you build the same mindset the best players tend to share when it comes to reaching that coveted Masters Rank.
Recognize the Grind
The first and the most important thing when your start a journey towards any goal is to set reasonable expectations on how long it will take you to reach that goal – in our case, a Masters rank.
For example, let’s take a player who sits at Platinum IV at the beginning of the season. In terms of LP, the road to Masters from that point represents 40 wins (it means you need to have a record where you have 40 more wins than losses).
Let’s imagine this player does the impossible and goes on a 40-0 run to reach Masters. Games last about 6-7 minutes on average with an aggressive deck and about 10-12 minutes with a slower one. This means that the fastest this player could reach Masters would be in about 4 hours’ time – if that player was using one of the fastest decks in the game and did not drop a single match.
Now let’s get back from hypothetical and to reality. For the best players in the world, who can consistently maintain a 70% win rate, 6-minute game-time on average would mean they will reach Masters in 10 hours. This is already a significant amount of time. For the rest of us, mortals – 55 or 60% is a good win rate already, and to earn 40 wins worth of LP with a 60% win rate, we are talking about 200 games distance. This is 20 hours of play with a very fast deck.
So before we go on towards other topics in this piece, I would encourage everyone who has the goal of reaching Masters:
Think about how – and if – you can fit those 20-30 hours (or even more!) worth of necessary grind into your schedule.
Personally, I usually set myself the goal of reaching Masters during the first week. I will aim to get to Diamond during the first 2 or 3 days and then grind a division per day in Diamond until Masters. This way, I don’t really count the hours or LP for the first few days, and I can try some newer experimental decks in Platinum if I wish to. Once I reach Diamond, I try to be serious about it and climb steadily each day without burning myself out.
Now that we’re on the same page and understanding the grind that it takes, let’s talk about what we can do to actually help your mental game during the climb.
Learn to Accept Defeat
During the ladder grind, you will have to play hundreds of games, and you will inveitably lose a lot of them – it just comes with the territory.
Card games are a business, and for a business to be successful, it needs to be appealing to a wide audience. One of the ways card games do that is by making sure everyone could have the fun of winning a match sometimes – no matter the skill. In turn, it also means that anyone could lose a match – no matter the skill.
We need to understand why we lose our matches, focus on the losses we could have prevented, and forget about the ones we could have not. Being able to make this distinction is key on our way to the Masters rank as defeat is usually the biggest reason for frustration.
Before we explore how to cope with a defeat, it is important to simply accept it as a part of the game.
Most players have a tendency to treat their defeats like ‘an aberration’ and victory as ‘a norm’ of their experience.
In this mindset, losing streaks feel like the wrath of God while winning streaks are perceived as ‘deserved’ and something you’re entitled to.
When looking back on a game, it is important to figure out if we could have actually impacted that match so that it would have ended with a different outcome. If we’re able to extract that information and use it for the rest of our grind – that loss actually made us a bit better.
There are 3 kinds of defeats:
- ‘I couldn’t have done anything about it’
Some games are like that – you could have placed the best player in the world in your seat, and he would lose all the same.
A bad matchup, unfortunate disconnection, or just unlucky draws – there is no reason to beat yourself up for something you had no control over. Let’s just get on to the next game and forget about this one. There isn’t much to take away from it.
(However, keep in mind that if you end up having a lot of these kinds of games, you might want to reflect on the deck you’ve picked and its suitability for the meta.)
- ‘I could have impacted the game, but I couldn’t have possibly known it back then’
There are games where at the end we go: “Damn if only I would have just made this play instead!”. Well yes, that would have won you the game, but did you actually have the information at that time to convince you that was the right play?
When looking back on the game, if you spot some information that you’ve initially missed or something you did wrong (for example, not considering the speed of the opponent’s deck, or not playing around a certain card) – well, then that’s something to remember for next time and learn from.
But if there was no clue that could help you make the right play at the time, then you technically didn’t do anything wrong, and so there is no reason to blame yourself for that defeat.
- ‘I messed up, it’s on me’
It’s the worst feeling because it’s painful to realize we could have won the game and instead we just played badly. When we’re tired or stressed, it’s easy to lose our cool and get upset, or try and shift the blame from our own misplay.
But this is also great news because this is the kind of defeat that can be fully prevented in the future. So the best thing to do here is to admit our mistake, learn from it, and eliminate it from our play for good.
Although this is always uneasy when we have to tell ourselves “I’m bad”, our level of play is one of the few things we can completely control in card games that are otherwise very volatile.
Look to Play Well Every Game, Not to Win Every Game
In order to get to our goal, we have to win a lot of games and lose as few as possible. So of course, we do play to win, but with that, we need to adopt the mindset of being process-oriented instead of results-oriented.
When you enter a game with an “I want to play well” mindset instead of an “I want to win”, you alleviate a lot of pressure from yourself.
Suddenly, losing isn’t a problem anymore as long as you’re playing on the desired level – and with that, the frustration that comes from losses disappears. After we’ve adopted this mindset, two positive things will happen.
Firstly, you will notice yourself playing more patiently, and thinking through your plays more carefully. Winning is not our end-all-be-all anymore – we won’t see ourselves forcing some plays, like taking a risk that wasn’t necessary to try and win faster (which usually leads to a punish and no win at all). From now on, the only thing we care about is just looking to do our best, win or lose.
That mental impediment of ‘forcing plays’ is usually the biggest issue when we start feeling impatient about the climb. In our minds, we are winning some precious time, like 3 minutes from those 30 hours of grind. But in reality, we buy those ‘saved minutes’ by lowering our chance of winning the game and giving our opponent an opportunity to come back.
Secondly, because of that change in perception of winning and losing, we are not bothered as much by the result of a game anymore. Instead, we only evaluate our game by what we did during that game. As such, even lost games where we played incredibly become proud moments and lucky wins where we just got everything we needed at the right time feel a bit more humble.
This is probably the most important advice for any card game grinder out there that you might receive: detach yourself from the fact of wins and losses. Play well, focus on improving yourself as a player, and the rest will come on its own with time and a little bit of method.
Misplay Means You Need a Break
Even if you’re not the person to become easily tilted by misplays, this habit can still be useful to adopt.
If we’ve taken a break after a misplay, it means we’ve acknowledged our mistake and took responsibility for it. Consider these 10 or 15 minutes of not playing to be the punishment for that mistake. Also, there is a great chance that during that time, you are going to think about that mistake anyway and replay the situation in your head even if you’re in another game.
This pause will help to get over the mistake, to learn from it, and detach yourself from the frustration it might have caused.
It is a way of honoring our approach of playing the best we can and not being results-oriented – since you can make mistakes even when winning.
Making a single mistake occasionally happens to everyone, but with the number of games to play in order to grind the ladder, mistakes will add up. Having a break allows us to eliminate and prevent some other causes for mistakes that we were not even aware of.
This break will let us reflect – are we tired? bored of playing? stressed, distracted? All of these things can result in a loss and a break is a good way to do a mental self-check.
As a conclusion to this guide, I’ll like to point out one last time that grinding to Masters isn’t only about the deck you play or your level of play. Your mindset and method also play a great role in this.
Legends of Runeterra is a game where a player has to constantly accumulate and process tons of different types of information (ex. the characteristics of your deck, the metagame, matchup, etc) and understand how to use it the best when the time comes. With the continuous changes that are happening in the game, with new cards, nerfs, meta changes, and so on, keeping a healthy learning approach is your best way to achieve regular and steady results over time.
I hope this guide was informative enough and can help some players when they will try to tackle the ladder. As usual, feel free to come and talk in our Discord with the community and staff, or contact me directly on Twitter.
If you are looking for coaching, you can find me here as the dedicated coach for the Runeterra Coaching platform.