Grinding to Greatness: Finishing in Top 100 Legend
by Jordan “TheJordude” Hong Tai
In this article I wanted to go over and give advice on how to end the ranked season in top 100 legend. Out of my 2 years of experience with Hearthstone, I have finished top 100 legend in many seasons, with a majority of them being top 50 finishes. Before getting my first top 100 finish and when I started becoming more serious on ladder finishes, I tried to research if there were any tips, tricks, and things you need to know when competing for top legend, however there was no such content that I could find. Until now I have always wondered why no one touches this topic, as finishing top 100 on ladder is very relevant, especially in the Hearthstone Championship Tour season where you can get many points from ladder, instead of grinding open tournaments. Finishing top 100 isn’t simply bread and butter. Yes, you need to win a lot, but there are a lot of things pertaining to how the ladder system works that less experienced players are not aware of at the end of season. I’ll try my best to explain to you what you need to know if you want to compete top 100 this season!
Proper mindset and preparations
First, you need to set yourself into the proper mindset before jumping onto ladder and pushing for high legend. Expect that it can take some time and a lot of games to reach your goal, and you will inevitably be disappointed because of the nature of the game. It is crucial that you do not fall into tilt. Tilting is the absolute worst thing you can do in the last week of the season, as it will cause you to make irrational or incorrect decisions that can decide your games. Even if you have to stop playing for the day, preventing losses can mean saving 2 or even 3 wins it usually takes to make up for it. Take your time and use the entire turn to make the best decisions. It will definitely be worth it in the long run of your grind.
In terms of preparation, have a solid deck that is suited for the current meta and that you are comfortable playing with. You most likely won’t have enough time to learn a brand new deck or do much testing. Use what you have been winning with and stick with that deck. Laughing, for example, constantly climbs to high legend with Freeze Mage, even when the meta is Warrior heavy. Switching to various different decks often or after every loss tends to have a lower win rate compared to just using 1 or 2 decks. Try to avoid tech cards or archetype targeting decks, as you generally want to play the best, standard build ladder decks as they have the highest win rates. Also note that during the end of season, players tend to gravitate towards faster/aggressive decks as they are trying to fit as many games in as possible. You will also want to make sure you have enough time for your grind. Set some time during each day to play some games, or even have the full last day free so you are ready for anything to come up.
Keep calm when you are on a losing streak/losing in general and think through your plays, people tend to make obvious mistakes and lethals when they are losing (myself included).
It might seem like I’m giving you advice to do your homework, but I know a lot of players who like to wait or take it slow to legend, reaching it in the last week or even a few days before end of season. If you have time to sit down and play throughout the month, do so and get legend early-mid season if possible. If you want to have a good shot ending the season in high legend, don’t spend time trolling around, tilting on losses, playing a few games a day, etc. The later you get legend, the worse you will be seeded when you finally reach it. I usually get legend within the first 2 weeks of the season. This seeds me around 20-200 depending on how fast I reach it and my win rate along the way. People I see get legend later in the season, around the last week, usually are seeded around 1000-3000.
Where you are seeded in legend is actually more relevant than you think. When I get placed around 100, I tend to not play as much per day, usually around 1-3 net wins to either cancel out idle decay or gain a few ranks. If I am not try-harding for a high rank, the rest of the time I either practice in tournaments, or start the ladder grind on another server. This avoids me having long sessions where either the win rate starts to average out to around 60-65%, or I go on a losing streak. However if you get seeded in 1000-3000, you will need to have longer sessions to work your way up to around 100-200 before the last few days. This is usually harder to do because the “law of large numbers” will stabilize your win rate, or you may feel more mentally stressed and fatigued. I see many players try to grind their way up from 1000+ during the last week, and most of the time they are unsuccessful, even falling further into the “legend dumpster.” It is true that if you go on big win streaks you can climb fast from low legend, however most of the time this does not happen for the average legend player.
Not only do you want to get legend sooner in the season, but you also want to start grinding before everyone else does. The sweet spot is usually around 1 week before the season ends. At this point, you can try hard for a top 5 spot, which normally holds until the end of season as very few can get up to your rank and replace/decay you. You can also just break into top 100 and just play a few games each day to hover around the 50-120 range. Since not as many players are competing for high legend yet, you break into top 100 with fewer wins than if you were to try with the last couple days. By playing sooner, you also create yourself a safety net, where even if you lose some games and drop some ranks, you will have a few days to recover the rank.
Try to find a deck that has a 60%+ winrate and just grind out as many games as you can. If the deck isn't working than try something else. If you have the time time it helps to reach top 20 around a week or so earlier.
How the MMR system changes towards the end of season
If you play legend constructed a lot, you may be familiar on how the MMR or ELO system may work. In general you get paired with either another legend (whether high or low) or rank 1-3 player and you win or lose legend points that can vary based on the ranking of your opponent. If you are say mid legend, and you play a top 100, you may get a few more points than usual. In contrast if you are high legend playing someone very low like 3000+, you will lose a lot of points if you lose. Many players have complained about how this system is unfair, and I feel it is. High ranked players should play against fellow high ranked players and vice-versa, unfortunately this is what we have to work with for now until changes are made. Throughout most of the season, you will on average win/lose anywhere from 50-200 points depending on your rank, and the player you played against. This changes slightly towards the end of season for competing high ranked players. Legend 100-200 usually will only gain about 20 ranks per win now, yet still lose 50-100. Top 100’s will lose just as much, but only gain around 10 points per win. Yes this can be frustrating, that is why I suggested to play earlier, and create a safety net for yourself. Losing will cost you a lot of valuable time. Towards the end of season, I find that I usually need around 2 hours to cancel out rank decay or gain a few ranks if I lose my first game.
Decay and camping
While rank idle decay is common throughout the entire season, it amplifies a lot during the last few days. Usually you find that you will decay around 20 ranks a day because you are not playing and other players that do play replace you, pushing you back. During the end of season, more players are playing more games, and if you are not, they are replacing you at a higher frequency so you decay faster than usual. A common joke that goes around is “will this rank hold?” This is because on the last day of season, decay will drop you around 10 ranks per hour, and even more during the last few hours. For those that are concerned about what rank you need to camp and avoid playing as much as possible on the last day, it really depends on your rank and how fast you are decaying. It is safe to say that if you are top 10 legend on the last day of the season, you will be top 100 for sure, and likely top 25 because very few can reach and replace you. However, anything that is above that on the last day of season is fair game. If you are legend 10-50 on the last day, expect to win another 1 or 2 games to secure your spot. If you are 50-100, you’ll probably have to play 2 or 3 games. This also varies to when you play your games, as the timing of your games also come into factor which will be discussed in the next section. In general, you are only safe to camp your rank for top 100 on the last day when you are either top 10 (which can be obtained throughout the week) or if you are top 50 within the last few hours of the season.
Things to know about the last day
The last day of season can be a very savage place in terms of the ladder system and players themselves. Here is some warnings and advice for going into the last day of the season.
- Meta: Usually on the last day of season, players want to play the best aggressive deck in the meta. This allows them to get as many games in as possible with a good win rate. Be prepared to see a lot of the same aggressive meta decks during the last day and have a strong deck ready for it.
- Decay: As mentioned earlier, your rank will decay very fast if you are around 50-100. Every time you refresh your rank, it will probably drop. Make sure you monitor your rank carefully and frequently so that you know if you can make top 100 without playing, or if the pace of the decay is too fast and you have to play some more.
- Jumps: During the last few hours, those within top 100 will jump ranks when they play. This is because the very high legends are mainly camping, so when you play and win, it is easier to replace them. It is very common seeing people go from 90 to 30 with just 1 win, and this is how many players get #1 last minute. This is also a double edge sword however, because if you lose, you will easily fall to the edge or out of top 100.
- Cost-Benefit Analysis: Look at how fast you are decaying, what your current rank is and how many hours are left in the season. Think if you need to play a game to secure top 100, or if you are thinking about pushing for a higher rank to reach a better cutoff. If you think it is worth it, play, but play sooner than later so you have some time to recover if you lose. However if you are secured for top 100 and you are unsure if you want to be a bit more greedy, then it is safer to not play, as losing can cause you jump out of top 100 forcing you play a lot more, and cause a lot more stress. Better to be safe than sorry unless you either are already secured in HCT points, or you need a certain cutoff to qualify.
- Counter-queuing: On ladder, players can often queue into the same opponent multiple times in a row. Be aware that if you win against someone, they may try to requeue into you with the counter of your deck. You will also lose some advantage, as even if they don’t change decks, they will know what you are playing. To avoid this, simply wait around 30 seconds before queueing into a game again and if you play into people you know, change your status on battle.net to “away” to avoid queue snipers.
- Last minute games: One of the most complained about and abused characteristics of the ladder system is the fact that the season ends right at a certain time, regardless if you are in the middle of a game that started before the season ended. Any game that ended past the season will count for the next, so if you were to win that game, you would get a star instead. This creates a win or tie situation. A player can simply queue into a game in the last 15 minutes of season, and if they win, they will jump ranks as explained above, or if they are losing and would drop out of top 100, they rope every turn and stall until the season ends so that the loss doesn’t count for their end legend placing. There is literally nothing to lose for the player that has the choice to play the game and win to jump ranks, or stall to not fall out of top 100. Stalling if you are losing can be very frustrating for the other player, especially if they are on the edge of breaking top 100, however it is a very common practice and there is a high chance you may come across it or use it yourself. Just don’t be that guy that’s rank 2000 and roping someone that is 105… because that just is a jerk move. I can’t say that you are justified using this practice if you are top 100 trying to secure or improve your spot. It will always be an unsportsmanlike move, but we can’t put the blame on the players abusing a ladder flaw that Blizzard is not doing anything about.
So I know that might have been a lot to take in and absorb, so here is a TLDR point summary of what we just went over:
- Prepare a solid deck or 2, and set enough time for the grind. It can be a long one.
- Get legend early and push top 100 before everyone else.
- Decay happens fast. You are most likely never safe to assume you can camp your top 100 spot.
- Be aware of the players you will face on the last day. Avoid requeueing into them and don’t be surprised by aggressive decks and ropers.
- Monitor your rank closely on the last day, and only play if you think you need to.
And that is how you get top 100 legend for the end season. Well not exactly... this is just some tips and advice I can give you based on my experience, but of course it can vary between person to person and game to game. This is a learning experience and the more high legend finishes you get, the more familiar it will become to you. Have fun laddering, and good luck!
About the Author
Jordan Hong Tai, also known as "TheJordude", is a developing player for compLexity Gaming. For over a year he has enriched the coL.HS squad with his presence while becoming a fierce grinder on ladder and a threat in every collegiate competition. Apart from his business studies and the ladder grind, the youngster from Vancouver, Canada is a warrior in Open tournaments, a coach and the organizer and host of local tavern get-togethers. Monthly he delivers though-provoking pieces like for compLexity Gaming and other outlets. Follow him on:
- Twitch: http://www.twitch.tv/TheJordude
- Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/TheJordude
- Twitter: @coL_TheJordude