Elo Ranking Guide: Understanding How CS:GO Matchmaking Works
What is Elo in CS:GO?
Elo means, to evaluate the player’s skill due to his performance in the game. In most of PvP Online Games different Elo’s are used in the back. The Elo-System was originally defined in chess.
What is Glicko-2?
Maybe you already heard of Glicko-2 before?
Glicko-2 is a rating system that is used in CS:GO, just like the Elo from chess but it goes deeper and adds two more variables:
- The RD variable:
The ratings deviation defines how much a player moves away from his actual rank. The more you play the more precise the RD value gets and it gets lower. If you don’t play a long time the RD increases.
- The RV variable:
The rating volatility (RV) defines how constantly a player is. A more constant play means a lower RV.
This means Valve is not just taking the standard values, they add more numbers and attributes to the calculation to be more accurate. Of course, the Glicko-2 Elo system is just the base and Valve adapted more things, Counterstrike Global Offensive is a complex game with a lot of aspects to consider. Most of these calculations are Valve’s secret and we can just assume things that have a high probability, based on our own experience and opinions from pro players.
What does Valve say about the Elo?
Valve is taking care which information they give out to the players, to prevent them from abusing the system.
“For competitive, we built a CS:GO specific competitive ranking system that is significantly different and more complex than Elo. The CS:GO competitive ranking system started with ideas based on the Glicko-2 rating model and improved over time to better fit the CS:GO player base.
All computations are performed on our matchmaking backend and multiple matchmaking parameters describing a scientific set of rating variables of a player are represented to players as their Skill Group. You should be able to find papers on rating systems involving rating volatility and rating deviations online to get a better idea about why our complex competitive matchmaking parameters cannot be represented as a single numeric value.”
Let’s see what we can get out of it to get a better understanding of how it works.
The big challenge for Valve:
Valve wants to keep away players from the objective to “just play for the uprank”. Because then, players just focus on how to win and disregard teamplay and of course to just have fun.
Also, they prevent the community from CS:GO boosting, where higher players try to get worse players up to higher ranks fast. This is a real problem in every matchmaking system because it dislocates the real rank and Elo basis of a player.
But hey – of course we want to know how we can rank up fast, as this is our main showcase to represent ourselves in CS:GO – so let’s analyze! 😉
Why is Valve using an
Elo Rating System in CS:GO?
Here are the main reasons why CS:GO has a ranking system with 16 ranks:
- The Elo ranking is creating fair and balanced games because you get queued against players with the same skill level. This creates a high-quality game, where both teams have the chance to win the game.
- Through a matchmaking rank, players can see better progress, otherwise, they won’t know if they do good or bad.
- The ranks create competition inside the community, so that everyone can strive to get better.
- Ranks are perfect to compare yourself with others and to play with friends who got the same skill.
- The CS:GO ranks keep the audience inside the game: It’s a lot of work to get a high rank and to increase the rank, therefore players are likely to play more often.
How does CS:GO calculates the Elo and the Ranks?:
Okay, now we know the basics about Elo and Glicko-2, but how does the Elo Algorithmn works for CS:GO? Let’s combine everything we know!
What does Elo and Glicko-2 really do for CS:GO?
Elo does not really measures your skill level, it’s just a calculation that will be used in the back.
Elo measures odds, like in sports betting: The Elo system wants to understand the “player’s chances” of winning against the other team.
While two players with the same Elo rating would have a 50/50 chance of winning the match, for players with more or less Elo points the odds would favor one specific side, for example 70/30. Like with odds, there is no guaranteed winner, it’s just an estimation.
How the Elo rating estimates fair games:
As you can imagine a matchmaking system is interested in giving players a good time, so that one side is not favored extremely. For this, a matchmaking system can use the Elo ratings.
When the odds increase for you, the system gives you a higher rank to reach 50/50 chances again.
An average player would win as many games as he loses and that would hit the exact middle of a matchmaking system.
As mentioned on the ranks page, the average skill rank in CS:GO is Gold Nova 2.
If you lose more than you win, you will land below Gold Nova 2, if you win more than you lose, you will be at least Gold Nova 3. As soon as a plateu is reached, where an ongoing performance will be about 50/50, then a skill is defined somewhat accurately. When this platue is reached, players are often stuck on their rank for a long time.
Soft and Hard Factors that Manipulate the CS:GO Rankings:
On top of that comes, that this is not exactly transferable to the real outcome:
In reality, you could win 20 CS:GO games and lose 10 without an up-rank. This is why so many people go mad on the CS:GO Elo rating.
But it is important to see the Elo plus Glicko-2 just as the base calculation. On top you can count all soft and hard factors, that Valve is possible to get out of a match.
In chapter 4 I made a list of all factors that affect you’re up and de-rank in CS:GO.
Before going on, keep the following in mind:
Elo and Glicko-2 do not rate the skill, they rate the “odds” for teams like in betting. When a game is won or lost it mainly depends on the odds, how the Elo rating will change.
By knowing this let’s deal with the following questions:
- Assuming that the Elo rating is existent, are we really able to judge about it correctly?
- What is really working to rankup? How should you behave?
- Are 18 ranks enough if the Elo can have such a different value?
Let’s put some light on to these questions…
What is the Connection
between Elo and CS:GO Ranks?
It’s important to understand the connection of the CS:GO ranks and the Elo rating behind it:
- CS:GO Ranks: CS:GO ranks are that what you visually see in your profile. It is a fixed value until you get a new rank. That’s it. You can find all ranks explained below.
- CS:GO Elo: The CS:GO Elo is a hidden value “behind” the CS:GO rank, which can deviate strongly from the actual rank. Your latest performance will be calculated through the CS:GO Elo until it has enough impact to lead to an upgrade or downgrade of the CS:GO rank. Players with a totally different rank can be queued against each other and if the Glicko-2 variables RD and RV are high players can even jump multiple ranks at once.Example:
A Silver guy who won a lot of hard matches in a row, can have the same Elo points as a Gold Nova or Master Guardian player and there is a possibility that they will meet each other in a ranked match – it has just not yet triggered an uprank.
The CS:GO Ranks Explained:
The CS:GO rank is what we get in the end, this is what we see ourself and what others see. The rank ultimately classifies you as a player inside the CS:GO community, for some it can mean nothing for some it’s everything.
What about you? When talking about Elo, our main interest is in finding out how we can get a better rank, by understanding the matchmaking and doing the right things. Achieving a higher rank is worth and fun to do.
What are CS:GO Tiers?
CS:GO tiers are 5 groups, players get seperated into. Instead of saying Silver I, Silver Elite Master and so on, it’s easier to just say Silver. These CS:GO tiers work like leagues or stages that represent a different level of skill.
The CS:GO tiers are Silver’s, Nova’s, MG’s and DMG’s, Eagles and Supremes and Globals.
|Rank Group:||Characteristics:||Focus on:|
|Silvers|| • The aiming and the game sense are both limited.|
• Silvers are often new to the game.
• Don’t focus on becoming a better player.
• Just play for fun.
• Often can’t get better.
|• Train a lot with your favorite weapons.|
• Improve your aiming, play aim maps.
• Understand tactical gameplay.
• Just play more matchmaking 5vs5 to get better.
|Novas||• Basic knowledge about CS:GO and a good game sense.|
• They have improved their aiming, but need to reach a constant performance level.
• Novas try to follow basic strategies.
|• Train your aiming to reach a constant level.|
• Play more matchmaking 5vs5 and focus on winning.
• Try to understand what you could make better.
|MG’s and DMG’s||• MG’s and DMG’s got a great aiming.|
• They are coordinated and are able to play well in teams.
• This user group already reached a lot and wants to climb higher.
• The usage of tactical grenades is good.
|• Train massive amounts of aim maps, to reach the next step.|
• Join a team and play clan wars.
• Instead of following basic strategies, try to use your own concepts.
|Eagles and Supremes||• Outstanding aiming skills at a constant level.|
• Perfect tactical understanding.
• First tries of using mindgames.
• Perfect usage of tactical grenades.
|• Try to improve your concentration even more.|
• Focus on your personal improvement, find your strengthens and weaknesses.
• Do any effort to reach Global for the first time.
|Globals||• Flawless aiming skills.|
• Ability to concentrate when it’s required.
• Knowing the game in and out.
• Focusing on what is important.
|• Just aiming is not enough anymore.|
• Focus an min-maxing and game-sense.
• Do mind games and win through small movement decisions.
• Try to predict your opponent.
What is the Rank
Distribution in CS:GO?
It’s interesting to check how many players have which rank. Like mentioned before the average rank in CS:GO is Gold Nova 2. Players with the Gold Nova 1 rank or lower, belong to the lowest 50% players and Gold Nova 3 and higher players, belong to the upper 50%.
That’s just a general estimation and will always change a bit over time, based on user behaviour – or due to Elo alogorithmn changes. 😉
Here is a quick overview of the CS:GO rank distribution:
In total there are 18 CS:GO ranks. The 18 ranks can be summed up into 4 tiers of player types (Silvers, Novas, MGs and the Elite).
32% of all players are Silvers, 35% are Novas, 20% are MGs and 13% belong to the Elite.
Reaching Gold Nova 3 already means to be better than average. Trough the playstyle and tactics players can increase their rank a lot!
How does the CS:GO Placement Matches work? How to get a Rank?
As mentioned in the how to get a CS:GO rank guide, at first you need to reach level two/three with a brand new CS:GO account. To do so, play the basic CS:GO modes like Casual, Deathmatch, and Arms Race. As soon as you are allowed to make placement matches, you need to complete 10 ranked matches to calibrate your first skill rank.
Based on Glicko-2 you know, that with an account with a low number of games, you will have low RD and RV variables because the system is not sure yet if they gave you the correct rank. With a low amount of games, you can rank up and down much faster. Have fun calibrating! 🙂
How important are Placement Matches in CS:GO for the Rank?
Many people underestimate the value of the placement matches.
The player SexyNoodle is showing these points, with which I agree:
- Placement matches are important, it is much harder to change the rank later, than defining it early in the CS GO placement matches. Try to reach the highest first rank that you can get!
- The 3-4 first placement matches are the most important, they show the system in which tier you should play.
- Making only few kills is bad, you will get a better first rank, when making a lot of kills/MVP stars.
- Many people start ranked too early, better train before you jump directly into placement matches.
What are the Factors to Rank Up and Down in CS:GO?
In total it’s easy: If you win more than you lose you gonna rank up – but there is more than that…
Basic Factors to Rank up in CS:GO:
People rank up and down in situations they don’t know why or often it is just not consistent or reproducible:
- Fact 1: You can rank up with a win or a draw.
- Fact 2: You can rank down with a defeat or a draw.
- Fact 3: You can rank up and down multiple ranks at once, if you win vs higher ranked enemies.
Some People in the forums told they even ranked down with a win – if this is true the chance is of course really low and this should not happen to you! 😉 But let’s go deeper!
What counts in CS:GO Matchmaking?
- Amount of won and lost Rounds (Highest Impact).
- Win the game.
- MVP-Stars Count (Most Valuable Player of a round).
- Getting kicked (very bad).
- KDA Count (kill / death / assist).
- Placement in the team (Position 1-5).
- Winstreaks / Losestreaks.
- Time of beeing offline (decay).
- Leaving a game.
- Shooting accuracy.
Most important Factors to Rank Up in CS:GO:
Which Conditions are most important in CS GO and how can I rank up as fast as I can?
I created an empiric priority list what counts most:
- Win games with a high amount of won rounds (Example: 16-0 is GOOD, 16-14 is BAD)
- MVP-Ratio (defuse bombs, Get the most kills, get more stars)
- Learn! The worst thing you can do is, to stay on your level.
Learn through our CS:GO guides and use the best CS:GO crosshair configs!
Not so important Ranking Factors – but it can help:
- KDA-Ratio (Example: 30-4-4 is GOOD, 10-25-0 is BAD)
- Placement (Beeing on position 1 is not too important, but this brings a better KDA, MVP and Win-Rate anyway so this should be your goal)
What happens to my CS:GO Rank if I leave or get kicked?
What is the effect of surrendering to my CS:GO Elo points?
Surrendering is quite good if you are leading. At the exact time of when you quit, CS:GO is calculating the new rank update based on the won rounds, kills and MVPs of the match. This means sometimes it could be the best thing to just leave the game. Example: There is a troll player that tells you he will go afk on purpose or ruin the game. Or 1 or 2 others players are out. If you are leading, you could surrender and take the positive Elo points. It’s just my estimation, do it on your own risk.
Getting kicked is really bad: You will get an Elo rank update when the game is finished and not at the time when you get kicked. This means the game counts every won or lost round and counts all played rounds as if you are AFK, this means every round you make 0 kills, 0 deaths, and 0 assists. A very very bad statistic for the Elo and your team will probably lose more rounds with only 4 players.
What happens to my CS:GO Rank on Tie or Draw?
A tie or draw means that both teams won the same amount of rounds: The won rounds are the most important thing and since the difference is zero, there is not much impact. The only impact gives the number of kills, MVPs, and other stuff. You can get a promotion or demotion with a draw!
Contrary opinions and theories:
The CS:GO player RetriButioN posted his theories about the Elo system and claimed that only MPV’s count.
CS:GO Matchmaking is just based on a round-by-round basis, with a redetermined expected winner, which is safe. This theory could explain why it is possible to de-rank after a won match. But: Valve dispelled that claim, that this is the case, there are definitely more factors. I agree with that.
Detailled Tips and Tricks to Rank up in CS:GO
By knowing all of the most important factors that affect if you rank up or down in CS:GO, checkout our rank up guide for CS:GO.
In this guide, you learn which tactical and personal hurdles you need to overcome to step up your game.
Which pro settings are really useful and what will work for you?
How Fast can you Rank Up and Down in CS:GO?
Ranking up and down is not limited to time!
- Calibrating a new CS:GO account will need about a week.
- To move one rank up try to play about 10 matches, it will most likely give a result if you are not stuck on your level.
- If you want to reach global elite, it depends on your starting rank. A normal human being will need a learning curve with over 150 games, which will probably need at least 2 months. In a non-optimal case, you would need longer anyway. Players who have been global before, will be able to reach it fast again, but it will most likely take about 50 games minimum to reach that.
How many Games does it take to Rank Up in CS:GO?
It can take 2-10 games or even longer, the bigger the difference (kills, won rounds, MVPs) the faster you rank up. Against stronger enemies with a higher Elo, it will be much faster. If you are better than your rank, it can help to play with friends with a higher rank. A low ranked player can have a bad impact on the higher-ranked player: He will probably climb up slower.
Opinion about the CS:GO Elo: Is the Ranking System Working?
Is the CS GO Elo matchmaking system good – does it work?
Most of us love the CS:GO Matchmaking and the Elo system behind it. It makes so much fun to try to rank higher and higher. And it’s also big fun to bully friends who fail and rank down! 😀
In my opinion when taking a look on to the steam friendslist, then we all can see:
Yes, most guys have a rank that totally fits them!
What about you?
What’s your opinion about the CS:GO Elo, do you feel like what you do in CS:GO pays off?
Do you disagree with any given information? Ever experienced weird things in the CS:GO matchmaking? Let us know!
I did some research for this, I hope you enjoyed the article!
And never forget the following! 😉