Ever since I managed to hit 2000 solo queue elo in Season 1, I’ve occasionally received random messages from acquaintances on my friends list, asking me how I can stand playing solo queue. These messages are always surrounded by horror stories of their terrible luck with teammates and are really just instances of these people using me as a venting outlet. Be that as it may, I decided that it was worthwhile to think about what exactly it is about my solo queue mentality that allows me to tolerate my bad beats better than the average Joe on my friends list. The best answer I’ve been able to come up with is that most of the people on my friends list come from either a Smash Brothers or a Starcraft background, and as such are used to minimal random components in the games they play, whereas I come from a pretty diverse gaming background that, among other things, includes competitively playing a fair number of card games.
It might not be completely apparent what the connection between tolerance for solo queue and playing cards is, so let’s talk about that a bit. In card games (and other games that rely on random mechanics, such as any game that uses dice) there is the inherent possibility to outplay your opponent and still lose simply due to bad luck. Similarly, when you queue up to play LoL alone, there’s the inherent possibility that you’ll simply end up with the worse team. What playing cards teaches you is to focus on that which you have control over and do the best you can with it, rather than fixating on how the things outside your control are conspiring against you. In this regard, growing up on card games conditioned me perfectly to play solo queue League of Legends. Sure, I still get mad at my bad luck, everyone does, but I’m used to an element of luck in my games, so I’m a bit thicker skinned about my misfortunes than someone who grew up on say, standard fighting games, which lack these random elements.
Extrapolating this comparison leads to my view that everyone else’s actions in Solo Queue are essentially random. The people you end up with and their subsequent decisions throughout the game are the hand you’ve been dealt and it’s your job to figure out how to best play this hand to drive your team towards victory. The great thing about this mindset is that it lets you narrow your analysis of the game and its outcome down to just your own play. Ultimately, it might paint an inaccurate picture of what exactly went wrong with the game, but in the interest of improving your own solo queue win rate, it places responsibility on you, which is what you should be doing if you really want to improve. After all, you can only control your own actions, and thus the road to self-improvement in the random game that is League of Legends solo queue is simply to analyze the game outside of the random factors and figure out exactly what you could have done better to increase your team’s chances of winning. I honestly believe that this is the main reason I’m as good as I am at solo queue in LoL. This mindset lets you strive for perfection regardless of whether you went 15/2/10 with Vayne and still lost because your Wukong fed an Irelia top lane. The trick is simply to think about what you could’ve done differently. Could you have talked to your team and convinced mid and top to switch? Could you have gone top and let Wukong catch back up bot with your support? Could you have focused differently, say on the Irelia first, in teamfights? Don’t think about what Wukong did wrong, that was the luck of the draw, you simply need to deal with it and figure out how you could’ve played the hand you were dealt differently such that the loss could have been a win. If you honestly answer, “nothing, I played perfectly, it was all Wukong’s fault,” then just queue again and win, as perfect play is going to lead to a win almost always. But chances are you’re not being honest with yourself if you think there’s nothing you could have done better to lead to a win. Then just focus on whatever you find wrong with your play and strive for personal perfection with the understanding that even if you get there, sometimes you’ll lose to luck of the draw.
There was a great anecdote that I remember reading in Jon Finkel’s Ask Me Anything reddit thread, that I’ll just try to paraphrase here. A great card player will be faced with the same scenario 9 times in a row. Each of these 9 times, he’ll make the right play. Every single 1 of these 9 times, he’ll get unlucky and lose. When faced with the same situation a 10th time, without second guessing, he’ll make the right play again. That same play that lost him the last 9 times. And if it causes him to lose for a 10th time, he won’t lose any sleep over it because he’ll still know that the right play is the right play, regardless of the ultimate outcome. This is the sort of mental fortitude that everyone needs to take into solo queue games of LoL. Strive to do the best you can with what you can control and don’t fret over the things that you can’t. If you can manage to do this, I firmly believe that you’ll be able to find the holes in your own play and improve as an individual player via playing solo queue games. Even though there’s tons of randomness in Poker and MtG, you still see the same guys at the championship tables and on the pro tours time after time for a reason. Likewise, the same players excel over time on the LoL solo queue ladder. This isn’t the product of consistent luck, as “consistent luck” is an oxymoron. Keep that in mind, ignore the things outside of your control, and focus on yourself and your play and you will find yourself improving or at least identifying your weaknesses in no time.