## Climbing Pro Ladder: Grind vs Skill?

A recurring complaint from Gwent streamers residing in the higher ranks is that on Pro ladder climbing efficiently isn’t rewarded enough. Therefore by playing a lot one would still do well on Pro Ladder, without necessarily having a particularly high win-rate… Let’s use some of the data available to check if this is true. First, we’ll break down the amount of MMR you can expect to gain after playing 100 matches for a few different win-rates.

*Table 1: Estimated MMR gain after playing 100 matches in function of the win rate.* The highest estimated win-rate observed is just under 80% by iluxa228 who climbed to 10017 MMR in a mere 101 games during Master 2 – Season of the Dryad.*

Now you can see that as long you have a win-rate above 50% you are likely to make some progress, albeit not necessarily much. Each 10% increase in win-rate yields you about 140 MMR bonus after playing 100 matches. This increases linearly … seems fair? Maybe, maybe not, let’s have a look at the actual data!

From the Master’s section, the number of matches played by each Pro Player in the top 2860 can be obtained. By grouping those into bins of 200 players (position 2800 to 2601, 2600 to 2401, … 200 to 1) we get the average number of games played by players in that group. Figure 1 shows those numbers split up for different seasons. Below position 1200 the average number of matches a player plays is roughly the same indicating up to this point the main factor that sets players apart is how efficient they climb. Once you go to higher ranks the average number of games starts going up. Do note that as only the fMMR of the four best factions is considered for the total MMR, players that play with five or six factions loose efficiency as those matches are included in the counts. So players that enjoy testing multiple decks across all factions are punished in these statistics.*Figure 1: The average number of matches played by players that ended in position 2800-2601, 2600-2401, … per season. The clear trend is that the higher up on ladder the more games are played on average.*

For each of the categories there is a lot of variance in the number of games played. We can look at the most recent season (Season of the Cat, Figure 2) in detail. While overall as positions get better, the number of games played by those players increases, the variance within each group is large. Some players play 2x-3x more games than others while landing very close to each other on the ladder.*Figure 2: Distribution of the number of matches played in different bins of players during the Season of the Cat. While higher ranked players tend to play more, the variance within each group is very large.*

If we look at the distributions (Figure 3) of the number of matches played by players in the top 200, the spread is very large. There are players getting into the top 200 with 150 matches, and there are some which play well over 1000 games a season.*Figure 3: Distribution of games played by players in the top 200. While most players play 300 to 500 games, there are also exceptions that manage to get there in 200 or fewer games.*

So while you do need to play more to get a coveted top 500 or even top 200 spot than someone that is happy to hang out at lower ranks, a skilled player can get there playing relatively few games. Each season there are players at the top of the ladder that prove that. Though there are many ways to the top in Gwent and even with a lower win-rate it is an obtainable goal given you are able to play considerably more games.

Should efficiently climbing the ladder be rewarded more as some Pro Players suggested? If more MMR is subtracted for losing than gained by winning you would need a win-rate that is above 50% to climb. This would be very efficient in determining the very best players to invite to a high stakes events like Masters 2 or the Gwent Opens. However, by doing so, you would discourage people at higher ranks to experiment with new decks and strategies as this would push them back down fast. A losing streak would be far more detrimental and cause players to abandon that faction for the remainder of the season. Which could result in a less diverse meta, another complaint that pops up frequently from players.

Furthermore, Pro Ladder, despite the name, isn’t just for Pro players, completionists that want to complete as many contracts as possible need to have a realistic option to get to top 200 to get those contracts ticked of their lists.

So in conclusion, the data shows that both efficiently climbing and grinding are both viable options to get high up on ladder. Whether through skill or stamina whoever makes it up there has earned their spot and changing the system to favor one over the other might have some negative consequences.

All data in this post is available here and code to generate plots can be found here.