Home Gaming Is South Africa’s Dota 2’s “Only Search Ranked” movement capping our skill?

Is South Africa’s Dota 2’s “Only Search Ranked” movement capping our skill?

6 min read


This morning a Facebook post caught my attention about the new “Only Search Ranked” movement which encourages South African Dota 2 players to search for Ranked games on the South African servers. The discussion was whether this new movement could lower the skill level in South Africa if people play Ranked mode. Will it? Probably, but let me try and explain why.

Warcraft Dota

Back in the day (yes I’m that old now), most South African Dota players got their start on either Rogue, Reason or Twilight Dota servers in South Africa. There was quite a large player base, but it was only South Africans who played on these servers. What this created was a bubble of skill which saw little to no growth when compared to our international counterparts.

There were those who played against international teams through third party software such as Hamachi and the likes, but it was nowhere near as accessible as it is today. Much like Dota 2 today, a few teams outshone the rest and this became the only place where these few teams could practice .

Dota did have the In-House League, a league which only allowed some of the better players to compete in, and despite the arrogance of some of the members, it was a major step in starting to improve the skill level in South Africa. Then Dota died and some of the players moved to Heroes of Newerth or League of Legends, awaiting the arrival of Dota 2.

Dota, too hard

In the early months of Dota 2, only a lucky few were given access to probably one of the most sought after Beta test phases of any game. As more invites became available, South Africans began entering a new age of Dota. Here we had access to European servers where most of us had roughly 180-220 ms ping to the European servers. This was playable, and now we were constantly exposed to a much higher skill group playing in one of the largest gaming communities in the world. Believe it or not, this improved our Dota 2 tenfold and ushered in a new meta of mixed Euro-Afro play style. For a long time, the competition between the top teams was tight, and there was a clear rise in popularity of competitive Dota 2 in South Africa.

Many of these competitive teams in South Africa played primarily on European servers, playing in Amateur leagues, tournaments, and organized scrims against European teams. Again, teams grew as we were now exposed to a competitive meta accompanied by the archives of content we could watch and read regarding Dota 2. Most of this content was available in Dota 1, but now with constant tournaments and live streams our teams had a platform to grow on.

Being forced to initially play solely on European servers was probably the best thing to ever happen to Dota in South Africa.

Then came South African servers

Eventually, Valve heard our cries and servers were deployed in South Africa. This was great as players could now search locally and match up against each other in public games. Local teams could scrim against each other at lower pings, and online competitions became a lot easier to manage as they were no longer played on European servers. This did wonders for the local competitive scene, but the higher tier of teams and players till preferred to play on European servers.

Public South African games, while still slightly better than Dota 1, were just not the same. Many players brought what they had learned from their tenure in Europe, but as more and more of the general community chose to remain on South African servers, it became clear that we would see this bubble arise once more.

Ranked EU vs. Ranked SA

Next came ranked play where players and teams could play in ranked games, being placed in an MMR skill bracket. This, of course, upped the level on play all over the world, but again South Africans chose to play and rank up on Europe as it was perhaps a better show of skill compared to South Africa.

South African ranked was nowhere near as competitive as Europe, and this made the queue times longer, which made South Africans not want to play South African ranked games.

The Only Search Ranked movement

Now that I’ve explained why Europe played a crucial role in our development, allow me to explain why this movement could be damaging – but essentially is irrelevant.

Most players in South Africa struggle to play in Europe. Our ISPs don’t really like it, and thus, we get horrible latency to Europe. This, unfortunately, does leave them searching for South African games, and some even searching Ranked. This is perhaps one of the reasons why this movement could work; forcing a larger portion of the player base to search for more competitive matches, as opposed to mindless pubs. But allow me to elaborate on my two reasons why it won’t really achieve its goals (as stated on the website).

Is it damaging? Not as detrimental as you’d think, but it will create the skill bubble we saw in Dota 1. Pledging to play only ranked with 1600 other people is great, but of these 1600+ people, how many do you think currently play at the highest level in South Africa? How many members of Bravado Gaming, White Rabbit, CarboN or Energy are interested in playing public games when they have teams to practice with and against? Sure, out of the 1600+ players who have pledged to play Ranked in SA, maybe a few hundred are competent players, but again, why are they wasting their time playing ranked when they could be making a team and competing?

Which brings me to my next point. It’s irrelevant. Tournaments are getting bigger, prizes are growing and the competitive community is becoming more saturated with talented individuals. The bad news is we cannot improve the level of Dota 2 in South Africa by pledging to play ranked. We up the skill level by competing. 1647 people pledged to play ranked. Let’s say 500 of those people aren’t currently in a team. That’s an extra 100 teams taking part in our comps. Gamer’s Fest had six teams take part for R67 500. If we’re pledging 1600+ people to play ranked online, and fielding six teams to an event with a large prize pool, what’s the point really?

I’m glad more people are taking Dota 2 seriously but channel your attention correctly instead of trying to be part of some movement.

Last Updated: April 14, 2016


  1. RustedFaith

    April 14, 2016 at 13:37

    The article is spot on, I tip my hat to you sir!


  2. Alien Emperor Trevor

    April 14, 2016 at 13:42

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s also an element of elitism to this as well. The I’m so pro players don’t want to associate with those people.


    • RustedFaith

      April 14, 2016 at 14:04

      Its usually the pro’s thats got the elitism …


    • BakedBagel

      April 14, 2016 at 14:22

      This is what happened with the In house league. But try and get people to admit elitism 😛


  3. Skittle

    April 14, 2016 at 14:16

    Ah good ‘ol Twilight. I remember getting Ganny’d a few times… what a prick


    • Tarisma

      April 14, 2016 at 14:31

      Ganny dota, what a match.


    • BakedBagel

      April 14, 2016 at 14:36

      [20] apem NO NOOBS!


      • CongoKyle

        April 14, 2016 at 15:16

        [0] 4v4 apem no chen


      • RustedFaith

        April 15, 2016 at 12:04

        lol I miss the apem games the ap games in dota 2 is so long …


  4. HairyEwok

    April 14, 2016 at 14:17

    I never search rank due to the fact that I’m kek and do not want to waste the other people’s time. Rather let them play against some more competent people.


    • GT640rox

      April 19, 2016 at 13:26

      Thats a horrible attitude. Rather go into the game and learn. Improve yourself. That’s how SA Dota grows, through each and every one of us growing individually.


      • queer boy

        July 16, 2016 at 01:44

        That’s not a horrible attitude. Ranked is pointless unless you play 5 hours every single day. Even then ranked is pointless. A high mmr is absolutely meaningless. Maybe if you had to walk around in public with a sign around your neck with your mmr on it, ranked would be somewhat relevant.


  5. UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

    April 14, 2016 at 14:44

    I have tried searching ranked about 3 times probably. Each time I sat in the queue for over an hour and one I them I forgot I was even in the queue and it got to over two hours. Yup… Never trying that again.


    • Nikola Jakov

      April 21, 2016 at 13:13

      dont queue for 2 hours queue for 5 minutes or even 10, if you dont get a game move on. Since the movement started i havent waited more than 5 minutes for a game.


  6. Tarisma

    April 14, 2016 at 14:49

    I blame you Kevin.


    • CongoKyle

      April 14, 2016 at 15:17

      Haha, Kevin is great, and the site is great idea, which is why I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. But imagine those were 1600 players pledging to compete in tournaments?


      • Scruff304

        April 14, 2016 at 15:49

        Ignore him… He is ginger, so he lashes out with comments like that because the whole lack of friends issue. I know this because I know him personally… Ps: I’m Kevin xD


    • Scruff304

      April 14, 2016 at 15:48

      Please go get a hair cut… And a tan…


  7. PestControl

    April 14, 2016 at 15:06

    I don’t agree with you. I think we’ve got a lot of very skilled players who simply aren’t playing in any of the ‘big’ teams; often due to solo queue-ing or alternatively because they prefer to queue with their (lesser-skilled / less serious) friends. Ranked matches will help in gaining some exposure (especially for someone that solo queue’s). People also tend to mess around less in ranked games, which is always a bonus, and lastly it’s a great way to “meet” other skilled players.


    • CongoKyle

      April 14, 2016 at 15:15

      Fair enough. But where do these skilled players go? Nobody from “big teams” are going to be lurking in ranked MM scouting out talent. These skilled players will make their way into big teams by making an impact in amateur tournaments. Sure, play with your mates… but make a team and challenge others as well.


      • PestControl

        April 14, 2016 at 15:29

        Yeah I think that’s the idea. Get to know ‘new’ players and form a new team or simply replace people on your current roster. Shouldn’t be too hard to quickly make your way up to at least DGL’s 1st division, and from there work your way up to prem etc. I personally know a couple of people who definitely are premier material, however they either cba to make a team and work their way up, or they did make a team and the 4th / 5th player isn’t quite on the level needed and thus the team can’t progress.

        Either way it’s like they say… You can’t become a better player by playing against someone who doesn’t challenge you, so at the very least this will aide the average joe in becoming better at dota, which in the long run definitely won’t be detrimental to SA dota.


      • Caden

        April 14, 2016 at 16:33

        Sure because right now you can’t get 4k game never mind anything higher. If everyone was playing MMR games you might get some local people in the higher brackets seeing the odd game locally. Also its less about lurking talent scouting than hey we need a mid and I remember that guy the other day seemed pretty good maybe we should take a look. Or the support i had a week ago seemed to know what he was doing.


      • GT640rox

        April 19, 2016 at 13:29

        Why should you care about big teams finding you?? Our community is so small you can easily start your own team and compete. If you’re good enough, you will make it further. I don’t see any of our so-called big teams in any international tournaments, so they clearly aren’t that great. We have so many pubstars that have just never had the opportunity to shine.

        If you want an example: Suma1L was found by Fear IN A PUB!


      • Pierre J Grobbelaar

        May 28, 2016 at 21:41

        TBH we have a lot of skilled players.I can remember MRassman playing like a baws.Couldn’t compare skill levels tho as i play support and his carry.But even our best are not in the same league as EU/US/China’s best.Maybe we can take Sea as they are pretty weak at the moment.


  8. DrKiller

    April 14, 2016 at 15:24

    I personally think ranked will eliminate the “You are noob, uninstall dota” players. I don’t play Dota anymore, not that I don’t like the game anymore, but I don’t like the players. There is constantly bashing on each other for no reason. I honestly don’t get it, but I don’t like it


    • queer boy

      July 16, 2016 at 01:45

      I’m sure ranked will be more toxic than unranked. Those -25 internet points will drive people to murder.


  9. Caden

    April 14, 2016 at 16:14

    Hmmm I am sad there is this kind of attitude that the higher level mmr’s have about the movement. In my mind if most of the players searched rank then you would more often get equal matches and have the extra motivation to try climb a little higher. Eventually some of these players should improve to the point where perhaps they could move up to the point of being able to enter the higher local tiers and then they can play EU ranked if they want to take it any further.

    Why not make a team you say? I think that there should be room for both. Either you make success by taking a team up the brackets. But alternatively someone could get a reputation in the local mmr games and maybe get invited to try out for a team.

    I am sad it is dismissed as irrelevant though I would have hoped it could try get rid of some of the trolling and improve the level of dota even if only in the lower bracket tiers and that out of that maybe there is a star or two who come into the works. Maybe no more pubs with 5 carries and no 20 min courier at 3 am but rather a semi respectable game? Not sure the reasons for only 6 teams competing for a decent prize pool by our standards but fostering a way of growing your mmr (and im assuming skill level) can only mean the top teams get a little more competition down the line.


  10. Jonathan Prinsloo

    April 14, 2016 at 17:00

    you suggesting players from Bravado, Carbon or Energy aren’t interested in playing pubs? yet the best players in the world from team secret, OG and Evil geniuses play pubs all day. Miracle the 8k man himself said pubs make you a better player. so your statement that pro players have no interest in pubs and can’t learn anything from pubs holds no water.


    • ChiDoRi

      April 14, 2016 at 18:14

      Everyone plays pubs, what are you on about, we just have no interest in playing lower skill games on South Africa rather than more even games on Europe, this article is spot on.


  11. Jay

    April 14, 2016 at 19:48

    Interesting article, however I think it is a bit overthought. I for one would believe that introducing more members to ranked play allows them to progress more and be released from a casual meta. Now they are more pressured, indirectly forced to learn more and possibly become good at the game and start taking interest in their skills.


  12. Yolanda Green

    April 15, 2016 at 08:56

    I enjoyed reading this. I am glad that it has been put out there 🙂


  13. MakeItLegal

    April 15, 2016 at 10:21

    nice article , just cant allow my pc to load up textures from 2002 like all valve games , made to look like the hey day of 90’s gaming


  14. Deceased

    April 15, 2016 at 12:59

    Only found out this morning around 04:00 AM what the hell this #OSR thing was and I was like “Meh – I like potato league – where people actually try new shit instead of just watching what some pro team does and tries to copy it” …

    Of course, the team I was playing with all moaned, and some usual toxic shit, when they saw the match is thrown – creamed by CLEARLY much higher skilled players, they abandoned – after which myself and another teammate controlled the 3 heroes of our “fallen” comrades ( didn’t sell any of their shit ) and lo and behold – dire actually started getting kills…

    After that match got queued with some of the guys that rekt us – and it quickly became apparent that the guys spamming #OSR in their aliases won’t last in ranked man. It’s rather sad – because, as you say, Oh Mighty Kyle, the idea is to improve your skills – not just mindlessly following some movement 😐


  15. Chrisjan Gilfillan

    April 15, 2016 at 13:11

    I agree with most that was written here. I however want to challenge this post.

    For SA to grow as a Dota 2 community there is a few things that need to change:

    1. When MMR was introduced into the Dota 2 community worldwide it gave purpose to allot of people to improve their game. Because now they could see how good they are compared to others. For SA community to grow we need to move away from unranked and this is the first step in the change.
    2. Are the elite interested in SA ranked, No. Do we have a huge gap in SA 5000 MMR and EU5000 MMR. Yes! But as soon as ranked becomes viable it will change things. Gamers and people worldwide always want a shortcut to success. If SA ranked games become a thing it will pull others to our servers to get “Free MMR” which in fact will enable SA community to grow. And in the long run it will start balancing itself out. The benefit though is we will be on the 20ms ping and not 280ms.
    3. Even though your points are valid and we might be capping our skill if we don’t have big by-in, I do want to point out the one biggest problem SA dota have. Instead of supporting a push in the right direction we always want to criticize and look at the gaps and shortcomings. I’m sure most of the people reading your post has passion for the game and I urge fellow SA gamers to start supporting tournaments, movements and almost any passion some has in trying to improve SA dota. Stop shooting ideas down and support others to make it better.


    • GT640rox

      April 19, 2016 at 13:33

      4. South Africans need to stop shooting each other down. We can grow if we just change this shitty attitude and actually start investing in ourselves.


      • queer boy

        July 16, 2016 at 01:47

        It’s mostly whites that play, and English and Afrikaans whites hate each other like the plague. Will cause some problems with forming decent teams.


  16. GT640rox

    April 19, 2016 at 13:24

    I only have one gripe with it though. We as South Africans need to stop undermining our own abilities. We forget that the Americans, Europeans and Asians also play in a bubble, albeit a much larger bubble, bu they developed their own play styles. They each had their own unique approaches to the game. Everywhere in pro Dota we hear about the Chinese Meta, EU Meta etc. We have the opportunity to develop our own style of play and the gift of the internet which makes our world so much smaller, enabling us to learn from the other servers.

    We need to stop telling ourselves and each other that we are scrubs and develop SA Dota. Learn from the foreign servers, integrate and adapt their play styles, learn to beat their tactics as we always mimic what we see in international competition and through that we will grow. TI1 brought 16 of the best teams from the 3 major regions together for the first time. Back then everyone thought China was the powerhouse of Dota until they were proven wrong by the Americans.

    1995 wa the first time we were allowed back in to International Rugby. We thought we would never be able to beat the All Blacks. But we proved that SA Rugby was better than NZ Rugby. That happened after competing in a bubble.

    I’m not saying that we are the best or even good. But the road to the first South African team in The International starts with a change of mindset. Stop calling South Africans shit. We have bloody brilliant players. Stop calling yourself shit. And stop claiming that we can never be great because “we don’t have”. It’s bullshit and it sickens me every time I hear people say it. I bloody tired of hearing people say that we will never make it because we are South African.

    We are every bit as intelligent and every bit as capable as the international community. The problem is our attitude and that needs to change.

    All I heard the whole time in the build up to #OSR was “the movement will fail because South Africans are too lazy to make it work”. Last night was a huge success and for the first time in my years in this game I actually felt a sense of real accomplishment after a win. Stop putting your own people down.



  17. Nikola Jakov

    April 21, 2016 at 13:09

    It is a brilliant opportunity to establish and found strong teams in SA DotA not to mention this article is bashing saying you’ll only create elitists. 1600 turned to 5000 in 7 days. For South Africa that’s decent. only way to get the best of SA to be as good as Europe etc is to make sure we can have at least 1 team of our best playing against them. Also i’d like to mention i’m 4.8k Team MMR and 4.5k solo playing ranked EU, its not impossible or unplayable but you’d be surprised with the level that SA dota is at.


  18. jyiskek

    May 17, 2016 at 13:43

    South africa dota is bad no one over 7k average bunch pub stomp non ranked games no room to cry just cry some more let the game die in sa and go get a degree.. i played prem for season and i was bad boys only like 2,5 k, game has bad mechanics need more heroes that throw cards. If dota is not your life there is no point in playing it


  19. Pierre J Grobbelaar

    May 28, 2016 at 21:37

    I personally didn’t move over to dota 2 as i am not a big fan of valve and in my personal opinion…They kinda messed up the last few years making the game for for new players….But the best work out are on EU server(playing my mmo’s on US server gives around 1k latency)But even in dota 1 i played on EU servers sometime but with horrible latency.Not that bad for a support player and i am thinking to go dota 2 but idk if i will enjoy it with all the hate currently :S


  20. queer boy

    July 15, 2016 at 21:20

    I don’t understand the desire to play ranked. You’ll have to dedicate every free hour of your life to climb mmr. I only play unranked.


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