CS:GO’s ranking system explained

Here's everything you need to know about ranked.

Photo via Valve

Whether you’re swimming with the silvers or gliding with the global elites, CS:GO’s ranking system is a great way to gauge your skill in competitive matchmaking.

Counter-Strike’s ranks range from the noobs to the elite. But no matter how high or low your rank is, investing time into getting better at the game and improving will lead to a more worthwhile experience.

How do I get a rank?

If you’re new to Counter-Strike, you may need to set aside some time to earn your stripes.

The level system ranges from one to 40 and is only used as a rewarding system for receiving cosmetic skin drops and service medals. Once you’ve played enough, those medals change color for every 40 times you rank up in a given year—like prestiging in Call of Duty

To unlock competitive matchmaking, you must first reach level two by playing any of the game modes created by Valve: Casual, Arms Race, Demolition, Danger Zone, and Deathmatch. Attaining level two will grant you access to matchmaking, where CS:GO’s finest can be found.

Your rank won’t show until you’ve won 10 competitive matches. You’ll be placed in mixed games with players from various ranks, but generally, players are initiated in the lower tiers until at least halfway into their placement progress.

Since you’re playing on a new account, you’ll be restricted to two competitive wins per day until you reach your 10th. Valve added this system to combat the use smurfing by higher-ranked players. Assuming that you’re able to reach two wins per day, your rank should be given to you on the fifth day of playing in matchmaking. When you’ve won 10 competitive matches, your skill group will finally appear.

Once you’ve earned your stripes, your rank will be displayed under your username at the start-up screen and to the right of your username on match scoreboards. You can only see your teammates’ ranks if you’re in a party with them.

What are the ranks?

Image via Valve

Valve’s player hierarchy is comprised of 18 ranks, with each rank more skilled than the last. The ranks are in the following order from top to bottom.

RankAbbreviation
The Global EliteTGE
Supreme First Master ClassSMFC
Legendary Eagle MasterLEM
Legendary EagleLE
Distinguished Master GuardianDMG
Master Guardian EliteMGE
Master Guardian IIMG2
Master Guardian IMG1
Gold Nova IVGN4
Gold Nova IIIGN3
Gold Nova IIGN2
Gold Nova IGN1
Silver IVS4
Silver IIIS3
Silver IIS2
Silver IS1

What does my rank mean?

Players classify the ranks into tiers. Generally, players exhibit the same behaviors as other players in their ranks, with some exceptions. For instance, “MGs” are typically familiar with the economy system for the first four rounds, meaning minimal team communication is required.

“Silvers” are at the bottom of the food chain. It’s the rank where players are total beginners and there’s little to no strategy involved in gameplay. This range of ranks is where smurfs (higher-ranked players on alternate accounts) are commonly found. Escaping the Silver division is particularly challenging for newer players because of this.

“Novas” sit in the middle of the bell curve as they’re beginning to learn more and more about the game, such as economy, spray patterns, smokes, and pop-flashes. The upper Nova ranks act as the true checkpoint for being above-average. Players who are “all aim and no brain” are most commonly found in Nova, meaning that they can aim their gun and kill enemies but lack the game sense to improve.

Players with “Master Guardian” in their rank are generally more advanced. They already have knowledge of sprays, economic buy trends, site execution with utility, and retake coordination. Moving up anywhere past the MG ranks requires perfecting your skills, learning from your mistakes, and making incremental changes to your playstyle for improvement.

Anything above DMG (LE through GE) is where the elite of Counter-Strike reside. These guys are really, really good at finding ways to kill you. 

How do I rank up?

Improving your rank is pretty rudimentary: If you win enough games, you rank up. Losing games will derank you.

CS:GO follows a modified Glicko-2 ranking system, according to Valve. This algorithm evaluates a player’s skill pool based on their round influence and whether their team wins the round. Factors such as kills, deaths, MVPs, assists, damage given, and bomb plants all affect a hidden numerical value that determines your place within a rank. A general in-game model to follow would be to play for the round win and not for kills. The amount of kills you have doesn’t matter as much if your team is consistently losing. Those kills only play a long-term role in preventing you from deranking.

How do you efficiently rank up?

The best way to rank up in a short period of time is to play with players who share the same goal. Players who queue with other serious players are more likely to win more rounds and even the match than five players who are solo-queued. The best way to find other serious players is to befriend other passionate players in community servers or on third-party sites.

If you’re serious about your rank, try avoiding solo queue. You run the risk of encountering griefers (players who intentionally lose the match) or players who don’t care if you win. Solo queuing is associated with deranking due to the variable competitiveness of players.

The big picture

Your rank isn’t everything. It’s just an arbitrary name that defines how other players perceive you. If you focus on becoming better at Counter-Strike rather than winning, then ranking up becomes seamless.

Prime

Prime helps you avoid aimbotters and wallhackers who thrive on your misery. If you have Prime, you’ll be queued with other Prime users. 

There isn’t a sure chance you’ll never meet a cheater again, but it’ll help to drastically reduce the rate of meeting them in matchmaking. Enabling Prime requires a level 21 account, meaning you’ll have to go through the long and arduous leveling process or pay for Prime status.

Prime also gives you Prime-exclusive souvenir items, item drops, weapon cases, and access to all Community-operated servers.

If you want to use Prime, it should automatically be activated once you reach the acquired level or if you buy the upgrade. If you’ve been playing CS:GO for a while, though, there’s a chance that you’ll have to opt into Prime yourself. You can do this by pressing “Play” in the upper left of your screen, then selecting the green coin. Once you’re there, simply click to enable Prime.