How Riot could handle 5-stacks in VALORANT’s ranked mode

VALORANT needs five-stacks at higher levels, but implementing this feature is harder than it sounds.

Image via Riot Games

VALORANT’s ranked playlist is designed to create the best possible competitive experience across all ranks. Lower ranked players can queue with a full team of five because they won’t be at a significant advantage against the other team since their skill level isn’t high. But players ranked Diamond Three and up are capped at two-person queues to prevent five-stacks from stomping smaller groups.

The two-person queue limit creates issues for higher-ranked players, like long queue times, random teammates ruining the competitive experience, and less desire to play at higher levels. Multiple pros have expressed their frustration with the current system and Riot Games has confirmed it’s working on a solution.

But the solution is likely a long way off from being implemented in-game. In the meantime, here are the current problems that high-ranked players face in VALORANT’s current system and a few ways Riot could fix them. 

The high-ranked issues

Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, one of the best VALORANT players in North America, highlighted some of the biggest issues with the restrictions on five-stacks at higher levels in April. The Sentinels player suggested adding a “pro 10 man hub” for top players who want to avoid ranked because of these issues.

Several significant problems that players encounter at higher ranks involve teammates. Some teammates don’t communicate effectively, which is a considerable issue in VALORANT since working together is essential for success. Random teammates also may not understand how to capitalize on kills or support teammates.

“Ranked is extremely frustrating at times especially when you open the round with two huge frags just to witness your team spoon feed the enemy team a round which makes you kind of want to pull out your hair at times,” TenZ said.

Some players will intentionally ruin the game for pros, creating a toxic and frustrating environment. Streamers are almost required to play ranked with a delay to try to avoid stream snipers, which takes away from the live experience for viewers. TenZ also claims that his win rate while he isn’t streaming is 20 percent higher than when he is in front of an audience.

Trying to form an effective strategy with random teammates is almost impossible since each player plays for themself instead of the team, which doesn’t create a high-level competitive environment. Some players also boost to higher levels and can’t compete when faced with talented opponents, making high-ranked levels constantly uneven.

Queue times at higher ranks can be long and tedious, especially when solo queuing. This does help create competitive and fair matches, but it’s also a significant deterrent for high-ranked players.

TenZ isn’t the only pro who’s expressed his frustrations with the ranked system, either. TSM James “hazed” Cobb echoed TenZ’s concerns and claims that teammates who refuse to communicate drive him “insane.”

Shroud expressed his desire for a way for players to five-stack in VALORANT and said incentives to play ranked or a five-stack playlist would discourage smurfing. Many high-level players have created smurf accounts to play together and avoid the issues at higher ranks.

Shroud and NRG’s Sean Gares discussed five-stacks while watching the VALORANT Champions Tour Masters Two Reykjavik tournament. The group agreed that teams should be able to pick their queue size in a flex queue, which would be separate from a solo queue playlist. They also agreed that players shouldn’t be concerned with facing full or partial teams. VALORANT was designed to be played as a team and five-vs-five matches create a better competitive experience.

The good news is Riot is working on a solution for this problem, although it hasn’t revealed exactly how it will address it. But knowing there’s a fix on the way should provide hope to the community.

Riot’s response

A Riot developer responded to TenZ and Shroud earlier this month, letting them know that a solution is in the works but didn’t reveal precisely how they would address the problem. They also didn’t provide an ETA on when it will be added to VALORANT, but significant changes like this take time.

The developer did reveal two important things, however: Riot is working on a way for five stacks to queue together and it’s discussing short-term solutions. It’s unclear what these short-term solutions will be, but they could ease the five-queue predicament until a system change is introduced.

The most recent “Ask VALORANTblog post also provided fans with a significant update about five-stacks and how they’ll be implemented. The developers made it clear that they’re not fans of splitting the ranked queue since it might make one queue “the real ranked queue” while the other becomes “less prestigious.”

In addition, Riot is focused on match fairness and whatever fix it introduces must maintain competitive integrity. While this is good news for fans, it will still be a while before any changes are implemented since more information won’t be released until the start of Episode Three, which is expected to begin at the end of June.

The solution

There are a few different ways VALORANT can address the five-stack problem without negatively impacting the ranked queue for other players. A new exclusive five-stack ranked queue for higher levels could be created, which would only allow full teams to compete against one another. This would prevent smaller groups or solo players from being significantly outmatched or at a disadvantage. 

This method creates a few challenges that could do more harm than good, though. Riot already confirmed it isn’t a fan of this method since it would split the player base and introduce new issues. Trolls could also still negatively impact the game. Disruptive players could form a full team for the sole purpose of ruining the experience for others.

Riot could also create a pro hub for pros, like TenZ suggested, that’s accessible to pros and high-ranked players. This still pulls players from the ranked queue and creates a new exclusive playlist, which might ruffle the feathers of casual high-ranked players. 

Another option would be allowing five-stacks to queue in the regular ranked playlist at higher levels but only place them against other full teams or partially complete teams. But this introduces the same issue Riot has tried to avoid, which is uneven teams at high levels that could ruin the competitive integrity of the game. 

The bottom line is that five-stacks at higher levels are crucial for VALORANT. Streamers and pros trying to find a match run the risk of disruptive players ruining their experience or having lackluster teammates who aren’t much help. 

Five-stacks also provide an inside look at how the best players work together as a team, which is an invaluable tool for new or inexperienced players. This same experience isn’t possible in the current ranked system since players don’t always have cooperative or friendly teammates. Fans could also see incredible games featuring the best players in the world while they compete against one another to climb to Radiant. 

Addressing the five-stack issue is a significant task and Riot will try to select the option that’s best for VALORANT. The solution won’t appear soon, but players can rest easier knowing that help is on the way.

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