What is League of Legends Smurf Queue

If you’ve ever taken a big break from League of Legends ranked or just started playing it recently, you might have encountered a balancing issue when it comes to matchmaking. In certain situations when you’re on a big winstreak, you will get matched against players who are much higher in rank or are on a similar winstreak to yours. This occurrence is formally known as smurf queue and you’ve probably been in smurf queues in the past without even knowing.

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What is League of Legends smurf queue?

In League of Legends, smurf queue is a matchmaking process that tries to match players against each other with similar MMR (matchmaking rating) and skill, regardless of their current rank, which can cause an extreme rank/level disparity in a single game. It got the name “smurf queue” because seasoned veterans that create new smurf accounts get placed in these queues as the game detects that they’re not a new player after some time.

In order to determine whether someone should be placed in the smurf queue, these are the factors that are taken into consideration:

  • the current win rate (your overall win percentage, the higher it is, the tougher the opposition)
  • recent performances (if you’re playing poorly as of late you’ll be paired with less-skilled players)
  • K/D (if you’re going 30-0 every game on a new smurf account, the matchmaking system will recognize that you’re not a newbie)
  • APM (Riot will recognize your increased actions per minute and know that you’re not a beginner)

That being said, smurf queue is surprisingly present in both ranked and normal games given that both of those game modes have separate matchmaking ratings.

How to know if you’re in the smurf queue

The most accurate way you can know if you’re in smurf queue yourself is to OP.GG yourself before every game and check the ranks of the players you’re playing with/against. If you’re the lowest-ranked player in the game you’re playing in, you can give yourself a pat on the back since you’re officially in smurf queue. Furthermore, another good way of finding out if you’re in smurf queue is by keeping track of your LP gains after every game. If you’re gaining abnormal amounts of LP (20 or above), that’s a good sign that you’re in smurf queue and that the game is trying to naturally promote you to a higher rank which you deserve by giving you more LP. 

How to get out of the smurf queue

For some players, being in smurf queue gives them the opportunity to gain more LP and climb faster, but for most players, being in smurf queue is generally unfun and results in poor ranked experience. Sadly, there is no easy way of getting out of smurf queue unless you lose a lot of games and your MMR settles down. The best alternative is to purchase a smurf account with fresh MMR where you can start your new ranked climb without being placed in smurf queue.

Smurf queue in ranked games

The most common place where smurf queue occurs and where it’s talked about is in ranked games. Provisional games are the first place where you can encounter smurf queue, as the MMR is quite fickle and volatile, massively changing after every game you play. It’s quite usual to play against ex-Diamond players as a Gold player if you get a few lucky wins before your final rank gets determined.

If your win streak doesn’t stop in provisional games and you keep stomping ranked games and getting wins, you’ll keep playing in the smurf queue until you start losing games and until your win rate doesn’t settle down. Simply put, the matchmaking system will keep matching you with higher MMR players until you reach a rank in which you belong. Practically speaking, this is the reason why in some games you may find Plat IV players with 49% w/r and Silver I players with 75%+ w/r. At that point, the game ignores the ranks that are shown to the players and matches them strictly based on the MMR.

Smurf queue in normal games

Most League of Legends players are only interested in ranked so it’s only logical that the majority of the playerbase doesn’t even know that normal games have an independent MMR system from ranked. That’s the reason why the smurf queue also exists in normal games. Coincidentally, smurf queue is the easiest to spot in normal games, especially in low-level games on fresh accounts. If you’re creating a new smurf account, playing normal games, and consistently stomping your opponents, the matchmaking system will recognize that and match you against other smurfs who are doing the same thing. Sadly, this does ruin the experience for beginners that get matched against low-level smurfs, as it’s quite common to enter level 15 games that have over 5 Diamond smurfs.

High elo smurf queue

Undoubtedly the most negative aspect of the smurf queue is the infamous high elo smurf queue, most notably impacting ranks from D1 to Challenger. 

To understand the high elo smurf queue we first have to look at massive decays that occur whenever a Challenger player stops playing for a period of time. After a week of not playing ranked, Challenger players lose 250 LP per day, which often leads them to drop to Master or even D1. However, these LP losses do not impact their MMR, which stays Challenger even though their rank may be much lower. This creates a massive matchmaking issue as the system pairs them up with Challenger MMR players despite the fact that they’re several tiers lower. The biggest downside of this high elo smurf queue is the outrageous queue time, as the system struggles to match you with anyone because of your rank/MMR disparity. Several pro players have complained about these queue times in the past, most notably Bjergsen and TF Blade.

Pros and cons of smurf queue

Last but not least, let’s take a look at the positive and negative aspects of Riot’s idea of smurf queue.

Prevents smurfs from ruining low-level normal games by matching them with accurate opponentsHigh elo smurf queue, extremely long queue times
Tries to match the players with the same skill level, regardless of their rankExtreme rank disparity in some games 
Matches smurfs against other smurfs in ranked, as soon as provisional games startOccasional inaccuracy in matchmaking, players that shouldn’t be in smurf queue sometimes are  (returning players)
Gives smurfs the opportunity to climb faster and reach the rank they belong inPlayers who are stuck in smurf queue, while not belonging in it have to play frustrating games against strong opponents