Dota 2 Ranked demands digits to squish smurfs

Here’s a joke you can borrow for when you’re necking jars and dropping bantbombs with the lads tonight:

Q: What do Gargamel and Dota 2 Ranked matchmaking have in common?
A: They both hate smurfs.

Steel yourself for some jolly vigorous high-fives from the lads there.

To crack down on Doters playing across multiple accounts, Valve will soon start requiring players register a phone number to play Ranked Dota 2 [official site]. Smurfs muck up the fun, you see, dropping into lower-level games with their higher-tier skillz. Ooo those smurfs make me sick! I must catch them!

Smurfing, I’ll explain for those of you who aren’t l33t d00dz, is playing under a different identity. In some games, it’s simply changing your name so no one recognises you. In games with accounts and ranked play, like Dota, it’s registering a new account to get away from the old identity and matchmaking rating. Even top-tier players will be treated like newbies by the matchmaking system at first, getting matches where they outclass everyone. Playing against smurfs sucks. Smurfing is easy in Dota as both Steam and the game are free, so tying matchmaking identifiers to a real-world marker is one of the few ways to rein it in.

Valve said in last night’s announcement:

“Players using multiple accounts create a negative matchmaking experience at all skill brackets, so our goal is to add just enough friction to this process that the number of players doing this will be noticeably reduced. Having more players using their primary accounts will have a positive effect on both Ranked and Unranked Matchmaking.”

From May 4th, Steam accounts which haven’t registered a unique phone number won’t be able to play in Ranked. And yes, Valve say those online phone number services will be blocked. Eat it, smurfs. Then I’ll eat you. I’ll be glad to see them go.

For players who don’t smurf, hey, registering your phone with Steam for two-factor authentication is sensible anyway.

Dota 2 does have Unranked matchmaking too, mind. It still tracks ratings but hides them, which means players can’t follow their performance and don’t get to feel like kewl doods.

This does suck for people who don’t have phones. People who can’t afford a phone get left out by this. Whether they’re younguns or simply, y’know, adults who can’t afford their own phone, they’re cut out.

In other matchmaking news, Valve yesterday returned the Ranked Solo queue, which makes matches where all ten players are not in parties. Regular Ranked play can put together combinations of solos and squads, and the team with more pally players often has an advantage from their better communication. Valve have also adjusted party matchmaking so if a player’s Solo rank is higher than their Party rank, they’ll be treated as a little higher for matchmaking purposes. Valve say:

“While the current Party MMR number generally reflects the likelihood that you’ll win a given match correctly, we’ve found that when a Solo MMR is dramatically higher than a Party MMR, the match becomes extremely volatile, resulting in an unpleasant and uncompetitive experience for both teams.”

Valve are also expanding punishments. Players dunked into the low-priority queue for bad behaviour will now get short bans from Ranked play on top of the usual punishment, starting at a few hours and going up to four days if they get end up in low-pri a lot.

They’re cracking down on anti-social behaviour too, saying they’ve improved detection of intentional feeding [that’s ruining games by letting the enemy just kill you -l33t ed.] and that they will make the punishment for feeding stricter.

Annnd Valve have permanently banned “a large number” of players for using bots.

In further mixed news, Valve say they’re turning off Ranked matchmaking mode on servers in South Africa, India, and Dubai. The regions have few enough players that trying to support both Ranked and Unranked play splits the player base too much. Sucks to lose the option, rules to have a bigger pool of players? Valve say folks in those countries can still play Ranked on servers in nearby countries if they really want, though obviously their connection likely won’t be as good.

If you want to know players who aren’t scrubs like me think of the changes, that nice boy Purge has shared his thoughts:


  1. Hoot says:

    Yes. Just…yes. There was very little that could have convinced me to re-install Dota 2, but this…this is one of those things.

  2. Neutrino says:

    This move is more than a bit damn cheeky. Although this is ostensibly a free game, I have bought the Winter Battle Pack or whatever they call it, so I have actually paid to play. So this change means that I actually have to buy another phone is order to play a game I’ve already paid for!!!!111.

    Naturally I do already have a phone, however I’m not quite enough of an idiot as to give my real personal phone number to an American corporation which is then going to pass that information on to anyone who wants it.

    My free Tesco mobile sim is in the post. If that doesn’t work this may turn out to be the incentive I need to play something else.

    • RoarMad says:

      Well you are in luck if you bought the winter battlepass! it expires May 1st and the phone authentification has a grace period that lasts until the 4th. You’re still getting what you payed for.

      I think this is an ok change, never felt much about smurfs in my terrible mmr range, but i’m sure it was a bother for others so why not.

      oh and the battlepass is a paid add-on, it has nothing to do with ranked matchmaking which is part of the free-to-play content.

  3. Synesthesia says:

    I don’t use a cell phone, so i guess i won’t be able to play this anymore. Fuck.

  4. weltensturm says:

    “y’know, adults who can’t afford their own phone, they’re cut out”

    Yay, no more ranked teammates that use potato computers and tin can telephones as internet.

  5. allison says:

    This will have zero effect in SEA region, as it’s trivially easy to get a new mobile phone number – sim cards can be bought for the equivalent of twenty-five cents on any street corner.

  6. Fropp says:

    I may go back to playing Overwatch if Blizzard introduced something like this. It’s just no fun having half my games ruined by trolls and smurfs.

    • Person of Interest says:

      As far as smurfs go, Blizzard claims that their “internal” (hidden from public view) matchmaking ranking (MMR) for each player will be approximately correct within 10-20 games. I think they’re correct; I’m level 500 and unranked, and usually quickplay with plat/diamond opponents. But I see plenty of unranked level 15 smurfs too, which means their MMR has already pulled them out of the newbie pool.

      Trolls come in many forms: bad character picks, playing for sick shots rather than the objective, being toxic in chat. The toxicity isn’t so bad now that I’ve blocked at least 100 people, which is a large fraction of the trolls in my play pool. Rude comments ruin my fun, but nowadays I mostly see people jeering at an invisible-to-me toxic comment, which is amusing.

      I highly recommend disabling voice comms, and promptly blocking anyone who makes an unkind chat comment.

      • Fropp says:

        Thank for your reply.

        Yeah smurfs aren’t a real problem, like you say they might influence 10-15 matches before settling into their correct ranking.

        Trolls need to be targeted and punished more effectively. They ruin literally half my games. The problem is gameplay that throws matches, nothing to do with chat or voice that can be muted on a person by person basis. Disabling voice comms is part of the problem because then the team can’t coordinate at all.

        Trolls don’t care whether they win or lose cos for some of their games they will be carried to a win and if they lose having fun at the expense of others why do they care?

        Overwatch is fun when teams are fair and the games are close, just like every 4v4 or similar game i’ve played. But when you start a 20-30 minute game and know it’s gonna be hard work or an obvious loss cos of a troll it’s takes all the fun out of it.

  7. Bobtree says:

    My phone is a land line :(

  8. O_RLY says:

    First of all nice article, but obvioulsy very “valve i love everything you do” between the lines (sorry )
    I think, people who can’t deal with smurfs, trolls etc. are playing the wrong game anyways. We all love dota for the epic and fun game it is and of course for the cancerous community, the feeders, ignorant retards and leavers. It would not be dota without it and a part of the competition of surviving the pubs would just vanish, like porbably 50% of the playerbase if the punishments will someday be too draconic.
    Remember: it is a teamgame, so if your team sucks, because they are randoms and retarded, then “git gud” at winning games solo with invoker, meepo and stuff or just get your own mates who are obviously less retarded (I hope)…
    But whatever this changes are 50/50 and probably really good for only solo players. Surely the weebs and cucks and lulers will like all this and some players will say its ok or meh or watever.
    But the devil hides in the details, this phone number thing should always stay an option, not a requirement.
    If one creates a new account it is limited like whatnot by default, why not limit it more and force people to add a phone number to it, maybe it’s fun ).-(

    changes 2020: If you land in low priority too often, some valve will call you ON YOUR FUCKING PHONE NUMBER THEY NOW HAVE AND CAN USE LIKE THEY WANT, YOU WILL NOT FIND OUT and force you to apologize live on twitch, cause if you don’t your account and all the wizard clothes you have gathered over all the time you played a game which “improved” are banned FOREVER; or they sell it to the CIA or some ads company or google analytics, just some worst case scenarios, you actually can not deny.
    Not the best english, but hey who is perfect.

  9. Rack says:

    For players who don’t smurf, hey, registering your phone with Steam for two-factor authentication is sensible anyway.

    I think you accidentally typed sensible when you meant “absolutely insane”

    My Steam account is pretty secure. My phone? Easily lost, stolen, broken or a thousand other ways I could lose access. It’s getting to the point I’ll have to boycott Steam for how much they’re desperate to get my phone attached (presumably so they can sell the number to scammers).

    • Koozer says:

      No need to be so paranoid, I’ve been using phone authentification for months, if not years, with Steam, Blizzard and other services and never get any scammers/cold callers.

      • Rack says:

        It’s not exactly paranoia, just recognising ulterior motives when they’re plain as day. The stated reason for wanting a phone makes zero sense and Valve are REALLY insistent on it. A good rule of thumb is the harder the sell, the worse the deal so there has to be something untoward going on.

        • frenchy2k1 says:

          The truth is simpler: having a 2nd authentication factor saves Valve TONS in support costs. Although you may not have experienced it, lots of players have problems with login.
          It can be from giving away their password, losing it, getting scammed or other reasons, but having a cell phone on file makes recovery easy and painless, avoiding Valve spending in call centers to help people recover their account.
          I haven’t read their TOS lately, but last I did, they promised not to share your number.

          • Rack says:

            Okay but what about when people lose their phone? I mean two factor authentication is going to dramatically increase the number of people losing access to their account. Is it just easier for them to say “you lost your phone, not our problem?”

            And then there’s this. A phone number has really nothing to do with smurfing. What’s their reasoning here?

          • syndrome says:

            Oh geez, you definitely miss the point.

            Having a two-point factor authentication is about having two factors instead of one! It’s not one against the other, it’s an overlap of two completely different techniques of verifying your online identity (tying it down to your physical persona), so that an eventual intruder would have to obtain access to both(!) to impersonate you.

            So that’s all about it. Similarly to how they can use your email, with the reasoning that you would cling to it, and not share it with everyone, now they overlap this mechanism with your phone number, which is the exact same thing: you would cling to it, and not share it with everyone.

            The chance that you’d lose both of these accounts at the same time is extremely small. Note that you can still lose your phone just fine, as you’d still have your primary means of claiming your identity: YOUR EMAIL!

            Two-factor authentication is extremely useful for people whose emails are hacked, or their credentials are stolen. Think about it. This means they can lose their email, but without the actual phone number (which is hard-to-get by a random hacker), they can’t impersonate you nor steal your Valve account.

            Now, bear with me, those who play as smurfs need to deliberately mislead the system into believing that their online identity is completely new to the game. They do this by creating a new email account, which is very easy to do, and much more convenient than obtaining a whole new phone number, which has to be obtained physically.

            It doesn’t solve the issue altogether, as you can still do it, and make an alter-ego account, however this process slows smurfing statistically significantly, because of the inconvenience of having to jump through so many hoops.

            There is actually a word for this type of solution, and it’s known simply as… *drum roll* … BUREAUCRACY!


            Valve has obviously become such a major-league social platform, it has turned bureaucratic.

            So that’s the reasoning. I hope this clears it for ya.

  10. KDR_11k says:

    Spring RTS servers had a smurf detection feature called “Gargamel mode”.

  11. flame_arrow9 says:

    5€ for a new sim and number……
    The one who wants to smurf, he will do it…

    • SnowWookie says:

      “our goal is to add just enough friction to this process that the number of players doing this will be noticeably reduced”

      It’s not going to stop someone who is determined to smurf, but it does mean you have to work at it. If it’s free, you can create infinite smurf accounts, but if you need to go buy a sim card and swap it out every time…. basically it will be more hassle than it’s worth.

  12. Ibrahimkhn123 says:

    well first of all i get low-priority ALOT! because i live in Pakistan so we have load shedding (aka the electricity goes out)
    and this happens alot and i cant boot up my computer fast enough and teams dont pause for you, so i get abandons all the time and i can only play like 4 all-pick matches before i get a abandon and bam i have 5 LP’s again. i actually have 4 LP’s right now, so please dota, not everyones computer has a 1060,1070,1080 in it

  13. Apologised says:

    Well, that’s one way to remove Russia from Ranked.

  14. upupup says:

    Ehhhh, I was on the fence about trying out DotA 2 to begin with, but I’m not comfortable with giving them my phone number (or going through the trouble of getting an extra one) just to play it. I don’t exactly trust Valve to not sell that info to whomever is interested.