The myth of the “potato” in ranked

In the World of Warship posts and reddit you see something so common and obvious that you don’t feel the need to check if it’s true. It’s the “myth of the potato”. “Potato” is an insult in the community against bad players. The common opinion is that games are lost because potatoes lose them by being horrible. In random battles some players can pull 80%+ winrate, despite surely having potatoes, because they are present on both sides.

Ranked on the other hand is different. You don’t just randomly get into a highly ranked game by queuing up, you must already have a bit lower rank. Getting rank in World of Warships is straightforward: win and get a “star” or lose and lose one. Get enough stars and you get a rank, all the way down from 23 to 1. There is also an extra mechanic, the highest XP player on the loser team saves his star.

Now, assuming the matchmaker is not purposefully rigged with the goal of advancing some players (and there is little reason to do so), the system works and players earn better ranks by being better.

Which leads us to an interesting point: if everyone in your rank bracket earned their place, then they are just as good as you. They are not “potatoes”, they are not “throwers”, they are not “suiciders”, they are not “star-saving cowards”, they are players with equal skill to you.

I only see this, because of playing Overwatch, constantly gaining rating and having positive winrate and then being banned because enough teammates reported me as thrower. Why do people assume the opposite? Because in a randomly assembled team without team boss, there is no agreed strategy. There is often no communication because of language barrier and even if there is, different strategies are dismissed as “potatoes being wrong”.

The truth is that the “suicider” believes in an aggressive strategy. He got to the rank he is at because his strategy works if force is concentrated at one front. If the red team sends a DD and a supporting cruiser to C, while our team sends every ship into A with full speed, then they will kill the enemies before those 2 can come back. The “coward” believes in defense. He got here because of “crossing the T”: the attackers must move forward to attack, meaning they cannot bring their rear batteries to target and they are much more vulnerable to torpedoes. Because of that, an attack without numerical advantage will fail.

Both of them are here and not in a lower rank because they are better than their peers. They aim better, angle better, move better. However this counts for nothing if they find themselves in a team where the majority disagree with their strategy. You can be the world best Khabarovsk player (in terms of trading damage with a peer) if you charge into a cap all alone because everyone else goes defense. Similarly if you head to the back to snipe and everyone else pushes C, you might as well be AFK.

My point is that dismissing the players with equal rank as “suiciders” and “cowards” or simply “potatoes”, you should realize that their play is not worse than yours, just belong to a different strategy. This way instead of cursing and losing, you can realize if you find yourself in a team where a different strategy is dominant and adapt. Yes, you can push a circle in an IJN destroyer if all the cruisers are coming. Yes, you can go flank at the edge with a Russian one. Not optimal, but definitely better than just ignoring the rest of the players (not “team”, as there is no communication) as “potatoes” and do your thing.

Author: Gevlon

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11 thoughts on “The myth of the “potato” in ranked”

  1. This is not correct.
    Given unlimited time everybody would rank out eventually, meaning that skill is not a requirement for R1. The field self-selects towards worse players towards the end of the season.
    In every game, there are 2 kinds of players. First is the grinders who’ve played lots (hundreds) of matches and are struggling for every star. They are at their current level of competence and will stay there until the players better than themselves rank out (or advance to the next bracket). Second is the people with limited time who can’t rank out quickly no matter how good they are. After all, you can’t earn more than 3 stars a day if you can only play 3 matches a day.
    As the season progresses this gap widens terribly. You can tell it by the clan ratings in post-match team score screen. Right now most players will be from lower leagues or without a clan, at the start of the season everybody is from at least a Typhoon clan.
    People are obviously wrong when stressing about their teams. Those same idiots will be on the opposing team the very next game so it all evens out.


  2. @Stawek: but if everyone is from a Typhoon clan, then everyone in your team is about as good as you. The only exception could be a returning top player who didn’t play early season and catches up in late season. But that’s rare.


  3. @Gevlon: I think you’re missing the point here. Taking you as an example. You started playing ranked late in the season, when most players with any kind of skill are gone to higher leagues. What you are left are the ones that simply can’t rank up even against fresh players and other nincompoops. Put any player that has 2 hands and half a brain in that situation and he will shine. Simply check your stats on WoWS numbers. Are you really 230% better in ranked then in random? Or is the field easier? Ockham’s rasor suggest the latter. I think that colours your opinion on ranked highly.


  4. @Anon: considering that randoms often don’t have any ranks, I’d go with the option of being 230% better. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I’m top 0.1%, it means that the top 20% is probably twice as good as the bottom 80.


  5. I didn’t mean 230% better then everybody else. I ment 230% better then yourself in random matches. WoWs stats has your PR (flawed as it may be) at approximatly that diffrence between random and ranked. It would meen that, if other factors remain unchanged (i.e. the avarage skill of other players), then you play almost 2,5 times better in ranked then in random. That’s simply impossible to justify. There has to be some other factor. That other factor is that the playing field in ranked is easier. That is the simplest explanation and Ockham’s Razor rules 🙂

    BTW: this is Artahm, but for some reason, I can’t put in my nick.


  6. This sounds like a fine theory and all, but due to the nature of the entire winning team being rewarded equally and the top loser being decided by selfish and often counter-to-winning gameplay, it is very easy and common for bad players to advance through ranks by no merit of their own. Especially with R10 being irrevocable this season its become easier than ever to fail your way into the R10-R6 bracket. R5-R2 requires a bit more luck but to suggest potatoes dont reach that rank is hilarious.

    For example, validating both “suiciders” and “cowards” by saying their strategies consistently worked is blatantly false. At high levels of play these two extremes are obviously sub-optimal, but even in Ranked these people can be fooled into believing it works because they think its gotten them stars. The reality is generally that their team earned them their stars in spite of their poor strategy and performance. As the season goes on the amount of potatoes that fail their way into the higher brackets will increase, as the player pool gets smaller by removing the “better” players from it over time as they rank out. The nature of the star system allows anyone to rank out if they play enough matches. Potatoes fall under “anyone.”

    So yes, there are potatoes in Ranked. There are lots of them. There always has been, always will be. Even though I ranked out fairly quickly I still encountered plenty in the R5-R2 bracket before I did. Validating terrible gameplay because you mistakenly believe it worked displays an ignorance to the fundamentals of any team-based game where only victory matters and personal performance is disregarded.


  7. @j8cob: fundamentally wrong. The game is what it is, regardless if you like it or not. Star saving is in it. Ergo, being good at saving stars is “skill”. A player who has 45% wins, 35% star losses and 20% star saves advances better – therefore “is better” – than the player who has 52% winrate, 48% loss rate.


  8. @j8cob
    Wrong. Bad players do not advance because their team carries them but because at some point the playing field becomes just as bad as they are and they can get their 51% win rate to rank out.
    That was my entire point: if everyone is from Typhoon we are all roughly equal. That situation only applies at the beginning of the season, though. Later on the playing field stratifies because some good players lag behind in ranks due to having played fewer games.


  9. High rating means a player can play at that playerskill level but it does not guarantee that he will. Consistent players are rare. I.E. Tilted last round and now he’s playing with you. What remains true is that flaming statistically worsens performance. People who can take even justified flaming as a reminder to focus are extremly rare.


  10. Hahaha, it seems so obvious that Gevlon is right here. Those who try to counter his argument say that there are a lot of “bad” players, which is basically exactly what Gevlon said. That ” stoopid” guys is not worse than you, he is equally incompetent, it is just a matter of perception! Even though Stawek an j8cob advanced due to their ” super human skillz”, they still encounter the same “stoopid” guys in the higher leagues…. Now, Stawek, how comes that the “stoopid” guys is already waiting for you in a higher rank? Did he begin the season early? Oh no, that is impossible, which means he is really as good as you and you only deem him “stoopid”, but for a “stoopid” player he was able to stay with you a long time… But Gevlon is wrong, you say… Hm… really….?


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