Dota 2’s Underbelly: The World of Smurfs, Boosters, and Account Merchants


If you happen to’ve been queuing in matchmaking for some time, you will have most likely encountered some type of rank manipulation. For large video video games that maintain a big participant base, it’s virtually sure that some gamers will abuse its matchmaking system and Dota 2 isn’t any totally different. Its free-to-play construction and the significance it attaches to Matchmaking Rankings (MMR) has triggered many types of rank manipulation to plague their manner via the servers. Smurfing, boosting, account shopping for, and a weird phenomenon of hiring “paid actors” are all some types of rank manipulation in Dota 2. As the sport grows, the gamers abusing these strategies have seemingly racked up in quantity and whereas it’d paint a innocent image at first look, the expansion of the smurfing neighborhood has led to a jumbled ecosystem in Dota 2’s ranked matchmaking and has acutely affected the sport proper from the bottom of tiers all the best way as much as Immortal video games that includes esports professionals.

Sorts of rank manipulation in Dota 2

Whereas the main target of Dota 2’s matchmaking downside facilities round smurfing, there are additionally different sorts of rank manipulations which are equally damaging to the sport.

Smurfing is when an skilled participant creates and performs on a brand new account, normally at a decrease MMR in comparison with their unique account. This act normally causes the individual to be matched amongst a pool of gamers which are decrease expert which ends up in an uneven recreation. The time period “smurf” was first noticed manner again in 1996 when a bunch of associates determined to fake to play badly in Warcraft II and proceeded to stomp the opposite gamers. They used the aliases “Papa Smurf” and “Smurfette” therefore the time period “smurfing”. It was initially roughly outlined as “somebody who makes a brand new account then pretends they’re a beginner”.

Boosting is technically simply one other type of smurfing the place the gamers earn a living out of it. Folks pay actual cash to have their accounts boosted with a purpose to obtain a better rank. In some circumstances, the “clients” might need totally different requests resembling acquiring a profitable streak on a particular hero, getting a excessive common for his or her KDA, and plenty of extra.

Account buying and selling is strictly what it seems like. It’s when gamers purchase or promote an account from one other participant. The account that’s purchased will be both excessive or low-ranked, relying on what the aim of the customer is. Some consumers wish to get a high-ranked ID, both for bragging rights or for them to expertise a better degree of gameplay. Some consumers, alternatively, wish to get a lower-ranked ID to play with their low-ranked associates or simply for the enjoyable of smurfing.

The Uncommon Phenomenon of Paid Actors in Dota 2

Paid actor” is a time period that’s weirder and attributable to its rarity within the recreation, its definition can be slightly imprecise. Many communities outline paid actors as a gaggle of those that extort high-ranking professional gamers or streamers by becoming a member of their groups in pubs, after which stating that they’d throw the video games, until they have been paid. Different communities outline them as gamers which are employed to throw their opponent’s recreation, in order that the one that employed the actor will get a free win.

Round June 2019, a Chinese language skilled participant, Bu “YaphetS” Yanjun reportedly talked about his struggles in opposition to intentional feeders that he referred to as “paid actors”. At first, he obtained a message from a random account, asking him to pay them cash if he wished to get into the highest ten ranks on the leaderboard. After turning them down, he began getting a wave of those paid actors in his Dota 2 video games that might purposely throw his video games, leading to a critical drop in his rank.

The time period “paid actor” was popularized from the China area, and because it transits to Southeast Asia (SEA), the time period will get a barely totally different that means. Gamers had posted on Reddit concerning top-ranked gamers hiring actors to purposely lose within the enemy workforce, incomes them a free win and a lift on the leaderboard. Though this isn’t backed by full proof, posts on Reddit identified their suspicions each time a participant’s rank would rise in an uncommon method, and their stats would present a sample of profitable in opposition to the identical one who apparently feeds each recreation. Primarily based on the neighborhood’s discussions, the best way they ensure to be matched in reverse groups is by queueing on the identical time and abusing the “Keep away from Participant” characteristic that’s out there for Dota Plus customers. This technique is generally exploited in a bracket with a restricted pool of gamers because the possibilities of matching collectively together with your “paid actor” is nearly absolute, thus the abundance of actors within the leaderboards bracket.

How smurfs are ruining Dota 2 matchmaking

Whereas the existence of rank manipulations began out as uncommon occurrences, it has slowly developed over time and presently, the pool of smurfers could be bigger than ever. The numerous decline within the common variety of Dota 2 gamers has seemingly solely exasperated the issue.

Smurfing results in an unbalanced matchmaking system as medals now not depict a participant’s correct ability degree. Usually, smurfs will damage the video games of their opponents attributable to cruel stomping. This makes the sport boring and boring for real, low ranked gamers. Video games now not really feel enjoyable and gamers wrestle to climb up the ranks. With the dearth of enjoyment, there’s little doubt that gamers are discouraged to play and newbies will probably be intimidated to even begin. This may very well be one of many elements that has led to the decline of the general Dota 2 participant base over time, as will be seen on Steam Charts.

This may increasingly have additionally began impacting Dota 2 content material creators. Not too long ago, in style Dota 2 streamer, Janne “Gorgc” Stefanovski expressed his discontentment about content material creators who smurf on streams and in movies. In accordance with him, when streamers placed on a stomping present while smurfing, a few of their viewers get impressed with the stomps and later would belittle different gamers that weren’t smurfing whereas livestreaming.

An extension of smurfing is the boosting trade that has thrived in recent times and has grown to the purpose that there are a bunch of corporations created in dedication to this service. These corporations rent boosters and accumulate clients, commoditizing the enterprise and easing the method. The existence of this trade promotes an unethical strategy to obtain a better rank, the place gamers can simply rent smurfs to spice up their accounts. Different gamers would lose motivation and would query their wrestle to climb up the ranks when an unchecked pay-to-win choice exists.

Because the boosting world festers, account promoting and shopping for additionally grows and additional jumbles up the matchmaking system in Dota 2. Other than high-ranked gamers getting themselves a lower-ranked account, low-ranked gamers can even do the other. In consequence, with a easy fee course of, anybody can abruptly play in a bracket that they don’t belong in. As a rule, this ruins all tiers of brackets as account consumers don’t have the suitable abilities to have aggressive video games within the accounts they purchased.

Contained in the thoughts of a Dota 2 account booster

Account booster

A majority of gamers see the boosting trade as a possibility to achieve revenue, both as a full-time service or for informal pocket cash. With the existence of demand, tons of individuals have flocked into the boosting enterprise particularly contemplating the truth that that is fairly profitable for SEA boosters.

AFK Gaming reached out and spoke to a Dota 2 booster who supplied us some perspective on the matter. The participant acknowledged (on the situation of anonymity) that that they had began boosting once they have been simply 16 years outdated. As they have been underage, they couldn’t actually discover a supply of regular revenue and turned to the thought of boosting upon reaching a high-ranked medal in Dota 2.

I couldn’t earn a living again then as a result of I used to be younger. I noticed the chance in Dota 2, I didn’t assume an excessive amount of about it and was like ‘why not’.

At the moment, the pandemic has turn out to be a significant component as to why boosters proceed and even enhance their boosting exercise.

The Dota 2 booster talked about that discovering a job of their present financial system was virtually unattainable and lots of people even began boosting due to it. They acknowledged that boosting is a facet hustle whereas they give attention to rating up their major account. The booster doesn’t actually have a boosting schedule and solely does so once they want some pocket cash.

I principally get clients from native Fb or Whatsapp teams, a few of my associates even get them from Shopee (a well-liked on-line purchasing platform in SEA). Typically I get repeat clients as nicely.

In addition they claimed that the costs charged fluctuate from totally different boosters and whereas this explicit booster expenses a median pricing, boosting can earn them from $150 USD to $285 USD a month, relying on elements just like the variety of clients or how far they need their IDs boosted. In reference to minimal wages throughout SEA international locations, Dota 2 boosters can earn as a lot as an precise job normally gives.

For lots of people, that sum of money is promising sufficient to push them to accept boosting, particularly for these and not using a strategy to be .

Skilled Dota 2 Careers are Being Setback by Paid Actors

The boosting technique is just not the one manner these gamers earn from abusing Dota 2’s matchmaking. There’s a much more profitable and sinister manner wherein “paid actors” exploit the system.

Paid actors are extra sparse in quantity however their presence within the high bracket makes it a big concern. The highest bracket is generally composed of aggressive gamers and paid actors will be extraordinarily irritating as a excessive MMR is essential for his or her careers.

As has been acknowledged beforehand, Chinese language skilled participant, Yaphet, was a sufferer of the “paid actor” phenomenon. He wrote a prolonged grievance on his Weibo account stating how there are too many actors and that shedding to them time and time once more not solely affected his rank, but in addition broken his mentality. Paid actors can even result in lack of cash as in keeping with Yaphet, he had heard some high-profile gamers surrendering to this “entity” and finally paying them.

With paid actors additionally rising within the SEA server’s leaderboard, gamers who rent actors and get boosted via the ranks may use their false achievements to promote themselves. This may result in them getting workforce gives or profession alternatives that might have been given to different gamers who deserve it extra. With this state of affairs in thoughts, the standard of aggressive esports will even undoubtedly lower.

The neighborhood continues to be divided on the ethics of smurfing in Dota 2

Within the midst of the noise in opposition to smurfing, we even have opposing and impartial voices locally. There are discussions and arguments everywhere in the net from a number of sides, both enabling, defending, or utterly resenting the act of smurfing.

The arguments for smurfing and boosting in Dota 2

Whereas a choose few within the smurfing neighborhood present reluctance or decency in doing so, most of those gamers justify their actions with a number of arguments. One in every of these mentions professional gamers’ must take a break from high-level video games and loosen up. Others justify it as a strategy to strive new heroes and techniques with out risking their most important account’s MMR whereas some wish to queue video games with their lower-ranked associates simply to have enjoyable collectively. In the meantime, there are callous opinions that give a slash to victims, calling them weak and incapable of adjusting to “challenges”, additional stating that video video games shouldn’t be taken significantly and that victims of smurfing ought to tolerate the presence of smurfs.

One other important argument highlights the pool of expert gamers that aren’t assured revenue in Dota 2’s aggressive scene, given the Dota Professional Circuit’s (DPC) top-heavy construction. The grotesque aggressive system awards the highest tiers on a big scale and leaves the underside tiers with crumbs, which ends up in huge monetary points for the latter. Gamers which have invested time to enhance on the recreation are unable to monetize their abilities by way of the esports circuit, and when coupled with the pressures of a struggling, pandemic-hit financial system, are incentivized to show to boosting.

The arguments in opposition to smurfing and boosting in Dota 2

On the opposite facet of the fence, anti-smurfs voices are getting louder by the day. It’s plain that the expansion of the smurfing neighborhood takes the heaviest toll on the lower-ranked bracket. Whereas these victims can solely make use of the report button and hope for the smurfs to be banned, they’ve additionally been vocal on social media concerning this concern. Most of them declare that the sport turns bitter after consistently assembly smurfs and a few of them even determined to stop completely, whereas some resorted to different types of Dota 2, resembling Turbo mode or Arcade video games within the consumer itself. There are additionally gamers who stopped enjoying however nonetheless actively spectate the professional scene.

Amongst each the smurfs and anti-smurfs, there are additionally gamers which are enablers of this behaviour. These gamers both flip a blind eye to the scenario and even justify the act of smurfing.

Valve’s stance on the matter of Dota 2 rank manipulation

Valve has made it clear that it’s consistently placing in effort to eradicate smurfing and different sorts of rank manipulations in Dota 2. It additionally doesn’t settle for any type of account sharing (resembling boosting) as acknowledged in its Steam Subscriber Settlement, which reads “(gamers) might not reveal, share, or in any other case enable others to make use of your password or Account besides as in any other case particularly approved by Valve.”

As a part of a patch replace in September 2019, a Valve developer posted on Reddit, informing the neighborhood of a mechanism within the works to “speed up smurfs to their appropriate rank”. The submit additional defined, “The system searches for gamers that incessantly carry out considerably above their present ability bracket” and they’ll have an MMR enhance, quicker pushing them to their unique ability bracket and leaving lesser collateral harm to different real low-ranked gamers.

In October 2020, Valve posted on its official weblog a couple of new strategy in dealing with the smurfing concern. Smurfs are actually more likely to satisfy different smurfs even when it is a full celebration the place it solely has one smurf. The blogpost additionally acknowledged that other than a few approaches within the ‘experimental’ stage, the corporate has additionally began banning extra booster accounts.

In October 2020, Valve acknowledged its new strategy in dealing with the smurfing concern.


Valve has additionally launched the Overwatch system in Dota 2 as one other effort to abolish smurfing. An replace was posted in January 2021, revealing a brand new system that enables the neighborhood to assessment match replays and vote if a particular participant reveals unfavourable conduct or not.

Valve launched the Overwatch system as one other effort to abolish smurfing.


A couple of months following the Overwatch replace, Valve revamped the reporting system by including “Matchmaking Abuse” as a report choice. Which means that smurfing, and different rank manipulation strategies of an analogous nature, formally turned bannable offenses. As well as, gamers who’re discovered to be “promoting accounts, boosting or partaking in related recreation ruining behaviors” may have their major account subjected to a ban.

Valve is but to share any knowledge on the variety of matchmaking abusers that it has detected or banned.

Doable steps to cut back smurfing in Dota 2

The neighborhood’s enter on tackling the smurfing concern can oftentimes be foolish, but intriguing on the identical time. A few weeks in the past, Dota analyst, Robson “TeaGuvnor” Merritt posted on Twitter suggesting a type of punishment for smurfs and their related associates.

Though the suggestion of 30 solo queue calibration video games as a punishment sounds fairly absurd, the thought of punishing everybody in the identical celebration because the smurf does have some benefit. By penalizing those that are affiliated with smurfs, gamers will really feel discouraged from teaming up with their associates who’re smurfing. Valve hasn’t launched any type of penalty in direction of those that celebration with detected smurfs and adopting this strategy might additional stop smurfing.

Valve can even create a system the place gamers who persistently over or underperform could also be pressured to play a couple of calibration matches to both get a medal enhance or deboost. False positives may very well be an actual downside in a system like this, nonetheless, the efficiency and gameplay examine may probably be primarily based on a wide range of elements, together with digicam motion, hotkeys, farming sample, and extra with a purpose to detect whether or not the participant’s current video games are performed by the identical individual or not.

Beforehand, Dota 2 had two separate MMR rankings – Solo and Social gathering. In an effort to encourage gamers to play with their associates, Valve up to date the system and merged each MMR, leaving gamers with just one normal MMR. This triggered the barrier between solo and celebration gamers to fade and the ranked matchmaking pool was swarmed with events composed of smurfs. By reintroducing the separation of Solo and Social gathering MMR, the possibilities of assembly smurfs when gamers queue for a Solo recreation could also be lowered. Though on the draw back, gamers might need a disincentive to play with their associates.

Moreover, Valve can provoke campaigns and occasions that promote a wholesome gaming mindset. Gathering influential Dota 2 gamers and streamers with a purpose to advocate an anti-smurfing motion will even result in the neighborhood being extra aware of the smurfing scenario.

Circumstances of smurfing or any game-ruining conduct have lengthy lingered in Dota 2 and Valve has actually put in a ton of labor in an try and eradicate them. Regardless of all of its efforts, smurfs nonetheless persist within the ecosystem and the boosting trade additionally continues to thrive. Gamers within the Dota 2 neighborhood have voiced out their frustration on the act of smurfing whereas some justified it, however on the finish of the day, smurfing continues to be unethical and is extraordinarily damaging to the sport. As prevention is best than treatment, it’s perfect for gamers to be extra conscious and perceive the impression this can provide to Dota 2’s wellbeing, thus stopping or slowing down smurfing charges. All of us need the very best for the sport we love and caring for its ecosystem ought to be our most important precedence.