The legitimacy of tier lists in Esports


Elijah May

An example of a tier list

Within any Esport with a variety of different characters to choose from, there is going to be a tier list. For those who don’t know, a tier list is a ranking system for characters within a game based on how objectively good said characters are. These rankings are based upon things like the pick rate of that character and said characters win rate. Of course when a list of often times overpowered characters is given to a competitive game player base, these characters or character builds will be used. In games like Smash Bros, League of Legends, Overwatch, and even Rainbow Six Siege, certain characters are just more efficient than others.

Certain champions in League builds, such as Rengar and Vladimir, dominate the higher tiers thus they usually score higher on tier lists. However, Smash bros Ultimate is a good example of how tier lists are often harder to make the better balanced a game is. Many people will contest whether or not characters like Pichu are high tier due to certain drawbacks of the character. However if you pay attention to the Smash Ultimate competitive scene you can see how Pichu actually dominates at tournaments and players like Void often easily make it to top 8 of these pro tournaments consistently.

This exact reasoning is why most tier lists try to base things off the win rate and pick rate of characters to determine how good the characters actually are. While anyone can make a tier list based upon their experience and opinions, the accuracy of these tier lists usually is inaccurate. Of course the tier list always changes as new strategies are developed and various techniques are developed to outplay bad matchups. Of course even the most accurate tier lists struggle to account for match ups; this is why tier lists will never be able to fully measure a character’s worth. Despite this, many people still use them. This is why certain characters see plenty of competitive play but others see none.

While there are inherent flaws in tier lists, when one is constructed using win rates, pick rates, and matchups, we will have an accurate tier list. However in a game with updates, like League of Legends, these lists will eventually become outdated as the competitive scene changes. New strategies are always being developed and experimentation is what drives Esports to develop into interesting spectacles.