CS:GO ranks are one of the biggest badges of honor for dedicated competitive players. But despite the intense focus on these little badges as status symbols, Valve hasn’t been too transparent about how ranks are subdivided, or what causes a player to rank up or down.
To help you understand this system better, we’ve collected the best-available information from Valve and a variety of other sources.
How do I get a rank?
If you’re a noob to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, you may need to set aside some time to earn your stripes.
The level system ranges from 1 to 40, and is only used as a rewarding system for receiving cosmetic skin drops and service medals. Once you’ve played enough, those medals change color for every 40 times you rank up in a given year—like a prestige in Call of Duty. To unlock competitive Matchmaking, you must first reach level two by playing any of the game modes created by Valve: Casual, Arms Race, Demolition, and/or Deathmatch. Attaining level two will grant you access to Matchmaking, where CS:GO’s finest are found.
Your rank won’t show until you’ve won 10 competitive matches. You’ll be placed in mixed games with players from various ranks, but generally players are initiated in the lower tiers until at least halfway into their placement progress.
Since you’re playing on a new account, you’ll be restricted to two competitive wins per day until you reach your 10th. Valve implemented this to combat the use of smurfs by higher-ranked players, but it still doesn’t stop them from smurfing. Assuming that you’re able to reach two wins per day, your rank should be given to you on the fifth day of playing in Matchmaking. Once you’ve won 10 competitive matches, your skill group will finally appear under your 10th in-game scoreboard.
Once you’ve earned your stripes, your rank will be displayed under your username at the start-up screen and to the right of your username on match scoreboards. You can only see your teammates ranks if you are in a party with them.
So what are the ranks?
Valve’s player hierarchy is comprised of 18 ranks with each rank more skilled than the last. The ranks are in the following order from the bottom to the top:
- Silver I (S1)
- Silver II (S2)
- Silver III (S3)
- Silver IV (S4)
- Silver Elite (SE)
- Silver Elite Master (SEM)
- Gold Nova I (GN1)
- Gold Nova II (GN2)
- Gold Nova III (GN3)
- Gold Nova Master (GNM/GN4)
- Master Guardian I (MG/MG1)
- Master Guardian II (MG2)
- Master Guardian Elite (MGE)
- Distinguished Master Guardian (DMG)
- Legendary Eagle (LE)
- Legendary Eagle Master (LEM)
- Supreme Master First Class (SMFC)
- The Global Elite (GE).
, an independent analysis website provides a breakdown of the rank distribution, showing the percentage of active players in each rank over a day, week or month. This data is collected through randomly sampled matches, so extending the catchment period to a month gives a good idea of how the ranks spread out.
In the sample above we can see in February that the average rank was Gold Nova 2, with around 35% of all players sampled in the Gold Nova bracket. If you’ve earned your way to Legendary Eagle, congrats, you’re in the top 10% of matchmaking players. In fact, you might be even higher than you think. The site’s random sampling technique means that because higher ranked players will, in general, play the game more often, they are disproportionately likely to be sampled. But what does each rank actually mean, and how does the game determine where to place you?
How do you efficiently rank up?
The best way to rank up in a short period of time is to play with players who share the same goal. Players who queue with other serious players are more likely to win more rounds and even the match than five players that are solo-queued. The best way for finding other serious players is to befriend other passionate players in community servers or on third-party sites.
I’d strongly recommend that you don’t solo queue if you’re serious about your rank because you run the risk of encountering griefers (players who intentionally lose the match) or players who don’t care if you win. Solo queuing is associated with deranking due to the variable competitiveness of players.
The big picture
Your rank isn’t everything. It’s just an arbitrary name that defines how other players perceive you. If you focus on becoming better at Counter-Strike rather than winning, then ranking up becomes seamless.