Season 8 was the last season in which there existed a fifth division in each tier. In Preseason of Season 9, every player in Division V was automatically promoted to Division IV. The removal of the fifth divisions in each tier was the answer to the new Iron-tier, which was attached at the bottom of the rankings with four new divisions. As a result, the climb in the ladder should include more "meaningful milestones" and be less frustrating.
Adjusted Ranked Distribution
With the majority of players being in the bottom two tiers in previous seasons, it has been consistently worked on the ladder to better distribute the mass of players to the tiers for a less frustrating Ranked experience.
The goal was to get away from a Silver average in the ranked. The average ranked player should rather be in the Gold area. This would bring Riot closer to the goal of creating an optimal distribution, where the vast majority of players is in silver to gold, while a reasonable amount of players is still Bronze or Platinum. While the top ranks (Challenger to Master) should still be considered as exclusive, Diamond should not remain one of the unattainable ranks.
If you compare the ranking of the season 9 to the season 8 (both in September of the respective year), you will find huge differences in the rank distribution:
|Top X% Season 8
|Top X% Season 9
Starting in Challenger, it's no wonder that this rank has lost some of its "exclusivity": Challenger slots have been increased from 200 to 300 for the new season. This increases the skill range between Challenger ranks even further.
At the same time the new Grandmaster-tier replaces the master-tier as the second highest league. As a result, the Master League loses some value. Also due to the new rank distribution it was possible for twice as many players to reach this rank.
In the Diamond and Platinum area a similar picture emerges. These ranks have almost doubled in the population. And that, even though Riot wanted to thin out the Diamond League:
First, they’ll help us smooth out the bad experiences in Bronze, Silver, and Diamond. Second, they’ll bring more differentiation for Diamond players, which is something that has been a problem for a while now.
Comparing the rankings of each division, a Platinum II player in Season 8 would be equivalent to a Diamond IV player in Season 9.
Also, it is now easier to climb to Gold. While in Season 8 you were at least among the top 38% as a Gold player, you are now only in the top 48% (as a Gold IV player).
In Silver, the top three divisions have also declined in value, while Silver IV has become a little bit stronger.
Bronze league players are mostly in the same ranks as last season. Only the lowest Bronze division has now been divided even further into the four additional Iron ranks. Less than three percent of the players are in the Iron league, making this new tier even more exclusive than Diamond. A real achievement!
All in all, Riot has roughly reached the goals they wanted, even though there are still problems in the upper rankings due to the huge skill differences within the ranks until Diamond IV.
I think that in the future the ladder will move even further in this direction. In an optimal distribution, Gold will be the average rank, while platinum will be significantly more accessible, while Diamond will continue to be the gatekeeper for the elite tiers. In the lower part of the rankings, there will be a shift of the ranks upwards, while the Bronze ranks will be redistributed so that the Iron tier also contains a reasonable amount of players.
Although it is of course a pity that some ranks are not as valuable as they used to be, it is still a step in the right direction to strive for a useful distribution of the ranks.