VALORANT: Meta-Defining Agents Since Day One

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VALORANT How to highlight enemies (1)Three years ago, no one anticipated the impact of VALORANT in video game history. Riding from the popularity of Counter-Strike and Overwatch, Riot Games masterfully crafted VALORANT as the fusion of the two aforementioned titles. While VALORANT is still a young game, there are certain gameplays, strategies, and Agents that define the meta. In this article, we’ll look at the Agents who defined the VALORANT meta since Day One.

Meta-Defining Agents: A Short Definition

One of VALORANT’s essential components taken from the “Hero Shooter” genre is the diverse character pool with defined roles called “Agents.” In VALORANT, every Agent has abilities and utilities for various reconnaissance and/or damaging effects. For example, Sova’s Recon Dart scans a point in the map where enemies might be. This proved useful when professional players almost exclusively picked Sova as the main Initiator for their matches.

To be a meta-defining Agent, therefore, the Agent has to be very useful and has had a significant pick percentage in professional tournaments. So, without further ado, here are the meta-defining Agents in VALORANT.

Initiators:

Initiators are the information-gathering Agents of VALORANT. There are two exceptional Agents in this role, with another slowly creeping in as a meta-defining Agent.

  • Sova – Sova has been the top Initiator pick in VALORANT. His Recon Dart is one of the most useful reconnaissance abilities in the game, while his Ultimate, Hunter’s Fury, is still one of the best and most powerful abilities in VALORANT.
  • KAY/O – Since KAY/O’s introduction in 2021, his value has risen steadily, becoming a solid second choice among Initiators. His conventional abilities like FRAG/MENT and FLASH/DRIVE set up team executes worthy of a highlight play. While his Ultimate, NULL/CMD is one of VALORANT’s most impactful abilities as it also disables other powerful Ultimates, including Sova’s Hunter’s Fury and any Agent who casts their abilities like Brimstone’s Sky Smoke.

Honorable mention goes to Fade, as she has been a solid pick after KAY/O.

Duelists:

VALORANT JETTDuelists are the space-clearing Agents and usually end up in highlight reels. There is only one Agent who has defined the Duelist meta since Day One: Jett. The Korean wonder Agent can be considered the “poster” girl for VALORANT due to her in-your-face personality and how players maximize her use. The supposed nerf to her dash (Tailwind) and Ultimate (Blade Storm) did not impact her pick rate in professional tournaments. Time will tell if Jett will be out of the VALORANT meta. But until then, this is Jett’s world, and we’re all living in it.

Controllers:

Agents in this category have shifted in the meta since Day One. However, three distinct Agents defined how VALORANT should be played.

  • Omen – The shadow-lurking Controller is still one of the best all-around Controllers in the game. While he is easy to counter, his covers provide much value for his team while he goes around the map to catch opponents off-guard. The introduction of Lotus also made him an essential Controller pick in professional tournaments, raising his value.
  • Astra – Can you imagine a VALORANT match without an Astra as the main Controller Agent? In 2021, this was not the case. Astra had the highest pick rate among Controllers in all professional VALORANT tournaments and was even considered “broken” by professional players. While her pick rate has decreased significantly since her major nerfs in late 2021, she can still hold as a solid second option.
  • Viper – While her abilities are different among the Controllers, Viper is still a meta-defining Agent today, as long as the “lineup” sub-meta exists. Viper’s Snake Bite is among the most powerful post-plant utilities paired with her Poison Cloud. Meanwhile, her Toxic Screen utility is one of the most powerful among Controllers, blocking a portion of the map and denying the opponent’s line of sight. Of course, her Ultimate, Viper’s Pit, remains a Top 5 Ultimate in the game.

Sentinels:

The Sentinel role has seen some meta shifts since Day One, but only three have defined how the role should be played.

  • Sage – When VALORANT was released in 2020, Sage was the quintessential Sentinel Agent. This was amplified when the “Bucky meta” started in late 2020 until early 2021, earning Sage the unofficial title “Battle Sage.” Since then, Sage players mostly relied on creative uses for her Barrier Orb, catching opponents off-guard with angles no one would expect.
  • Chamber – Same as Astra in 2021, Chamber changed the entire VALORANT landscape when he was released and used in professional tournaments. His abilities enabled him to be used as a hybrid Duelist and Sentinel due to his Rendezvous having two anchor points, now reduced to one anchor point. And his Ultimate, Tour de Force, rivaled a Jett with an Operator. Since his major nerfs in Patch 5.10, Chamber was relegated to being a backup Sentinel with a very low pick rate in professional tournaments.
  • Killjoy – While Killjoy enjoyed a decent pick rate since Day One, it was when the Chamber nerfs that she shone. As of VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) 2023 Tokyo, the data showed that Killjoy was a top Sentinel pick across all regions in professional tournaments. This was also partly due to the map picks in VCT: Ascent, Lotus, and Pearl are Killjoy’s best maps. Currently, Killjoy enjoys a high pick rate overall and will continue to do so.

As a young game, VALORANT has seen its meta change very little. Jett is still the quintessential Duelist, for example. Agents introduced when they were new, like Chamber and Astra, also shook the game until their respective nerfs. This dynamic has been a part of the game and keeps it exciting. However, I’d like to see major shifts in the meta and team compositions. This way, VALORANT will be a game that evolves with its player base.

What are your thoughts on the current VALORANT meta? We’d like to hear from you.

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