With the game still in its' infancy, VALORANT presents the opportunity to dissect how a meta evolves from the very beginning. In this article we discuss what is the meta in VALORANT and how has the meta developed at the amatuer level all the way up to the professional level.
Defining the meta in VALORANT
The meta game, referred to as the ‘meta’, is the standard strategies, agents and guns most employed by teams to maximise their winning potential in a game. Typically the meta is developed over hundreds or even thousands of games played at both the amatuer and professional level, resulting in a largely homogenous and predictable playstyle.
For games like Valve’s CS:GO, the meta remains largely unchanged for long periods of time due to the fact that the developers are relatively hands-off with changing key tenets of the gameplay. VALORANT on the other hand is a game that has been designed to consistently evolve with frequent changes and additions made by the developers, Riot Games. This approach by Riot is mirrored in their other esports title, ‘League of Legends’, where changes to the meta can be quite frequent and drastic.
Understanding the meta in VALORANT is a difficult task, especially when considering that the game is still in its infancy, having been released in May 2020. Due to how young the ecosystem is in VALORANT, the meta hasn’t quite been established yet, however, there are some core themes and agents that have gained considerable favour and are likely to be foundational to how the meta may look in the future.
Core themes in the meta
VALORANT is in a unique position for a tactical first-person shooter in that the agents within the game all have a different set of abilities. These agents are then categorised into specific roles in VALORANT which can dictate the most optimal way an agent and their abilities should be utilised, though there will be cases of creativity from players as time passes.
One core theme that has emerged in the early meta of the game is the use of Sentinels, in particular Sage, Cypher and Killjoy. The former, Sage, has seen massive popularity at the lower and upper end of the skill curve due to the effectiveness of her kit which features abilities that slow, heal, create destructible terrain and resurrect teammates. Professionals, commentators and casual players alike can agree that having a Sage on a team is a crucial component to any successful agent lineup.
The use and effectiveness of Sentinels in the current and future meta has a direct correlation to the fact that there is a Defender sided bias to the game, which the developers admit is by design.
Another core theme in the current meta that is likely to remain into the future is the usage of controllers like Omen and Brimstone. The smoke screens that these two particular agents produce are extremely effective on both the Attacking and Defending side because they neutralise advantageous sightlines, known as ‘peekers advantage’, provide strategic depth to possible site takes or retakes, and allows a team to move more freely around the map without the immediate threat of being engaged upon.
The last theme in the current meta that is likely to continue into the future is the usage of agents with a blind ability such as Phoenix, Reyna, Omen and Breach. All four agents have a unique way in which they utilise their blind ability, however, all four use it for the same purpose: to clear blind spots and corners quickly. The ability to blind opponents is crucial when a team needs to take or retake control of an area, particularly when they are facing a time crunch and a blind can prove to be the single factor that can dictate whether a team is able to execute successfully.
Key agents in VALORANT
The key agents in the game are currently: Sage (Sentinel), Cypher (Sentinel), Omen (Controller), Jett (Duelist), Raze (Duelist) and Sova (Initiator).
Generally a meta team will feature:
- Two Sentinels
- Two Duelists or One Duelist and One Initiator
- One Controller
An example agent lineup: Sage, Cypher, Omen, Phoenix and Sova.
As mentioned previously, Sentinel agents are likely to be a prominent force within any team and this is unlikely to change unless Riot makes significant changes to the game. Having two Duelists (with one of them having a blind ability in their kit) will maximise the potential of the players on your team that have excellent aim while having one Controller to support the team from the backlines will make it easier to coordinate and execute on strategies.
The VALORANT meta at the professional level
Despite being a newly released game, there has been extensive professional competition for VALORANT thanks to the Ignition series initiative launched by Riot to support the esports ecosystem. With a plethora of competitions happening almost every week since launch, the pros have undoubtedly been experimenting with the game and some semblance of a pro meta has begun to take shape.
One agent that has surpassed a 90% pick rate at the professional level, regardless of map pick, is Cypher. In the recent FaZe Invitational, Cypher was picked in 92% of the 84 total matches played in the tournament which is significantly higher when contrasted against the second most popular agent, Omen, who had an overall pick rate of 69%, and third most popular agent Sova, who was picked 65% of the time.
Cypher and Sova are two agent picks that stand out because both feature abilities that are primarily used to scout for information e.g. Cypher Cam, Sova Recon Bolt and Owl Drone. This information warfare seems to be a priority for professional teams given that at the highest level of competition, being able to discover enemy movements and reacting to these movements ahead of time can be the difference between winning or losing a round. Omen’s popularity in the pro meta is a direct result of the popularity of Cypher and Sova, with his abilities Shrouded Step (a short teleport), Paranoia (a blind), Dark Cover (a smoke) and From The Shadows (a global teleport) good countermeasures against the two previously mentioned agents.
Another prominent meta that has developed is the usage of Jett and the Operator (OP). Players like Team SoloMid’s Matthew “WARDELL” Yu, Cloud9’s Tyson “TenZ” Ngo and Sentinels Shahzeeb “Shahzam” Khan have popularised the use of Jett and the OP in high level competition because of the low risk, high reward the combination provides for a team. The power of Jett and the OP lies in the agent’s high mobility, with her signature move Tailwind (a dash) a key part of any highlight reel featuring the agent.
Learn more about VALORANT in our dedicated section on the Pinnacle Esports blog.