Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Falling Pick Rates of Valorant Duelists

Valorant was developed as Riot’s answer to the unwavering tactical shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and the game is beloved by many CSGO veterans and infant Tact FPS players. Valorant managed to capture audiences from day one with more straightforward gun mechanics than its competitor.

Adapting a similar 5 v 5 Search and Destroy Round system but adding a twist where every individual agent in the team of five would have distinctive roles, and depending on the agent’s role, they had abilities. Abilities such as smokes, flashes, stuns, etc.

These abilities made the game fun, and the agents were divided into four categories. Controllers, Duelists, Initiators, Sentinels, each with unique and distinctive abilities but no other category came close to the Duelists in terms of Highlights. Duelists were and still are the most beloved agent categories and are still enjoyed by the casuals and professionals.

In the professional scene, though, the duelists are starting to lose the positions they had. With last year’s meta utilizing two duelists to this year, some teams successfully run no duelist composition. Valorant’s meta does change a lot, but Duelists’ earlier role had been reduced by a lot.

Stage 1 VCT NA Stage 1 VCT EMEA Masters Reykjavik Stage 2 VCT NA Stage 2 VCT EMEA
Most picked agent sova Jett Jett Chamber Chamber
Highest pick rate 67% 69% 65% 82% 56%
Jett 63% 69% 65% 29% 30%
race 37% 30% 28% 45% 45%
Reyna <1% <1% <1% <1% <1%
neon 3% 3% 8th% 13% 0%
Yoru 0% 0% 0% <1% <1%
Phoenix 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

As we can see, The most picked agent has switched to Chamber from a duelist earlier. This is especially true after the Jett nerf. The pick rate for Jett fell from around 60%+ to 25-30%. Raze was the only duelist getting picked 45%, which is once every two maps.

This doesn’t mean teams aren’t using duelists, but it does mean, In the current strategy-heavy meta, the role of duelist isn’t as significant as it was.

This is a good sign for Competitive Valorant as the agents played is increasing, and with Riot’s plan to add 10-11 agents per class, No single agent or agent class should take over Valorant. But it was the case for 2020 and 2021, where running a duelist was necessary.

Now, teams realize that running Jett or Reyna is suitable only when the player is talented, for example, Tenz in 2021, where he absolutely rolled over everyone with the Jett. If Jett, the most picked agent last year and duelist, doesn’t do well, the attack crumbles. The same applies to Reyna, where both have no additional value to the team if they don’t frag.

Now, with Competitive professional Valorant, all the players are almost at the same level in pure mechanical prowess. This means a duelist necessarily doesn’t guarantee anything. If the duelist can ask and create space, it’s well and good. If not, it’s just a burden to the team without a role.

Thus now picking an agent who would be better suited for the team, especially when Valorant is moving towards a more slow, strategic, team-oriented style of play, just makes more sense than playing an agent whose value entirely depends on the person’s ability to kill.

Duelist’s primary goal is to find opening kills, where Jett and Reyna specialize, which can now be done with a Chamber, and Unlike Reyna, he doesn’t need a kill to dismiss away, and there is no chance of error like Jett. He can take the duel, succeed or not, and come back to a safe position, guarded by the team.

Also, Operator, which was only viable on Jett earlier, is better suited for Chamber. With his Headhunter, Rendezvous, Trademark, Tour De Force, Chamber is a solid alternative for Jett. The best example is Optic’s Yay, who seamlessly switched from Jett to Chamber and has been absolutely dominant, especially on defense.

The following important job for a duelist is to create space, which is still dependent on a duelist and is done well by Raze or Neon. Assisted by a suitable initiator, Raze and Neon with Blast pack and High Gear can cover a lot of space in a short amount of time. Though this doesn’t guarantee success and isn’t absolutely necessary.

Raze still is one of the best duelists in the game, and it has been for a long time. It was overshadowed by Jett, especially because Jett was an operator agent while Raze was not, and the skill ceiling for Raze is much higher than for Jett. Raze’s abilities can be used creatively, making her an asset even if a Raze has a lousy game aim-wise.

Neon is a bit dependent on fragging, but it creates a lot of space with her abilities making her worth on some maps, and it can change positions fast to catch the opponents off-guard.

Other duelists, Phoenix, Yoru, and Reyna, aren’t great. With Reyna adding no value to the team if she doesn’t ask, Yoru doesn’t make any impact with all his fancy utilities, and Phoenix is ​​just lackluster. His flashes are complicated, his blaze expires soon, and hot hands aren’t as practical as Brimstone’s or Kay/O’s molotovs.

Considering all the reasons above, it starts to make sense why competitive valorant is moving towards running single duelist or no duelist. Especially on Icebox, most compositions turn away from duelists.

A good aimer can still pull off ridiculous highlights on a duelist, single-handedly carry the team, and still get 30, 40 kills, but that’s a chance one would not take if they are playing the game professionally. Instead, they’d choose to play something which would definitely work.

The good thing about Valorant is that it is ever-changing. There are still a lot of agents to be added, and the meta shifts often. Riot does a great job at ensuring that things keep changing and whatever agents are played most has a substitute making Valorant much more intricate, detailed and fun.

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