Who are the best VALORANT agents to play in ranked?

13:27, 19 May 2020

We’ve gotten our first major balance patch that shook the meta game of VALORANT on several levels. Not only did VALORANT agents directly receive a nerf or a buff, but maps were also changed significantly. Many of the so-called “50/50 corners” (such as the arch from mid to B-site Heaven on Split), which forced players to take a gamble at which angle to peek, have been changed to allow players to clean corners without using massive amounts of utility to be safe. Theoretically, this should’ve resulted in a meta game which is less defensively favoured but due to a lack of data, it’s too early to tell. With a greater difficulty to defend bombsites, defensive heroes like Sage and Cypher have been made even more important.

Both in casual play and in tournament matches, players have gotten much better at converting information into round wins, allowing VALORANT agents who excel at gathering info to rise in the VALORANT tier list. Seemingly gimmicky VALORANT agents also fit in better into the metagame, allowing them to create unique openings where other agents are at their wit’s end.

With this in mind, we evaluate the strength of VALORANT agents into this tier list. The VALORANT tier list aims to answer the question: Who should I pick right now to have the highest chance of winning in my ranked games? Agents are slotted into tiers but the order in which they are mentioned does not indicate a hierarchy within each group. On top of our own evaluation, we've teamed up with the statistical analysis tool CypherCam.org to bring some objective meat to the bone, though the amount of data for patch 0.50 is not at a very strong volume. How has the balance patch changed up the power levels?

VALORANT Agent S Tier

Top of the line agents likely in need of balance adjustments, great in almost all situations

Best VALORANT character
Pick Rates powered by CypherCam.org

Sage

They tried to come for the queen but only grazed her in the process. Despite nerfs to her wall and slow orbs, Sage sits firmly at the top of the VALORANT Agent Tier list. Her Slow Orb is only slightly less reliable in shutting down an entire access path to a bomb site. Without an audio cue, Sage now needs to re-peek the corners in which she has deployed the Slow Orb but due to peeker’s advantage, even that is hardly punishing and at worst a little less safe. The cost increase of the Barrier Orb can especially be felt during pistol rounds, as she can no longer buy the wall and a Ghost. During regular rounds, the cost increase is also a regular drain on her bank, which can be felt in tight matches as Barrier Orb is used almost every single round. Her heal is still incredibly strong and pesky. Even in pro matches, the amount of straight-up headshot kills in which the heal wouldn’t have mattered is rather small.

Map changes have both helped and nerfed her depending on the specific location. For instance, she received a clear nerf to her ability to control middle on Split defence side, not allowing her to wall off an entrance for free and to swing into the other one. At the same time, defence feels a lot harder now and defensively minded heroes became implicitly buffed by those map changes. On Haven, you still require VALORANT agents who can hold down a site to allow for rotations by delaying pushes. This is where Sage excels, putting her on top of the VALORANT agent tier list.

Cypher

We have to draw a clear line between a Cypher player who plays dirty and those who play clean. Those who are fine with using exploitative camera spots are playing the most busted agent and he should likely sit on top of every VALORANT tier list. Those who use it in the intended way still have an incredibly potent agent on their hands, who by all rights still belongs in S-tier. He did receive nerfs, but they’ve not hurt him much. An interesting aspect that perhaps doesn’t feel intuitive is that statistically, Cypher’s ultimate is the best in the game, once again highlighting the importance of information in VALORANT.

Best VALORANT agent tier list

Arguably the best at holding down sites by himself, Cypher’s ability to safely gather information without revealing himself is outstanding at this point in the metagame, making him one of the kings in the VALORANT Agent tier list.

Breach

It was about time to put him up here. Breach has the uncanny ability to solve puzzles no other VALORANT agent has an answer for, often putting his opponents in a lose-lose situation between dodging one of his abilities or stepping outside into an unfavourable angle. By his design, Breach was always going to soar through the development of team play, and his ability to set up teammates for entries into a site on attack or on a retake is simply unmatched. This also shows in his attack win rate, which is far and away the best among VALORANT agents right now, putting duelists into the ground by comparison.

Attackingbreachpng

To play Breach, you have to be vocal about your intentions with your teammates and you have to also be willing to react to calls that they are making. You are the facilitator, not the one-man show which these stats may suggest. Breach is at his best when he uses his utility and is second into the angle your team is trying to conquer. If you master this skill or have a teammate to play with, Breach will not let you down and deserves his top spot on any VALORANT tier list.

VALORANT Agent A Tier

Agents which are never a bad choice to pick.

Omen

In the shadows, Omen has somehow crept up on his opposition and has become a defensive specialist whose round win rate in tournament play currently exceeds Sage's and Cypher’s on defence.

Omenpng
Defending round win rates by CypherCam.org

Much of this is due to the rise of information value and his ability to mislead people into thinking that they have information when he has already teleported onto the high ground or distorts your vision to allow your teammates to reposition in a way that others VALORANT agents can not help with. His smoke, From the Shadows, is seemingly never on cooldown which is amazing for an ability this strong and free of charge. He’s a trickster who gives players with enough game sense the ability to outsmart opponents in a major way. Perhaps the best trick he has pulled is to make people think he’s an average VALORANT agent when statistically he is right up there.

Brimstone

Sage, Cypher, Breach and last but not least, Brimstone; these are the four horsemen of the current meta in tournament play. For the tournament’s tracked by CypherCam, he’s currently the second most played VALORANT agent behind Sage. Looking at his other numbers such as round win rate and match win rate when the opponent didn’t have a Brimstone, he has curiously been average which begs the question if his position in the top 4 of the best VALORANT agents is justified.

Best VALORANT agent tier list

Talking to players at the upper levels, most of his kits power comes from his Sky Smoke, which allows to reliably and safely lock down a site which made attacking a bearable endeavour in a game that was so unforgiving to attackers. Incendiary suffers from only having one charge and the high cost lets it pale in comparison to other area of effect damage abilities. Stim Beacon actively messes with muscle memory during sprays and might just be the worst ability in the game. His ultimate is also fairly average but allows for smart positioning that will either get a kill or allows you to exclude angles where opponents might be which is almost as valuable.

Raze

It seems like a while ago when Raze was the talk of the town with her notorious antics of dragging the core gameplay experience away from aiming guns to hauling abilities at an opponent. Since then, she’s been nerfed a significant amount and people have started to understand how to avoid her abilities, though her ultimate still generates immense value not just from killing opponents but by forcing them to give up space as they try to run away from assured death, giving away information in the process. Outside of the four horsemen of the meta, she’s often the first choice to fill up the last roster slot and statistically makes a solid case to replace Breach on that council. She’s by far the best duelist in the game as neither Phoenix but especially Jett don’t hold a candle to her attacking prowess. In solo play, she creates her own opportunities and is very self-sufficient, making her one of the best VALORANT agents when teamplay is lacking. 

Sova

We’re in the information age of VALORANT and Sova is the second-best provider. Previously regarded as weak, abilities like Owl Drone are rising in value as an additional tool to allow for timely rotations. Recon Bolt spots are still being found out but have permeated into the general player bases expertise, guaranteeing that at least some information will be gained from each arrow. Another dimension that’s starting to be explored is the possibility of instantly killing an opponent who is holding from common spots by firing two Shock Bolts in a way that makes them land at the same time.

Back With More Shock Dart Tech: Shooting Two Arrows at Different Timings can Instakill Enemies Holding Common Angles from r/VALORANT

Hunter’s Fury will also eventually be figured out in a way that allows for maximum value in terms of angling the ability, increasing the success rate of it in the process. Sova is arguably the hero that benefits the most from built up knowledge of a player and scholars of the game will continuously move the artificial ceiling that we put on his effectiveness. Maining Sova means you’re getting ahead of the curve, as you’re likely investing in one of the best VALORANT agents.

VALORANT Agent B Tier

Not a terrible pick, but there probably are better ones for what you're trying to accomplish.

Phoenix

It’s rough being a duelist these days, unless of course you’re playing Raze. Phoenix initially benefited from the intuitive nature of his kit, combining a lot of core gameplay mechanics from Counter-Strike such as Flashes and Molotovs into one VALORANT agent. His ultimate is still incredibly powerful as it not only gives you the ability to safely enter a site, but also gain great amounts of information in the process, with the added possibility of getting the jump on an opponent. It is believed that teams will eventually put a lot of stock in ultimate management, contesting orbs and giving defuse ultimate charge towards the most effective agents. Because of its universal applicability, Run It Back is at the top of the food chain in gaining those points.

Phoenix is a solid agent when solo queueing ranked matches, as he’s fairly self-sufficient and reliable. His kit rarely significantly underperforms and allows you to take over a game when you’re clearly the best player on your team.

Jett

More so than any other VALORANT agent, Jett lives off of the fun factor of her kit rather than their inherent strength. Her playrate at the highest levels has been consistently dropping  and she may just disappear from tournament play in the future. It’s not a healthy state to be in for the perceived face of the game among VALORANT agents. Ideally, you’d want your most fun and dynamic characters to be viable.

Tailwind and to an extent Updraft can feel very clunky and doesn’t allow massive outplay potential. Cloudburst is a straight up worse version of every other smoke primarily due to its duration which really isn’t made up by her ability to manipulate the curve at which they land. Some whacky tech has surfaced which allows Jett players to boost teammates with Tailwind, but it’s unlikely to remain in the game.

The more unforgiving economy becomes and the less utility flies around, the more we will see of Jett. Currently, she’s simply outclassed and doesn’t bring much to a team.

Agent C Tier

Very situational heroes that are likely bad choices in most situations.

Viper

Not much has come from the exploration of Viper’s kit as the weeks went on. The only interesting part of it was that we discovered a similar speed boost quality to Jett’s Updraft in Viper’s Toxic Screen. Seeing how ridiculous this tech is, we’re likely to see it patched out in the near future.

There’s no reason to believe that Viper could be one of the best VALORANT agents and climb up the ranks of this tier list. Her buffs have helped some, but aren’t nearly enough to get her there. The only remotely viable application for her is on Split playing attack, where she has a couple of powerful Smoke Screen positions that allow her to be effective on a map that was notoriously hard to attack on. She will need significant developer attention and several buffs to her kit in order to get people to play her. Her kit isn’t the most fun either.

Images and statistics via CypherCam.org

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