Evaluating the Early North American VALORANT Meta
Eight teams have secured their spot in the First Strike: North America finals and will fight for their chance to be crowned the first regional champions in VALORANT history. The Nerd Street Gamers and UMG Qualifier events provided insight into the current North American VALORANT meta and what Agents the best in the region are using.
A few Agents were staples of almost every team composition, while others were interchangeable depending on the map. Almost every team included Omen, Sova, Jett, and Cypher in their compositions as they were the most selected Agents. Other Agents like Viper, Sage, and Brimstone appeared in less than five percent of matches, showing how they are currently not suitable for competitive play.
Examining the Agent selection shows what Agents are in a stable or effective state and which Agents need adjustments to see more play at a professional level.
The power of Omen
According to vlr.gg, Omen had a 98% pick rate across all First Strike North America qualifying events. His lowest pick rate was on Bind, but 94% of matches featured Omen in at least one team composition, which is still an overwhelming majority.
Omen has one of the most versatile ability kits as he can smoke off areas for his team and can blind enemies with the Paranoia ability. He can also teleport to confuse enemies or escape a sticky situation, and his ultimate ability can gather important information for a team.
However, Omen’s strong kit is only part of his popularity, and the lack of other useful controllers is apparent. Brimstone and Viper had a two percent and four percent pick rate during the First Strike Qualifiers, which is a drastic difference from Omen. All three Agents are supposed to be able to “slice up dangerous territory to set their team up for success,” but Omen is the only Agent who is viable at the professional level.
Viper has been buffed multiple times to increase her pick rate, but her abilities are still not enough to justify her selection over Omen. Brimstone can smoke three different spots per round, and his molly is effective at stopping an enemy push, but his stim beacon does not provide enough benefit.
FaZe Clans’ Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo did use Brimstone in their match against TradeLikePros Red on Split, and they still secured a 13-6 victory. TSM’s James “hazed” Cobb also used Viper on Split in their match against Gen.G, which they also won. However, both Agents are situational at best and need an update to increase their pick rates.
Another controller will likely release next season, but the Omen-based team composition is the meta for now.
Other Popular Agents
Sova was the second-highest picked Agent with a 79% pick rate throughout the qualifiers. His highest pick rate was on Ascent, where 93% of matches featured the Initiator, and his pick rates on Haven and Bind were also above 90%. There was a steep drop off in Sova’s pick rate on Split, but this is no surprise as he is not the best Agent for the cramped map.
Jett was the third most used Agent and the highest selected Duelist. Her smoke abilities allow her to function as a Controller when needed, and her Tailwind and Updraft abilities are perfect for quickly moving around a map.
Cypher was the final Agent with a majority pick rate across the qualifier events at 64%. Like Sova, Cypher’s lowest pick rate was on Split, but he still appeared in 48% of the matches on the map.
Reyna and Raze both had a 42% pick rate, although they were used more on opposite maps. Reyna had a 53% and 57% pick rate on Ascent and Haven but a 21% and 30% pick rate on Bind and Split. Raze was the opposite with a 13% and 16% pick rate on Ascent and Haven, but was a core part of team compositions on Bind and Split with a 76% and 90% pick rate, respectively.
Brimstone, Killjoy, and Phoenix did not see as much playtime as other Agents, but they were still picked enough to be considered adequate on specific maps or team setups. However, the remaining three Agents are unfit for professional play according to their pick rates and need an update or overhaul.
The Bottom Three
Viper, Sage, and Brimstone were the least selected Agents during the First Strike North America Qualifiers. Viper and Brimstone have already been established as less viable controllers compared to Omen, but Sage is in a class of her own.
Sage was initially a powerful Agent capable of healing her teammates and stopping enemy advancements with her abilities, but she has been nerfed to the point that few teams justify her selection over other Agents.
Sage’s highest pick rate was at eight percent on Split and was rarely picked on other maps. Andbox’s Matt “Warden” Dickens selected Sage in their match against NRG, but they did lose, and he performed the worst on his team during the match. Sentinels’ Hunter “SicK” Mims used Sage in every match on Split but opted for other Agents on every other map.
It is unclear if Riot Games has any intention to adjust Sage to make her a more effective Agent or if she currently fits into the VALORANT meta as expected. Each Agent is not ideal for every scenario or map, but Sage should be more viable than she is presently.
The Meta will continue to change
The meta in all professional esport leagues continually evolves as the game is updated. VALORANT will receive new maps and Agents periodically, and professional players will adjust their strategies accordingly.
Skye, the latest Agent introduced to VALORANT, was not available for use during the First Strike North America Qualifiers but will available during the finals. It is unclear if Skye will change the meta drastically, but she does feature unique abilities that can help teams.
Icebox was also not available in the Qualifiers but will be included in the finals. This means teams will have to adjust to a new map where other Agents might be a better choice. It is unlikely Omen, Sova, or Jett will be knocked out of the top three spots, but the remaining Agents might see more playtime.
The VALORANT esports scene is still in its early stages, and this is only a taste of the meta to come. The VALORANT Champions Tour will provide consistent competition throughout 2021, and fans can continue to see the best players in the world adapt their strategies to be successful.
Envy, Immortals, Renegades, Team SoloMid, 100 thieves, T1, Sentinels, and FaZe Clan will compete in the First Strike: North America finals on December 3rd-6th.