The Top 5 Agents You Should Be Grinding for Ranked in VALORANT
Sat 20th Jun 2020 - 12:26pm
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it, let’s establish what your main focus in ranked should be, especially when it comes to climbing the ladder while enjoying yourself! Firstly, consistency is key! Yes, getting that one in a million highlight clip will get your blood pumping and your friends hyped up, but it won’t be the best way to get you that sweet rank-up at the end of the day. Instead, you should be prioritising ways to impact every match, regardless of the map, your teammates or what the weather’s looking like outside. That means going into every game with the mindset of wanting to win.
In addition, yet on a more tangible note, aim isn’t everything. Yes, having lightning fast reaction times and hitting flicks that might just snap your wrist are an advantage in VALORANT, but proper crosshair placement, good map knowledge, and – most of all – knowing your agent’s limits go a long way in compensating for the lack of hours you’ve spent on CS:GO deathmatch servers. Or, who knows, you might already have spectacular aim. In that cas,e nothing is more bound to put you on top of the scoreboard than knowing where to be and when you and your agent have the upper hand.
Consistency is key:
To expand a little on the consistency part: If you want to climb and improve, focusing on a maximum of two Agents will pay huge dividends. Firstly, it will allow you to push your Agent’s limits more than most players will be able to, as you’ll have plenty of experience piloting them in every possible situation. Secondly the more consistent your agent choice is, the less focus you have to put on their kit and can instead invest into listening for footsteps, looking for that one pixel of headshot hitbox or thinking about where the enemies are looking to push or like to hold.
With all that covered, what agents do I recommend you pick up?
1. Reyna - The Mexican Menace:
VALORANT’s latest agent, Reyna has been getting loads of attention at every skill level, but her feast or famine playstyle – relying heavily on picking up that first kill to get rolling – also opens up windows to punish her. More so, whether she turns out to be powerful or not in the long run, everyone is and will be eager to pick her at every opportunity. As such, if you decide to pick her up, you may find your best character snatched away by one of your teammates before you are able to pick her!
Still, those that decide to stick with the latest addition to the VALORANT Agent line-up will reap the rewards in her incredible dueling and potential to outplay entire teams using the souls of slain enemies with Dismiss to make herself intangible - invulnerable, but unable to fire your own weapon - for a short period of time. This ability makes for a clutch repositioning tool that allows Reyna to play angles that most agents wouldn't be comfortable holding. In addition, her ultimate Empress amplifies this ability, rendering Reyna invisible while using Dismiss, turning the ability from a great way out into a much more versatile tool, allowing for aggressive and unexpected repositioning.
Her soul consumption can also provide her with healing using Devour, which allows Reyna players to enter the next firefight at full HP once again! Her kit is rounded out with Leer, a powerful vision denial tool that casts forward a purple eye that will nearsight - drastically lower their vision range - any enemy that looks into it while not affecting Reyna or her teammates. Though it can be destroyed by shooting at it, the window of opportunity allows her to peek aggressively and create picks for her team, no matter whether she's attacking or defending!
Instead of trying to pick Reyna up yourself, you could also invest time into learning something that counters her or allows her to thrive when on your team. After all, she’ll more than likely be picked by both teams, even if not by you! As far as supporting her is concerned, there’s really only one choice.
2. Sage - Super-Support:
When you pick Sage, you are already taking a big step towards winning the match. Despite enduring nerf after nerf throughout and following closed beta, she’s still the queen of stopping pushes in their tracks and helping out teammates. Any Duelist player, be it Reyna or someone else, will be glad to be on the receiving end of a Healing Orb, allowing them to push that extra corner or be ready for another gunfight. When they inevitably trade kills and die, walling off the enemy point of entry and using your ultimate to resurrect them is not just bound to get you praised in-game, you’ll probably find yourself receiving a friend request after it’s over too.
When playing against Reyna as Sage, your healing orbs help allies not lose that first duel to her, hopefully preventing her from getting rolling in the first place. However, if push comes to shove, your Q – Slow Orb – will force Reyna to either use her intangibility to push through the field and thus not receive any healing from her soul orb or wait for it to fade as she regenerates hit points from her first kill. If you want to be a real nuisance – or Reyna has her ultimate online – a Barrier Orb is a sure-fire way to stall for a while and hope your teammates rotate in time to punish her.
Speaking of her Barrier Orb, besides the obvious use of sealing off a choke the enemies are about the push through, it has a variety of other applications too, the most rewarding of which is perhaps boosting yourself or a teammate somewhere the enemy won’t see coming.
Especially early on in the round, standing around the corner of a pre-set wall, then wide peeking the angle can net you some very easy kills that are difficult to punish. Just be wary of doing it too often, as the other team is bound to catch onto what you’re doing pretty quickly. In addition, the combination of Sage’s wall and mobility abilities such as Omen’s Teleport or Raze’s Blast Pack have been known to create angles reminiscent of a certain Counter-Strike boost on Overpass.
Though some of them have since been patched, the newest map – Ascent – may yet introduce some more to discover and (ab-)use before they are also stamped out.
Playing Sage effectively:
If you choose to stick with this agent for the long haul, you’ll find yourself being the lynchpin that gets your team across the finish line in no time. She is exceptionally good at stalling out pushes with her two forms of area denial in both her Barrier and Slow Orbs and easily wins wars of attrition with her 45 second cooldown Healing Orb that tops off wounded teammates or even yourself in a pinch.
When defending, you’ll want to play around a narrow choke that you can easily deny entry into the site through using your utility. You’ll want to listen for footsteps, ideally from cover, and have your abilities ready to go before the enemies get an angle on you. When using abilities, be mindful of their cast times which can leave you vulnerable to a counterattack. Though her slowing field can stifle a push, it does nothing to impair your opponents’ aim, so peeking an angle you’ve already denied entry through is usually inadvisable. Instead, make callouts for your teammates and stall the enemies to buy time for your allies to rotate or flank.
3. Cypher - Information and preventing flanks:
Winning aim duels against her is one way to shut down Reyna, but who needs aim when you have wallhacks! Coincidentally, two of VALORANT’s diverse cast of agents make regular use of them (while not getting hit with a Vanguard ban), those being Sova and Cypher. While the former definitely knows how to use information to his advantage, the latter is an all-around intel-enthusiast.
As such, the second pick for you to get good at should be Cypher. With his Spycam, Trapwires and Cyber Cages, he comes equipped with a variety of tools to see enemies coming and stop them in their tracks.
His signature ability, Spycam, is even more effective when teammates play around your callouts and scan darts. Rather than leaving the enemy with an opportunity to punish a peeking Cypher, quick communication and a fast-acting teammate will leave the opposition baffled as to how they died, possibly accusing your teammate of cheating.
When it comes to dealing with Lurkers such as Reyna or Omen, his Trapwires prove especially effective on attack. Even if their crowd control effect doesn’t have time to trigger, giving away their position is more than enough to shut a flanker out of the round and leave them pondering how best to retake the site that their team has lost in the meantime.
Though the TrApwires are easily shot and destroyed when entering a site, be it for an initial attack or a retake, that split second often leaves you with enough time to get a pick-off on a preoccupied foe. In addition, the combination of Cypher’s Spycam and Trapwires make for a kit that can hold multiple entryways at once without being exposed to any danger. Just watch out for the inevitable Omen ult into your spawn when he gets fed up with being scouted out every round.
To close out Cypher’s basic abilities, he comes equipped with his Cyber Cages, which can be detonated remotely at will to cut off entryways, sightlines you want to traverse, or simply create an enclosed space to use your shotgun in. If that last one sounds right up your alley, I recommend checking out the curveball agent at the bottom of this guide! When playing around your cages, always keep in mind that they aren’t impenetrable. Not only can a brave opponent walk straight through them – especially now that the developers have removed their slow – but if you step too loudly or give your position away through other means, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a classic “spraying through the smoke” kill.
Finally, combining your Trapwire and Cyber Cage can make for a great combo, as players will often be too focused on pushing through your cage to notice that they’ve just sprung a wire. As such, they are served to you on a silver platter, or rather, in an orange hue.
Knowing exactly where they are:
Cypher’s ultimate ability, Neural Theft, is perhaps one of the most powerful in the entire game. When it comes to helping your teammates out in ranked – something that will inevitably make you climb – only the aforementioned Sage’s Resurrection is comparable. To use it effectively, a concept mentioned in a previous guide comes in exceptionally useful – predicting enemy pathing. Rather than take Cypher ultimate as the snapshot of enemy positions that it initially seems to be, try thinking of the ways the opponents may take based on their current position. Four people grouped up in front of A site on the other side of the map? The agent you killed was probably lurking to pick off stragglers or distract from their imminent A-push. Playing around info this way will not only save crucial time on rotates and tell you what space you can safely take, but often net you kills on people that run straight into your lined-up crosshairs!
4. Brimstone - Utility and Artillery:
A mainstay tournament favourite since beta, Brimstone comes in as the staple area denial character that every CS:GO player and their mother could’ve told you was going to be a key component of most team compositions. Rather than rely on incredible information gathering or intricate stalling tactics woven into the site’s layout, Brimstone gets the job done with fire, smoke and well… you know the rest.
His signature Sky Smokes are easy to use and even easier to play around. Unlike Cypher’s Cyber Cages or Omen’s Dark Cover, these smokes are almost entirely opaque, even while inside. As such, they excel at entering a site or, as seen below, securing crucial positions early on in the round. As with most smokes, they are also great at allowing you and your teammates to bypass enemy sightlines and can also be used to deny attackers entry into a site. One particular advantage of Brimstone’s Sky Smokes is being able to deploy them without entering line of sight of the position you want to smoke, not opening yourself up to being picked off by an Operator or a stray Vandal headshot!
His Incendiary complements his smokes perfectly, as it can be bounced off of walls and around corners and isn’t extinguished by them. When an unsuspecting enemy decides to push through your smoke, they may be met with a blazing surprise inside, setting you up for an easy kill or dissuading them from pushing through entirely.
As far as his ultimate is concerned, Orbital Strike can be anything from a team wiping monster to a mediocre zone denial. However, it is especially effective at retaking sites where enemies are already tightly grouped as well as splitting teams that are trying to rotate or push!
Finally, his perhaps hardest to use ability, Stim Beacon, is a thrown emitter that grants allies inside a substantial boost to their fire rate – 10% to be exact. It lasts for a whopping 12 seconds, so with proper placement it can give your team the edge throughout an entire firefight. Be careful, however, as its buff is also applied to enemies standing in the field!
If used to his fullest extent, Brimstone is a godsend to his team and can put immense pressure on enemies too reliant on holding certain angles.
5. Viper - Venomous Aspirations:
The much-foretold curveball comes in the form of Viper, a zone, area, and life denying agent that requires extensive map and character knowledge to be played effectively. Though not quite as plug and play as perhaps Brimstone, she rewards dedication and knowledge, attributes that you’ll want to focus on regardless of what agent you plan to take into ranked.
If playing close angles, being within touching distance of your enemies and racking up damage numbers on the entire enemy team sounds like your style, I recommend getting started by reading Dignitas’ guide to Viper written by yours truly right over here.
If you're still not entirely convinced, let me give you a quick rundown of what she is capable of. Her signature ability, Toxic Screen, is also perhaps her most versatile. Deploying a set of emitters in a straight line which span a very considerable range and can be cast regardless of obstacles such as buildings, which allows them to affect entirely different sections of the map. These emitters draw up an opaque wall of gas that denies vision and temporarily damages players who walk through it, while using up Viper's regenerating supply of fuel. Toxic Screen allows for everything from denying the defending team angles to using it in combination with the aforementioned vision abilities to pick up some really fishy sprays on unsuspecting opponents. Courtesy of Viper's fuel supply, this wall (as well as Poison Cloud, her Q ability) can be used and reused numerous times throughout the round.
Poison cloud, though also consuming her fuel while it is active, creates a toxic cloud that serves as both a vision denial tool as well as a damaging ability, similar in appearance to Omen's Dark Cover. I'm sure you're already picking up on the most vital part of Viper's playstyle - taking fights at ranges and funnels she wants to. On defense, a well laid out set of utility can make her a one man army that the enemies will struggle to catch, as she slips in and out of toxic gas. When attacking with Viper, learning some pre-set walls (refer to the guide above) can make wresting control of any site a breeze. Just make sure you do your due dilligence and learn to manage your fuel or you'll find yourself with no gas left in the tank (literally) in the middle of the enemy team!
So, as you eagerly await the release of ranked alongside every other VALORANT player, commit to a select few agents, learn the maps and play around your teammates (no matter how inept they may seem) and you’ll be ready for the challenge in no time! Oh, and mind the Reyna in your backline!