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VALORANT literature review: a post-Chamber world

VALORANT literature review: a post-Chamber world

Landon Summers


When a student is writing a thesis for their dissertation, they typically have to provide a literature review. Literature reviews are in-depth studies and reviews of the current thinking on a topic in a field. The job of the literature review is to inform the reader and student, and act as a sort of diving board into a specific topic. While I am nowhere near the point of writing such a complex piece (that’s a problem for a later Seasonal), the concept of analyzing different viewpoints in a neutral lens does intrigue me. There are many topics in the VALORANT community with varying opinions, from teams to favorite plays to most attractive gun skin, and it is always interesting to hear these opinions compare and contrasted. So, let’s embark on our own literature review, and take a magnifying glass to the community. Let’s talk about the Chamber nerfs.

Solidifying an Idea: Chamber’s anchor in the meta

While it might be easy to jump to opinions and conclusions, let’s begin with a fundamental question: what role does Chamber fulfill in VALORANT?

Chamber’s in-game description and abilities

One, he is a Sentinel. There is no argument there, he is quite literally classified as a Sentinel. You can see it in the agent select screen.

Two, he is part-Duelist. A full Duelist typically has some kill-refresh ability and/or some form of entry (Yoru is a different topic). This forces them to be the main catalyst driving a team forward. Chamber is part Duelist, in that, he can get some value out of his kit with no kills, but he still needs to get kills. A Chamber that can’t kill can exert more pressure than, say, a bottom frag Reyna, but his full potential comes into the fact that he threatens angles and can entry frag with his kit.

Three, he is an Operator agent. The Operator is one of, if not the most, influential gun in the game. Just hearing the noise of a shot is enough to make teams reconsider if they want to attack a point at all. Enter Chamber: an Agent that compliments the Operator and can use it in even more aggressive angles than Jett. Also, he gets a free Operator as his Ultimate. If that doesn’t scream “give me an Operator”, then I honestly don’t know what to tell you.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem too overpowered. I mean, we have other agents that can do multiple roles, like the part-Duelist Initiators like KAY/O, or the part-Sentinel Controllers like Viper. So, what’s the deal?

In his sights: Why Chamber demands attention

One, he applies silent pressure. Whenever a Chamber is on the field, a team constantly has to consider their positioning and use utility to pressure the Chamber out of a spot. An example pointed out to me by Vserov is on Fracture B side. When a team is executing onto B site, there is a significant amount of utility used to clear and push back defenders: smokes, flashes, Neon sliding in, Raze Satchel, even a Breach Stun, all within a matter of seconds. Not many agents would feel comfortable holding that site, let alone be able to split out of the barrage of utility being thrown.

“In contrast, Chamber can hold such a position and TP out in the face of a util dump, and in doing so place his team at a utility advantage since his Rendez-vous is free, while the attacking team will likely have to commit a significant amount of meaningful utility (smokes, stuns,  flashes, satches/slide/dash) in order to take space.”

– Vserov (@cursedvserov on Twitter)

Along with pressure, Chamber’s kit creates a tempo to the game, which is vaguely tied to his cooldowns. If you can get away with forcing a Chamber TP, then you have a window (an even larger window now) to execute onto a site.

Two, he demands high counterplay. When a player picks Omen on Ascent, or Viper on Breeze, many teams already know how to play around it. Some of the best comps can adapt to new agent picks because they fit so well on a map. This is what I would coin “low counterplay”: being able to slightly adjust something without too much thought.

“High counterplay” demands serious strategy, investment, and planning in order to counteract. I would argue Chamber falls into this category. Chamber is so commanding on an enemy team that he requires serious investment just to be able to play around him. Some teams introduce whole new compositions consisting of Raze, KAY/O, Neon, Fade and or Breach, who can force enemy Chambers into tight spots. Other teams try to counter with their own Chamber, trying to out-Chamber the Chamber, and force the enemy team into tough spots by having the better player.

And it is in this dynamic that lies the issue: the meta isn’t about choices and pros and cons, it’s about if you can play Chamber or if you can counter Chamber. If you decide to play the French VALORANT Agent, then you have to be confident enough to out-Chamber the enemy and face serious anti-stratting. If you decide to try an alternative, then you better figure out how to take care of teams that do go the Chamber route.

Chamber’s Pick rate over the past 90 days | Taken from rib.gg database

And third, he creates economic advantages. This comes from the fact that he has relatively cheap and high-power weapons at his disposal. Consider this, the Chamber’s team needs to partially buy for a round, whereas the enemy can full buy. If the Chamber has his Tour de Force, he can give his money to someone else, freeing up some economic movement. Now, what if the Chamber gets a kill? If a teammate is in a position to grab the victim’s gun, suddenly, the monetary difference between the two teams has decreased. Now, the enemy team has to worry about a strong rifle and a free Operator, whereas, without Chamber, they would have only had to worry about guns like Spectres or Sheriffs.

Let’s imagine a somewhat decent Chamber player who is able to get 1 kill per round, but also dies every round after the kills. Then, assuming this is a first half that goes to 12 rounds, a Chamber player gets 24 ult points (1 per kill, 1 per death) in a half,  where Tour de Force costs 8 points. If we now take into account that Chamber will not get ult points for kills with Tour de Force, and he uses Tour de Force as soon as he gets it, that means that a decent Chamber with an even KD ratio of 1 will have at least two Tour de Forces in a half.

That is two free Operators per half, completely disregarding team economy. And that is a minimum, with a mid-tier performance, some of the best Chambers get more than 12 kills in a half. It is in this aspect that Chamber creates unique economic advantages that consistently forces pressure on an enemy team, regardless of how much of an advantage they have.

For more talk about Chamber, visit this article that talks about how he is the Astra of VCT 2022.

Into the unknown: where data and theories collide

So now that we have dissected exactly how Chamber is so potent, we can look into the different theories of a post-Chamber meta. There are three main schools of thought: those that think nothing will change, those that think Chamber will be more balanced, and those that think that this could create a massive meta shift.

For the first group, they think there will be a sort of meta chaos, where the vacuum of Chamber’s exit creates a space that teams scramble to fill. For the second, they see that Chamber is now an option as opposed to a demanding must pick. And finally, the last group thinks the Chamber nerfs don’t do enough, or don’t focus on the right parts, so nothing changes as far as the meta is concerned.

As a note, many of the people I talked to provided opinions that ranged on a variety of perspectives. Some gave arguments for multiple, but this article is long enough. Just because I used only part of an argument that favored one side doesn’t mean that the theory stated is their true opinion.

School one: careening into the abyss

For the arguments in this class, whether or not they believed Chamber was actually horribly nerfed, they tried to envision what teams would do given the fact they only really had a few weeks to work with a nerfed Chamber. Rather than pointing to a specific point and saying “this is why Chamber will be bad,” it was rather, “these nerfs have the potential to make his value very insignificant, or the least optimal pick. And so what would happen if such a thing were to occur.” And, for them, Chamber becoming obsolete raised some interesting concerns.

There are two main outcomes that are formulated from this perspective, mainly stemming from the pacing point I made earlier. One outcome is the game will speed up, the other is the game will slow down. Teams will obviously choose what they prefer, however, without Chamber’s time warping, the game’s tempo may feel incredibly different.

In terms of the game speeding up, points brought up are that the Sentinel category doesn’t feel as strong as Initiators or Duelists.

“I think post-Chamber the game will see no Sentinel comps become more common and be replaced with double Duelists and triple Initiators, as they bring more value than the other Sentinels.”

– Slow (@slowiscool on Twitter)

“Those (teams) who want to get faster and add control will add KAY/O… instead of Chamber, I think options that can be more effective with abilities will be preferred, so triple Initiator is coming.”

– Godwana (@g0dwana on Twitter)

On the opposite side, we have contenders for a slower pace to the game. This mainly stems from the fact that we may see more Astra, Killjoy, and Cypher. They will be used to help control the pace of the game, and are notorious for slowing down pushes.

“The comp does not work with just a Jett straight swap for Chamber as you lose the flank protection, so it’ll likely revert to a Duelist/Sentinel/Smoke/Double Initiator comp.”

– Shano (@shanooo92 on Twitter)

“Teams have also dabbled into no-duelist comps… these would be more difficult to run in a post-Chamber era, since KJ/Cypher and a Jett are required to replicate the functions of Trademark and Rendez-vous (as well as Tour de Force).”

– Vserov
Without the signature Chamber Operator, what will teams do?

Interestingly enough, Shano actually rebukes the idea of a triple Initiator meta, noting that, “triple Initiator will be reduced because teams will need to have an ‘Operator’ agent.” Which, at first glance, is a non-factor. However, it does raise some questions. If teams decide Chamber is dead, and Jett can’t Op as efficiently as they need to, what do they do to their primary Op-ing players. Pro players are known to be flexible, and so moving a player like Ardis “Ardiis” Svarenieks off a role isn’t necessarily difficult, but being an Operator agent for a team and being a Duelist-Initiator agent for a team are two very different things.

  • If they run Jett, just a simple substitution, they lose out on flank potential. They also cannot replicate the same eject button power that Chamber does on defense, and the lurking angle-watching that Chambers can do on attack.
  • If they run Jett and Cypher/KJ, then that only leaves 3 other spots, which would reduce the agent diversity we are seeing. If teams want to run double smokes, that is only 1 Initiator. If teams want two Initiators, they have to decide on 1 smoker. The diversity we are seeing because Chamber can do some much will diminish if more agents are needed to replicate his success. This was a concern raised by Vserov.
  • If they decide no Jett, then where do you put your Operator teammate? Because playing Skye, Breach or KAY/O is vastly different than playing Chamber, and you are going to have to get comfortable with that playstyle fast. Also, do you even run an Operator anymore if you don’t use Jett or Chamber? Which agent would you Op on next?

School two: give and take

This is the middle ground. For those in this school, they believe the nerfs offer just enough so that other agents can become a viable choice. That’s the keyword: choice. Every agent should have pros and cons, and, for those in this area of thinking, these nerfs begin to provide some cons that could be filled by other agents. Yes, the Riot devs didn’t hit all the points, but an agent should have some strengths that differentiate them from other agents. Here are some thoughts on the matter:

“Radius size decrease is nuts… previously the anchor covered both sides of a path (or wall), so Chamber could hide on both sides and still TP away. Now he’s more predictable.”

– Apollo (@endless__val on Twitter)

“The once diligent and wide-reaching flank control now has its vision cut down and slow reduced… teams that do not want to rely on using the Operator will now be able to take more flank/extremity control with Cypher and Killjoy, but teams that do want to rely on the Operator will have to make a trade-off.”

– Connie (@highwata on Twitter)

“I think Cypher/Killjoy pick rates will increase slightly… because the need for Sentinels and their alarm utility is always there. There will also be worse eco rounds amongst teams (if Chamber is not chosen).”

– Zain (@ZainMerchant9 on Twitter)

“While Chamber may remain to be a viable pick, we may see players switch back to Jett on specific maps as well as Cypher and Killjoy… While Chamber can do these same tasks, most players will have to be more strategic with the utility.”

– Styx (@styx_val on Twitter)

“The nerfs will definitely hurt Chamber, by the way. I don’t think he’ll be unplayable, but there are going to be kills (and potentially rounds) that he could win previously that he just won’t now.”

– Jalbert (@JALbert_LoL on Twitter)
If Chamber does become an “option” rather than a “must”, who will rise up?

As you can see, many opinions point to the power dynamic that Jett and Chamber have, while others note that the Sentinels class will feel less constricted. He still does Chamber things, but now there is a window for other agents to outperform him. Jalbert, Apollo and Connie point this out specifically.

“His free Guardian will still have significant impact on pistol rounds…Chamber’s ability to get away for free after taking a shot/peeking significantly reduces the risk factor… when the game progresses, if teams do not run double Sentinel, he will have to play a lot further back.” – Connie

“I don’t think Chamber will be dead, but I think there’s more meaningful trade-offs playing him and he’ll require a little more specialization.” – Jalbert

“Overall, in terms of his role, nothing’s changed…But, here’s the thing, since he’s a more balanced agent with pros and cons, we might see teams dropping him to focus their comp on the more traditional Sentinel agents.” – Apollo

School three: the Chamber revolution is not here *yet*

This is the universe where Chamber still looms over games with a gloved fist. For arguments in this area, the devs failed to accurately respond to the issue at hand. I think the best quote comes from Tssunder:

“…The nerfs don’t address the strongest aspects of his character and are actually kind of useless. Seriously, who ever complained about the slow duration.”

This sentiment is repeated in many arguments concerning the nerfs, each one pointing to an oppressive part of his kit, and how the nerfs don’t do enough (or anything) to address it.

“I think what makes him so dominant is the pullout speed on his ult and deadly ability… It’s incredibly frustrating to play against.”

– Alex (@AEXfps on Twitter)

“I think I share the general consensus that the problem with Chamber is that he’s more like a duelist than a sentinel.”

– Alexander (@TheCoolAlex00 on Twitter)

“I don’t think this set of nerfs will push Chamber out of the meta… the main issue with Chamber is his teleport, which is a reactive escape ability (an Anti-trade ability)… Chamber TP is the strongest ones because it’s reactive.”

– Tssunder (@Tssunder_ on Twitter)

“Chamber is strong because he is a First Blood machine… (he) can take early duels and if it seems unfavorable, he teleports out.”

– Voxize

“Chamber has had a huge impact on every game he appeared in, especially if we talk about multi-kills. His TP ability makes him the perfect agent to get more than one kill per round.”

– Godspeed (@Godspeed_LA on Twitter)

This is only a small excerpt from the many points that are raised by these contributors, but notice how they all share a common theme. Yes, they did increase the amount of money each bullet costs for Headhunter, but it will still be an oppressive pseudo-Guardian. Yes, they increased his ult points requirement, but it is still a free Operator. Yes, they decreased the TP radius size, but it is still reactive and gives him so much mobility and anti-trade potential.

This last point is one of major contention, because, keep in mind, it is the same argument that was used for Jett before the mini-rework dash was implemented. Jett’s dash was considered oppressive because it was reactive, and allowed her to anti-trade for free, kill or not. Her new dash requires some forethought, and can be punished easier if the Jett isn’t ready. Tssunder notes this, saying:

“Jett Dash is predictive, you have to activate in preparation of enemies, and it is on a timer. Reyna Dismiss is conditional, you have to get a kill. Yoru Gatecrash is predictive, it is on a timer, and has travel time.”

Does Chamber have a similar condition, something that requires foresight? No. He can sit in the circle and hold an angle for the entire round without being in danger (unlike Jett’s Dash timer). It doesn’t require line-of-sight to activate, so he can put it on the other side of walls and take aggressive fights (unlike Reyna Dismiss). And the only “prediction” he needs is to plan where he wants to go, and can basically guarantee his own safety (unlike Yoru Gatecrash). The range nerf changes none of the above points.

Graph provided by Voxize

Voxize points out that Chamber’s peak happens once (around 10 secs) and then 30 seconds later (at 45 seconds). Notice how that aligns almost perfectly with the old Rendez-vous cooldown timer. An increased cooldown doesn’t change the fact that he still could teleport later. So Voxize thinks that the graph will be practically identical to pre-nerf, just with a larger time gap.

Data provided by Godspeed. The more blue, the higher the correlation.

Godspeed noted the correlation between different variables and winning a round. He notes, in particular, the importance of winning 4v5s and multi-kills. Chamber’s Rendez-vous allows him to get multikills by getting a pick and then not giving the trade. While not mentioned by Godspeed, Chamber’s Headhunter and Tour de Force also contribute to a team winning 4v5. If a player has decent aim, they can easily turn a player disadvantage around with these guns, as they are not something a team wants to peek into. Do the nerfs address this aspect?

By nerfing Chamber’s Sentinel qualities, the devs have not nerfed his playstyle or his oppressive qualities. Will the slow duration decrease some Tour de Force from being an economic monster? Will the radius stop Chamber’s anti-trades? Will the increased timer decrease Chamber’s ability to take first bloods and get multi-kills? Only time will tell, but it isn’t looking too great, if you were expecting change.

A good visual showing how slippery Chamber can really be.

As you can see, the implications of this nerf go deeper than just “Jett is good now.” A lack of Chamber can create a cascading effect on the meta, but there is also a possibility that he could still be around. He could be the most picked agent, again. No matter what school you can agree with, one thing is for sure: Champions in Istanbul will be about Chamber, even if he is not there.

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