VALORANT literature review: fear given form (Fade)
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 a 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 Fade.
Okay, so I don’t know if anyone has noticed, mainly because Chamber was so strong, but Fade has had an absolute BANGER of a season. 50+% pick rate in mulitple tournaments is quite a showing. So, in this article, I made it a goal to talk to as many people as I could about Fade, and ask, what makes her so strong?
Before we get into the main discussion, let’s set up some ground work: when placed on a team, what role does Fade fulfill?
One: She is an Initiator. I know, wild revelations here at rib.gg.
Two: She is a Support/Catalyst Initiator. Utilizing the terms laid out by Anderzz (@AnderzzTV on Twitter), a Catalyst agent is an agent “concerned with ‘opening the door’ via catalytic utility (flashes, stuns, EBP).” Here, EBP stands for Entry-by-Proxy, which means any piece of utility that substitutes a gun-on-gun entry. Fade’s playstyle, while it can allow for a Fade entry, is much better suited at helping entry/dive agents like Jett or Raze to clear out angles and force site holders into tough situations. In terms of EBP, she has her Prowlers, which act as an entry without throwing a whole body into the fray.
Three: She is a Recon Agent. Again, not really much to debate here, every single one of her abilities offers some form of information. Haunt is clearly an info-ping ability, Prowler is an info scanner, and Nightfall leaves trails to sniff out the prey. Even Seize offers limited information, as the tether indicates if someone is caught, even if the target is not in Line of Sight.
One: She is in direct competition with Sova. If Astra, Neon, or KAY/O have taught us anything, it’s that a strong and diverse pool of agents encourages teams to try new compositions. When agents are introduced that offer a different way of fulfilling a role, common staples are often put to the test.
Think back to just after the VALORANT Beta. Are we seeing Jett-Sova-Phoenix comps? Is Brimstone one of the most played smokes? Is Sage one of the strongest agents in the game, so strong that she is a must-pick on every map? New agents appeared and cut into the territory that these agents held. For Jett, Chamber, and Neon. For Phoenix, KAY/O, and Skye. For Brimstone, Astra, and Omen. For Sage, Killjoy, and Chamber. And for Sova, KAY/O, and Fade.
“I think Fade is used a lot because she released at a similar time with the Sova nerfs and people were looking for a replacement. Combine that with a cool aesthetic, round-changing ult, unique play style and people instantly started playing her.”– Blxke – Fade Connoisseur and VALORANT Content Creator (@BlakeRayhart on Twitter)
Every agent that is strong now is competition for an original agent that offers something more, or does it in a whole new way. This doesn’t make the original agent bad, but it forces us to rethink how to play older Agent compositions.
Apollo, a VALORANT Analyst and writer, pointed out that Sova’s pick rate was already dropping.
“…in Masters 1 Reykjavík 2022 (running on patch 4.04) something interesting happened: while he remained a staple in Ascent, Icebox and Breeze, his pick rate dropped like a brick on Bind and Haven.”– Apollo, VALORANT Analyst and writer (@endless_val on Twitter)
Apollo attributes it to that fact that the old cycle was to prioritize info before entry. However, over time, teams shifted towards entry as the main focal point. This opened the door for Skye and KAY/O, to be picked over Sova, and eventually Fade who can do both info and entry.
Two: She has a different sphere of influence. Sova’s kit excels at long ranges. There are entire Discord channels dedicated to hunting down complicated and snazzy lineups to constantly keep enemies on their toes. As pointed out by Smith(*) in the VALORANT Agent insights, Fade’s kit was supposed to be more localized, to give her a more defined playstyle.
Think about it like this: does it ever end well when a team rushes down a Sova while he is mid Hunter’s Fury? Does a Sova want to pop a Sova Dart up-close? And, while Owl Drone can move into dangerous territory, do you ever see a Sova pop it to help in a duel? Sova’s kit is slower, methodical, and all about the big brain plans and lineups. Fade feels like the opposite: you can’t play Fade like Sova because she is not supposed to be like Sova. Her utility is geared more towards making enemies that are close feel uneasy, and afraid to peak in case a Prowler comes for them.
Because her playstyle is more local, smaller maps are more to her benefit. This is something that both Tssunder and Shano mentioned while discussing Fade.
“Looking at the current map pool, 6 maps have Fade being pretty viable: Ascent – Both viable, Bind – Both viable, Breeze – Sova, Fracture – Fade, Haven – Both viable, Icebox – Both viable, Pearl – Fade. “– Shano – Ex Coach and VALORANT Content Creator (@shanooo92 on Twitter)
“But the reality of the situation is, most of the maps in the game don’t support Fade’s weaknesses, Breeze and Icebox are really the only two maps in the current map pool that have a significant amount of long sightlines where Fade struggles, but Icebox is more than playable with a Fade with some simple gameplay adjustments… the map pool just doesn’t have a lot of maps with long open sightlines, and if a map doesn’t have Fade’s one big weakness, why play Sova over her?”– Tssunder – Free Agent Coach and Analyst (@Tssunder_ on Twitter)
Three: Her abilities demand action. All utility in VALORANT require some sort of reaction to it. However, all of Fade’s abilities demand an active counteraction. Her Haunt prevents repositioning because of the trail that it leaves, you have to shoot Prowlers because they will hunt you down (like Skye’s Seekers). Her Seize demands you move or you risk dying due to decay and spray. Lastly, her Nightfall combines both, the need to move from Seize and the struggle to reposition with Haunt in addition to the blinding and deafening.
“Fade has a combination of utility that both must be respected by the other team and is precise, add in that she has as many (if not more) charges of info utility as other Initiators, and you have the best information Agent in the game.”– Voxize – VALORANT Analyst (@VoxizeVAL on Twitter)
Because her utility is so demanding, she can command a lot of map space, which was pointed out by Jalbert.
“Initiators are generally strong because their signature abilities recharge and you’re going to get 2-3 uses. Fade and Kay/O both have up to six useful map control abilities per round, including info… Fade (and Kay/O) are the most played initiators because they have the most, consistent util round-to-round, plus large AoE ults with guaranteed consistent value. “– JALbert – VALORANT Caster (@JALbert_LoL on Twitter)
So we’ve discussed why she is so strong, now let’s discuss where the strength lies. This is where people begin to debate Fade: not pointing out her strength, but rather questioning why that is. Rather than looking at different schools, it will be more genuine to the viewpoints given to break it down by kit, then the kit in general.
We begin with the staple of Fade’s kit: Haunt. Haunt is Fade’s visual ping tool, and is what puts her in the same category as Sova of Reconnaissance. For many of those I talked to, it’s not the fact that it is a ping ability, those are always going to be strong, rather, it is strong because it works differently than Sova’s Dart.
“Haunt instant scans which makes it superior to Sova dart in my eyes. If you’re around a corner and can’t break the Sova dart pre-first scan, wait for the first pulse and try again. With Fade eye, if it doesn’t get broken, it takes so much space compared to a Sova dart, due to the instant scan just from being in its FOV.”– Tssunder – Free Agent Coach and Analyst (@Tssunder_ on Twitter)
“Her signature ability… scanning enemies and showing a trail from Fade to them which can be used for tracking when the enemies change positions… Her Haunt brings so much value that FPX started throwing flashes to protect it from getting destroyed before scanning enemies.”– Apollo, VALORANT writer (@endless_val on Twitter)
Haunt, fundamentally, acts differently in setup, pinging, and response. With a Sova dart, it requires decent placement so that the LoS is not blocked by boxes or walls. Moreover, the ping is not immediate, and the follow-up can be difficult if rotation is not taken into account.
With Haunt, it creates its own platforms, meaning that many lineups can be up high. This is why so many lineups can be placed on the edges of the map, as ridges can block dart LoS, but Haunt’s verticality allows for more versatility. In addition to more versatile placing, it also is more immediate, so ignoring and re-peaking it can be a mistake.
The response, in particular, is a massive power point. Haunt is unique as it has, sort of, a secondary passive, which is more like a League of Legend champion. Haunt’s ability to track enemies makes it dangerous to peak. Trails last much longer than a Sova dart, and last even if an opponent leaves the LoS of Haunt, which can open the way to chasing down isolated enemies. Fade is a bounty hunter after all.
In the VALORANT Lore, Prowler’s are a manifestation of Fade’s mental state. This ball of nightmares acts like Sova’s Owl Drone and Skye’s Trailblazer. If there was one part of her kit that nearly everyone mentioned in their discussion, it would be the Prowlers. So, let’s take a look at how they are viewed from the community’s perspective.
“Fade’s Prowlers are a better drone, because it takes more shots to destroy them (I think) and if they tag an enemy then they’re blinded and deafened.”– CoolGuyAlex – Free Agent Manager and Coach (@TheCoolAlex00 on Twitter)
“To me the strongest part of Fade is the Prowlers. Just the simple fact of having 2 of them is incredibly powerful for clearing or re-clearing areas. Also info is just good, we saw this with Sova before as well that he dominated cause being revealed is very strong!”– Thinking Mans Valorant – VALORANT Content Creator for Acend Club (@ThinkingManValo on Twitter)
“Her kit is so well rounded with info denial via her ult with the deafen. Her ult is an inverse Viper ult as it allows you to enter a site at an advantage as enemies cannot hear. If you still have Prowlers they can weed out rats hiding on site and than blind the foe like a Reyna blind.”– Chazzrz – VALORANT Content Creator (@Chazzrz on Twitter)
“What makes Fade so strong is the health of her prowlers. Other than that I think she’s a balanced agent.”– Blxke – Fade Connoisseur and VALORANT Content Creator (@BlakeRayhart on Twitter)
The strength of Prowlers isn’t their solely recon component. The strength of Prowlers is their ability to chase down targets. Unlike Drone or Skye’s Dog, Prowler’s reaction to an enemy is AI-based, meaning its reactions are consistent, thus its value is consistent.
With a lot of VALORANT gameplay, the ability to leave areas unscathed allows for better retakes is paramount: more health means more chances to not die when retaking. Player health is pivotal to any aspect of the game, as one single point could swing a round. Enter Seize, an ability designed to prevent escape and decays its targets.
“Seize is a much more impactful ability compared to the other recon initiators non-signature space clearing ability, e.g Shock Darts, Skye’s heal.”– Tssunder – Free Agent Coach and Analyst (@Tssunder_ on Twitter)
“[Seize] is a supportive ability, which as a support Agent suits fade much more than Shock Darts do with Sova.”– CoolGuyAlex – Free Agent Manager and Coach (@TheCoolAlex00 on Twitter)
Seize, at first, may seem underwhelming. But the ability to apply instant decay and force the enemy in a small, predictable, space is terrifying for any team. Molly lineups with Killjoy, KAY/O, Viper or Sova are always potent (we see those all the time with anti-plant mollies), so the fact that a team can pin someone down, and force them to take damage is horrifying. One wrong move or late rotation and you could be down 4v5 against a Fade.
“Her ultimates, tethers, and Prowlers ability to completely cut the sound out of your opponents game allows you to take space a lot quicker than usual, because they can’t hear you coming.”– CoolGuyAlex – Free Agent Manager and Coach (@TheCoolAlex00 on Twitter)
“Nightfall won’t be used as part of a larger site exec setup, the times I’ve seen this used in pro play are for re-hits or used early when attackers wanna conserve utility for postplant, or the ult is used for retakes.”– Apollo, VALORANT writer (@endless_val on Twitter)
So, we take the trail power of Haunt, the deafening power of Prowlers, and mix it with the AoE power of KAY/O’s NULL/CMD or Breach’s Rolling Thunder. And you get this powerhouse of an ultimate. It is very useful for any phase of the game, as the ability to simultaneously track enemies caught in it, and clear out teams who don’t want to be track combos well with any retake.
Now, let’s consider all the aspects together. On their own, each ability is strong, but put together, we end up with a flexible beast of an Agent, that can mix and match play patterns to the team needs.
“I think what makes Fade so strong is her ability to give good information as well as being a ‘faster Agent’ then Sova. Fast executes with Sova tend to be ‘Arrow executes’, compared to with Fade it allows you to ‘Eye execute’ whilst pushing you can then Prowler. This is not an option with a drone.”– Shano – Ex Coach and VALORANT Content Creator (@shanooo92 on Twitter)
“She can flip the switch and have a Skye style entry that can be adapted way easier than the base entries you get from a KAY/O.”– Chazzrz – VALORANT Content Creator (@Chazzrz on Twitter)
“Combine these with all of fades abilities being info tools and just being pretty useful all round and you have a versatile strong agent”– Thinking Mans Valorant – VALORANT Content Creator for Acend Club (@ThinkingManValo on Twitter)
“To sum it up, Fade does struggle in certain circumstances, but in her current state, she does nearly everything Sova can do but better, outside of stalling plants/defuses. Her main weaknesses being large open maps with lots of long range sightlines doesn’t really exist in the current map pool outside of really only 1 map.”– Tssunder – Free Agent Coach and Analyst (@Tssunder_ on Twitter)
As a fun little addition, I asked each person what combination they liked with Fade, and why. Here is what I got:
“I like to combo Fade and Raze together the most out of the three options, but not for just the tether-nade combo.”– CoolGuyAlex
“In reality though, my favorite Fade combo is Fade/Yoru, because Fade has a lot of easy to apply deafens in her kit and a big weakness of Yoru’s kit is that all of his abilities are telegraphed through sound, which means you can combo things like Fade and Yoru ult which lets Yoru exit his ult literally right behind someone.”– Tssunder
“As soon as Fade’s abilities leaked, I’ve been waiting to see Fade/Killjoy in action for how much Seize amps up the threat of Lockdown. For Lockdowns that funnel a team to one specific exit, Seize at the end will punish people who don’t immediately evacuate and dramatically cuts down the time you have to escape.”– JALbert
“My favorite Fade combo is one that not a lot of people think of – it’s Fade and Yoru. I have a duo who mains Yoru (also my brother and content creator “rob” (@RobertRayhart on Twitter) and we like to combine Fade’s deafening abilities with Yoru’s teleport/ult. It catches a lot of people off guard and is practically a free round if used correctly.”– Blxke
“I think I fall into the general category of the Fade/Raze combo as my favorite, the fact it can be shortened to Faze for a callout makes it even better!”– Shano
“My favorite Fade combo would have to be between her and Raze… the big thing for me is Fade’s Prowler. Raze’s way of entrying with satchels always seemed weaker and slower compared to Jett’s dash, so having the Prowler go forward is great for cover. And also, fighting next to a friendly chompy nightmare cat just feels like uma família, y’know?”– Apollo
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