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VCT 2022 Meta Review

VCT 2022 Meta Review

Landon Summers

01/16/2023

So, 2022 has come to a close. 2022 was a massive year for VALORANT as a whole: the first in-person events took place; our first live music performance happened; map rotations took effect to try to diversify map pools; and we saw new agents and a new map. Through it all, patch notes kept coming out and changing the way we played the game. So, let’s go back, and look at the ups and downs of 2022 in VALORANT, and what went down in terms of the meta.

The Prologue

Top Agents: Jett, Sova, Astra, Viper, Killjoy/Skye

Let’s go back to the very beginning, which is actually December 2021. VALORANT Champions Berlin had just concluded, and Acend had become the first ever VALORANT World Champions. They played on patch 3.10, which introduced Chamber (although he was disabled). The last major meta patch before then was 3.06, which buffed KAY/O and nerfed Skye and Jett. This was the patch that had made right-click kills on Jett knives no longer refresh Blade Storm. This was in August of 2021 (yeah, this change is over one year old). The only other notable patch was 3.09, which introduced classic nerfs and had some Fracture changes. This was the basis for all the agent pics at Champions.

Jett dominated the Agent select screen, with an 82.39% overall pick rate, she had 80%+ pick rates on almost every map, the exceptions being Fracture (58.33%) and Split (54.55%). If those maps were out of the list, she could easily have had a 90%+ pick rate. She was the only true anti-trade in the game, and she paired well with almost every gun, Vandals on closer corners, Operators on long angles, and even Judges just to troll. It was super easy to get an obnoxious pick and zoom out without any repercussions.

The Queen of VALORANT in her ult

Sova was similar in that he had 3 maps with little to no pick rate (Bind, Fracture, Split), all which weighted down his overall pick rate. On every other map, he had around 90 to 100% pick rate (except Haven which was 70%). He was the only true intel Initiator agent, his Sova dart was a unique scanner and ping ability that no other agent had. KAY/O and Skye and both had pings, but they didn’t locate enemies, and Breach had no intel whatsoever. He only got switched out when intel was less effective than a pop-flash, in which Skye’s and KAY/O’s (and even Breach’s) util was preferred.

The Controller category was slightly more diverse, but that was because different maps needed different controllers. We saw either Astra or Viper (and sometimes Brimstone on Bind). And no inbetween. On almost every map (except Fracture) it was either Astra with 90-100% pick rate or Viper with 90-100% pick rate.

The only real diverse category that had the most diversity was the Sentinels, but that was because each Sentinel had a defined niche. Playing Icebox or Split? Pick Sage to wall and make planting easier. On Fracture or Breeze? Play Cypher and use his wires to watch the numerous paths flanks. Anywhere else except Bind? Go Killjoy and annoy the enemy.

The meta at this time felt stagnant. There was definitely some variation, which brought excitement, but it was hard to variate from the Jett-Sova-Astra/Viper core that really anchored teams. Depending on the map, there were only really one or two agent slots left up to different agents.

The First Checkpoint: Masters 1 – Reykjavík

Top Agents: Jett, Sova, Viper, Chamber, Sage

The time period from Champions to Masters 1 was packed with agent changes and releases that shook up the staleness that was Champions 2021. First, in patch 4.0, Neon was introduced, who, we know now, is a staple on maps like Fracture and Breeze for her ability to force space and challenge tempo. This was also the patch where Bind saw a few changes and Breeze had a mid-level rework. Then, Patch 4.04 (in March) was the Yoru rework and the Controller changes. This was the point that many can really point to as a turning point for the category. Astra and Viper were heavily nerfed, putting Astra and Omen on the same level and giving some buffs to Brim. This was the patch that added speed boost to Brim’s Stim Beacon. Thus leading to Masters 1 in April, playing on patch 4.05.

Now that Chamber was playable and the Controller category’s power was redistributed, we could really see the start of a more diverse meta. No agent peaked past 70% in overall pick rate. Jett was the only one that came close, with 65% overall. Only 5 agents made it past 40% overall pick rate (compared to Champions with 7 agents). This is huge, because it means that more agents are being played, and more agents are being used over the “staples”.

Sova was still dominating at the start of the year

The first big change that we see is the reduction of use in Astra. Since this patch leveled the playing field, Omen came back in roaring fashion on Ascent, Haven and Split. While this was definitely a big loss for Astra, she still saw decent play, as she was now an alternative, not a must pick. Brimstone managed to find his footing with the Controller re-balancing, really solidifying his place on Bind and Fracture. Viper, however, remained untouched because, despite the nerfs, she is the only Controller that is able to provide reliable coverage on maps like Breeze and Icebox.

The next big change is the noticeable drop in usage in Jett. While she still saw play on almost every map, was still 100% on Ascent and Breeze, and was 80%+ on Icebox and Haven, she did see a decline in play on 5 out of the 7 maps. She completely disappeared from Bind, and every map where you could use the Operator, Chamber was popping up. Double duelist was still played a bit, with Neon or Raze appearing, however, this was one of the last times we would see comps like that.

The Second Checkpoint: Masters 2 – Copenhagen

Top Agents: Chamber, Raze, Fade, Viper, KAY/O

If Chamber and the new Initiators were the symptoms of change, then this patch group was the nail in the coffin for the former queen and king of VALORANT Competitive. The patches after 4.05 were nothing special, not until 4.08 in April, released right after the end of Masters 1. This is the patch that killed Jett and Sova. For Jett, this was when her dash was changed to make it so there must be an activation before the dash. For Sova, this was the introduction of Sova’s first true direct competition: Fade.

These changes directly impacted key playstyles of many Jett and Sova players in the competitive space and really shook up how teams made their comps. With a few tweaks and bug fixes from April to July, we land in Masters 2, playing on Patch 5.0 (no Pearl though).

This is the point where people began to notice that Chamber was beginning to soak up space for Cypher, Jett and Killjoy (and even a little Sage). Cypher was really coming into his own on Fracture and Breeze, but Chamber’s dominance snuffed out Cypher’s chances at usage. Maps like Ascent and Haven that Killjoy thrived on suddenly began to have Chamber appearing in every nook and cranny. Cypher, Killjoy and Sage all loved Split. However, Chamber kicked most of them out. In the 7 times Split was played (14 possible comps), Cypher was picked once, Killjoy twice and Sage three times. Chamber was picked 10 times. Oh, and let’s not forget Icebox and Breeze. Chamber was the main reason why Jett dropped from 100% pick rate. Sometimes he appeared along side her, sometimes taking up the slot that Jett held.

Chamber took Jett’s place on a lot of maps as the Operator Agent

I think this patch set could be called the true death of Double-Duelist. With teams running Double Initiator like KAY/O-Fade, Sova-KAY/O, or Double Controller like Brimstone-Viper, there was no room for two duelists. On Ascent or Breeze, you’d run Jett, since those are maps she could really shine and take advantage of the map geometry to avoid damage. For Bind, Fracture, Haven and Split, you run Raze. And sometimes on Fracture, you run Neon too. We only saw a rare instance on Fracture with Raze and Neon being a viable combo to clear areas and easily enter a site with Chamber standing guard.

Even though we will remember this as a big Chamber showing, I would also like to point out that Fade, KAY/O and Breach all had massive showings as well. Fade came out in this patch set, and spiked to a 51.52% pick rate, which is one of the highest (if not the highest) debut pick rate. This is the first time we would see KAY/O reach 100% pick rate on a map at an international event, in this case, Ascent. Breach really began to show how strong he was, with a high 60% pick rate on Fracture and Haven. He really shined as an anti-Chamber character, along with Fade and her Prowlers.

I would argue that this would explain Fade’s and Breach’s massive pick rate spike: they were incredible counters to Chamber. In fact, to take it a step further, I would argue that the Initiator class became so strong because their utility is the best at clearing Chamber away. Anywhere we see a strong Chamber pick rate, we see an Initiator with a flash, stun, or some other form of push back high in the pick rates as well. This was a massive shift that would affect how the game was played for the coming months.

The Third Checkpoint: VALORANT Champions – Istanbul

Top Agents: Chamber, Fade, Viper, KAY/O, Omen

There were some nerfs and buffs between Masters 2 and Champions. Chamber received his first set of strong nerfs, and Phoenix flash was buffed, and KAY/O’s molly goes through walls (like KJ’s). Also Neon’s ult now did 3x the damage if you hit the head, so that’s pretty neat. Here, Jett and Sova both sank to roughly 30% pick rates, while Chamber and Fade soared as the most picked agents in the game. This would be the peak of Fade’s dominance as the most played Initiator and second most played agent at an event.

Even though Chamber was nerfed, his presence was still all consuming. Only two maps had him with a “low pick rate”: Ascent and Bind. The lowest pick rate was on Ascent, with a 34.62% pick rate. Every other map had him near 80% pick rate, which is still a lot for receiving nerfs. The nerfs only really help Killjoy on Ascent, who passed by him with a 47.06% pick rate.

Fade started to come into her own

The last few patches made the meta really turbulent, so the meta this time had a bit less variation. Put another way, teams went more with what they were good at and what the map demanded. On Ascent, there was KAY/O, with a Fade or Sova. On Bind was Raze with Viper and/or Brimstone. Breeze was Viper, Sova and Jett and/or Chamber. On Fracture you had Breach and Chamber. Haven had Omen and Fade. Icebox was Viper, Chamber and Sage. And, to round it all out, Pearl, with Fade, Chamber and Astra. Put each map with the corresponding smoke, and you had the majority of comps in this tournament.

The Fourth Checkpoint: Game Changers Championship – Berlin

Top Agents: Chamber, KAY/O, Fade, Sova, Viper

This set of patch notes was very small compared to previous ones. Mainly bug fixes, with one major patch reworking the flashes of Yoru, Reyna, Skye and KAY/O. Harbor was also released on 5.08, but we know no one is playing him right now. This leads us to the GC Championship in November.

KAY/O had been slowly climbing up the pick rates as an Initiator, and this was the first event where he played more than any other Initiator agent. In fact, three of the top five agents at the Championship were Initiators: KAY/O, Fade and Sova. It’s pretty clear that teams needed multiple Initiators to deal with the strong Chamber players in the Game Changers scene.

This is also the last true major Riot event where our french boy Chamber dominates. The lowest pick rate at the tournament was 40% on Ascent, with the next lowest being 75% on Bind. These numbers are staggering, mirroring that of the Sova and Jett of last year.

KAY/O became one of the biggest agents near the end of the year, a silent but steady pick.

The Final Checkpoint: Chamber-geddon

Top Agents (as of Dec 31st): Killjoy, Jett, Sova, KAY/O, Fade.

The patches after the 4th Checkpoint really began to dismantle what was the norm of 2022, targeting Fade and Chamber. Right after Game Changers started their tournament on the 15th, Patch 5.10 was released on the 16th. This was one of the first Cypher buffs in a really long time, and it also nerfed Fade’s Prowlers and increased the ult cost of her Nightfall. Oh and Harbor was buffed (but again, who used him). However, that’s not what really shook up the meta.

That was patch 5.12. It was as if the nerf team snuck up behind him and repeatedly smacked the guy to death. He was gutted, with every ability seeing some nerf: Increased cooldowns, slower fire rate, increased spread. To top it all, his anti-trade Rendezvous became much harder to use and more predictable. The events that play on this patch show him having little to no play at all. In addition, most abilities and items in the game received a health upgrade, making them slightly more tanky and less likely to be randomly destroyed.

We are already seeing some immediate knee-jerk meta changes. Chamber’s pick rate has plummeted. Most of his map pick rates barely reach past 10%. This highest pick rate, right now, is on Fracture, with 14.93%. Compare this to 100% at Champions, and 90% at GC Champions. Killjoy and Jett have spiked in pick rate to fill the void that Chamber left, on some maps jumping 20-30% on maps they dominated pre-Chamber. He is just above Neon and Reyna in terms of pick rate, with a 9.47% overall pick rate.

Pick rates over the year:

AgentPicksMatchesPercentage
Sova367556497356.57
Chamber366656497356.43
Jett355516497354.72
Viper255936497339.39
KAY/O225676497334.73
Raze210226497332.35
Astra191136497329.42
Omen181906497328.00
Breach181266497327.90
Killjoy165676497325.50
Sage162236497324.97
Skye158156497324.34
Fade139076497321.40
Brimstone100266497315.43
Cypher68346497310.52
Reyna5371649738.27
Neon5001649737.70
Phoenix770649731.19
Yoru652649731.00
Harbor51649730.08

Biggest Winners of 2022

Fade, KAY/O and Brimstone

These three easily benefitted the most from the changes that occurred this year. Fade was one of the biggest debuts, KAY/O became one of the biggest staples of comps on almost all maps, and Brimstone was finally able to solidify a place on two maps. Breach, Omen and Raze are probably close seconds, because they each were able to shine throughout the year, though not as strong as the first 3.

Biggest Losers of 2022

Jett, Sova and Astra

With the changes implemented this year, these three agents really fell from the dominance at the start of the year. Jett was kicked down by Chamber, Sova by Fade and KAY/O and Astra by Omen. Each of these agents still see play and have important map uses, however, compared to the start of the year, it is vastly different.

Most Impactful Agent of 2022

Chamber

Chamber both won and lost this year. It was like the Astra arch, however, the changes happened within the same year, so it’s hard to label him as just a winner and a loser. He would definitely be the biggest winner of 2022, with the dominance he exerted in every mode of VALORANT, but with patch 5.12, the loss is so extreme that he is also one of the biggest losers of 2022. His sway over VALORANT will not be forgotten, and so, I will name him the most Impactful Agent of 2022.

With a new smokes character, and teams are still figuring out what to do on Lotus. VCT 2023 is bound to be a great one

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