For those coming from Counter-Strike, there are a lot of transferable skills in terms of the core mechanics in Valorant. But if you’re coming from other shooters like Overwatch, Quake, or other games like League of Legends, you might wonder at first why your shots are missing.
We’ve brought along professional Counter-Strike and Valorant player Tyler “Tucks” Reilly to give pointers on how to improve these elements. Tucks played for Aussie team Chiefs for years in Counter-Strike, before coaching for esports organisation ORDER. With the help of their sponsors Alienware, they’re beginning their campaign to dominate competitive Valorant.
We’ll get into the fundamentals first – the nitty gritty of popping heads – before covering some higher level team tactics towards the end.
Getting Your Aim Right
Valorant is Counter-Strike under the hood, with the aesthetics of Overwatch. The movement, spray patterns of bullets, and general game mode are all borrowed from Valve’s esports behemoth. With that in mind, the basic rule of thumb is simple:
If you’re moving, you’re inaccurate.
Rather than just letting go of the movement key and waiting to decelerate, you can press the opposite movement key to bring yourself to a standstill faster. That’s called counter-strafing. When you press A to strafe and peek around a corner, you can quickly press D to stop before you shoot, allowing for an accurate headshot.
Valorant provides a shooting range which is great for practicing this. Instead of standing still while the bots spawn, keep strafing and stopping, getting a feel for shooting in that small window when you’re standing still.
The newly released Deathmatch mode is also a great tool, maximising the amount of firefights you’ll have (and therefore aim practice) in a short amount of time. There are also third-party aim training tools, but Tucks doesn’t personally believe those are necessary.
“I find it’s just best to play the game a lot, and use the actual weapons in the game,” Tucks says about ORDER’s practice regime. “If you spend a period of time each day in the shooting range and Deathmatch, you’ll notice a lot of positive change quickly.”
After the first Act, Tucks is confident he knows the crucial element for a new player to focus on.
“I think the absolute most important thing is crosshair placement. That’s everything,” he says. “Making sure your crosshair is always at head level as you’re walking around. I usually don’t keep my crosshair right on the corner as well, I allow for some room for the enemy to peek, so my reaction speed can catch them.”
Team Composition and Utility
It’s tempting to focus on all the crazy combinations you can pull off in Valorant. But unlike CS:GO, not every character can buy smokes and flashes in Valorant.
So it’s a great idea to be able to play a few characters well, to be able to give your team what it needs (be prepared for someone to instantly lock in your favourite agent). A good team should have some smokes, a flash, and some information abilities like Sova’s.
Defensive abilities are great for stalling, but don’t use them at the first sign of an enemy. Many newer players burn through Sage’s slows and ice wall at the start of the round. There’s a lot of time in the round — if the enemy team is smart, they’ll just wait until you’re empty.
“Baiting out utility is really strong,” Tucks told us. “It depends on who you’re playing against, but it can be really easy to bait a Sage wall just by putting a little bit of pressure on a site.
It’s early days for competitive Valorant, but with Alienware and ORDER partnering up for their run at local dominance, the team has already been putting in some serious practice hours. In that time, Tucks has already noticed a few things about how the meta is taking shape.
“Baiting out smokes is a big one. Most teams only run one smoker, like Brimstone. They don’t normally run Brimstone and Omen. Brimstone only has three. The fact that you know how much utility they have means baiting utility is going to be a really big deal in Valorant.”
It also helps to save some kit on offence. Protecting your flank while pushing is great, but keep in mind you have to defend in post-plant situations. Cypher tripwires can be great for this.
However, Tucks thinks the new agent Killjoy is the better choice, as she can do these things and more.
“Some teams might run Cypher and Killjoy. But she’s more of a damage/info agent whereas Cypher is pure info,” he says. “He doesn’t do any damage with his abilities. You just sort of find out where they are. But Killjoy can do that and do damage to them. So I think she will be switched in eventually over Cypher.”
To give your team the best chance of winning a round, it’s important to coordinate your purchases. Most of the time people will understand that some rounds you just have to save money and Valorant even has these voice lines built into the game. If you don’t have the 3,900 credits for a rifle and full armour (and ideally some utility on top of that), it’s not a full buy round.
In Valorant, this is easy for your enemy to plan for, as they can see how much money you started the round with. That goes both ways — if you press Tab and see most of them are below 3,900 credits, expect them to charge in with short-range weapons and prepare for a cheesy strat.
Unlike Counter-Strike, however, shotguns seem to be more viable in Valorant.
“The shotguns in this game are really strong,” Tucks told us. “So a lot of teams are going with shotguns for low-money rounds. Especially since there are a lot of close angles in the maps in this game.”
The Shorty, which is 200 credits, is a shotgun with two extremely short-range shell blasts before you need to reload. It’s ideal for sitting around a corner, and not much else — but you can get great value on a low-money round.
Above all, make sure you’re having fun, otherwise it’s not worth it! When you master the movement and aiming mechanics of a tech shooter like Valorant, and play enough to have a strong gamesense of what’s going on, the feeling of mastery over the match is unlike anything most games can give you. With a game as young as Valorant, with the esports scene still in its infancy. And with heavyweight sponsors like Alienware already committing to the esport, it’s got a bright future ahead of it, with plenty of opportunities to make your mark.
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