Riot Games is in the midst of trialing a bunch of interesting changes to Valorant over on the Public Beta Environment (PBE) server this week. For starters, as we’ve highlighted in another recent article, Fracture is getting a major overhaul that looks very promising. But the more impactful changes pertain to the reworking of several Agents’ flashes, which, if locked in after this week’s trial run, seems destined to shift Valorant’s meta in a big way — though, as is sometimes the case, shifting it differently for ranked and pro play.
Update: The changes that were trialed on the PBE server and discussed in this article have now officially been locked in by Riot Games. They are set to go live over the next 48 hours; you can check out the full notes for Patch 5.07 here.
Before we go any further, let’s quickly review those changes, which impact four of Valorant’s flash Agents: Skye, Kayo, Yoru, and Reyna.
- KAY/O – underarm flash is now less powerful his left-click flash is much stronger, both have been tweaked to flash for different lengths of time. The idea here is to push the Agent more toward the support role, rewarding precise left-click flashes and removing some of his ability to be self-sufficient in the flash role.
- Skye – Skye’s birds now cannot be destroyed, and they flash for longer depending on how far the bird has traveled. Her re-equip time is now slightly longer, too. Again, similar to KAY/O, Skye is now more of a support Agent since her flashes don’t have a strong effect after having been popped at close range.
- Reyna – Reyna’s leer now has an infinite range, blinds enemies faster after being deployed, and her weapon re-equip time after using the ability is also quicker.
- Yoru – Flash lasts for longer and is animated in a clearer way to help players understand whether an enemy is flashed. Yoru also benefits from a longer window to gain an assist from using a flash.
I’ve spoken in a previous article about Chamber’s big rebalance as having a pretty positive impact in the pro scene play but more or less none in ranked, and I’m reminded of something similar reviewing these changes. In the case of Chamber, reducing the number of trips available to him and then later nerfing his abilities across the board saw trip-centric sentinels like Cypher and Killjoy see much higher pick rates in pro games. In ranked, however, Chamber is still seen in nearly every match.
Once again with these latest flash changes, I think Riot is spot on with its intentions to push each Agent closer to their intended role — Skye and KAY/O should be more supportive, and Reyna/Yoru should be able to benefit more from their own utility. The problem is that in all but the very highest elo of Valorant, players don’t really utilize Agents according to their intended roles. Generally speaking, they prefer to play the ones that are easiest to use and most effective for fragging. Supporting roles aren’t necessarily ignored, but they aren’t a priority.
I struggle to find Skye and KAY/O mains flashing for teammates effectively in Immortal, let alone the Silver and Gold ranks that are Valorant’s most populated. And the Valorant gods know only too well that we don’t need more instalock Reynas. As for Yoru, well, any buff is welcome, really, but the reality is that Yoru is hard to learn and very difficult to get consistent value from, which is why he’s hardly ever seen in ranked.
In a way, I feel as though I’m being a bit harsh here, kicking up a fuss when arguably well-considered changes are being implemented. Although, as an aside, I will say I do find it odd that KAY/O is essentially being made harder to play when only the other month his molly was buffed because Riot highlighted his poor win rate in ranked as likely related to his higher skill ceiling. It seems a bit counterintuitive to now make the impact of his pop flashes harder for lower elo players, right?
Anyway, my real fear is that in ranked we’re just likely to see Skye and KAY/O pick rates plummet in ranked, while Reyna pick rates increase even beyond where they should be now. KAY/O and Skye can be used aggressively as they are now, which is often their saving grace when a team desperately needs a flash but nobody is willing to give up their Jett/Chamber/Reyna preference. Is that still going to be the case moving forward or are we about to see double duelist become standard again?
Again, I think for very high elo and professional play this rebalancing of the Agents works a treat. And in fairness to Riot, you can’t always cater to the lowest common denominator. I suppose the hope is that over time players will learn to get the most out of Skye and KAY/O once again, and after the initial and inevitable buzz of excitement over Reyna’s buff dies down, we’ll see less of her — because I’m very convinced she’s about to explode in popularity again.
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