Being a first-person, hero tactical shooter that, from day one, has presented an ever-growing range of weapons, Agents and maps for players to master, Valorant's gameplay is as trial-and-error as it gets.
This is especially the case in ranked where, notoriously, it can be far from the healthiest environment to figure out what you're doing wrong. Perhaps by better understanding the game's utility vs. aim dynamic, however, players will be able to better understand just where to start and what to prioritize in their paths to improvement.
DBLTAP spoke with several of the game's best professionals from FaZe Clan, 100 Thieves and Ghost Gaming during the VCT Stage 2: Challengers NA Playoffs to get their thoughts on a simple question: Between utility usage and raw aim, what should newer players prioritize for climbing ranked? Here's what we found.
For 100T Peter "Asuna" Mazuryk, the advice he'd give to newer players is to keep it simple and focus on improving their ability to hit their shots.
"It's hard to solo use your utility," Asuna told DBLTAP. "Unless you have a duo partner, then maybe you can do like Fade-Raze, you know? Cringe stuff like that. But as an individual, you should probably just have good aim and then you'll learn the utility as you go. You're not going to get the best utility usage out of your ranked teammates and it's super difficult, but if you know you're reaching your cap in mechanics, then yeah, I guess util would be the other thing you’d have to improve."
Ghost Alex "aproto" Protopapas felt the same way, mentioning that outgunning your opponent is the most important thing overall in ranked.
"It's gonna sound bad," aproto said, "but if you know how to shoot and you just run it down, you're gonna be able to grind the ranked scene because you can play things like Chamber and Jett, who don't require crazy util usage. You just hit your shots and you keep on getting better aiming-wise, you know you're just gonna keep on climbing. But I mean, if you prefer other roles, then I do think util usage can be pretty useful."
Although 100T Derrek Ha also agreed that gun skill is more important, he also emphasized that beyond pure, reactionary aim, it's important for players to understand the fundamental angle and positioning concepts in Valorant.
"I think raw aim can only get you so far," Derrek said. "You should be able to have good crosshair replacement and better positioning and [be] working off your team because at the end of the day, that's what this game is. Just a team game and crossfires and stuff like that."
Of course, however, Valorant wasn't imagined by Riot to simply be a mechanics fest, which is why others view learning lineups and timing abilities as the key.
Particularly with FaZe Andrej "babybay" Francisty, "smeaging" at the highest level seems to have shown him that using abilities to set up kills is paramount for winning.
"I think newer players should focus on improving on their utility and positioning and stuff like that over raw aim," babybay said. "You know, everybody's got good aim at this level, honestly. It just depends on if you're able to use it, or if your team is able to use utility for you to be able to use it, you know? Or how do you position yourself and stuff like that."
100T head coach Sean Gares shared a very similar stance, adding that there's plenty of room in the game, especially at the pro level, for players who are willing to master the less flashy roles in order to win.
"There's almost like a skill cap that you hit," Gares said, "because you can only play certain situations because the utility usage is so good at the top pro level. If you're just an aimer, you better be playing like Chamber, or you better be playing like a Duelist. And there's only so many of those that can be on a team or even in a region. So because of that, I think utility usage is, ultimately, the trump card. If you were a top-level Controller, it'd be way easier to find a job than if you're a top-level Duelist. The same thing goes for like Sentinels and stuff like that. In-game leaders. These roles are always going to be in high demand in this game, and there's always going to be less people doing them relative to the star roles like Duelist."
Lastly, FaZe dicey opted to view the key to improving in Valorant from a different perspective: game sense.
"Knowing when to do stuff," dicey said. "Intuition is a really big part of becoming a good player. If you have good intuition, then you should be able to get kills even if your aim is lacking. You should know when to use util. It's just once you experience so many situations enough, you should like be able to know. So as long as you play and you realize what you should have done better and how you could have won the round or played off your teammate, then overall, it should be easier to climb."
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