Valorant Pros Settle the Vandal vs. Phantom Debate

Vandal or Phantom?
Vandal or Phantom? / Image courtesy of Riot Games

It's officially been almost two years since the launch of Valorant, and now that we're just entering Episode 4 Act 3, it's time to revisit the age-old question — Vandal or Phantom?

In Valorant, players will almost certainly need to decide between the two during full buy rounds, as Riot Games designed them to be the go-to rifles at 2,900 credits apiece. The Vandal has its ever-satisfying one-shot capacity at all ranges, but the Phantom comes with a larger magazine size, no bullet tracers, and a spray pattern both more consistent and easier to transfer.

At the time of publication — here at the end of Episode 4 Act 2 — the Vandal has remained the most popular weapon in online lobbies, accounting for the most kills per match in Competitive across all ranks, according to Blitz. This is further backed up by ProGuides, who reported that from Valorant Champions 2021 to the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Stage 1: Qualifiers for North America and EMEA, the two firearms have gone from having a near-even split in pick percentage (27%), to the Vandal (34%) taking a clear lead over the Phantom (22%) even on maps like Split.

DBLTAP spoke with several of the game's best players from Team Liquid, The Guard and OpTic Gaming during VCT Stage 1: Masters Reykjavík to settle the Vandal vs. Phantom debate. Here's what we found.

Ultimately, the consensus appears to be that there is no consensus; it all depends on the situation.

According to OpTic Pujan "FNS" Mehta, choosing between the Vandal and the Phantom depends on two things: if you're feeling confident in your shot, and what your natural shooting style is.

"I think you always start Phantom because when it comes to spray transfers, when it comes to starting the game early, you're not firing on all cylinders right?" FNS told DBLTAP. "You're not always starting up heated and warmed up so you want to be able to spray down your opponent, and the best gun to spray with is the Phantom, for the most part, especially in online play. If you're feeling it, then you can switch to the Vandal and start one-tapping people or two-bursting them.

"For the most part, it kind of depends on your shooting style as well. For example, we have yay, who most of the time, he just bursts, so he’s never going to buy a Phantom because he’s just going to two-bullet people. I, on the other hand, and the rest of my teammates, are sprayers, so most of the time, I would say Phantom still over Vandal for sure."

For three-time VCT LAN event attendee Liquid Travis "L1NK" Mendoza, the difference comes down to the level of luxury in which you can afford to compete.

"If you’re on LAN," L1NK said, "the Phantom feels like a laser beam. So I feel like, the Phantom [is better] on LAN, and then, online, the Vandal [is better]. You get more of the wide swings, the ping-advantage swings with the Vandal, yeah. I feel like it’s maybe a mix of both depending on what you’re playing on."

Among the pros we interviewed, perhaps the most textbook response came from the young gun in the group, Guard Michael "neT" Bernet.

"I don’t think one’s better," neT said. "It just depends on your play style. Like, if you’re playing Agents like a Controller, or a Sentinel like Cypher, and you’re gonna be spraying through smokes a lot, I’d say the Phantom is better because you can shoot through and they can’t track your tracers. But if you’re playing mainly Duelists, where you’re going to go in first and you’re taking longer range gunfights, I would say the Vandal’s better. But, it all comes down, at the end of the day, to personal preference. There’s not a better option."

Lastly, out of the group of pros we interviewed, we spoke to someone who perhaps was most closely tied to a side in the debate, the commonly nicknamed one-tap machine Liquid Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom, who described his change of heart on the topic over the years.

Early on, ScreaM had been most known for his dominant displays while using the common Vandal on Reyna. As the meta has shifted more and more with newer characters, maps and strategies, however, ScreaM, who locked in the likes of Jett, KAY/O and Sage at this event, noted his need to adapt and truly utilize both rifles.

"My mindset changed with the time I’ve played Valorant," ScreaM said. "In the start, it was a bit more of a big question, but right now, I think it’s more like I try to adapt more on situations and try to make the best out of it. If I know I’m going to play a close position kind of, I’m gonna play Phantom. If I know they have a bad economy, I’m gonna play Phantom as well. On a few maps like Breeze, Icebox, Haven or big maps, I usually play Vandal. It depends on also how I feel, you know? If I feel good, or if I feel kind of shaky, I’ll play Phantom, but I play both. Today, I can play both."

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