Valorant beginner’s guide: Tips and tricks for Riot’s class-based shooter

Jacob Roach

Riot Games’ latest title, Valorant, is here. It’s a class-based shooter in the vein of Overwatch, with mechanics that feel like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. No matter where you’re coming from, there are a lot of new things to master in Valorant. Here are our best Valorant tips for getting started.

Go for the head

Riot Games

Headshots make the difference in Valorant. As we’ll get to in a minute, scoring a headshot is more involved than aiming in the right spot and hoping for the best. Even if you haven’t mastered the recoil system yet, you should still try to get as many headshots as possible.

Like Apex Legends and countless other competitive shooters, headshots deal about twice as much damage as a body shot (leg shots deal even less damage). The difference from a game like Apex Legends is that you can’t run away. All things equal, the player that gets the headshot first is usually going to win the fight. That’s especially true given how tight Valorant‘s maps are, forcing you into most combat encounters. Aim for the head. Always aim for the head.

Manage your recoil

Don’t start your aim at the head, though. Weapons in Valorant have a lot of recoil, and mastering that recoil is key to success. If you’re shooting an automatic weapon, you should aim so that your fifth or sixth bullet lands on the head. That will deliver a significant amount of damage to the body, while sending a final bullet in the head to finish the job. Each weapon’s recoil is a little different, so you’ll want to get familiar with your go-to loadout.

Alternatively, you can also shoot single shots or short bursts — referred to as “tapping” in CS:GO. This is a helpful tool in your arsenal, though you shouldn’t rely on it too much. If your opponent has mastered the recoil and you’re sending off a bullet or two at a time, they’re simply going to hit you with more bullets. This technique is best used in long-range encounters where your recoil is far more exaggerated.

Choose your Agent carefully

Riot Games

Valorant has four types of Agents, each serving a different purpose on the team. Additionally, each Agent has unique abilities, leading to different play styles within each type. Already, players are pointing to Raze as the best Agent in the game, though that’ll probably change as Riot continues to patch the game. Regardless of what’s considered “best,” you should understand and utilize your Agent.

Duelist

Duelists are the DPS characters on the roster. Their abilities focus on dealing damage, and that’s their main goal in combat. These Agents should be on the frontlines, ready for any combat encounter. If you’re still uncomfortable with your aim or want to avoid battles, a Duelist isn’t for you. If you want to get right in on the action, however, you’ll feel right at home.

Initiator

Initiators also focus on offense, but in a different way. These are the flankers on the team, the ones focusing on opening up new lines of attack. Breach’s abilities, for example, allow you to stun the opposing team, while Sova reveals enemy positions within a certain range. These are still offensive Agents, but they trade raw power for cleverness.

Sentinel

Sentinels are the defensive Agents on the roster. Their main purpose is to aid Duelists in combat. Sage, for example, can set up ice walls to cut off enemies, as well as heal teammates low on health. These Agents should be near the firefight, just at a safe enough distance that they can use their abilities effectively.

Controller

Lastly, we have Controllers. These Agents are best for recon and controlling areas outside of the main firefight. Their goal is to control how the round plays out by setting up defenses and quickly moving around the map. As a Controller, your goal isn’t to get frags. Rather, it’s to understand the flow of battle and how you need to react to it.

Before you run, walk

If you’ve played CS:GO before, you already know where this one is going. Like Valve’s competitive shooter, Valorant has your Agent running by default. Holding down the Shift key, usually bound to sprinting, will actually slow your Agent into a walk. This should be your default state. Running around not only makes your weapons less accurate, it also makes a lot of noise. Assuming every player is playing as they should — that is, quietly — you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

Crouch shooting is a thing in Valorant, too. You should prepare for it from the opposing team, while also using it yourself. Crouching right before sending a flurry of bullets will help control your spray and, hopefully, mess up your opponent’s aim. You shouldn’t always crouch shoot, though. If your opponents are doing it and they expect you to do it, standing actually puts you at a greater advantage.

Coordinate buying

Talk with your team as much as possible. Of course, this is important in each round, but it’s also important during the buying phase. If your team is down on money, coordinate with your teammates to figure out who buys what. When you’re up on money, make sure everyone goes all out with armor and abilities. The important thing here is to understand that you’re drawing money from a limited pool, as is your entire team. If your teammates are on the same page about how you’re going to spend each round, that will lead to more money in the later rounds, as well as a unified assault against the opposing team.

As the rounds continue, some players will have more money than others. Again, your team should work together to buy gear for anyone who’s broke. Each team goes about this in a different way. For most people, we recommend splitting things up into partial buys, no buys, and full buys. In full buys, everyone stocks up, in no buys, everyone works with what they have, and in partial buys, the most important, you coordinate the minimum gear your team needs while saving for the next round.

Teamwork is crucial

In a shock to no one, teamwork is key in Valorant. It’s important when you’re actually playing a round, sure, but teamwork bleeds into other areas, too. You should be talking to your team about who’s buying what, what Agent each player is playing as, and your overall strategy for the match outside of rounds. If you don’t want to be a team player, Valorant is still a good bit of fun. However, you’ll lose a lot more matches than you’ll win. Watch the video above to see how you should be communicating each round.

Subvert expectations

Like buying, subverting expectations plays into teamwork. How have you been attacking the objective? Are there alternate paths you haven’t taken? You should be asking yourself, as well as your team, these questions, especially moving into the mid-game. Just so we’re clear, you’re not trying to trick your opponent. Rather, you’re trying to identify any patterns you’ve been exhibiting, and breaking those patterns for an advantage.

In some cases, this could be going to the same objective. Say you’re on the attacking team, and your team has been planting at the A site for five rounds. Maybe your opponent is still expecting you there, or maybe they’re expecting you to change. Of course, this all depends on the match and who you’re playing against. What’s constant, though, is that you should be talking with your team about how to throw your opponents off.

Go for the assault rifle

CS:GO players already know this: Everything revolves around the M4 and the AK. In Valorant, that’s the Phantom and the Vandal, respectively. These weapons are, in the vast majority of cases, strictly better than anything else on the roster. We’re not playing favorites, here. A quick look at the spec sheets for each weapon — which are displayed next to the weapon — shows how much damage the Vandal and Phantom can do, and how fast they can do it.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t buy anything else. Snipers can be very helpful, and in the early game, SMGs can save you a lot of coin. For most players on your team, though, you should have a Vandal or a Phantom. The Phantom works like the M4 in CS:GO. It’s decently powerful and best in midrange encounters. That’s because of the weapon’s relatively low recoil, which allows you to spray bullets and have most of them hit.

The Vandal, on the other hand, works like the AK in CS:GO. It has extremely high recoil, making it a poor choice for close-quarters combat. It’s great at range, though. The Vandal deals the same amount of damage no matter how far away you are, making it a great choice for sneaking in headshots. Additionally, the Vandal deals enough damage to take out an armored opponent with a single headshot, operating similarly to a sniper rifle.

Practice makes perfect

Riot Games

Make use of the practice range! Seriously. Half of the battle of mastering Valorant is simply understanding how each weapon and each Agent works. The practice range is the perfect place to get a feel for the recoil and test your aiming abilities. It’s a great place to warm up before jumping into a match, too.