Games which allow you to choose between two or more options will usually stir up a debate about which choice is superior. Ryu or Ken? Sonic or Knuckles? Fischl or the Kujou Clan's Raiden simp?
Ever since the global release of Riot Games' VALORANT in 2020, many players have been debating about the strengths and weaknesses of the two primary assault rifles in the game — the Phantom and the Vandal.
And, unsurprisingly, the common (and direct) question everyone asks is, “Which gun is better?”
Well, we're here today to inform you about how different these guns are from each other, and (hopefully) how you can utilise them in your game to make the perfect plays as you climb through the ranks.
Here are a few important things to consider when comparing these 2 guns.
1. Damage, distance, and Time To Kill (TTK)
At 15 in-game meters or less, both guns are lethal when a bullet hits the head. However, this is only true if the first bullet shot lands as a headshot.
In a scenario which both guns were to fire at the same time, and to account that the first bullet hits the body and the second hits the head, the Phantom will always win that battle because it fires a fraction faster than the Vandal.
Even if none of the bullets hit the head, a Phantom user will always win the battle against a Vandal user due to how much faster the Phantom fires.
To put it simply, the TTK for a Phantom is much shorter than a Vandal when battles happen within 15 in-game meters.
At ranges farther than 15 meters however, the landscape starts to change in a duel.
While it is true that the Phantom fires much faster than the Vandal, because of the damage drop-off that the Phantom has, a headshot from above 15m to 30m in distance will only result in 140 damage; it falls slightly short of what is needed to kill an Agent who is equipped with a heavy shield.
At this instance, the Vandal user will win the fight if both shots from both players were to land as a headshot at the same time. Even if all the shots land as body shots, the Vandal user will still win the duel because there is no damage drop-off for the Vandal, and it deals a constant 40 damage per bullet to the body.
This gap becomes even bigger when the Phantom is shot from ranges longer than 50m due to the increased damage drop-off.
However, if both of the guns were to deal a single body shot first before the headshot, the Phantom will still win regardless of distance due to its faster fire rate.
As you can tell, the Phantom is a fantastic assault rifle for close range battles, but for longer distances against equally skilled opponents with a Vandal, you'd better pray that they don’t land that headshot first.
2. First Bullet Spread, Aim Down Sights (ADS) and Recoil
While we hypothetically talk about the shots that hit, we also need to take into account how accurate these guns are when they are used.
Have you ever gotten yourself in a position where your first shot never landed as a headshot even though your crosshair was dead centre on the opponent’s head? That is how the first bullet spread affects your aim.
On paper, the Phantom has less of a first bullet spread than the Vandal, with the Phantom possessing a chance of having up to 0.2 degree spread as opposed to the Vandal’s 0.25 degrees.
This can mildly be translated as the Phantom having a more accurate first shot than the Vandal at long range distances.
In a long-ranged battle, if the Phantom user is able to land a headshot first, this will cause the opponent to experience aim-punch, a drastic visual shake of the affected player’s crosshair, and this may give the Phantom player the advantage needed to finish them off.
This only applies in the worst-case scenario though, as half the time, the first shot of these guns is mostly accurate to a degree when firing, so if the RNG gods are on the side of the Vandal player, the player using the Phantom will get their heads blown off either way.
One way to reduce the degree of the spread is by using the Aim Down Sights (ADS). By default, this happens when you use the right mouse button (though some players do remap this).
This tightens the first spread of the Phantom to 0.11 degrees and the Vandal to 0.15 degrees.
Usually, ADS is used to get a more accurate shot against opponents that are pretty far away, but keep in mind that a Vandal will usually one-shot someone’s head off at long ranges, so if you are in a position that requires a lot of long ranged gunfights (like Breeze), the obvious choice will always be the Vandal, especially if you are planning to hold an angle with the ADS.
The recoil of these guns is also very different, with the Phantom being slightly more “spray friendly” than the Vandal.
Both these guns will need you to pull down your crosshair if you decide to frantically spray your bullets, but the Phantom has the advantage of having the first 4-5 bullets hit somewhere around your crosshair before it goes into a random spray pattern. The Vandal’s bullets will start being a little erratic after the first 3 shots, so if you are someone that sprays all the time, we recommend that you use a Phantom instead.
This also translates to spraying while using ADS. While we don’t recommend anyone to spray while using ADS, if you absolutely have to, the Phantom seems to be the more stable option to control. The Vandal will send your crosshair into a manic shake-fest when sprayed using ADS, so it is not recommended.
3. Bullet Tracers
One major advantage that the Phantom has over the Vandal at longer ranges is the fact that the gun is “silent”.
If you are shooting your enemy with a Phantom at a distance of 40 meters or more, from a position which they can’t see you at, they will never be able to tell where the bullets are coming from as the gun doesn’t give off any kind of sound cue at that range.
What’s more, if you are firing into smokes or enemies who are nearsighted, they will never be able to tell where the bullets are coming from due to the lack of bullet tracers at any range, and this can actually be a lifesaver.
If you were to use a Vandal in this position, the enemies can clearly see where the bullets are coming from, and they can attempt to fire in your direction. If a lucky bullet hits your head, you can only blame yourself for that mistake.
So, which is the better gun? It may be a bit of a cliché, but it really is up to you as a player.
If you are someone who prefers to take medium to long range fights and believes in your abilities to one-tap opponents in the head, the Vandal will be the obvious choice. If you are someone who likes to fight up close, the Phantom is likely to be your better friend.
However, do remember that it is also not as cut and dried as that.
If you are playing around with your team’s smokes or attempting to lurk, the Phantom may be the weapon of choice. If you are holding a position which requires you to keep watch of long ranges, the Vandal may suit the team play more.
The best tip we can offer is to learn to master both guns for different occasions.
If one gun was better than the other, this would make either one redundant, and that would be a severe design oversight by Riot.