How VALORANT's meta evolved in the ESPN Esports Invitational

Riot Games

The ESPN Esports VALORANT Invitational wrapped up last week with Team Canyon, a group of current and former Apex Legends professional players, beating Team Mirage, a group of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players. With the tournament done, there's been time to look at statistics, agent pick rates and overall trends rising in VALORANT's esports infancy. Here's what we took away from it.

Overall agent pick rates

Anyone who has played VALORANT for any length of time, even a single game, will not be surprised to see Sage top the charts as the most played agent. She had a 94% pick rate, and went unpicked in only two of the total 32 team compositions -- one a bit of a joke match from Team Rift (former and current League of Legends players), and in a significantly more serious 13-11 semifinals between the VALORANT developers and Team Mirage. The developers, who opted out of Sage in their composition, lost to Mirage in that match, giving a 0% win rate to teams that failed to pick up Sage, albeit from a small sample size of two.

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Before the tournament, the predicted most popular composition was some combination of Sage, Brimstone, Breach, a vision agent (Cypher or Sova), plus either the other vision agent or a quick entry fragger duelist such as Raze or Jett. This was mostly true, but the second-most picked agent was none other than Cypher, thanks to his spycam abilities providing vision and utility for his entire team -- much more so than Sova, outside of Sova in the hands of Team Dev's Nicholas "Nickwu" Wu.

Cypher, Sova and vision in VALORANT

Vision is a key tool of success in VALORANT and the more of it you have on your opponents, the better. Although Sova's two scouting abilities, Owl Drone and Recon Bolt are useful, his kit isn't as comprehensive as Cypher's three scouting abilities, including an ultimate that reveals enemy positioning on the map with a slight time delay. Both in a composition is a great setup with multiple opportunities to scout opponents, but if a team has to pick only one, Cypher is the obvious choice.

Cypher was played in all but three of the invitational matches for a 91% overall pick rate. He was picked together with Sova 35% of the time and alone 56% of the time. By contrast, Sova was picked without Cypher only twice (6% of the time). Only one team in the entire tournament didn't pick either Sova or Cypher for vision -- Team Heroes in their first match of the invitational against Team Rift.

Brimstone and Breach

Another predicted part of most compositions was the Brimstone/Breach combination, especially after the T1 Invitational the same Team Mirage lineup won by relying on Spencer "Hiko" Martin's Breach and Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert's Brimstone. With their combination of smokes and flashbangs, teams that weren't running the agents adjusted their compositions by the end of the tournament to include at least one of them. Brimstone was the more popular pick, with an 84% pick rate, third to only Sage and Cypher, while Breach came in at a distant fourth with a solid 50% pick rate.

Raze's disappearing act

Before the tournament, Raze was the most over-tuned agent in the game. Unlike Sage, whose utility makes her a must unless she's significantly redesigned, Raze's ability to spam Paint Shells made her a pick in situations where teams would have otherwise opted for another agent.

Yet this wasn't reflected on the first day of the tournament, where Raze was picked only twice out of 10 possible iterations. Coby "Dizzy" Meadows brought Raze to the stage in all of Team Canyon's matches Day 2, and Raze enjoyed a 75% pick rate on Day 2 before she was nerfed going into Day 3.

Raze was the agent hit hardest with the figurative nerf bat in VALORANT's first closed beta patch. Her Paint Shells were reduced to one and were given a kill reset. Dizzy played Raze most consistently during his team's round-robin stage on the second day of the tournament, but quickly abandoned it Day 3 after the patch hit. Raze's pick rate dropped, and she went completely unpicked on the last day of the tournament, post-patch.

Split the difference

Of all maps, Split was the least picked. Only the developers, who forced a few teams onto Split with their map bans, seemed to want to play it willingly. The only other time Split made an appearance was in the finals, where all three maps were used because the series went all three games.

Split is the most lopsided map. Attacking first on Split puts a team at a strong disadvantage based on the design of the map and the existing map win rate. Sightlines are heavily defense-favored.

Although Bind is the most equal map, the differences in side win rates between it and Haven are so small that teams should focus more on which map suits them best during map vetoes.