The first chapter of VALORANT has come to an end as the closed beta has shut its doors in preparation for the game's official release on June 2. Throughout the game's two-month beta phase, we've seen heroic clutches, mind-bending plays and players rise to the occasion to become staples of the VALORANT community.
Although an 11th agent will be released when the game returns at the beginning of June, all 10 of VALORANT's original operatives found varying levels of success during the beta. For each agent's unique playstyle, differing players from around the world found their calling cards as the beta went along, becoming masters of the agents they wielded in-game.
From watching the major tournaments in North America and Europe along with various streams, here are my experts who personify what it means to play each agent in the world of VALORANT.
Viper: Daniel "Dafran" Francesca
What up, dude, today we're going to learn about Viper walls and how to execute them correctly.
Although there were others vying for the Viper crown, when it really came down to it, the first person that comes to my mind when I think about the poisonous agent is the former Overwatch League standout. While there are jokes to be made about how Viper is toxic and Dafran be, at times, a bit outspoken, there's no denying the Dane's expertise with the agent that he made all his own during the closed beta.
Two days after the beta release, Dafran already had guides up on Youtube about how to be a better Viper player, his streams being more of the same with his blunt and straightforward humor anchoring his excellent gameplay. Overall, Dafran was one of the breakout stars of the VALORANT beta period, personifying Viper in all ways possible, winning tournaments while frantically knifing players in the back and even going as far as getting banned from a tournament organizer for life after calling them out publicly on Twitter.
Jett: Tyson "TenZ" Ngo
It's actually unfair that I had to pick between Cloud9's TenZ or NRG's Brandon "Aceu" Winn for the superlative of being the king of Jett. They both personify the agent to every degree,, both players seeing the nimble agent as a paintbrush to create the most magnificent plays possible. As the beta kicked off, it almost felt as if no one could touch Aceu when it came to playing Jett. Seemingly every day the NRG Esports star would post a Jett clip to social media and break the internet.
As the beta went along, however, TenZ switched off from playing Viper as his main and began focusing as Jett as his primary agent on Haven and Bind (with Raze on Split) due to enjoying her mobility on the map and the plays she could make with her. The mechanics that made him a blue-chip prospect in Counter-Strike are on full display when he plays Jett, and there wasn't a better example of his mastery with the agent than his performance in the Elite Rivalry Bowl North America, where his team plowed through the entire field without dropping a single map.
Along the way to C9's breezy win over some of the best North American teams in the VALORANT beta, TenZ put up two 30-kill games on Jett, sniping his way to his first tournament win of the beta. TenZ was the first player in North America to reach the highest rank possible in the game, Valorant (yes, I know it's confusing), and his play with Jett has kept him there as one of the top performers in the entire western region.
Breach: Spencer "Hiko" Martin
Where TenZ is the new blood of Counter-Strike, transitioning over to VALORANT in hopes of becoming one of the game's first superstars, Hiko is on the other side of the coin. At 30, Hiko doesn't need any more accolades under his belt to be considered an esports legend. A pro in CS for a decade with even a world championship final appearance as a part of Team Liquid, Hiko's transition to VALORANT was nearly seamless, his consistent daily Twitch streams becoming one of the most-watched on the website. His stream, with Hiko superimposed in front of various backgrounds ranging from tropical islands to the ESPN Sportscenter desk, has been one of my favorites to watch in VALORANT. If you want to learn the game from anyone on Twitch and be entertained while doing so, Hiko is your guy.
When it comes to Breach, Hiko has been carrying with the Nordic cyborg since the beginning of the beta, most notably in our very own ESPN Esports Invitational where his team consisting of top players coming from the world of Counter-Strike made the finals and a majority of our panel picked Hiko as tournament MVP. Before watching Hiko, I didn't fully understand how oppressive and integral Breach could be to a team composition, his flashbang and disrupting abilities making him the best attacking-side agent in the entire game.
Oh, and he also had this play on Breach, so I'm going to just go ahead and crown the man.
Sage: Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom
Over in Europe, ScreaM is in a similar position to his North American counterpart Hiko. Both players have played at the highest level of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and have transitioned to being marquee streamers of VALORANT during the closed beta. Though ScreaM doesn't play Breach, he's also been a multi-time MVP during the first few months of the game's release into the wild, captaining teams to tournament win after tournament win on his agent of choice in Sage.
In G2's European Brawl II, with teams consisting of nation-focused squads, the organizers allowed ScreaM to enter his own team to the event, Team ScreaM, to take on the nations like Finland, Great Britain and more. How did he do in the event? Not too shabby: his team only dropped a single map en route to the €10,000 grand prize.
What makes ScreaM so frightening on Sage is that not only is his aim and mechanics the best of the players in Europe, but he understands Sage's utility in a way that isn't over-reliant on his pure skill. Sure, ScreaM will have his moments where he reels off head shot after head shot with a Sheriff to clutch a round, but it's the times where he doesn't need to use his gun by placing a perfectly timed wall or locking down a site with no weaknesses that takes him from being just a great VALORANT player to a masterful Sage player.
Omen: Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham
Out of all the agents in the closed beta, the one that got the least amount of love in high-level competitive play was the shadowy and mysterious Omen. It's not hard to see why: in terms of smokes and utility, Brimstone does everything Omen does but better, and when it comes to straight-up entry and one-on-one dueling, you'd rather Raze or Jett for their mobility or carries like Breach and Phoenix with their flashbangs.
Omen's in an awkward spot where his kit relies all upon his unpredictability and playing mind games with opponents, which can look cool when they actually work but can end in disaster if the opposition has an idea of what you're doing. So, for my Omen pick, I went with the player that for me really showed the ceiling of the character but the game itself early on in the beta. Skadoodle, a former world champion in Counter-Strike as a part of C9, beautifully showcased the potential of Omen in the right situation and played at the correct tempo.
man, this clip from @Ska really showcases why i'm so excited for the @PlayVALORANT esports scene— The Esports Writer (@FionnOnFire) April 10, 2020
the game's solid gunplay is a great foundation for all the creative freedom players have with agents and their abilities
if they keep abilities in check, this will be a dope esport pic.twitter.com/ihOaN82mKi
Sova: Zachary "Venerated" Roach
Hey, not a pro Counter-Strike player! Coming from the world of PLAYERUNKNOWN's Battlegrounds, Venerated has been one of most talked about North American players during the closed beta. While his team of PUBG peers didn't do too well in the ESPN Esports VALORANT Invitational, he had a resounding comeback in his next major event, the Elite Rivalry Bowl North America, where his band of PUBG misfits made it all the way to the finals before losing to C9.
His highlight game in the Rivalry Bowl was against the newly signed TSM roster, where Venerated on Sova went off for 34 kills and 11 assists next to only 13 deaths. A part of the Team Envy organization, he's a perfect centerpiece if the storied team decides to expand into the world of VALORANT.
And while it would have been cheating giving it to him, I also want to spotlight developer and former League of Legends pro Nicholas "Nickwu" Wu Smith on his wizardry with the Russian agent. At the start of the closed beta, Nick Wu was the person to watch when it came to Sova, his techniques when it came to reconnaissance with arrows looking like witchcraft compared to other players. In the future when Sova players take the agent to his full potential, it will all because Nickwu showed them how to go from crawling to walking in the closed beta period.
Phoenix: Braxton "Brax" Pierce
It wouldn't feel right if the first VALORANT professional wasn't somewhere on this list. Before the game even hit its closed beta period, Brax had been signed by the legendary esports organization T1 to spearhead its venture into Riot Games' newest video game. T1, three-time League of Legends world champion, wants nothing but the best when it comes to competing in a Riot Games esport, and Brax has all the tools and ambition to be one of the best players in VALORANT for a long time.
Over the course of the beta Brax has played a plethora of characters, but I found myself connecting him with his Phoenix play more so than any of the other agents he played with during tournaments. For a former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive standout, Phoenix fits Brax like a glove, his flashbang-like Curveball ability allowing him entry into unknown corridors ready to make a play. His best Phoenix game thus far in professional tournament play came during his team's own Invitational tournament alongside Nerd Street Gamers where he put up 25 kills in a victory over a star-studded Sentinels roster with their own Phoenix specialist in reigning Overwatch League MVP Jay "sinatraa" Won.
VALORANT's fledgling competitive scene is going to be ever-changing, as new, unknown players rise up the ranks to dethrone the established stars that had an advantage in the beta. While this is inevitable, Brax is one of the few established players that I believe can withstand those new stars and has an opportunity to reach the superstar status he never obtained in Counter-Strike due to his indefinite ban from the game.
Brimstone: Keven "PLAYER1" Champagne
When I was first told about Gen.G signing PLAYER1 and his French-Canadian teammates, I honestly had no idea who they were. I quickly checked and found out that he and a majority of his new Gen.G members had been climbing up the ranks of the semi-professional scene in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and like a lot of tier-two CS players, were ready to make the switch to VALORANT in hopes of making names for themselves.
At first, I thought picking up the relative unknowns was a savvy tactic by Gen.G of getting a mid-tier team at a low cost that could be easily replaceable once further statistics were out on who really is good at this game come launch. What I soon found out, though, is that PLAYER1 and his teammates are far from mid-tier at VALORANT, rolling all competition available in the only major tournament they competed in during the closed beta, the $25,000 T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational. In the final, PLAYER1 and his cohorts dispatched a team consisting of Brax, Skadoodle and Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski, one of the best CS players in the world.
Gen.G doesn't overwhelm teams with mechanical talent, but their cohesion and chemistry as a starting-five is what propelled them over the likes of EliGE and Brax, with PLAYER1 and his Brimstone being at the center of a lot of the good things that happen with Gen.G. One of the first players to reach the Valorant rank in the beta, PLAYER1's Brimstone is the personification of the agent, being that blue-collar commander that sets up his teammates for the highest chance of victory.
Raze: Jesse "Jesmund" Terävä
Raze was the most difficult to find a single player for who truly inhabited her spirit and had a showcase moment in a closed beta tournament. TenZ has performed well on the agent when he's playing on Split, Damion "XXiF" Cook has shown to be a monster on Raze when given the chance, and almost everyone was getting multi-kill rounds with her before the Brazilian explosions expert was nerfed a few weeks into the beta.
In G2's European Brawl II, however, Team Finland caught my eye as the team made its way through the group stages all the way to the final before they were dispatched by the Sage specialist himself, ScreaM, and the rest of his top-performing players. Jesmund was one of the bright spots for Finland, though, as even when his team was losing, he was making big plays on Raze, using her in-your-face style to his advantage to turn around lost situations into clutches. In the 11 games Team Finland played in the tournament, he recorded 20 kills or more on Raze in seven of them. He only had a negative scoreline once throughout the entire event.
As the European scene continues to mature and more tier-one organizations start investing in teams to match the rush of franchises picking up VALORANT teams in North America, I'll be keeping my eye out for where Finnish players Jesmund and teammate Timo "Taimou" Kettunen land.
Cypher: James "Kryptix" Affleck
Speaking of Europe and its investment in players and/or teams, I'd be shocked if Kryptix and his Fish123 teammates aren't on a bigger organization come this time a month or two from now. During North America's beta period, there was a lot of jostling for the top spot, and even as we come closer to launch, it's difficult to say who the best team really is. Gen.G looked stellar in their only major tournament, but so did TenZ and Cloud9 in the event they played in. You also have a team like T1 that, pound-for-pound, probably has the most mechanical talent and upside on its roster.
In Europe, though, Fish123 is the best team during the beta period. As a squad, the team barreled through almost every competition they threw their hat into, and a lot of that success came from the play of Kryptix and his Cypher. Unlike the Jetts and Razes of the world where the plays speak for themselves, Cypher is a subdued character, his strength coming from either locking down a site and making it impenetrable or lurking around the map seeing what havoc he can cause behind the scenes. It's a lot of dirty work without a lot of the spotlight and Kryptix is the quintessential Cypher player, fragging when needed and cutting off the opponent when they least expect it.