Effectively choosing your weapons in Valorant is a bit more complicated than just picking whichever gun has the coolest skin or sound effects. With the launch of stat tracking here on Valorbuff, we have been able to get a glimpse into gun preference by players across most of the ranks and how that could actually play a role in their ability to win games. Just for clarity, we will be looking exclusively at the competitive queue for this article. Also, the sample size of data for Radiant and Immortal is on the low side currently so we will be treating Diamond as the highest rank for comparison. The data we have observed so far points to a fairly consistent continuation of trends from one rank to the next.
The Phantom versus Vandal debate has been ongoing since release with most people favoring the Phantom initially but preferring the feel of the Vandal. Ever since the Vandal’s fire rate and body damage were buffed in patch 1.07 the gun has mostly taken over as Valorant’s most popular weapon. In fact, Iron is the only rank where the Phantom has a higher level of kill participation in the competitive game mode.
Without purchase rates, it is hard to know if the Phantom is actually more popular at Iron or whether it is just more effective at finishing kills there. At Bronze, the Vandal overtakes the Phantom by a significant margin, ~28% for the Vandal versus 21% for the Phantom. This trend continues to expand as we climb the ranked ladder. By the time we look at Diamond and above, the Vandal holds a 41%/19.5% lead in kill participation.
After the Phantom and Vandal, the Ghost and Spectre account for the next highest kill participation at every rank other than Iron. Beyond that, the popularity mostly flattens out and tends to be quite equal across the ranks. Even the Operator has very stable usage from Iron to Diamond and beyond after the nerfs made it a hard weapon to reliably acquire. There are a few outliers between the ranks that are worth highlighting.
The Ares is the fourth highest kill participation in the Iron Bracket and the fifth-highest in Bronze accounting for 7.9% and 4.4% of kills respectively. In the Silver bracket, this drops all the way down to 2% and less than one percent in Gold and beyond.
The Ares demonstrates a trend that we can see even with the gun preference between the Phantom and Vandal wherein, at lower ranks, players tend to favor volume of bullets over accuracy to secure kills. At only 1600 credits, the Ares is also the perfect gun to pick up nearly every round if you are unfamiliar with how to properly play around the in-game economy and thus consistently unable to buy higher-tier weapons.
The Odin also displays much higher popularity in Iron, Bronze, and Silver before dropping into relative obscurity beyond that. It’s easy to understand the appeal of being able to wildly spray through walls and smokes in a Scarface-esque defense of the site. Against lower level players, the poor mobility of the machine guns goes unpunished. Players often push slowly in uncoordinated groups without effective use of their utility and result in satisfying and simple multikills for the guns that go brrrr.
The Spectre is an interesting gun when it comes to stats. It’s a very popular weapon to force buy up to and is consistently used in anti-eco rounds by high-level players. At the same time, it is a very easy gun to run around and spray with at a good price point. This has made the Spectre a top four weapon in nearly every rank.
The interesting part comes when we examine just how much gun usage varies between ranks. The Spectre tops out at over 13% kill participation in the Iron bracket and then drops a couple of percentage points in each higher rank. By the time we get to Diamond and beyond the Spectre is only accounting for about 6% of kills which is still the fourth-highest participation.
It appears that higher rank players are probably managing their economy better to allow for more rifle rounds. They also likely hold onto their guns more and just tend to favor precision weapons in general. Additionally, because we are looking at kill participation here instead of purchase rate it is possible that Spectres are being purchased at a bit higher rate in these upper ranks but just losing gunfights against the superior rifles.
The Sheriff is the final gun that has some fairly significant popularity differences between the ranks. In the exact opposite trend from the spray and pray nature of SMGs and LMGs the Sheriff rewards deadly precision. Used primarily by high-level players as a way to do economic damage while on a tight buy, a strong aimer can turn the tides against better-equipped players with just a few clicks.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Sheriff is one of the most punishing guns to use if you are missing shots. Thanks to terrible bullet spread when firing at full speed and a small magazine of ammo, the Sheriff is often a risky buy for Iron and Bronze players.