Why Valorant’s new agents failed (and how they’re about to get better)

By Stephanie RoehlerMay 20, 2021
Why Valorant’s new agents failed (and how they’re about to get better)
Since its release, Valorant’s developers, Riot Games, have worked hard to keep evolving the game. With some bold experimental moves, they’ve made waves with both their new maps, Icebox and Breeze (whether everyone’s a fan of Icebox or not). However, they haven’t had that same game-changing success with its new agents. Other than their first agent post-launch, Killjoy, all others have fallen somewhat flat.
Why do so many of the fresh agents struggle to be viable? Is the OG meta that hard to crack? Was Killjoy the only well-made character? And why has the addition of Breeze finally made a difference in Patch 2.09 stats?
First, let’s go over the agents in question.

Astra: Power without a team

The most recent Valorant agent has an explosive ability that seems like it would be an absolute game-changer for synergistic plays. However, in her opening weekend, Astra had record low pick rates. That’s persisted to this day, at an abysmal 5%. However, she has her place in the game. Since the 2.09 patch hit, she’s had a higher win rate than some of the most popular agents, like Jett and Sage. Her Gravity Well has untapped potential that players might just be starting to understand.

Yoru: Less than silent footsteps

Yoru is the most infamous of the new agents. In both patch 2.08 and 2.09, he holds the lowest win rate of any agent. He may get first blood quite often and his KDA may be decent, but that isn’t enough to make him a viable agent. Not only have players discussed his footsteps skill being too obvious to identify, but also his other abilities are just not as effective as agents with similar skills. This duelist is like a stealth-focused Jett without the same efficacy and mobility. That’s not great for making fans fall in love with him.

Skye: The lesser of three heroes

This Initiator is a gold mine of untapped potential. She’s like a Sova/Sage hybrid, giving vision and healing support to her teammates. She also has a unique blinding ability that makes a different sound when hitting an enemy agent versus hitting nothing, making her perfect for recon.
All those things may sound really great, but unfortunately, if Skye can’t get her team to coordinate with her, she’s just a worse version of both Sage and Sova. Her healing is slow, her animations are slow, and her abilities make her pretty vulnerable while she’s using them. After all, while you’re controlling her Trailblazer, Skye’s body is left behind, unguarded and vulnerable, for up to 5 seconds. She’s only safe if she’s protected, and in a game full of randoms, that can’t be guaranteed. Skye is in no way a bad agent, but when so many people play solo queue, there are better, more self-sustaining options.

Killjoy: The powerful, yet un-picked

In the current meta, Sentinels are very strong, which helps make Killjoy as strong as she is. Also, while Killjoy works better on a coordinated team, she still can be an absolute powerhouse on her own. Her point protection with her turrets is unparalleled.
Despite her strength and win rate, though, being a new agent still gives her a clear disadvantage: she has the second-best win rate (53%), but she has a depressing mid-tier pick rate (34%).

Overall Flaws

Some simple problems that these agents have are that they tend to have strong synergistic abilities (Gravity Well, Seekers) that the devs clearly tried to compensate for with longer animations or complicated wind-ups. But that hasn’t balanced them. In Valorant’s high-paced rounds, it just makes these agents less viable.
Also, many of these new agents rely a lot on team coordination, making them harder to play on their own. This does give them distinction from the OG agents, but since no one can guarantee cooperation in any given game, it just makes fans less likely to want to play them. As long as solo queue exists and is popular, characters like Astra, Skye, and even Killjoy will be harder sells.

The Breeze factor

In patch 2.09, there has been a notable shift that pushed these fresh agents up the competitive win rate charts and it’s all because of Breeze. Breeze, as a map, really encourages teamwork; more so than any other map in Valorant. Mid-control is just so vital that there are fewer players going on solo adventures scouting around the map. Instead, even a game of randoms would probably lead to everyone meeting in the middle for a big fight. Also, luckily for the rare Yoru main, all the different angles and stealthy avenues give Yoru his best opportunity yet to be a viable assassin.
Disclaimer: While Icebox is a similar enough map in the ways of having a lot of angles, it doesn’t really have a central fighting hub the same way that Breeze does, making its impact on Valorant’s meta much less noticeable.

The 2.08 and 2.09 Stats

For the past few months, the Valorant newbie agents have struggled so much with breaking into the meta. Astra had record lows on release and Yoru sits painfully at the bottom of the winrate lists. Up through the 2.08 patch, no one other than Killjoy saw any real success in competitive play.
However, with the addition of the Breeze map and players adjusting to it by 2.09, the stats have changed up a bit. Astra has hopped up to the top 5 in winrates, Skye has found a place in the mid-tier, and only Yoru is still stuck at the bottom (but his large breadth of problems are a whole different conversation).

Player Tips

As Valorant’s maps evolve, there will be more opportunities for team play, even in solo queue where, right now, things might feel helplessly uncoordinated. This is especially true if Riot keeps making more maps like Breeze, where one main area becomes the most important to help teams control the rest.
But if you’re not so sure about seriously playing the fresh agents, try Astra and Skye with a friend. You may find you like them more when you have some team coordination. Also, for those two, Yoru, and Killjoy, you might have a fantastic time fighting for mid on Breeze.
Valorant is an evolving game, but it does feel like Riot Games made some pre-emptive choices in their agent creations. Before giving fans maps like Breeze, they expected team coordination and that reflected in their recent agents. They assumed that naturally, even solo players would play more team-oriented. But if you’ve played a game of lower-tier Valorant, gamers play a lot more chaotic and independently than that. Ergo, agents like Astra and Skye (and even Breach, who works better with a team) suffer for it.
With time and more maps like Breeze, they might find their place in the meta, but right now they can’t help but be lesser picks in the eyes of the fans. If Patch 2.09 is any sign, though, players might have to brush up on their Astra skills sooner rather than later. Just think of all the Gravity Well outplays you could see in your future.
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