In Valorant, economy options are often worse than their counterparts. There’s a reason most players would never purchase the Guardian when they could just have a Vandal or a Phantom. Shotguns often fall into the category of a weaker weapon, an option that’s purchased when you don’t have enough Creds to purchase the weapon you actually want.
The Judge found itself in a spot where it was the premiere economy option, to the point where it could sometimes be the best weapon for very specific situations. As long as you knew how to use this weapon, it could be an absolute workhorse on eco rounds. Purchasing the Judge was a great way to hoard Creds to go toward purchasing the coveted Operator, or it could allow you to buy for a teammate without destroying your economy.
Now, with the implementation of patch 3.0, this weapon is significantly weaker than it was. Between an increased cost amongst more expensive abilities across the board and the decreased damage at longer range, the Judge got gutted. Why was the Judge nerfed so hard, and where does the Judge now stand amongst the other economy options?
Ok, it was a little overpowered
When looking at the stats from what weapons were bought last patch, the Judge’s heavy nerfs may come as a surprise.
At 1.9% of total kills in Diamond-ranked games, the Judge’s purchase rate wasn’t proportional to how effective it was in pro play. Meanwhile, this is what a good player with the pre-nerf Judge looked like.
A 1v5 ace in pro play within seconds is the sort of thing the Judge enabled, and it’s no surprise that top-level players were clamoring for some nerfs. Jaampi, a member of Team Liquid, makes it look easy here. The reality is that pulling off a stunt like that isn’t easy. However, it’s hard to watch that clip and not look at the Judge like it’s more than merely an eco option.
If the Judge was so strong, then why was it rarely bought in an average game of Valorant? Even in peak form, the Judge wasn’t that popular.
Too much of a good thing
The Judge is a very effective weapon in certain circumstances, but it has a very clear drawback: range. Its pellet spread is fairly tight, but the damage falloff cripples this weapon at any range longer than 10 meters. At the point that it takes 4-5 shots to kill an enemy, you might as well just not try to peek them at all. Before, you could bet on a 3 shot kill at mid-range, but now it’s just a bad idea to engage at any range beyond spitting distance.
This range requirement leads into what makes the Judge such a niche pickup. A team full of Judges isn’t going to work out well, and it wouldn’t have worked out pre-nerf either. Usually, one person with a judge holding a point or anchoring for their team is enough. The Judge’s low usage rate makes sense when keeping this in mind. Valorant’s main Rifles have such a high purchase rate partially because everyone on the team can buy them and do well. The Judge, not so much.
Additionally, some maps aren’t kind to this weapon. Icebox is way too open for the Judge to shine, and the weapon is nowhere near as useful as it would be on a map with more corridors like Haven.
A steady hand
When Valorant launched, moving accuracy was a different beast. You could jumpshot opponents and play with a run-and-gun playstyle without getting punished too hard for it. Before patch 3.0, you could move with most weapons and be somewhat ok when it comes to accuracy. The pop-and-lock strategy where you’d stop moving to shoot was still the way to go most of the time, but Valorant didn’t punish players when strafing during close-range gunfights.
Now, with patch 3.0, most weapons are near-unusable while moving. In fact, every weapon’s moving accuracy got nerfed except for Snipers (which already had horrendous moving accuracy) and Shotguns. So, while the Judge got nerfed, this patch pseudo-buffed all Shotguns in Valorant.
Standing still, the Judge’s spray pattern is already pretty wide. It may seem pretty accurate, but there are a number of variables when it comes to getting kills with the judge. At 15m+, pellets only hit for 7 damage for a body shot, 6 for the legs, and 14 for a headshot. That means the Judge will be a lengthy 4-5 shot kill at medium range. Considering these spreads were achieved by letting the Judge’s shot variance reset rather than firing as fast as possible, the TTK associated with this level of accuracy would be a few seconds. A decent Rifler will eat you alive.
Shooting while moving has some mixed results. Jumpshotting doesn’t work, but moving at close range doesn’t hit your accuracy like it would with any other weapon category. Standing still will give optimal accuracy, but moving at close range is a viable option on patch 3.0. The same can’t be said for most of Valorant’s weapons. The surprising thing about the Judge is that fire rate affects accuracy significantly more than movement. Things get dicey when you try to rapid-fire this weapon.
When shooting as fast as possible and running, the Judge is surprisingly good at close-range. If someone’s up close, it’s fair to expect a consistent 1-2 shot kill even when running full-speed and firing as fast as possible. Beyond that, though… Things aren’t good. Panicking and rapid-firing the Judge is the worst thing you can do. Taking the time to make sure shots land is much more important than getting as many shots out as possible. That said, the Judge’s accuracy doesn’t look too bad when compared to the Vandal’s new running accuracy on patch 3.0.
While running, the Vandal’s automatic accuracy is really rough. However, most players won’t be running at a full clip and trying to shoot with a Vandal.
Walking accuracy doesn’t look too bad here, but landing that crucial headshot before someone with a shotgun blows you up won’t be easy with a Vandal in-hand.
Those patch 3.0 nerfs hit hard, and Shotguns have a newfound role as a weapon that is great for taking opponents by surprise. If anyone’s unlucky enough to find themselves within 5 or so meters of you, they’re going to have a bad day if they aren’t good enough to stand completely still and dome you immediately. Make no mistake, the Judge has a fraction of its former power. It’s still worth buying, though, and it has a newfound power in what is essentially an almost entirely changed game.
The sweet spot
When it comes to 1-shotting the opponent, it’s pretty simple to do when it comes to that 5-meter-and-below range. Aiming a little below the collar bone on your target is the way to go at this very close range of engagement. Never aim for the head like you would with a Vandal; a large portion of the pellets will fly right over the enemy’s head. Beyond close-range, aiming center mass is the way to go. The Judge’s leg shot damage isn’t much lower than body shot, and aiming for the chest creates the widest possible area for pellets to connect with your target.
The Judge is a powerful tool in the right hands and the right situation. Just remember to keep an eye on what your team purchased to make sure your team has some range, and keep in mind that shotguns are great for holding down tight corridors. The Judge may seem like an aggressive weapon, but it’s great for holding a point on defense and anchoring for your team when attacking. Forcing your opponent to get up close and personal is the best way to get consistent results out of the Judge. Use the element of surprise to your advantage.
When your economy is rough and a game seems unwinnable, remember that the Judge is still an option. Even in its nerfed form, the Judge might be the best way to claw your way back into the game.