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Valorant's Flash Problem

By Stephanie RoehlerAugust 6, 2021
Valorant's Flash Problem
The Valorant meta is a fascinating place that gives a unique reflection on what works for fans and what doesn’t, and lately there’s an emerging theme at the bottom of the board: flash abilities.
After taking a look at underrated agents, there were some interesting similarities between the agents at the bottom half of Valorant’s pick rate list. Five out of that bottom eight had flash abilities.That’s over 60% of them. Even the highest-picked flash agent, Phoenix, still had a depressing 23.4% pick rate in competitive play.
Now, someone pedantic might jump in crying about how the number 2 picked agent, Reyna, also technically has a flash, as does solo-queue darling, Omen. However, it’s important to note that Reyna and Omen technically have “flash” abilities. Theirs are fundamentally different in game-changing ways that will be discussed a little later.
So, it seems like a bit more than a coincidence that flashes end up at the bottom of the barrel. Let’s take a quick dive into what Valorant flash abilities are like, the stats around them, and why they aren’t helping any of these agents out in getting top picks.

Quick Summary of a Flash

Flash abilities, like a toss or a grenade, are pretty common in FPS games like CSGO or Call of Duty. Valorant flashes work a very specific way, though. The majority of them affect both teams, including the agent who threw it. Generally, a Valorant flash blinds everyone who sees it for 4 seconds. However, even if an agent turns away from the flash but is otherwise in the flash’s line of sight, they still get blinded for roughly 2 seconds or less. That makes this common FPS tool quite a threat to both the enemy team and anyone trying to use it.
If you don’t perfectly toss your own flash around a corner without getting your head blown off by an enemy sharp-shooter, you’re likely just as disabled as the enemy. At best, it might give you a few seconds to try to reposition, but some wild bullets could still kill you and not be worth the wild disorientation.
Worse, Valorant flashes do have a bad habit of glitching. For example, sometimes people who turn don’t get flashed at all, giving them a notable advantage. Another example is when someone realized that there’s a glitch where properly placed smokes to counteract flashes, making the enemy think they flashed you, but actually you can see just fine.
The five agents saddled with this kind of flash, and their pickrates, are as follows:
Phoenix - 23.3%
KAY/O - 19.7%
Skye - 16.9%
Yoru - 11.2%
Breach - 7.1%
In a game like League of Legends, a 20+% pick rate is pretty impressive, but when there are only 15 agents and the top-picked (Sage) sits at a staggering 77.3% and the top 7 all sit above 30%, it’s not great. And that’s not even recognizing Breach’s unfortunately abysmal pick rate.

Community Thoughts

Because of all the problems with the ability, flashes have become so hated by fans that it’s constantly memed on public forums. Valorant players will spend long, sprawling chats about how flashes are too effective in blinding everyone and halting the game and it’s helping the enemy team, actually.
Or, on the flip side, fans rage when people lean into the chaos, creating all-flash teams to blind everyone incessantly and making the game frustrating and, in some people’s opinions, unplayable.
There’s enough meming around the situation that a Valorant thread got over 8,000 upvotes for a “new agent” called Flash, who:
Also, flashes do currently pose a major accessibility issue. Surviving these blinds requires quick reaction times. People with smaller desks, cheaper mouses, quieter headsets, etc., struggle to react well enough to live through it. Sure, the top-geared gamers will be fine, but it really puts a strain on more casual fans. Also, the blinds used to be so sudden and bright that they could pose danger to visually sensitive or epileptic players.
It wasn’t until Patch 2.02 (February 2021) that these problems were addressed, changing some colors in the flash and decreasing its brightness. The developers did a decent job to give visually impaired, epileptic, and simply visually sensitive fans a better shot, but it still hasn’t seemed to be enough to make fans want to avoid flashes altogether.
Safe to say, many fans are over flashes and prefer not to play with them at all, given where the flash agents’ pickrates are sitting. That is, excluding two notable exceptions....

The Exceptions

Omen and Reyna “technically” have flashes, but they function very differently from the others mentioned. Reyna’s only affects enemies, which is a huge quality of life difference and lowered threat compared to the others. Similarly, Omen’s “flash” is more of a blind and doesn’t do the same sharp, bright light effect. Instead, it’s more a bubble of darkness that severely limits an enemy’s vision. This makes fans more likely to want to play Reyna and Omen because they are less likely to threaten their team and, instead, more likely to be able to support them.

Conclusion

Flashes aren’t unusable, but the way Valorant currently makes them and sticks them on every other new agent is unsustainable. It pushes more casual fans away when flash meta does become popular and, when it isn’t, it makes perfectly good agents unlikable/unpickable because 1/4 of their abilities could hurt everyone involved if used.
Valorant needs to address the flash problem to give these agents their best shot. It would also go a long way towards showing fans that they’re listening and want to make the best game possible for everyone, not just the ex-CSGO pros.
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