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The "How to" series is aimed at players who enjoy competitive gaming and are looking to improve their experience, whether through gameplay tips or advice. The information is provided at the time of publishing, and does not account for changes to the game or meta over a longer period of time.
In our previous article, we talked about VALORANT's Duelists and their roles in the current meta of the game.
This time, we're looking at another class of agents — the Initiator.
On the surface, some Initiators are very similar to Duelists, but their toolkits are much more robust in flushing enemies out of corners and helping your team when charging into battle, true to their name.
Riot Games' definition of an Initiator is as follows:
“Initiators challenge angles by setting up their team to enter contested ground and push defenders away.”
This is very true for all Initiators currently in the game. In addition to this, three out of four Initiators are able to source for information (on player whereabouts) without engaging the enemy and physically going into dangerous areas. When a good Initiator player is coupled with a good Duelist player, pushing into enemy territory will always be much easier than having only one Duelist to front the assault.
But, like the Duelists, each of VALORANT's Initiators are special in their own way.
Abilities: Flashpoint, Aftershock, Fault Line
Ultimate: Rolling Thunder
Breach is probably the most aggressive of all the Initiators. He relies solely on brute strength to stun and clear enemy sites while attacking. Breach is also the only Initiator that does not have any way to find out where the enemies are.
Fault Line is his signature move. This skill allows Breach to stun whoever is caught in its radius, and the player affected by it is slowed and disoriented. Breach is able to charge this move to increase its distance, and Fault line is able to fire through walls as well. This skill is extremely useful when pushing into site to catch enemies off guard, or if they are trying to run away.
Flashpoint is perhaps the skill that everyone hates when playing against Breach. It is a flashbang-like projectile that blinds enemies for a considerable amount of time. When Breach fires Flashpoint at a wall, it will explode on the opposite side of that wall. What makes Flashpoint extremely effective is that there is barely any time to look away from the flash once a Breach fires it at a wall, and most of the time enemies will be flashed almost instantly. This sets up the perfect opportunity for a Duelist like Reyna (who has slow flashes) to run in to get kills.
Aftershock is another ability that Breach has. This skill fires similarly to Flashpoint, but is an explosive instead. Currently, when Aftershock explodes, it fires 3 shots that deal 60 damage each. Prior to Episode 3, it did a whopping 180 damage in one explosion. You can use this to clear corners and tight spaces where you think the enemy might be camping. You can also use this to stall enemies and push them out of position, because Aftershock usually deals enough damage to kill a player if it hits.
Breach's ultimate, Rolling Thunder, is very similar to Fault Line, but affects a much larger area, and will also knock enemies off their feet when it hits them. This is extremely useful as well since its larger radius allows Breach to stun even more enemies when pushing a site.
Like we said earlier, Breach’s toolkit allows him to brute force his way onto site when attacking. Even when defending, most of his utility will cause so much disruption to the enemies that they may think twice before pushing the site you are on.
Abilities: Owl Drone, Shock Bolt, Recon Bolt
Ultimate: Hunter’s Fury
Sova is perhaps one of the most useful Initiators out of the four we have currently. He has the most important “IT-factor” that most agents don’t have — the ability to get information.
Information in VALORANT is extremely important. By simply knowing where your enemies are, you have a major advantage, whether pushing or defending a site. You can rush your enemy down with the information you have, or simply avoid the site since you know you might stand a better chance at another one. Whatever it is, Sova remains the only agent that is able to source for information clearly without putting yourself in harm’s way.
Sova’s Recon Bolt is his signature ability. He is able to fire an arrow that is able to scan an area for enemies. You are able to make this arrow bounce once or twice before landing on a surface, and you can use this to scan harder to reach areas. There are a lot of line-ups* that you can do to get the Recon Bolt to land exactly at the point of the map that you wish to scan. One caveat about this skill is that as long as someone is standing behind an obstacle, the arrow will not scan them.
*A line-up is an unconventional method of aiming skills and having it land where you want by aligning onscreen icons with map elements in-game.
However, good Sova players will know where the enemies are standing at anyway, because they know which part of the area the arrow doesn’t scan, leading to the possibility that there may be enemies hiding there. To counter this, enemies are able to shoot the dart before the first scan emits from the arrow. That said, skilled Sova players are also able to land the arrow in areas that the enemy does not expect, allowing it to release the first scan before getting shot down.
Shock Bolt, or more universally known as the Shock Dart (thanks Sova voice line), is a damage dealing arrow that functions very similarly to the Recon Bolt in terms of activation. You are able to bounce the arrow up to 2 times before it explodes, and when it does explode, will deal up to 90 damage, depending on where Shock Bolt lands. If an enemy is caught right at the centre of Shock Bolt’s explosion, it will deal the full 90 damage. The further the enemy is from the radius of explosion, the lesser the damage dealt. You can use this to flush out enemies from corners and even stall the enemies from defusing the spike by simply shooting the arrow in their direction. If you have line-ups for that as well, all the better, as you will not need to put yourself in danger to get someone off from defusing the spike.
The Owl Drone allows Sova to scout an area without the need to put himself in harm’s way. The drone has no vision limitations, so you are able to scout places that have big areas. You are also able to fire a marking dart if you spot someone, revealing their outline and location for a few seconds. Be warned though, the Owl Drone is pretty loud, so enemies will know when you are scouting the area with it.
His ultimate, Hunter’s Fury, allows Sova to release up to 3 blasts in a straight line that deal 80 damage per blast, and temporarily reveal the position of the person that was hit with the blast. You need 2 blasts that hit in succession to be able to kill an enemy, and this blast can also be shot through walls. Sova can use this ultimate in various ways, whether by catching a whole group of people at a choke point, to easily get a kill after an enemy gets scanned by an Owl Drone or a Recon Bolt, or get an enemy off the spike.
All in all, Sova is a brilliant Initiator that allows teams to have a lot of information when played correctly. Enemies that are revealed by his utility can be taken down extremely easily, and his Shock Bolt/Hunter’s Fury deal a lot of damage as well.
While he is an extremely hard character to play as, when you successfully master using him, Sova can singlehandedly give the team victory by simply providing as much information as possible.
Abilities: Regrowth, Trailblazer, Guiding Light
On the surface, Skye seems to be a jack of all trades, but master of none. Her toolkit is able to provide information, but not as thorough as Sova’s (except her Ultimate, but we’ll get to that). She is also able to blind enemies, but lacks the aggressiveness of Breach. She can heal her teammates like Sage, but only within a certain radius, and leaves Skye extremely vulnerable.
However, when played properly, Skye is an extremely terrifying Initiator to go up against. She is able to tell if she has blinded an enemy, is able to stun someone hiding around the corner, and her ultimate basically tells you where enemies are on the map, albeit very slowly.
Guiding Light is her primary ability. Skye sends out a hawk that she can activate anytime to be a flash grenade. The player is also able to control where the bird flies with their mouse as long as they hold down their primary fire after releasing it. When the flash activates, Skye is able to tell if someone was blinded by the flash, therefore confirming enemy presence in the area. Do note that the bird is susceptible to enemy fire, so pop it before it gets destroyed.
Skye also has Trailblazer, where she sends out a Tasmanian Tiger (which everyone calls a dog for some reason) that is able to scout an area just like Sova’s Owl Drone. The tiger, however, has limited vision, so it can’t cover a large area like Sova. Upon finding an enemy, Skye can choose for the tiger to leap at them, effectively dealing a small amount of damage, while concussing them. This ability is not as loud as Sova’s drone, so you may catch some enemies off guard with it.
Sky’s final ability is Regrowth, which lets her heal her allies in a radius around her. Be warned, however, that Skye is only able to heal up to 100 health points accumulated, so if your team is badly injured, she will not be able to heal them all. Skye’s healing will also not work if your teammates are not in her direct vision.
Her ultimate, Seekers, is perhaps one of the more powerful ultimates in the game, as it can be used in various ways. Skye will fire out up to 3 seekers that are able to track where enemies are. If the seekers reach an enemy, this will nearsight them, akin to getting flashed by Omen or Reyna. Like her hawk, the Seekers can also be shot down.
If there are still 5 players on the enemy team, Skye’s Seekers will track the 3 nearest enemies. If there are less than 3 enemies alive, Skye will only release the amount of Seekers equal to the number of enemies alive.
All in all, Skye is an Initiator that allows the team to go in guns blazing. Since her flash is able to tell your teammates if you have flashed someone, they will have more confidence in just rushing in to take down blinded enemies. Her Trailblazer also allows your team to check corners and hiding spots without putting themselves in harm’s way, and the concussion from Trailblazer usually confirms the kill on the hiding enemy. Her Regrowth ability is handy to top up teammates that have sustained some damage in a firefight. Her ultimate, when used offensively, can reveal where enemies are hiding, and nearsights them as well, allowing for an easier kill. As a defensive tool, she can also use the Seekers to know where the remaining enemies are on the map. If you want to play an agent that can do it all, Skye is a great pick for the team.
Abilities: FRAG/MENT, FLASH/DRIVE, ZERO/POINT
KAY/O has a powerful special ability that the other Initiators do not have — the power to suppress enemies. KAY/O is able to supress enemy abilities through the use of his skills and ultimate, and one can argue that that alone makes KAY/O a very strong Initiator.
KAY/O’s main ability is the ZERO/POINT knife. KAY/O throws a knife that is able to supress enemies once it activates, and it also reveals how many enemies the knife has suppressed. The knife’s activation radius can supress enemies behind walls as well. Enemies can destroy the knife that is in plain sight before it activates, so one should try their best not to throw it directly at them. Enemies that are hit by this are not able to use their skills and abilities for 8 seconds.
FLASH/DRIVE is KAY/O’s flash grenade. If you have played Counter-Strike, this flash grenade functions exactly the same as a typical flash grenade. No gimmicks, no fancy hawks, just a plain ol’ flashbang. KAY/O throws a flash grenade that explodes and blinds enemies (yes that’s it). KAY/O can also lob the grenade as a secondary fire which has a shorter fuse time before it goes off.
FRAG/MENT is KAY/O’s “frag grenade”. Once thrown, as soon as it hits the ground, the grenade sends out multiple explosive waves, with each wave dealing up to 60 damage. The closer you are to the centre of the explosion, the higher the damage.
NULL/CMD, KAY/O’s ultimate, allows KAY/O to have a faster higher rate of fire, while emitting waves that will supress enemies that are caught in its radius. This ultimate lasts for 20 seconds. If KAY/O is killed in this state, an ally is also able to stabilise his core to revive him.
The combination of KAY/O’s abilities make him seem like a very vanilla pick as an Initiator, and you may be right. His flashbang is typical of an FPS flashbang, his FRAG/MENT is just a different kind of molotov-like grenade. But what really makes KAY/O scary is his ability to suppress. What makes VALORANT unique and also sometimes frustrating is the use of abilities in this game.
Ever wondered if the fight would have gone in a different way if the enemy Jett didn’t have a dash? Ever wondered if you could have outgunned the enemy Raze if she didn’t decide to fire that rocket launcher in your direction?
With KAY/O, you can! His supressing ability makes him extremely dangerous as an Initiator. When attacking a site, for example, if you manage to supress the enemy Sage, she will have no avenue to stop your team from entering the site with her wall. Once these intricacies of ability usage are thrown out the window, all that’s left is a fair gunfight. Except when KAY/O is using his ultimate to push in... I would hardly call that a fair gunfight because of his increased fire rate.
KAY/O is also extremely useful when defending. Enemy players would usually utilise a lot of utility when they are trying to attack a site. All of this can be shut-down and delayed with just a throw of KAY/O’s knife. As an added bonus, you will also know how many people there are attacking the site. His ability to suppress alone makes him a very string Initiator to have, and if you manage to learn some line-ups with his knife and grenades, he can be an unstoppable monster.