SiuPakChoi and JanuaryAKG's guide to dominate Valorant ranked
Fresh off the competitive thrill the pair experienced in the Valorant SEA Invitational, SiuPakChoi and JanuaryAKG of Team Marshal (Malaysian representatives) shared their own personal tips and tricks to ace their gameplay in Valorant ranked, with the hope that their knowledge would prove useful to any reader looking to climb the ranked ladder of Riot Games' latest tactical shooter.
WHO ARE THEY
John “SiuPakChoi” Choo is a Facebook Gaming Creator who specialises in streaming Valorant and Call of Duty: Warzone. He currently favours the former due to his familiarity with Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), which he played when he started streaming. At the time of this interview, SiuPakChoi is a Diamond III rank player who emphasises on abilities (or utilities in Warzone) with a more “passive and tactical” approach.
Although Tan "JanuaryAKG" Wen Shen is known for his Facebook Gaming streams of PUBG (Mobile, Lite and Steam versions) and Free Fire, the first-person shooter fan streams Valorant whenever his dedicated Valorant squad is available. He enjoys playing MMORPGs and Hearthstone during his free time. The Immortal I ranked player describes himself as an “offensive supporter”, and has been an aggressive sniper player for the past 12 years.
TOP AGENTS TO CLIMB THE VALORANT RANK LADDER
Both Creators unanimously picked the Sentinel agent as their absolute favourite when it comes to playing competitively in Valorant. “Her abilities make her suitable for both Attackers and Defenders,” said SiuPakChoi, singling out her Barrier Orb and Resurrection skills as her best skills. “You can revive the downed best player on your team and clutch a win in the game, it’s a game-changing ability.”
January echoed his sentiments for her ability to conjure ice walls; instead of just blocking pathways, you can use it offensively by finding high unique angles to “sniper peek and take out enemies when they least expect it”, and even counter enemies’ smokes due to the wall being taller than said smokes. As a self-described “offensive supporter”, January utilises Sage’s Healing Orb to self-heal and survive longer in the game - very different from his approach to CS:GO, a game which you can’t recover health in. This allows him to play more aggressively without worrying too much about low health.
SiuPakChoi classified the Moroccon spy as a crazy good agent to use defensively, especially when one has a cunning mindset like Cypher. “If the enemy Cypher is really creative, you wouldn’t know where they placed the traps, baiting you to rush and end up revealing your location.”
He believes that the Sentinel agent can even be left alone to take care of one site all by himself, when each site usually requires two agents to defend it properly. That being said, having Cypher as an Attacker can be helpful too. “He can cover the team’s flank and prevent ambushes with his recon abilities (Spycam and Trapwire) so that you feel safe and can focus on attacking.” SiuPakChoi also praised Cypher’s ultimate, Neural Theft, because “you get to know the location of all enemies and predict their movements.”
January’s second favourite pick is the American commander, with which he can take on the “planner” role and dictate where his team can go as a Controller class agent, especially with the help of his long-range Sky Smoke skill. “I usually stay in the back and use my smoke ability in a tactical manner” to confuse enemies or grant his teammates safe passage.
Brimstone’s Incendiary and Orbital Strike ultimate may be labelled as damage dealers, but as a Defender, they are good for stalling time when the spike has been planted. “You can even damage enemies who try to defuse the spike,” a tactic that Singaporean streamer Sombrero also used in the Valorant SEA Invitational when January’s teammate, Alan Lembu, tried disabling the bomb. Not forgetting that the Stim Beacon ability also grants a “mini Reyna ultimate” (Empress) by slightly increasing firing and reload speed.
Aside from skills and a deep understanding of agents and the map, it’s also important to manage your economy, to either save up your Creds by opting for bang-for-your-buck guns or go all-out with top-range firearms to win the game. Regardless of your wealth, it’s important to know which are the best guns to buy in your respective economic (econ) status.
All players start out with low econ in the early game, so what’s the best loadout to have at the beginning of each match? Both streamers recommend getting the Ghost sidearm because it’s a one-headshot-kill on unarmoured enemies, proven useful in a phase when some of them may forego armour due to little Creds. For reference, the Classic pistol takes two headshots to kill an enemy with no protection.
“The Shorty shotgun is also one of the deadliest, cheapest close-range weapons,” said SiuPakChoi. “If you’re a Defender and know what are the best choke points to cover, you can one-headshot kill enemy agents.” With that being said, the Shorty requires great precision to be used well; so if you’re not confident in popping headshots, you can opt for the Frenzy, which gives you some room to miss your shots with its 13 mag size.
However, if you’re a Controller (Brimstone) or Sentinel (Sage) player, January advised sticking to the Classic gun and instead spend on light armour and abilities, which are particularly effective in the early game. For example, it’ll take too long for enemies to take down Sage’s ice wall with merely pistols or low-damage cheaper guns.
There isn’t much to recommend when you have a decent amount of Creds. The only endorsements that SiuPakChoi has are to buy the Bulldog rifle or Spectre silenced SMG. “You can deal more damage with them than lower-tiered weapons and are reliable enough, but they’re obviously not as great as the more expensive rifles.”
This is where the real fun begins! When it comes to rifles, it’s a no-brainer that the Vandal is a top pick between the two, particularly so for SiuPakChoi. “It’s one tap to the head and the enemy is down, no matter the range - I’m in love with the Vandal.” A suitable gun for entry fraggers and Attackers, he noted that to realise the Vandal’s full potential, “You need to be precise and not spray the gun due to its recoil. Instead, tap your shots and aim for the head.”
If you want a rifle that doesn’t punish you for relaxing your aim, January suggests getting the Phantom. “It’s a lot easier to control in comparison to other guns, and the damage is high enough. But if you’re too far from the enemy, one headshot isn’t enough to kill them.”
As a sniper player for the past 12 years, January’s favourite baby is the costly-yet-powerful Operator. “You can one-shot kill other agents even if you just hit their body.” The trick is to be fast enough and get your bullet in. Albeit labelled as a long-range gun, he admits to using the Operator for all distances, resorting to quick scope for close-range encounters.
THE LITTLE TIPS ALSO COUNT
Master one or two agents first, understand the rest
The streamer pair suggest that new players start with Sage and Brimstone - the former’s abilities are the simplest to use, and the latter is suitable for CS:GO gamers due to his utility-focused skills that are similar to the Valve game, such as smoke and incendiary. It’s also important to have an idea of how every agent works, so you know what to expect when facing them. “You can go to the practice range and try them all out at no cost or pressure,” said January.
Train your aiming and reflexes
Arguably SiuPakChoi’s most essential tip, he advised to either practise by - you guessed it - entering Practice Mode or to use Aim Lab, which is currently free on Steam. January shared that you can also play Unrated as training since it won't affect your rank, as well as music rhythm games like O2Jam and Osu!Mania for improving your reflexes. “As long as they emphasise speed and catch.”
There’s no “I” in “team”
“It doesn’t matter if you have the highest score and kill count,” January expressed. “If you play as a lone wolf, your team will most likely end up losing.” Plus, if you’re aiming to reach the higher ranks, you need to work together with your team and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses to win. “Personal skills will only get you so far.” Always communicate, and form a well-balanced team of agents with your allies.
Think outside the box
Valorant leaves many rooms for experimentation, even though it’s up to the players to uncover them. Some of the high IQ plays that SiuPakChoi and January used include: flank your enemies as an aggressive Defender instead of a passive one, smoke all essential enemy pathways minus one to narrow down their movement, reverse psychology, and so on. But, it can be hard for some players to discover unique tactics by themselves, which leads us to...
Play to learn, watch to learn more
“Don’t just play the game, go look up on professional players who play your main agent(s) and learn how they play,” urged SiuPakChoi. On the contrary, January said that it doesn’t have to be professional gameplays, and can instead be trick - or even funny - plays that other Valorant gamers pulled off; they can even be of any agents instead of just your mains, so you can predict what other agents can do.
Take care of your health
On the more mundane but crucial aspect, January endorsed taking care of your physical needs to be more energised and concentrate better in your gameplay, especially by getting enough sleep. “It’s just like doing sports, it’s even better if you warm up first before every gaming session,” which SiuPakChoi also advocated. Personally, January likes stretching his fingers and focus by playing music rhythm games, even before streaming.
Don’t be salty
And last but not least, SiuPakChoi emphasised on the importance of being nice and understanding to your teammates. “Once you start acting like a toxic player, you’ll frustrate your squadmates and prompt them to throw the game.” So, if you adopt a positive attitude while gaming competitively, you’ll encourage others to work harder together to win the game.