The prospect of Agent bans has been a hot topic for discussion ever since Valorant’s release. However, with the game’s 15th Agent – Astra – about to be unleashed, is it finally time to introduce an Agent banning system in competitive play?
Everyone has that one Agent they despise playing against. Whether it’s Raze blowing you up with a paint can or Yoru teleporting behind you, there are certain Agents who can really get under players’ skin.
Back in July 2020, Senior Game Designer Trevor Rolemski explained how a potential draft system had been considered, but Riot believed at the time it was healthier for the game state not to implement one.
“We expect teams to have set plays and strategies that will require very specific Agents,” he said. “Banning an Agent would invalidate that entire strategy, and we don’t want to discourage practice.”
“Bans often remove a players’ star Agent and we want players who are exceptional at certain Agents to be able to play them and show off their skills with them.”
But the discussion has since shifted. New Agents like Skye, Yoru and Astra have been introduced, expanding the Agent pool and increasing the number of strategies available to teams.
On the day of Astra’s announcement, Cloud9 Blue in-game leader Daniel ‘vice’ Kim restarted the discussion. “I think it’s time for agent bans in competitive play,” he tweeted.
I think its time for agent bans in competitive play.
— C9 vice (@vice_cs) February 27, 2021
Not many people were supportive of vice’s view, however. The general consensus seemed to be that Valorant is not quite developed enough for a ban system to be worthwhile.
TSM Valorant Head Coach Taylor “Tailored” Broomall believes Agent bans are an inevitable progression of Valorant, and could popularize strategies involving non-meta Agents like Yoru, but shouldn’t be introduced until it’s necessary.
“I don’t think there’s a rush,” he told Dexerto. “I think if Riot ever does something like Agent bans, that’s when people could start exploring Agents like [Yoru] more because he wouldn’t be one people think to ban.
“You could have a pocket Yoru player or some flex DPS player like Yacine [Subroza] who can break him out at any time and perform with him.
“I think it’s a way to keep games fresh and keep metas on their toes, because people can’t just rely on having a Sova or Cypher on every map. They’re also introducing so many Agents that I’m not sure how they could get away with not banning them in the future.”
But that future is still a way away. Valorant Game Director Joseph Ziegler said in November 2020 that it was hard to assess whether a ban system was necessary at that moment in time.
“I think right now, we’re not doing that, but I think in the future we may think about it,” he said. “It really depends on how much it adds to the game versus subtracts to the game.
“Those decisions, I think, are hard to tell when we only have 14 characters in the game.”
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Riot has also stated they prefer balancing Agents on an individual level to ensure they do not achieve ‘permaban’ status, but this will become increasingly tougher to manage as more Agents and maps are released.
The tactical battles that draft systems enable are already a key feature of esports like League of Legends and Overwatch. However, these games have far more playable characters in their respective rosters; banning a champion in League, for example, forces a team to tweak its strategy, not scrap it entirely.
Any Agent bans system added to Valorant right now would be extremely limited, with probably only one ban per team. And this one ban could easily curtail entire strategies, leading to worse performances from players we want to watch at their best.
As Agents are added and the number of available strategies increases, Agent bans will rightly become a much more contested point of discussion. But Valorant is not quite ready yet; it’s a conversation for a later date.