How to VALORANT: Controller characters and roles explained

·Yahoo Esports & Gaming SEA team
·17 min read

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.

Welcome back to another VALORANT guide. In our previous articles, we've covered Duelists and Initiators, the forefront for attack. But these aren't enough to win the game. In today's piece, we'll be going through the third of four current classes in VALORANT, the Controllers.

Controllers are experts in slicing up dangerous territory to set their team up for success.Riot Games

Riot's description rings absolutely true for all Controllers that are currently present in VALORANT, as they have utility abilities that are ever so important to obscure enemy vision, and to stop enemies from advancing onto the area the Controllers are defending. 

A good Controller, coupled with a Sentinel (the fourth class, which we'll cover in a future piece), can easily defend a site from advancing opponents, if their utility are placed at strategic points on the map.

Each Controller has different effects for their particular vision-blocking smoke orb, which will be explained in their breakdown, but as a brief overview, some smokes appear to be “hollow” (full vision of anyone standing inside a smoke orb), and some smokes are “thick” (limited vision when standing inside a smoke orb).

Now, let’s take a look at the four Controllers currently in the game.

(Screenshot: Riot Games)
(Screenshot: Riot Games)

Omen

  • Abilities: Shrouded Step, Paranoia, Dark Cover

  • Ultimate: From The Shadows

Of the four Controllers, Omen seems to have the least utility when it comes to blocking vision and slicing up a site. One might even argue that he is a hybrid of a Controller and an Initiator, and you would not be wrong. But don’t let that fool you, his utility has enough power to stop advancing opponents due to confusion and fear.

Dark Cover is Omen’s signature ability. Omen is able to place a smoke orb that covers a significant amount of space. This smoke is a “hollow” smoke; when players step into them, they have full vision of whatever that is happening inside it. Omen is able to activate Dark Cover from almost any part of the map, as long as it’s in range when he enters into his unique phased world. If you are not fond of the look of his phased world, you are also able to press the Reload button to switch to a more normal looking view of the map to place your smokes. 

As of the publication of this article, Omen is able to place only 1 Dark Cover on the map that lasts 15 seconds, unless you purchase a second charge for 100 credits at the buy menu. Each charge will then take 40 seconds to recharge before Omen is able to fire one off again.

Paranoia allows Omen to fire a straight moving orb that is able to go through walls that will nearsight affected players. Nearsighted players will only be able to see for a very short distance in front of them, and their audio cues will be muffled. Their view of the map will also be hindered. 

Paranoia has a pretty large area of effect and can travel a very long distance, too. Be warned, though, your teammates will also suffer the effects of being nearsighted if this orb hits them. Since it also has a large area of effect, when Omen activates this, he may also accidentally nearsight any teammates that are standing a little too close to him.

Omen also has the ability to teleport short distances using his Shrouded Step. This allows Omen to teleport to a nearby location that is within his vision, whether to confuse opponents or to just reposition. This move has a significant amount of startup and recovery time, so any enemy that catches Omen teleporting may have a free kill on their hands. 

Shrouded Step also has a sound cue when it is activated, but most of the time, it is not directionally accurate if you are listening as an enemy, so this can be used to Omen’s advantage as the opponents may not be able to tell where he has teleported to.

Omen’s ultimate, From The Shadows, allows him to teleport to anywhere on the map at any point of time. He will appear as a shadow figure initially at the position that he chooses to teleport to. His vision in that form will gradually expand till the teleportation timer and animation ends. 

Omen can also choose to cancel his ultimate at any point of time, to reappear at his last location point (where he activated his ultimate) as long as the teleportation timer is still counting down. Enemies who see Omen’s shade/shadow can also shoot it to prevent Omen from spawning at his desired location. 

This ultimate can also be used to gather information on where the enemies are instead of fully teleporting to the desired location, with Omen being able to cancel the ultimate at any point of time. A word of warning, though, Omen gives off a very loud sound cue to the enemies in his vicinity when he teleports. So it may give your position away if an one is too close to you, especially if you’re using it as a tool to flank your enemies.

Looking at Omen’s toolkit, while he is able to block off vision using his Dark Cover, he cannot utilise as much smokes as the other Controllers. However, his ability to nearsight enemies covers this shortcoming as he is able to scare foes off with it. He is also able to use it while attacking a site, which is extremely important to clear corners and take enemies by surprise. 

As mentioned in this article about best VALORANT partners, when Omen is paired with an agent like Raze, Paranoia adds a lot of value as a tool to nearsight enemies before Raze jumps in with her ultimate to eliminate them. It is a very powerful tool for attack and defence, which is why Riot has been struggling to price Paranoia appropriately for the past couple of seasons. 

Shrouded Step is also extremely useful for Omen as he can get to places that are not normally accessible to any other agent. He is able to reposition safely with it, take off-angles that are not normally taken, and even the sound cue given off by the skill can be used to confuse enemies. 

That said, his ultimate is arguably one of the “weakest” in the game, because of its situational usage and the fact that it does not do much by itself. However, a good Omen player can find various ways of utilising From The Shadows, be it to use it to rotate instantly to another site, scout for information, or just use it as a flanking tool. 

By using his utility to its fullest, Omen is an agent that can appear at the most unexpected locations to take down enemies. Coupled with his smoke, once an Omen player establishes dominance that he is able to outplay his enemies, it will make things tougher for them to guess where he is going to be next. Sometimes, this is enough to make teams think twice before attempting to push a site with an Omen player on defence. In this instance, Omen definitely more than able to “slice up territory”.

(Screenshot: Riot Games)
(Screenshot: Riot Games)

Brimstone

  • Abilities: Stim Beacon, Incendiary, Sky Smoke

  • Ultimate: Orbital Strike

Brimstone is perhaps the most “normal” of all the Controllers. He has straightforward abilities, and is an extremely damaging agent when played correctly.

His signature move, the Sky Smoke, is... well, basically a smoke. Brimstone enters an interface where he is able to place his smokes at any point of the map that is visible through it. It doesn’t encompass the whole map, so that is something to take note of. His smokes are “thick” smokes, which means unlike Omen’s Dark Cover, vision is limited when you step into Brimstone’s Sky Smoke. Players can choose to hide in it as well because of its limited vision and catch enemies by surprise. 

Brimstone is able to drop up to 3 Sky Smokes at once, and it doesn’t refill again until the next round. Each of the smoke lasts 19.25 seconds, making it the longest lasting smoke in the game. One drawback about Brimstone’s smoke however; since it is deployed from the sky, if there are areas which are covered by a roof, Brimstone’s Sky Smoke may not be deployed at your intended area, and would be deployed on the roof above that area instead.

Incendiary is Brimstone’s version of the molotov cocktail. He fires a grenade that deploys into a pit of fire when it settles on the ground. The grenade also has a little bit of momentum to it, so firing it straight to the ground would sometimes result in a couple of bounces before it fully explodes. 

Incendiary is usually lethal if players do not get out of the fire as soon as possible, making this a good tool to flush enemies out of corners and also to stay off a point.

Brimstone is also able to deploy the Stim Beacon, throwing out a beacon that buffs the fire rate of all allies within its radius. Players will maintain the 15% fire rate buff for a short period of time when they leave the area of effect, so even touching the radius of Stim Beacon is enough to give players a temporary buff to their fire rate.

His ultimate, the Orbital Strike, is akin to nuking a particular spot on the map. When activating this ultimate, Brimstone pulls out an interface similar to when he deploys a Sky Smoke, albeit covering a wider portion of the map, and then sends down a large laser beam at the chosen area. This laser beam deals 20 damage per tick, and has around 6.67 ticks per second. 

As this whole ultimate lasts around 3 seconds, dealing a whopping 400 damage in total if a player were to stand in it for the whole duration. As you can tell, if enemies are cornered by this ultimate, they’re toast, or in Brimstone’s own words, “DEEP FRIED!”

As mentioned, Brimstone is perhaps the most straightforward Controller. He definitely is able to “slice up territory” with all his given abilities. His smokes are able to block sights and cover places that you don’t want your enemies to intrude upon. His Incendiary is able to flush out enemies from corners, deter enemies from pushing a site, or keep enemies from defusing the spike if you have some perfect lineups. His Stim Beacon can help with fire rate when attacking a site or when defending one (facing an Odin wielder with a 15% fire rate increase is no joke). 

His Orbital Strike is also able to flush enemies out of tight spaces, or simply delay an enemy’s attack. What’s more, when coupled with something like a Killjoy ultimate, which will most likely push enemies to certain parts of the map to avoid getting detained, Brimstone will be able to just launch his ultimate at places where the enemies are hiding to get them in one fell swoop.

(Screenshot: Riot Games)
(Screenshot: Riot Games)

Viper

  • Abilities: Snake Bite, Poison Cloud, Toxic Screen

  • Ultimate: Viper’s Pit

Viper is perhaps one of the most oppressive Controllers out of the current batch when played correctly. Most of her abilities cause “decay” — when an enemy comes into contact with abilities that cause it, they instantly lose 30 points of health, with shields getting affected first if the enemy has that on them. What’s more, when the enemy continuously remains in contact with Viper’s abilities, they will lose health over time until their health reaches to a mere 1 point. However, if you are not in contact with any of Viper’s abilities with decay, you will regain all your health back after 1.5 seconds.

Toxic Screen is Viper’s signature ability. With this ability, she is able to deploy a long line of gas emitters in a straight line. These emitters are permanent throughout the round, and cannot be moved after being deployed. Viper players can choose to activate these gas emitters at any point in time, creating a toxic wall that blocks vision. 

When deployed correctly, Toxic Screen can usually fully encompass a site, including the large ones in Breeze. This ability has decay as well, so any enemy that chooses to push through the screen will instantly be hit with a 30-health point deficit. However, to keep Toxic Screen up and running, Viper needs to have fuel in her fuel meter. Toxic Screen will drain the fuel over time when it is activated, and this meter is also shared with her next ability, Poison Cloud.

Poison Cloud equips Viper with another gas emitter that she is able to place anywhere near her. Like Toxic Screen, she is able to activate this at any point in time. When activated, it emits gas in a shape that is similar to Brimstone’s Sky Smoke, but with the added effect of decay. 

It is also a “thick” smoke, so vision is limited when you step into it. Viper is able to pick up the gas emitter at any point in time when she is near to reposition it. As this shares fuel with Toxic Screen, Viper players will need to know how to manage their meter to keep both of these skills up and running in the most effective way.

Viper’s Snake Bite is an ability that is similar to a molotov cocktail, much like Phoenix’s Hot Hands and Brimstone’s Incendiary. However, this skill deals much less damage over time compared to those skills, but applies “vulnerability” to enemies that are hit by it for a couple of seconds. Enemies that are vulnerable receive twice as much damage as they normally would. Snake Bite also slows enemy movement down.

Viper’s ultimate, the Viper’s Pit, allows her to deploy a huge cloud of chemicals around her. This can usually encompass a whole site as well. What’s more, it also applies decay to any enemy that dares to enter. 

Vision is limited in the ultimate, but Viper is able to see much more clearly than the enemies, allowing her to have an advantage when she remains in the Viper’s Pit. 

The ultimate also comes with its own Integrity meter. Once the meter is drained, the ultimate will cease to exist, but the meter can be refilled as long as Viper is in contact with the ultimate. The ultimate will usually stay up forever if Viper remains in it, but will last for 15 seconds if she isn’t around to recharge its integrity.

You can probably see why she may be the most oppressive Controller. Enemies have to constantly consider whether to push through her gas to attack a site. 

And if a Viper is able to manage her resources expertly, she can deny vision with her gas, which, coupled with a Sentinel like Killjoy, means attacking a site may prove fatal half the time to the opposing team. This is especially so considering Viper is able to passively chip away at some of the enemy’s health even before they enter the site. If push comes to shove, Viper can even use her ultimate to block off a choke point leading to the site to ensure that no enemies are able to pass through, since she has better vision than them inside her Viper’s Pit. 

Even on attack, Viper’s Toxic Screen is able to cover a lot of distance. Having a well thought out attack plan will mean a free entry into a site half the time, as enemies will likely be divided by the Toxic Screen if they are not careful. 

Her ultimate is also extremely useful when deployed after the spike is planted, as it will make it extremely tough for enemies to retake the site, since they may not know where Viper is lurking around within the ultimate. And even if they do, there is a high chance they may not succeed, since she will be able to see them before they see her. A hard counter to this will be a surprise attack like a Yoru ultimate or a Jett dash. All in all, Viper is really an “expert in slicing up dangerous territory to set their team up for success”.

(Screenshot: Riot Games)
(Screenshot: Riot Games)

Astra

  • Abilities: Gravity Well, Nova Pulse, Nebula, Dissipate

  • Ultimate: Cosmic Divide

The Ghanaian agent Astra is probably the most unique of all the Controllers. In the buy phase, Astra will only need to purchase Stars, and there is no need to purchase other abilities. When she enters her Astral Form, she is able to place up to 5 Stars anywhere on the map. 

What she does with these stars, however, is up to the player. When she targets a star, she is able to transform it to a couple of different abilities.

She can use her Star to conjure Nebula, a smoke that is similar to Omen’s. It is hollow, so enemies are able to see things clearly when they are in the smoke. She has 2 charges, and each Nebula lasts for 14.25 seconds, with a 14 second cooldown, before she regains a charge.

She can also transform her Star into a Gravity Well, which makes the Star slow down and pull enemies in its radius towards it before exploding. When it does, all enemies in the Star’s vicinity will be inflicted with “vulnerability” for a short time, effectively taking double damage. This ability has a 25 second cooldown before it can be used again.

Nova Pulse is also another ability that Astra can transform her Star into. Nova Pulse essentially acts like a stun grenade. Anyone in the explosion radius will be concussed, which means a slower fire rate, blurry vision and slow movement. This also has a 25 second cooldown before it can be used again.

Astra is also able to reclaim a deployed Star to reposition when needed. When she uses Dissipate, Astra will recall the deployed Star, which it will temporarily form a Nebula that lasts 1 second. Sometimes, this can be used to provide temporary cover to reposition while still preserving a Star, or to trick enemies into thinking that you may be attacking the area.

Her ultimate, the Cosmic Divide, deploys an extremely tall cosmic barrier that spans across the map. This barrier blocks all bullets from going through it, and also heavily muffles sound that is coming from the opposite side of the barrier. All abilities are able to pass through it, though, except for one; Jett’s Blade Storm.

In hindsight, Astra may look a little basic and underwhelming as a Controller, until you realise that she can activate any of her abilities on any part of the map, from any part of the map. What’s more, since enemies can also visibly see a deployed Star, this may be enough deterrent for them to not push a site. A well-placed Gravity Well or Nova Pulse may end up in death for the opposing team when combo-ed with something as strong as a Raze ultimate. And since the Nebula also has a short cooldown, she will be able to re-smoke an area if she chooses to without any downtime. 

Her Dissipate ability is also useful for repositioning and tricking enemies as it temporarily blocks vision for 1 second. Good Astra players will know when to use Dissipate to trick opponents while preserving a Star, and sometimes not having vision for 1 second in VALORANT can be the difference between life and death, especially when enemies are pushing onto your position. 

Astra's ultimate is extremely useful for denying sights and even sounds when pushing or retaking a site. Since bullets cannot go through the barrier, Astra’s team will not have to worry about getting bullet spammed from the other side. 

If a firefight were to take place, the enemy has to approach the barrier, and this may be extremely tricky because no one can hear what is happening on the other side. She definitely has the ability to “slice up dangerous territory” for her teammates, be it in defending, or attacking.

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