The effect metas have on esports games


Esports has something that traditional sports don’t that helps it continuously evolve and keeps people fixated on matches: Metas.

Unlike traditional sports — which have had the same overall strategy for hundreds of years — the strategies, team compositions, and metas change in esports month after month. This balances the game and keeps players on their feet — learning new characters and practising new strategies.

One game that has continued to rapidly evolve is VALORANT. The game is young — just two years old this month — but the state of the agents change constantly. That’s due to developers continuing to patch the game in an attempt to balance the agents.

Phoenix place in VALORANT

A recent focus has been on Phoenix. The explosive agent has been on the roster since the game launched, known for his interesting ultimate and flashy dialogue. But players soon realised that his ability to rush into the action and reset when eliminated had not benefited most teams in the current meta, which is more about strategy than aggression. Sova and Astra are all about gathering intel while Sage and Viper help shape the opponents’ path from afar.

This has put Phoenix near the bottom.

Tier 1Jett, Sage, Viper, Sova, Chamber, Astra
Tier 2Fade, Skye, Breach, Killjoy, Reyna, Cypher, Neon
Tier 3Omen, Phoenix, Raze, KAY/O
Tier 4Yoru, Brimstone
Statistics from Valorbuff

Phoenix has a pick rate of 1.2% in VALORANT, which is very low compared to most of the duelists. As the OG agent continues to become less and less relevant, Riot Games decided to reveal that some changes are coming to the fiery character.

Reworks of current agents

“Upfront, yes, we are working on Phoenix, but it is too early for us to talk about details of what it may entail. Unfortunately, we do not have a solid ETA on that, and we want to take the time to find the right long-term place for Phoenix,” the developer said

It’s currently unclear what the changes to Phoenix will be, but the VALORANT community is already growing curious about the agent’s possibilities. With Sova and Jett getting continued nerfs in recent patches, there is room for a new agent to climb to the top and shape the meta. Could it be Phoenix?

The interesting thing about this mysterious update is that pros don’t know the changes either. Phoenix has been all but abandoned in pro matches. But it’s possible that pros will have to start secretly practicing Phoenix to be prepared for the possible meta changes and to know what to expect if opponents select him.

This has been seen as a pro and con of esports. In the Overwatch League, continued changes to the meta, heroes, and hero select options led to a lot of pros feeling burnt out. It’s exhausting to keep changing strategies and learning new characters. Instead of perfecting a single character, many pros in games like Overwatch and VALORANT have to continuously learn new ones.

The bottom line is that selection-based esports games have “metas”, which alter the course of the games and keep the players on their toes. While they’re necessary for games to remain dynamic, it also needs to be taken into account when creating an esports product. Whether it be esports odds or a statistics page, meta changes can affect all aspects of gameplay, giving it a huge impact in predicting what happens in a game.

If taking Phoenix in VALORANT as an example, a buff to him could make him more viable and make his win rate higher. In that case, a prediction in an odds model would have to favour a team with Phoenix as one of the agents slightly higher than before his buff. To be able to create successful esports products, it’s paramount to understand these updates and what they mean for the state of a game.

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