VALORANT’s been aching for a new agent to spice up the controller class, and Astra’s “galaxy brain” gameplay may do just that.
The Ghanaian channels the power of the cosmos to assert map-scale dominance, slinging stars that explode, concuss, and transform into smokes. Dot Esports was invited to test the agent out at an Act II capture event, previewing Astra’s galactic kit. And while she may have a relatively steep learning curve, her potential is out of this world.
A kit made for controlling
Astra’s main gimmick is her Astral Form, which allows her to traverse the map and place stars, similar to Omen’s smoke. And it gives you infinite possibilities.
The controller can transform her stars into one of three things: a smoke, an AoE concussion, or a Gravity Well that sucks enemies to its center, similar to Zarya’s ultimate from Overwatch. Need to smoke off heaven? No problem. See a straggler hiding back of site? Concuss them and charge. Enemy team pushing mid? Suck them into your Gravity Well and spray them down. It’s by efficiently using stars that you’ll be able to separate the mediocre Astras from the elite ones.
Going in and out of Astral Form can be tricky. The ability gives you a great vantage point for placing stars in ideal locations, but you obviously can’t see the enemy team and it leaves your body vulnerable. And since enemies can see (but not shoot!) the stars you place, you’ll have to properly manage the mechanic throughout the round.
Especially talented Astras can fake out teams by placing stars on one site to bait the opponents, only to pull them off and switch sides. But an inexperienced player can easily be overwhelmed by her kit, potentially limiting her potential in lower ranks.
Astra’s Cosmic Divide ultimate is the perfect tool for storming onto a site or fending enemies off when defending. The ability creates a giant sound-proof wall that you can’t see or shoot through, but you can sling abilities to the other side. Peeking through the divider is definitely risky, giving the advantage to whoever’s covering the angle.
Will Astra finally shake up the controller meta?
If there’s one positive thing that Astra’s debut will bring, it’s the possibility of dethroning the ever-so-popular Omen.
Even after Brimstone was buffed and Omen was nerfed in VALORANT Patch 2.0, the shrouded agent continues to be the king controller. While he may not sport the 98-percent pick rate that he had during First Strike: North America, according to VLR.gg, he’s still the most-picked agent in the NA VCT Challengers events.
The current controller meta is stale. On the off chance that you get a Brim on your team, you’re usually still missing Omen’s flexibility and mobility. And Viper’s an irrelevant troll pick, forever trying to elbow her way into the adult’s table. Astra, on the other hand, might change things.
The reason Omen is a popular pick is because he’s so versatile. He can smoke anywhere on the map and initiate a fight with Paranoia’s AoE crowd control. Sound familiar?
Not only can Astra perform the typical smoker duties, she has the tools to storm a site and lock one down. Her concussion and gravity well can zone enemies, while her ultimate provides a good entry onto a site. And placing stars in the same way a Killjoy would set up traps can hold off opposing teams in time for a rotation. The ability to dip her toes in the initiator and sentinel classes can possibly propel her into a starting spot on any roster.
The only thing that stands in her way? A steep learning curve.
One lingering concern that may affect Astra’s impact is her complexity. In a Feb. 12 State of the Agents post, Riot hinted that she was specifically tailored for “galaxy brain” players that “like to study everything that happens on a map.” With such a big departure from VALORANT’s typical play patterns, Astra’s high skill cap may hinder her playability.
Let’s take a step back and look at VALORANT’s last release, Yoru. The duelist’s kit is nothing but mind games carefully curated to bamboozle enemies with footsteps, teleports, and flashes. But his game impact is limited by how skilled the players are on both teams, especially in higher ranks. As you climb ranks, it becomes far less easy to outplay your opponents.
TSM coach Taylor "Tailored" Broomall discussed Yoru’s complexity in an interview with Dexerto, explaining the “less complicated you can make this game, the easier it is to focus on the team dynamic and communication and the stuff that really wins tournaments.” In a similar vein, Sentinels pro Hunter "SicK" Mims tweeted in January that Yoru is “kinda bad,” has “too many sound cues to be useable,” and “seems to be useful in only very specific situations.”
Riot has since made balance changes to Yoru in Patch 2.03, improving visual and audio clarity on his Gatecrash (E) and giving his Dimensional Drift (X) some minimap buffs. But the agent still needs a lot more help if he’s going to make regular competitive appearances.
Astra may face a similar issue as one of the more complicated agents. But she has one stark difference to Yoru: it’s worth mastering her.
Armed with two forms of crowd control, smokes, and a massive zoning tool for an ultimate, Astra’s sure to pack a space-sized punch. And since there aren’t many viable alternatives at controller, she can easily infiltrate the current meta. While Yoru is fun and unique, there are several better options at the duelist position.
Yes, playing her will take some work and plenty of trial and error, and those of us who tested her out early can definitely attest to that. But Astra will have VALORANT players over the moon nonetheless.
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