As painful as it is to say, Riot needs to buff VALORANT’s Operator.
OK, hear me out. The Operator was easily the most controversial weapon in the game, devastating to play against and difficult to counter. And nobody was a bigger proponent of nerfing it into the ground than I was. But Riot might have gone a bit too far.
Patch 1.09 completely changed the VALORANT Operator meta, bumping the price up from 4,500 to 5,000 credits and nerfing the sniper’s scoped movement speed, firing rate, instant equip time, leg shot damage, and the time it takes to become accurate after a player stops moving. Riot also targeted the jump land accuracy on all weapons, which largely affected the Operator hop-shot mechanic.
A nerf was definitely needed since teams who won a pistol and eco round could have easily bought an Operator by the third round. This became extremely oppressive, especially in a solo queue setting where squads are less coordinated with their utility. Poor smoking and peeking could lead way to losing an ally within the first few seconds of a match, wasting a buy round immediately and snowballing the game.
But were all the nerfs necessary? Probably not.
Riot could’ve maybe gotten away with nerfing its cost or the weapon balance changes, not both. If its price was increased to 5,000 credits but everything else largely stayed the same (aside from maybe the movement accuracy), the weapon would still be a high-risk, high-reward option. Good Opers could oppress sloppy opponents, but one mistake and your economy is screwed. If the price remained 4,500 but all the other balancing changes went through, then players would simply be forced to play more carefully.
After all the adjustments, however, the Operator is a difficult sell that often isn’t worth the risk unless you’re already largely ahead. And with an emerging aggressive duelist playstyle and an increasing amount of agent flashes added to the tac shooter, it’s difficult to shut that attack down without a functioning Op.
It’s also hard not to acknowledge how the Operator nerfs indirectly impacted Jett. The unique duelist is a common pick for Opers, who use the agent’s mobility and smokes to reposition to different vantage points. While Jett was once a must-pick agent, the VALORANT meta has now shifted to give more duelists a seat at the table. And any minor buff or nerf to the Operator can easily change that.
It does seem like Riot is of a similar opinion, too. Co-lead game designer Max “Orcane” Grossman discussed potential Operator buffs with HITSCAN’s RyanCentral in an April 12 video, explaining that the devs are “thinking about” making some changes to the sniper rifle.
“I don’t know exactly what our solution will be,” he said. “The Op is supposed to be this scary-ass weapon, right? It’s supposed to sit on an angle so if you just dry-peek, you’re in trouble… It is the most painful weapon to fight against, but it’s also in many ways the most important weapon in the whole game because it’s that tool that really forces you to use your abilities… and work with your teammates.”
Orcane went on to explain that he thinks the weapon isn’t far off from being balanced and might just need a minor tweak.
The Operator should essentially encourage teams to communicate better and efficiently use their utility. Teams that don’t respect it and dry-peek angles will suffer, while a well-executed attack can easily counter the sniper.
Whether the Op effectively does that in its current state is debatable. But giving the sniper a little love can’t hurt too much… right?