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VALORANT | Beginner’s Guide: How To Play & Tips To Get Better

VALORANT is more than a game. It’s an e-sport. And like any sport, you have to be an active participant to grow and succeed. Reaching your peak in ranked play requires strategy, practice, and a deep understanding of the game’s mechanics. Join us for the High Ground Gaming VALORANT beginner’s guide, starting right after the break. 

Mouse & Keyboard Fundamentals

In this section, we’ll first discuss moving and aiming basics, then we’ll go onto a more detailed discussion about crosshair placement.

Move, Move, Move!

To kick off our VALORANT beginner’s guide, let’s discuss movement and aiming fundamentals.

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Image: Riot Games via HGG / Mitch Gentry

You know that WASD will get you where you need to go, but let’s dig deeper here. When and how you move are just as important as the mechanical aspects that take you from point A to point B. Take some time to watch the pros play — every action is fluid and deliberate, with a certain grace that can’t be denied. They never move for movement’s sake. 

Every action has a purpose, whether that’s to approach a site, take cover, or maintain speed across the map. As any experienced player knows, holding down W is a sure way to lose the fight fast and often. Stay on your toes and keep moving from side to side even when you’re out in the open.

Have you heard of slicing the pie? It’s a technique employed by militaries the world over, and believe it or not, it’s of the utmost importance if you want to win firefights in the virtual arena as well. Whoever is further from the corner will spot out their opponent first. And properly “slicing the pie” from cover will give you that extra edge you need to lock down a bomb site single-handedly, turning a 1v3 into three 1v1s.

Go Beyond Point & Click – Crosshair Placement

Movement is only half the battle. To set yourself up for success with aiming, you’ll need to ensure you have the right setup for the job. Find out whether you’re mainly a wrist aimer or an arm aimer, then tailor your setup to that. Arm aimers generally favor lower DPI settings on the mouse, lower sensitivities, and larger mousepads with plenty of desk real estate. High DPI, high sensitivity, and smaller mousepads are the hallmark of the wrist player. But rest assured — there’s no right or wrong way to aim. It comes down to your personal preference and playstyle. You’ll likely end up mixing the two a bit anyway.

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Image: Riot Games via HGG / Mitch Gentry

Where aiming might be an all-encompassing term, crosshair placement is a distinct discipline within that sphere. It’s all about minimizing the amount of time and mouse movement needed to land shots on your opponents. 

Like movement, watching the pros is a great way to get a sense of what good crosshair placement looks like. You want to keep your crosshair right where you opponent is most likely to appear next, not somewhere on the ground ahead or up in the sky. And no matter what, you’ll want to keep your crosshair up at “headshot level.”

Be sure to consider your own reaction time — keeping your crosshair slightly out and away from the corner is actually more ideal than riding the razor’s edge. Again, the name of the game is minimizing mouse movement before taking your first shot. So dial in your setup, make as few changes as possible afterward for muscle memory’s sake, then get to practicing. 

The Edge of Hero Powers 

Utility is a common theme across all competitive shooters. In more traditional, real-world inspired shooters, utility looks like smoke grenades and flashbangs. But in VALORANT, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the magical powers the agents can wield. 

Like Overwatch, the name of the game in VALORANT is to maximize the effectiveness of your common abilities until you can charge up your game-changing ultimate ability. For the commons, you’ll be buying “charges” the same way you might purchase your grenades in Counter-Strike. Unlike Overwatch, however, most abilities are firmly relegated to the utility role, with aim and good tactical sense serving as the deciding factors in firefights.  

Valorant Beginners Guide 4
Image: Riot Games via HGG / Mitch Gentry

What are the best agents in VALORANT for beginners? That depends.

Some agents have offensive abilities like Reyna’s Devour, which consumes the Soul Orbs of fallen enemies for health. Others have movement-based ones like Jett’s Updraft, which allows her to leap into the air and out of harm’s way at a moment’s notice. And then there’s a healthy assortment of utility powers, like Brimstone’s Sky Smokes (smoke grenades) and Breach’s Flashpoints (wall-penetrating flashbangs), which have functional counterparts in classic competitive shooters.

Our recommendation for newbies checking out this VALORANT beginner’s guide? Take some time to try out all the agents. You never know which combination of powers will suit you best until you take them for a spin. And it never hurts to be familiar with a few flex agents in case your mains get instalocked. 

Econ 101

Money makes the world go ‘round. And like Counter-Strike before it, VALORANT leans heavily into an economic metagame to grow or prune your decision tree before going into a round. Matches are mainly broken down into a few key round types: pistol rounds, rifle rounds, and eco rounds. 

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Image: Riot Games via HGG / Mitch Gentry

The first round of every half is a pistol round. But that doesn’t mean you lack for decisions like you lack for money. Choosing to save your meager financial rations for a round or two can ensure a full buy and all the armor/utility you could possibly need for the first rifle round. But a light armor buy or a few common power charges might help you to close out a round win and walk away with some kill bounties. How you choose to approach this is up to your playstyle and your team, so be sure to talk it over with them.

Any main round where both teams have a stack of cash is a rifle round. These are rounds where most (if not all) members of each team will be fielding a rifle as well as armor and utility. Rifles are the meat and potatoes of VALORANT matches and the best guns in VALORANT for beginners. Want to save a little cash for an Operator next round? Consider light buying or leaning into utility to help your team frag out. Feeling confident in your Vandal play? Now’s the time to armor up and put yourself on the frontlines to earn that bounty cash. 

It’s important to note in this VALORANT beginner’s guide that when one team rocks the other on its heels, the losing team enters an eco round situation. This is where the dominant team keeps their rifles and utility in play, while the underdog has to consider SMGs — or worse, pistols only — and little to no armor/utility. These are the rounds that can make or break a match. Squeezing out a win against rifles when your team is just scraping by can be an exhilarating experience — the quintessential test of your ability to “play smarter, not harder.” 

Teams Win and Lose, Not Players

When learning how to play VALORANT for beginners, there’s one fundamental truth that you need to keep in mind: teams win and lose, not individual players. 

Everyone has good and bad days. It’s important to win the mind game first and foremost — to tilt or not to tilt. Your emotions will powerfully impact your individual performance, and when you tilt off the face of the planet, you can take your teammates with you. You haven’t lost yet so long as there are still rounds on the board. Be ready to remind your teammates of this simple truth as well.

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Image: Riot Games via HGG / Mitch Gentry

Communication is key to victory. Talk with your team — call out enemy positions, coordinate utility usage, and work as one. You win or lose together, remember. It’s okay to switch up the position you’re playing on defense or your role on the attacking side. Maybe today isn’t your day to entry frag, but maybe xXSN1PERW0LFXx is about to have the entry-fraggingest day of his entire VALORANT career. Be willing to give him the space needed to give it his best shot. 

Frankly, competitive e-sports requires a lot of interpersonal tact and self-awareness. It’s an excellent opportunity to develop those skills in yourself so long as you do so mindfully. Be the lynchpin that holds the team together even in stormy waters. You can be satisfied that, with every win, it was because you helped manage your team’s morale and keep everyone firmly untilted. 

Maps – Where are You, Exactly?

When learning VALORANT for beginners, it helps to know the battlefield. VALORANT has six maps as of the time of this writing, each adhering to the core tri-lane formula with variations on the theme.  Rather than break down each map in turn, let’s talk about how best to go about learning them and how to think strategically with the elements at your disposal. 

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Image: Riot Games via HGG / Mitch Gentry

Tri-lane maps are common in competitive shooters — especially those with two (or more) sites to attack and defend — with side lanes and a center lane that offers connections to either side. Perhaps you’ve heard the terms “Short A” and “Long A” in Counter-Strike — Long A would generally be the side lane that, while longer, takes you straight there, while Short A is a more direct but hotly contested route snaking away from the center lane to the A site. Understanding the tri-lane dynamic as well as the short and long approaches to each site can help you quickly break down any map for callouts and strategies. 

Beyond that, each map will offer some unique obstacles and perhaps a bit of “verticality” into the mix. After all, snipers love a perch, right? On maps like Split, you may find that the ropes positioned in Short A and Short B become gardens of destruction and wanton ability usage. So rather than calling “short,” you may prefer to call “ropes.” 

Special callouts like this are going to come down to hands-on experience with each map. And when in doubt, you can pull up the full overhead map with official callouts via a dedicated key as mapped in your settings. Take the time to study those once you’ve bought your guns and gear. Find the three lanes and look for any unique callouts. 

When to Clutch and When to Save

So you’ve used this VALORANT beginner’s guide to get all the fundamentals down. It’s time to talk about closing out rounds. Everyone wants to be at the top of the scoreboard, but sometimes it simply isn’t feasible. How does one go about making these pivotal decisions in the heat of the moment? 

The answer: very carefully. 

The result is going to be the sum of a wide variety of factors. How is your team’s economy looking? Can you afford a rebuy? Is this an especially important round? And exactly how outnumbered are you? Turning tail to run and save your gear may be the soundest tactical option, but if you’re in a 1v3 and you’ve got a rifle versus SMG wielding opponents, maybe it’s time to roll the dice. 

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Image: Riot Games via HGG / Mitch Gentry

Beside clutching or saving, calling an audible can often catch your opponents off guard. Making a fake play for the A bombsite with some utility while your team creeps down Long B for the plant is one thing. But if you’re making a genuine push for B only to find yourself repelled by a staunch defense, sometimes the obvious answer is the best one. 

Don’t be afraid to switch it up and try to rotate through mid to A. Or perhaps even all the way back through your spawnpoint. Be advised that the longer it’s been since the guns fell silent, the more likely the other team will see through your charade, but it’s better than forcing an all-out brawl you aren’t likely to win. Strike with surgical precision and attack the weak side whenever possible. Using this VALORANT beginner’s guide, you’ll be radiant in no time!

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Questions, comments, or concerns? Feel free to voice them in the comments section below. We’ll see you in the next guide.

 

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