Riot Games’ highly popular tac-shooter Valorant surged to the next level of popularity in 2021. Valorant rewind 2021 shows that Riot Games has laid a durable base for the esports scene of its nascent FPS.
Blockbuster release of Yoru
Riot Games kicked off 2021 on a high note with a Japanese superhero who could meddle with realities. There was tons of hype around duelist number five, but the agent failed to live up to the expectations. Players counted on him as the master of deception who gathered intel while dealing damage. However, his pick rate never took off, even after newer agents showed up on the roster.
In 2021, Yoru barely sees any playtime. The developer’s promise of rework has players set their eyes on Yoru.
Riot announced VCT Game Changers
In February of 2021, Game Changers brought glad tidings for women in the first-person shooter community for the first time. The Riot-backed circuit was first launched for North America, which then boomed into a healthy scene that brought women and other marginalized genders within Valorant esports to the forefront. By the end of 2021, the game publisher cultivated an inclusive ecosystem with more female representation than ever seen before in the FPS scene.
Controllers got an upgrade in Astra
The controller roster of Valorant saw a much-needed upgrade in Astra. The Ghanaian agent didn’t impact low ELO, but she was all the rage in high-ranked games. In professional Valorant games, her pick-rate skyrocketed, beating Omen in the controller category. Casual players still refrain from picking her due to a high learning curve, but she’s managed to find her footing.
Sexual allegations against Sinatraa
March brought a whole new wave of drama to Valorant esports in 2021. The Overwatch legend turned Valorant pro Jay “Sinatraa” Won was “canceled” in the community following sexual assault allegations levied against him by ex-girlfriend Cleo “Cle0h” Hernandez. The allegation came ahead of North America: Masters One, which had put Sentinels into hot water as they had to bench their top gun.
Riot also banned him from participating in official tournaments until the investigation has reached a verdict. The case was later wrapped up after Sinatraa served six months of punishment for lack of coordination, and Cleoh decided against pursuing the investigation.
Sentinels power flex at NA Masters One
Sentinels dropping Sinatraa panned out just fine for the team. The North American organization pulled Cloud9’s AFK player Tyson “TenZ” Ngo from his competitive break to stand-in for the suspended Sinatraa. The superstar carried the whole team to the Valorant’s first Masters event, ultimately becoming the winners in the North American region. Rumors of TenZ permanently shifting to Sentinels started swirling, but his contract obligations with Cloud9 bore a huge question mark.
Valorant’s first-ever million-dollar player transfer
The most significant transfer in Valorant history also took place in 2021. After various complications, TenZ was sold to Sentinels for a whopping $1.25M. The seven-figure buyout was confirmed by several sources, making it the biggest transfer in Valorant history so far. With TenZ on its roster, Sentinels would see a successful year as one of the best teams in the world.
A year for women in Valorant
Riot’s circuit for women and marginalized genders managed to be a game-changer. In 2021, tons of female Valorant teams were introduced. Major esports organization like G2 Esports, Complexity, TSM, and more dipped their toes in the female Valorant scene with rosters studded with renowned Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players. Cloud9 White remained dominant in North America, and even Asia saw an international representation in the Valorant scene, thanks to Alter Ego Celeste. Safe to say, 2021 was an excellent year for women in esports.
Breeze, Valorant’s largest map
In April, Riot Games rolled out a vast location that split Valorant’s player base into two, just like Breeze’s middle area. The larger-than-life map wasn’t well-received by the community due to its expansive area that forced players to equip Vandal and switch agents. Close-range flashes became useless, and flank-watchers were also ruled out. For the first time, Viper-main players felt like they belonged in a Valorant map. Yoru players also had a ball as his teleport finally came into use on the vast location.
Valorant’s first official LAN event was a success
Masters Reyjavk was the defining moment of 2021 for Valorant, with some of the best teams in the world in attendance. The announcement that Masters two would be an offline event had fired the enthusiasm of dedicated Valorant players. The first LAN event peaked at 1,085,850 concurrent viewers, becoming Valorant’s most-watched event. The live crowd wasn’t present, but the LAN energy could be felt through the computer screens of the spectators.
Thousands of people watched Sentinels lift the trophy after beating Fnatic in a nail-biting competition. This event also cemented Sentinels as the North American powerhouse that was impossible to beat.
Kay/O changed the Valorant meta
Kay/O was everything competitive Valorant needed. His addition marked a drastic shift in the game’s meta, forcing players out of their comfort zones. The Radiant-killer brought a remedy for superpower-infested game meta where gunplay had slid into the background. Kay/O’s no-nonsense kit that shut down mystical abilities shone a light on Valorant’s gunplay, making it an actual FPS once again. Coupled with weapon price changes and nerfs to agent kits, this update changed how Valorant was played.
CIS region shone at Masters 3 Berlin
Masters Berlin 3 was Valorant’s biggest LAN event. The final stage featured 15 teams that would lock horns offline. This would also decide the final teams progressing into Champions through Master stages. Gambit fought their way through the top and snatched the last win from Envy to become Masters 3 champions. The CIS team earned their stripes as one of the tough contenders of Sentinels.
Riot added a unique twist to FPS maps
Another location was added to the pool as 2021 wrapped up. Riot Games introduced a fresh layout to the FPS genre in an H-shaped Fracture. The double-attacker map is still struggling to find its footing, but it indeed brings overlooked agents to the front. Fracture isn’t just a cut-throat map, but it’s the first time Riot Games used a location to unfurl the mystery behind dual-earth and Valorant’s mirrorverse lore.
Brazil VS Sentinels
If 2021 wasn’t already packed with drama, the North America versus Brazil feud added more to it. A flaming tweet from Jared “zombs” Gitlin ruffled the entire Brazilian fanbase, stirring a Twitter beef. Notable personalities jumped in when zombs called the Brazilian region “shit” after the fanbase overreacted to Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan’s tweet.
The FURIA and Vikings fans came to their region’s defense, prompting Riot to punish zombs. The publisher didn’t respond, but a reaction from CSGO and Valorant personalities turned this feud into a massive drama of 2021.
VCT Champions skins raise big money
Champions skin bundle was Valorant’s most expensive and extravagant bundle. The golden-red skin line was released to commemorate VCT Champions 2021, the end game of Valorant’s prestigious year-long circuit. The weapon duo cost 6,264 Valorant points, which is way above an average Valorant players’ range. Despite that, players hurriedly grabbed the gold skins, helping Riot Games raise $15M to split the half into participants of VCT Champions 2021.
Controversial Cypher bug
Cypher was likely the most talked-about agent during VCT Champions 2021, thanks to an illegal bug. Riot Games had granted Acend a win over Vivo Keyd for using an exploit that provides a clear one-way on Breeze. Riot Games moved Vivo Keyd’s six rounds of exploit into Acend’s court, which changed the score line to 12-9. To account for the economic impact of the six forfeited rounds, Riot awarded Acend with one more game, ultimately taking the win away from Vivo Keyd. This decision was later overturned after community backlash, but it sure added some extra pinch of drama to controversial Champions 2021.