Valorant in its simplest form is a first-person shooter. But, similar to an onion, the more layers you peel off, the more you’ll notice other game mechanics; such as having different agents with different abilities. These additions are what makes this game unique. As a developer for any game with different characters, it’s quite a task to make sure each character is balanced. Taking the lifecycle of Valorant itself we have seen so many characters rise to prominence while falling in importance at the same rate after a nerf.
One character who since his launch has been quite confusing for Riot to deal with is Kay/O. Recently in a Reddit post concerning character win rates, Kay/O ranked the second lowest, having a win rate of just 45.94%. What’s the reason? Let's have a look.
The Niche Of Kay/O In Valorant
Taking a look at Kay/O, his abilities are easy to learn. 2 flashes, one mollie and a knife to detect players and suppress them. Being the only character that can suppress opponents has made him quite useful in the professional scene. Having the ability to stop another player from using their ultimate during the match is quite an overpowered tool when used right.
“When used right” is the main catch of a character like Kay/O. Due to the character having abilities that can support him in a push —or even support other players— one needs to have a cooperative team. Kay/O’s niche is he’s one of the most flexible characters in the game. He is either used as a duelist with his pop flashes and ultimate or used as an initiator, supporting duelists with information and flashes.
His ultimate is one of the most useful ultimates during the pre or post-plant: having the ability to suppress all the characters and forcing them to play aim duels which creates the atmosphere of a classic first-person shooter during a game of Valorant.
If you’ve played Kay/O previously you know his team requires another initiator. As mentioned in our article about the game’s current meta, most team compositions will consist of 2 initiators, which is perfect for Kay/O. He needs to be present in both phases of play. The first being to entry on the site and the second with his ultimate and knife for the post plant, putting quite a lot of responsibility on his player. Upon seeing this, many on the ranked table would rather not take him and pick Sova instead, resulting in Kay/O’s low pick rate.
The Harsh Duality Of Kay/O
While Kay/O may be considered one of the more challenging characters to use in Valorant's PUB scene, the opposite is true in the professional scene. Due to his flexibility, he’s one of the most used characters. It’s worth keeping in mind the many factors that cause this. Several factors contribute to his popularity. First, his flash closely resembles those found in other FPS games, making him a potent duelist in the right hands. His ultimate forces opponents into difficult aim duels, while his signature ability, Zero Point, allows for suppressing and detecting enemies. This ability has been particularly effective against Raze, often detecting her during her ultimate and preventing ability usage.
With the launch of Gekko in Valorant, Kay/O is expected to rise in the meta due to his suppression mechanism. Being able to prevent Gekko from using any form of information gathering is going to render him practically useless. By suppressing Gekko just before Wingman is sent to plant, the planting action can be thwarted. With there being more of a shift to a utility dump during a plant, having the ability to stop either side to use their abilities is going to be a game changer.
Another point to keep in mind is that in the professional scene, most of the players are quite accurate with their aim. In post-plant situations, they may adopt a more passive approach, using their mollies and Zero Point to halt planting. When Kay/O's ultimate is available, he can even serve as bait while his teammates plant the spike. After the spike is planted, the team can revive Kay/O and maintain a numbers advantage.