The Skadoodle case: why Valorant is not Counter-Strike
For the second tournament in a row, Skadoodle will not be playing alongside his teammates from T1. He will therefore miss the Pop Flash, the last American tournament of the the Ignition Series. Faced with questions from the community and the incomprehension of his fans, the player reacted on Twitter to give the reasons for his absence.
Skadoodle therefore wants to take a step back to improve. This is a surprising statement, to say the least, which deserves a little context.
The spirit of American teams to build Valorant teams appears to have some negative repercussions. We recently saw 100 Thieves get rid of 4 of its players following numerous defeats, to recruit nitr0 as new captain. Today, it's the more isolated case of Skadoodle at T1 which is being debated across the Atlantic.
T1 got very good results in the first Ignition Series in the United States. But since then, the team has struggled to make it past the group stages. Dominated by TSM, as well as Gen.G Esports or even Homeless (the new Dignitas), the team has not proven its worth for a while.
During a stream of food, we discovered a private conversation between him and his teammate crashies. The window was clearly not meant to be shown on Twitch, but it does show both T1 players blaming Skadoodle for team's recent disappointments.
Whether this is true or not, this shows a real division within T1 players. It's hard to progress or accomplish something when players no longer trust themselves and their performance. We can then wonder if Skadoodle's decision to take a step back to train other Agents was really his.
In any case, the situation is still particularly... strange. Skadoodle remains T1, but no longer plays with his teammates. He plays for other teams to get better over time. But shouldn't he improve by playing with his teammates? Missing an Ignition Series tournament looks like either a disavowal from his organisation, or an abandonment from Skadoodle. All of this is all the more strange as Skadoodle will be replaced by fRoD, who is none other than... fRoD, who is none other than... his coach. An incongruous situation that is difficult to imagine in any discipline. Separated from his coach and his teammates, Skadoodle seems relatively isolated.
This may be the first split between Counter-Strike players and Valorant players. While Counter-Strike has been played basically the same way for the past 20 years or so, Valorant is a recent and evolving game. The youth of Valorant means that there is still so much to discover in its gameplay and strategies. The fact that Valorant is regularly updated and new Agents are added impose real flexibility.
Let's be clear, Skadoodle clearly has nothing to prove in terms of FPS talent. Prior to signing with T1, Skadoodle was a star player of Counter-Strike who played for Cloud9. He has won countless tournaments and titles, including the E-League Major: Boston 2018. It's the transition to Valorant that seems complicated.
On Valorant, Skadoodle mostly plays Sage, with a relatively passive gameplay. But the meta of Valorant is hyper aggressive. It's based on the different Duelists to overtake the opponents. Jett, Phoenix and to some extent Reyna, are clearly the preferred Agents, backed by Playmakers like Omen, Sova or Raze. The efficiency (and therefore the popularity) of Sage has been in freefall for a few weeks now. Skadoodle's playstyle, focused solely on Sage, would therefore not be suitable for the current needs of a team.
Riot Games doesn't want it possible to ban Agents in competition, some players being too dependent on a particular character. In reality, true professionals of Valorant, those who will write its history in the long term, are the ones who will know how to adapt to meta's changes and master different playstyles. In a few months, when there will be even more Agents, it will be essential that each pro player is able to choose their Agent, not according to their own preferences, but according to the meta and the maps played. We're gradually starting to see this situation take shape in some teams, like TSM (which currently dominates the American scene, by the way). This functioning should become the norm.
In the meantime, we hope for Skadoodle that things will eventually work out. It's up to him to prove to his team and to those who support him that he definitely has his place in T1 and on the Valorant competitive scene. Otherwise, he could become the first real example of a player failing his transition.