Let's talk about Jett: VALORANT's queen
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Original Reporting

Jett is everywhere in VALORANT, from promotional materials to most lobbies, making her the default face of the game. And in many ways, her kit reflects that by allowing those who can use her best to become the face of a given match.

Jett often works independently, able to apply pressure or enter a site using her free mobility without the help that many other Duelists in the game need. As a result, she is a mainstay in professional play, but some have started to wonder whether her impact on the game is healthy.

“She is so easy to use that anyone one in any rank can get high kills with her, and with the [Operator] it’s even worse,” Last Laff, a VALORANT content creator, said. “Jett makes using the Op a zero-risk thing because you can hold an angle and then just dash away if you miss your shot.”

VCT Stage 3 qualifiers art
A VALORANT promotional image. | Provided by Riot Games

Jett, do less

Mobility isn’t unique to Jett alone. Almost every Duelist has some form of special movement, and even some non-Duelists have special mobility abilities. To put this in perspective, label mobility on a scale from one to five. One is completely immobile, three is limited/conditional mobility and five is unrestricted mobility.

Phoenix is a one. He has no abilities that impact his movement whatsoever. While his ultimate allows him to run around, it doesn’t increase his movement speed or allow him to jump on areas he couldn’t reach before.

Yoru is a two. He has some movement, but his teleport is telegraphed and his ultimate is just a faster running speed. The teleport also only works on the same plane as the Yoru, so it can’t move vertically.

Reyna is a three or a three and half. Her mobility with Dismiss allows her to completely dodge shots and utility. The ability can be used like Jett’s dash, to get out of a situation after a quick kill. However, it provides no vertical mobility. She is less mobile than Raze because while she has unlimited mobility during Empress, it’s not vertical movement.

Raze is a four. She has one movement ability, but it allows her to fly across the map with ease. You often see Razes jumping with their Showstopper in hand, or using it to catch someone holding a corner off-guard. However, a Raze player can’t just press a button to dash away. Her mobility ability requires practice and strong knowledge of the agent to maneuver mid-air and zoom around tight corners.

While Raze hsa great mobility, Jett really shines in that category | By Riot Games
While Raze has great mobility, Jett has better overall movement. | Provided by Riot Games

Finally, we end up at Jett. Jett is a five. She has nearly instantaneous vertical and horizontal mobility, available without getting a kill and refreshable on kills. The movement also requires little skill or time investment in order to use effectively.

That last point is contentious, but compare Jett’s Tailwind and Updraft to Raze’s Blast Packs. The knowledge and practice required to use the two different agents’ abilities are vastly different.

“On attack without Jett, to take map control, you have to use utility to clear corners,” Laika “La1KA” Lewis, a former analyst for Acend, said. “With Jett, you just have her go in first to clear every angle, and you only have to use abilities (her dash) to get out when she takes first contact.”

Name a better duo than Jett and the Op

Unrestricted mobility is unique to Jett, which is what intentionally distinguishes her from other agents. However, this uniqueness creates a problem: Jett is one of the only agents with near-perfect Op synergy and fast escape ability. Any agent can use the Operator, a powerful sniper rifle, but no agent has a kit that works as well with the Op.

Notice that lower mobility agents have limited options to get out, but the more mobility an agent is given, the easier it is for that agent to flee. Given that Jett is the only agent in the game with a free dash that doesn’t require a kill (like Reyna) and doesn’t require placement before engagement (like Yoru or Raze), she can safely trade fire and then leave without a plan. A Jett with a dash has this silent pressure that no other agent brings. There is no guarantee seeing a Jett means you can trade kills with her unless her dash is used up.

“How slippery she is the biggest problem,” Nick “Harmon” Harmon, a top 100 Radiant and professional player, said. “Jetts have no problem peeking into utility or re-peeking angles after you’ve properly cleared them with utility because of dash.”

The more horizontal mobility an agent has, the better synergy they have with the Op. Horizontal mobility makes up for the Operator’s slow and clunky nature, so mobility as an Operator player allows for an easy escape. Think of Bind A, where a Jett can hold from the back site and dash out if they feel pressured.

Vertical mobility adds a second factor of uncertainty to the Op, which can be predictable given the limited number of spots a non-mobile sniper can stand. Simply by adding vertical mobility to an agent, it increases the places a player can snipe from, like boxes, platforms or sneaky Sages walls.

Jett gives the Operator both horizontal and vertical mobility, making her the perfect candidate for the weapon. Her relationship with the Operator is symbiotic: The Operator gives her oppressive power and Jett helps the Operator be unpredictable.

Phoenix and Jett stand on promotional material for VALORANT | Provided by Riot Games
Phoenix and Jett in promotional material for VALORANT. | Provided by Riot Games

“OP players simply love her due to her ‘second life’ opportunity,” Vincent “Zescht” Talmon-Gros, a VALORANT caster, said. “In many scenarios, whiffing with an Op means that you’re dead for the round. With Jett you have sort of an extra life.”

Consider the agent to Operator pick rate percentages, ranked in order, given by rib.gg, from VALORNT Champions Tour Stage 3 (each Challengers, Strike Arabia and VALORANT Conquerors, Oceania, playoffs and Masters 3 Berlin) and Last Chance Qualifiers. The percentage is the number of times an agent bought an Operator:

  1. Jett – 20.09%
  2. Raze – 2.47%
  3. Yoru – 1.87%
  4. Omen – 1.13%
  5. Reyna – 1.09%
  6. Sage – 1.09%

Almost all other agents had an Operator pick rate of less than 1%.

Similarly, in case a player picked up a different gun to duel with, here are the kills by Operator per agent:

  1. Jett – 23,029 (3.13 per pick)
  2. Raze – 1,175 (0.37 per pick)
  3. Sage – 800 (0.183 per pick)
  4. Sova – 699 (0.09 per pick)
  5. Omen – 557 (0.18 per pick)
  6. Skye – 555 (0.15 per pick)

All other agents had less than 500 kills with the Operator.

As you can see, the Operator is disproportionally used with Jett, making her nearly synonymous with the weapon — to the point that a Jett is more likely to use an Operator than a Phantom. In the same time frame as the above her usage percentage is 41.47% for a Vandal, 33.69% for an Operator and 24.84% for a Phantom. Jett also gets more kills with an Operator than with almost any other gun, beaten only by the Vandal, with 32,206 kills.

Another direct product of Jett’s mobility is her aggression. Jett is one of the strongest entry fraggers in the game thanks to her ability to ignore entry hazards, catch angle holders off-guard and follow up on information from a Sova or Skye. She can reliably set up situations for her team to follow up on her movement because the attention moves from a chokepoint to the duelist running around on point.

“So, to secure the first advantage in a round, normally the first kill, you refer to this plan as an opening. Jett makes it so simple to achieve these openings by being in a very risky area/angle, but can safely get the kill and disengage the majority of the time,” Michael “MikesHD” Hockom, a professional coach and analyst for VALORANT, said. “Pair this with the Op and it becomes extremely simple to set up your Jett on a variety of early angles for very little risk and a great reward.”

Jett’s ability to go aggressive is so powerful and so reliable that she gets first bloods in almost every round. Here are the number of first bloods each duelist has gotten in the same time frame as above:

  1. Jett – 27,684 (3.76 per pick)
  2. Reyna – 9,455 (4.49 per pick)
  3. Raze – 6,204 (1.96 per pick)
  4. Phoenix – 2,453 (2.58 per pick)
  5. Yoru – 350 (2.48 per pick)

The data presents a clear problem with Jett: The intersection of vertical and horizontal mobility makes her a near-perfect candidate for every scenario. Need an easy entry? Jett is your agent. Need someone to hold angles with a sniper? Give the gun to Jett. Need someone to bait out entry hazards? Jett’s got it covered.

“Out of ten, I would put Jett’s need to be nerfed at a DELETETHEAGENT/10,” VALORANT caster and pro analyst Mimi “aEvilcat” Wermcrantz said. “Dash is a free ability that literally gives you a free extra life, allows you to entry a site free, makes Oping forgiving and enables the Blade Storm even more.”

However, Jett’s kit and power can’t be nerfed. Soft nerfs can’t fix the core problem and hard nerfs could spell danger for all of VALORANT’s gunplay.

Too big to fail

When talking about nerfs, “soft” ones deal with tweaking cooldowns or costs, like changing agent power on pistol or eco rounds. “Hard” nerfs break core mechanics of agents, like the Sage wall change, which makes it breakable in the first few seconds.

For Jett specifically, changing cooldowns, increasing ultimate/kills costs or increasing credits would not change how she is played. A Jett that is ahead and getting kills doesn’t have to care about the cost of her Updraft or if Blade Storm cost more ultimate points. If a Jett can get kills, she has value. In addition, nerfing the Operator would also hit every other agent as well.

Raze from VALORANT. | Provided by Riot Games

“Hard” nerfs, however, are dangerous for how VALORANT is played. Jett offers quick entry that ignores entry hazards. She is countered by Cypher, but considering how little Cypher is played, that is a bit of a non-factor. She can use a Cloudburst, jump then dash over Viper Snake Bites, Killjoy Nano-swarms and Astra Gravity Wells. This allows her to get a jump on these entry setters, potentially landing a kill and opening the site for her team.

Taking dash out of Jett’s kit could potentially lead to a sluggish entry meta; the only other mobility agents would be Raze and Reyna. Raze could zoom in like Jett, but she is vulnerable without a smoke. Reyna would be in a similar position.

In a meta without dash, excessive amounts of utility would be required to enter a site. Denial of entry hazards through smokes or explosives, flashes to avoid those watching an angle and mollies to clear corners would all become the norm on attack. In addition, defending would become players spamming utility.

VALORANT loading screen depicting several agents caught in conflict | Provided By Riot Games
A VALORANT loading screen. | Provided By Riot Games

If that isn’t convincing, think about it like this: No characters except for Yoru, Raze and Omen could easily avoid entry mollies without a kill. Considering the map dependency of Raze, and the significantly low pick rate of the other two agents, ability spam could easily win out over these comps. And given the way Viper, Astra, Killjoy and Sova (all the agents who have entry spam) can function over large distances, maps like Ascent, Bind and Haven would be locked down with utility.

“It’s about the pressure you get, on both sides, of having Jett dash up,” La1KA said. “It’s like a push and pull thing: When you have Jett’s dash up, they must use more utility to clear more corners, and you have to use less utility to clear the same space.”

A different kind of hard nerf is introducing a new agent that cuts into a play rate. Take Omen, who was dominating in Masters 1 prior to Astra’s introduction to the pro meta. Astra has more resources, more global presence and more effects. Introducing a character that can do what an agent does, but better, can significantly cut into play rate and diversify a meta.

However, Jett’s kit is perfectly crafted to be viable in every situation. The only constraint on Jett is the borders of the map, and that won’t change with a new agent. Creating a second dash agent would only create another Jett. It would break the game and force it back into a double-duelist meta.

As a result, playing around with Jett in the form of nerfs is a dangerous game.

Jett needs a rework

With nerfs too risky of a proposal, Jett’s power needs to be redistributed among her kit. Her selfish nature and ease of entry makes her a near must-pick, but taking that away would make the game much harder to attack on. Players need some form of dash in order to keep Jett feeling like Jett, but the power in her mobility is just too strong. Here are some ideas, from experts, analysts and myself, to make Jett less oppressive.

Make it so a Jett needs a kill before dashing

Let her keep her mobility, but don’t make it free. With this change, if Jett misses an Op shot without a Tailwind on command, then she can’t get out of the situation with ease. Jett would still have her smokes, so she could cover her path, but she would still need a kill. This tunes her entry a bit down, too.

If players use corners and cover to hide from Jett, she will have to enter without her dash, which makes her more predictable. However if she gets a kill, she is rewarded with a Tailwind, allowing entry into site (dashes afterward would still cost two kills).

Change what recharges

What if instead of Tailwind resetting, Jett got smokes on cooldown or on kill? Or, what if Updraft was on cooldown/worth kills? By making Tailwind a one-time use ability, it would greatly reduce her power on pistol and some eco rounds. If the Jett is poor enough, she will have to decide between a dash plus a Shorty or a Sheriff.

With these changes, Jett would become significantly less slippery. However, she could still get the free entries she is known for, since she has the dash on command and her ability to escape a risky Op shot is still there.

Increase input lag and exit lag after dash

While this would impact Jett’s performance with other guns, it mainly targets her Operator power. By increasing the input lag on Updraft and Tailwind, it would give more time for someone to trade a Jett holding a risky angle with an Op.

By increasing exit lag, it would also decrease weapon drawn after Jett’s dash, making re-fragging with an Operator unreliable. If a player can catch a Jett after she dashes or Updrafts, the exit lag would make it so players have a bigger window of opportunity.

Make Blade Storm a transformative ultimate

What if Jett’s Blade Storm acted like Reyna’s Empress? This means that her current kit (two free updrafts and a dash recharging after two kills) would be what is available during Blade Storm’s activation.

This would allow for a change in her current kit while making her ultimate state feel more slippery and agile, as originally intended. She could still use her ultimate on eco rounds, but it would also incentivize players to use her on non-eco rounds. By redistributing the power to her ultimate, Jett would only feel oppressive while Blade Storm was active, similar to how players react to an Empress or Showstopper activation.

There are many directions for Riot to go, but the need to do something is becoming more and more apparent. While having an agent that is good on several maps isn’t problematic (think Sova or Sage, and even Omen before Astra), even those agents have been affected by new game content. With Jett’s death grip on the Duelist class, it’s significantly harder to experiment with the role in a pro setting. So, to create more diversity, many experts agree on one thing: Jett needs to be changed.

Attending university on my Master's in Mathematics, working as an on-campus tutor and writing about what I enjoy. For Upcomer, I mainly write about Valorant and esports, combining my love of Math and video games! I also love food, Pokémon and League!
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