The VALORANT Rifle Rundown – Phantom vs Vandal! Which is better?
Both the Vandal and Phantom have been mainstays in the VALROANT gun meta since the game’s inception. What has caused these two weapons to switch in priority so often?
Phantom vs Vandal is a debate as old as VALORANT itself. The Phantom and Vandal have both stood as immoveable pillars in VALORANT's gun meta since the game's inception. Rifles are easily the pillar of any tactical shooter, but only including two full-buy options has created an interesting duality.
Over the course of the young esports' history, stats have shown the preference between these two rifles have continually shifted. In recent patches, the Vandal has generally been trending downward while the Phantom's buy share has marginally increased.
The Vandal has no damage drop-off and a headshot at any range result in an instantons kill.
The rifle's high damage comes at the price of recoil, as the weapon's bullet spread is incredibly high (0.156 deg after first shot).
The Rifle's quick rate-of-fire (9.9 rounds/sec) and silenced tracers make it the best weapon to spray through smokes.
The Phantom suffers from a significant damage drop-off (Headshots specifically, dealing 156 at 0-15m but 124 damage at 30-50m).
Regional preferences EMEA vs NA for Phantom vs Vandal
The shift in favoritism is very real. In the first EMEA Masters, players overwhelming favored the Vandal (46.1%) over the Phantom (15.6%). North America still had the Phantom (30.3%) slightly above the Vandal (29.8%) however this was still far more competitive than the current state of the gun meta. In Masters Reykjavik, the first international event saw every team choose the Phantom (32.2%) rather than the (26.1%).
Given that relatively few patches have directly buffed or nerfed the rifles themselves, finding out what has motivated these preferential shifts means looking to 'adjacent' changes.
Phantom vs Vandal: The VALORANT run-and-gun problem
VALORANT has been heavily criticized for it's longstanding run-and-gun problem, which has largely facilitated the duel between the rifles. The reason behind keeping movement accuracy is certainly logical, as it benefits the overall ecosystem of the game.
Firstly, it makes pure aim less demanding and the game overall more accessible than it's tactical shooter competitors. Secondly, VALORANT is filled with highly mobile Agents. Agents such as Jett benefit immensely from this run-and-gun playstyle as it gives no consequence to their abilities. (Check out our pre-act three Agent tier list here!)
The Phantom's superior rate of fire made it the obvious option since you can deal more damage per second while maintain a base level of accuracy. In response, the Vandal saw a slight buff to both rate of fire and damage in Patch 1.7. The Vandal cannot compete with the sheer speed of the Phantom since it is heavily branded as the 'high-damage' rifle.
Patch 3.0 may result in another shift in priority, however this time in favor of the Vandal. This sweeping patch has changed Agents, weapon prices, but most notably has affected movement speed aim accuracy. This was done by decreasing the 'slowed' effect of being tagged, which otherwise would assist your aim.
Running targets will maintain the same level of accuracy whether or not they're being shot at. Whether or not this will make a significant enough of an impact to change the professional meta is up in the air.
Are VALORANT's maps too Phantom skewed?
The Vandal heavily favors maps with wide open spaces that allow for the rifle's 'one-tap' potential. The weapon description itself tells us that this is because the Vandal has no damage fallout and a significantly higher first shot accuracy than the Phantom.
In comparison, the Phantom has an 18% damage drop off at longer rangers. This ultimately means that open spaces gives this rifle the advantage at longer ranges where you should be able to 'tap' opponents instead of spray.
The only problem is, VALORANT has relatively few 'open' maps for the Vandal, and significantly more Phantom favored maps. Taken from Masters Reykjavik, the top three maps played were Haven, Ascent, and Icebox. These maps have tight spaces that promote spraying rather than long distance gun-battles. With Breeze entering the competitive space in the near future, we could see a resurgence of the rifle. The wide open spaces around both bombsites and mid could provide a specific scenario wherein the Vandal surpasses it's Phantom counterpart.
Could we see the Vandal come back?
Riot's decision to only have to rifles, the Vandal and Phantom, will undoubtedly result in a never ending balance act. The changes in Act Three, along with the competitive introduction of Breeze, certainly seem to work in the Vandal's favor. This does not change the fact that a majority of Agent's synergize better with 'faster' guns and most maps cater to the Phantom. Instead, it is more likely that the Vandal makes an appearance on Breeze, and any future wide maps.
You can still certainly carry with either rifle. Pros such as Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom have largely made the Vandal work even when it was at it's weakest. Only time will tell if another change in priority is coming. We hoped this article gave you some insights into the Phantom vs Vandal debate.
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Blaine is an esports journalist and has been a fan of multiple esports scenes ever since 2015 Worlds. Since graduating from College of Charleston, Blaine has written news and stories for League of Legends, VALORANT, CS:GO, and Call of Duty.