Highly skilled players creating new accounts to play against lower-ranked players isn’t a new thing, but Valorant’s recent change to how players gain access to competitive matches has had a bad side effect.
Valorant’s latest changes shook up the way new accounts qualify for the game’s competitive mode and were obviously meant to combat smurfing, expecting smurfs wouldn’t want to invest a load of time into the game just to have a smurf account. Previously, players had to finish 20 games in Valorant’s unranked queue before they were eligible to play their placement matches. That’s not a big deal for a smurf, who can simply walk away from the keyboard and actively try not to win for 20 games. Riot changed the criteria from “20 games played” to “10 games won,” and that is proving to have been a bad idea.
Before, Riot’s matchmaking algorithm would think players were new to the game after 20 poor performances. This would see them placed in games with weak opponents, which is ultimately the goal for a smurf. As a result, FPS newcomers and controller players wound up placed against someone with hundreds of hours of experience and significantly better aim.
So Riot halved the number of games and changed the requirement. Now, smurfs have to try to win to get into the ranked queue. But since they don’t look like total newcomers to Riot’s matchmaking, that means they don’t start at the bottom ranks like they want to. This change has turned into a scenario where instead of going AFK in unranked games to tank their ELO, smurfs are tanking their first ranked matches instead. To make matters worse, Valorant’s competitive queue isn’t like unranked. While players in unranked games can come and go at will, leaving a competitive match gives players a cooldown before they can queue again.
Ranked matches matter in Valorant, and it’s not just for bragging rights. While a CSGO player may be able to complete the game’s Operation Broken Fang battle pass without touching a competitive match, Valorant players will soon be able to grab Rank Insignias as gun buddies. Here, there’s actually something real and special on the line for many players.
Riot has yet to release a statement about the sudden influx of ranked smurfs throwing competitive games, but it’s happening. Unless Riot finds another way to stem the tide of smurfs, the problem will only get worse.