The Phantom continues to chase down the Vandal in pro VALORANT play

The age-old debate continues even in professional games.

After the conclusion of the first big professional VALORANT event of the year, VCT LOCK//IN, the regional seasons began in earnest with their internal circuits, many of which include Challengers events for non-franchised teams.

As the North American Challengers tournament moves ahead with its first split, fans are getting an even clearer look at the new meta developing so far in 2023. And there is one statistic in particular that may come as a surprise.

A trend from earlier in the year seems to be accelerating further, as more and more players are opting to buy a Phantom on their buy rounds instead of a Vandal.

The Phantom vs. Vandal debate has been a longstanding point of contention between professional and casual VALORANT players alike. Though the Vandal has remained a top-picked weapon in ranked play, professional games seem to be trending in the opposite direction.

In 2022, the Vandal was the weapon of choice in professional play. With its strong one-taps and excellent performance at long ranges, the he AK-47-styled rifle had a 72-percent pick rate in full buy rounds at last year’s Masters Copenhagen tournament.

In contrast, we have seen the number of Phantom purchases drastically increase in professional lobbies in 2023. This was already a trend even before the most recent North American Challengers tournament, but the gap between the pick rates for the Phantom and Vandal continues to shrink.

At VCT LOCK//IN in São Paulo, the Vandal still reigned supreme with 5,979 purchases compared to the Phantom’s 3,764. But already, less than a month after the conclusion of the event, teams in North America are changing their approach: the Vandal was bought at a ratio of 21:16 compared to the Phantom, the gap between the two significantly narrowing.

So why is the Phantom suddenly coming back in style?

Players have speculated that the main attraction to the Vandal is its ranged advantage of the gun. You can still one-tap an opponent from far across the map with a Vandal while the Phantom struggles in long-range battle.

However, the newest maps in the game, Pearl and Lotus, have significantly fewer opportunities for players to take such engagements, also aided by a meta change that has seen Chamber all but completely disappear.

There is also consensus that the Phantom has significantly higher first bullet accuracy, even at long range, than the Vandal. For professional players with an immaculate aim, this slight difference could make all the difference.

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