31 Jul 22



Learn to Take Control of Your Valorant Games - a Breakdown of Map Control

To effectively play the game of Valorant, it’s important to understand the macro, or big picture dynamic, of taking space. This article introduces the basics of map control in Valorant, and how you can utilize these concepts to win more ranked games.

If you’ve spent your fair share of time in the trenches of ranked Valorant, you’ve probably heard the phrases “let’s default” or the term “taking space”. Often, players will hear this and immediately start to split up, trying to pick off any opponents given the chance. Unfortunately, this frequently results in the team getting eliminated 1-by-1, ultimately losing the round. Why does this happen? Without an understanding of what those terms mean, spreading the team across the map only opens more opportunities for players to die without being traded.

By reading this guide, you might be able to get a better idea of what map control/defaulting is and what taking space does, through examining how each ability contributes to this in their own way. By attempting to adapt these ideas and concepts into your own games, you can create opportunities to turn matches around and lead the team to victory.

Breaking Down the Objectives in Valorant

It might not seem very obvious at first, but taking space in Valorant is essentially the entire game, in one way or another. For defenders, the more areas that are in control, the less possible areas the attackers could be playing. By getting information about where the attackers could be going, defenders can allocate more utility to create setups, countering any attacks. On the other hand, attackers are attempting to secure areas to create uncertainty for defenders, with the end goal of taking a site to plant the spike. Post-plant is also “holding” space, stalling the defenders until the spike detonates, or forcing favorable engagements.

Let’s take a look at a generalized example on Split, ignoring what utility or setup is used to take space: The round starts, and the defenders make a play to fight for B Main. There is no sign of any attackers, and no sound or response. They are now able to hold this space and conclude that there is no one looking to push B (for now). The deeper defenders get information, the more confident they can be that there are no attackers in that area. Meanwhile, the remaining defenders safely peek for more information, with the mid players spotting some attacker presence.

Continuing this example, let’s say the attackers quietly group up outside of A Main, playing for a delayed hit. While the attackers rotate, the B Main players continue to poke and prod, eventually clearing B Lobby and a little bit of Mid. Because the defensive Mid player has been scouting for any Mid push, the defenders can make the assumption that the attackers should be looking to execute A.

Evidently, the attackers can still win the round with a good execution and superior gunplay (micro), but the point was that the defenders were able to position themselves in advantageous setups based on the space they took, and the information that gave them.

Let’s take a look at a similar example, but this time with the attacking team driving the game. Immediately, the attackers show presence in A Lobby, Mid, and B Main. The A player and the Mid players are playing passively, applying pressure without overextending. In B Main, the two attackers apply enough pressure to force the defending player back onto site. This gives the attackers control of B Main.

Because the defender is forced back onto site, they are unable to get any deep information about whether the attackers are still in B Lobby. Meanwhile, the Mid players quickly rotate silently into B Lobby, while the A player continues to make presence to keep defenders from rotating. As the B defender doesn’t have a deep sightline, they are unable to confidently tell the team to rotate due to the continued presence all over the map. This enables the attackers to have a favorable site execute, only having to deal with 2-3 defenders, rather than all 5.

Although these are extreme examples where the opposing side isn’t as proactive, we can think of entire rounds as the constant fight for control of the different areas of the map. Depending on the situation, some rounds may be very one-sided, while some rounds might be a constant back and forth as the timer goes down.

Breaking Down a Map into Lanes

A tangible way to understand the designated zones of each map is to think of “lanes” from attacker spawns to sites. Taking another look at Split, we can draw some lines to show the different paths attackers can take to sites:

Since each lane is a path for attackers to get to a site, the more lanes the attackers control, the more options they have for executing due to uncertainty for defenders. On the other hand, the more lanes the defenders control, the less possible places the attackers might end up going. In most games, teams don’t try to take control of all lanes at the same time, as players/utility are spread thin. Instead, it is often more beneficial to effectively fight for a specific area together with utility combinations and gunplay.

Another important aspect to map control are chokepoints. A chokepoint is an area that players MUST pass through to advance. In Valorant, these chokepoints are the forks in lanes that we drew, outlined below.

The special thing about a chokepoint is the importance of holding that area of space. When attackers take and move through chokepoints, they are able to split up down multiple lanes, creating uncertainty for the defenders. Let’s use the example of A Lobby. If a defender is able to hold a sight line into A Lobby, that is the only information needed to confirm attackers are not passing through to site or Ramp. Since the attackers must move through this chokepoint, a defender can essentially hold all of A site by just holding a single angle. Thus, attackers want to create uncertainty by breaching these chokepoints, while defenders want to contain attackers by holding them down.

Using Utility to Take Map Control

Now that we’ve outlined the macro aspect of map control, let’s take a look specifically at how utility is able to contribute to taking space. There is a large variety of utility in Valorant, and they all serve a different purpose when taking/holding space.


There are a variety of different types of smokes in Valorant, differing in cast method and duration. However, they fundamentally accomplish the same thing, which is blocking line of sight for the enemy.

Let’s return to our example in A Lobby. Normally, the defenders are able to get a deep sightline into the Lobby from a variety of safe positions. To counter this, attackers can place a smoke, removing that sightline from the defenders. This forces defenders to reposition players/utility to regain the information about whether attackers are moving through A.

Attackers can utilize this concept in many different ways. They can use it to move through space, and to draw out rotations from defenders. Additionally, they can condition the enemy to reposition as soon as a certain smoke comes out. This way, they misdirect the enemy, and take a favorable site to execute against less defenders.

For defenders, it is difficult for attackers to move through a smoke without using utility such as a flash or a drone, as the defenders could be positioned anywhere past a smoke. Thus, it forces the attackers to use resources of their own, or to wait out the smoke, losing valuable time. In some areas of the map, you can utilize one-way smokes to additionally get line of sight on any attackers.

Passive Information

If you’ve played a Sentinel role in Valorant, you’ve most likely interacted with a utility that gives passive information. These are pieces of utility that are set up and give an indication when they interact with an enemy. Examples are Cypher’s Trapwires, Killjoy’s Alarmbot and Turret, and Chamber Trademarks.

The most obvious use for passive information is to watch a flank when pushing a site, or to help defenders when being overwhelmed. However, there are many more uses for passive information, especially when a team plays more methodically.

The typical use of passive information for attackers is to ensure that a defender can’t slip into an unpredictable area. If your team wants to group together, but still be able to ensure that a defender doesn’t get free information by walking down unmanned territory, the team can place utility in that area. This way, if that utility gets activated, the attackers know whether the defenders are aware of a certain execution. The deeper the utility, the earlier the information is gathered. Thus, you are able to take map control with other types of utility, leave a passive information tool, and leave the area. If the attackers want to play for other areas of the map, they can always come back later as long as the passive information is not activated/broken.

For defenders, these tools are important to hold areas lacking players. For example, if the enemy rarely fights for a certain area, it is more advantageous to allocate players to other lanes. However, the defenders must ensure no one discreetly lurks into those areas, so passive information should be used. Similarly to attackers, deeper utility yields earlier information. Thus, if defenders fight for map control early, they can leave deep utility and rotate to assist in other areas.

Active Information

Active information can be categorized as utility that requires live operation to gain information. This includes drones such as Sova’s Owl Drone, Skye’s Trailblazer, and Raze’s Boom Bot. Some other examples are Sova’s Recon Dart, Fade’s Haunt, and Cypher’s Spycam. This type of utility is able to determine whether an area is “free”, meaning players can safely walk up without worrying about an opposing player getting ready to fight.

Typically, non-regenerable abilities such as the drones are saved for site executions, as they move through a site, providing more value when clearing many different angles at once. However, it can be useful for attackers to open with these abilities when fighting for areas, as no further utility needs to be used if no defenders are spotted.

Likewise, defenders can save non-regenerable abilities for retakes, or for more clear-cut information when clearing an area. Otherwise, the use is very similar: if the active information doesn’t find any attackers, then the space can easily be taken.

Flashes/Pop Damage/Concussions

Flashes, pop damage such as Sova’s Shock Darts or Raze’s Paint Shells and concussions perform a similar function. Because they are instantaneous/have a short duration, they are used to force enemies off angles for a brief period of time. This small window allows the team to move up and apply more pressure by closing the distance.

These abilities function relatively the same for attackers and defenders. Flashes force enemies to either turn away from the flash or leave the angle, enabling time for players to get in positions to fight. Pop damage and concussions requires enemies to leave the area of effect of the utility, otherwise they'll be affected by either the damage or debuff.

Ground Denial

Abilities that directly deny space, such as stalling power in Sage’s Slow Orbs or Astra’s Gravity Well, or molotov abilities have a straightforward use when holding space. If enemies physically cannot pass through these pieces of utility, they are unable to advance through that space.

Attackers can use this to their advantage by blocking off angles where defenders can peek from. This functions similarly to a smoke, but instead of blocking line-of-sight, it prevents enemies from getting line-of-sight to begin with. However, as most of these abilities have a shorter duration and a more limited cast method, they are less effective for conditioning or misdirecting. The benefit is that unlike a smoke, defenders cannot unexpectedly play inside of them.

For defenders, the most common usage for these abilities is to deny an incoming execute into site. However, they can be used much earlier to hold space, buying time for defenders to reposition and hold down lanes early. Because smokes enable attackers to utilize flashes or active information, ground denial offers a more secure alternative.


Although defaulting is one of the most important concepts of Valorant, there are many misconceptions to what it actually means. Having explained the macro and micro components of taking map control, we can see how they fall together in the concept of a default.

To put it simply, defaulting is using utility in a consistent way to take map control every round, conditioning your opponents to react a certain way to ensure the threat is contained. By consistently performing the same actions every single round, your team opens the possibility to deceive opponents into incorrectly assuming a certain play is about to occur.

Effective defaults apply pressure over all areas/lanes of the map, while conserving utility. Typically, defaults should be done using regeneratable or multi-charge abilities, to ensure enough utility is saved for the final execution. For example, it is more beneficial to use Sage’s Slow Orb instead of Brimstone’s Incendiary as a ground denial tool as it has multiple charges. Another factor is how an ability is cast. Omen’s Dark Cover serves as a better default smoke than Brimstone’s Sky Smokes, as Omen can deploy them from anywhere on the map, enabling the player to serve in other areas.

It’s important to recognize the conditioning aspect of a default. Typically in ranked, many players think defaulting is holding space utilizing only their gunplay. Although this is theoretically fine, in a practical situation, you are effectively letting engagements be determined by a 50/50 gunfight. Additionally, you aren’t applying any pressure to the opponent, which doesn’t force them to react in game. Without potentially making enemies make mistakes, there is nothing productive from simply holding an angle.

Examples of Utility Combinations

Having explained how each utility contributes to taking map control, let’s examine some ways teams can coordinate different types of utility to effectively fight for space. To be straightforward, there isn’t any right or wrong way to use utility together. As long as utility isn’t redundant or overused in one area, different combinations will yield different results, which could be beneficial depending on the situation.

Let’s take a look at this A Lobby default on Split by DRX against Optic. DRX uses the Toxic Screen and Poison Cloud to block off sightlines from both Ramp and site. This way, Optic are unable to determine how many attackers are in A Lobby without using utility, or pushing their way through the smokes. They follow up with a single Guiding Light flash from Skye to enter the “box” they’ve taken using the Viper smokes. This forces anyone in the “box” to either leave or be blinded.

This default is extremely effective for several reasons. First, the utility being used is either multi-purpose or renewable. The Toxic Screen blocks off sightlines from A Main, but also the back of A Heaven. The Poison Cloud can be picked up after DRX has control of A Ramp, and Skye’s Guiding Light will return after a cooldown. Next, the default guarantees a significant amount of space for how much utility is actually invested. By controlling A Lobby, DRX forces Optic to have at least 2 players positioned at A, and potentially have the Mid player rotate due to the pressure and uncertainty they have created.

Learning Ways to Take Map Control in Ranked

In professional play, players and their coaches spend countless hours researching, brainstorming, and practicing various team coordinated plays. Thus, people can’t expect a high level of coordination when taking map control in ranked. However, even individually using your utility to create at least any amount of pressure is infinitely better than doing nothing at all.

As each type of utility contributes towards map control, and many pieces of utility can be used together, we can say that there are many ways to take space in Valorant. Thus, it’s important to focus on learning one agent or agent type at a time, getting comfortable with what can and can’t be done.

A common mistake in ranked is letting the opposition take control of the same places over and over again. Once the opposition has controlled the tempo of the game, many inexperienced players aren’t able to identify the problem, continuing to make the same mistakes. On attack, if you notice that your team is consistently grouping up and leaving many lanes completely open, take the initiative to call a play and allocate some players to make a presence in those areas. On defense, if a site is being taken every round, you can coordinate the team to fight that lane early, disrupting the tempo the attackers have created. You can also look to tell teammates how to use their utility in straightforward ways, rather than let them continue using them in an ineffective way.

An effective way to implement new strategies into your play is to watch how the pros do it in ranked. Although it is extremely important to learn from professional matches, a lot of what professional teams do requires countless hours of team practice to get flawless coordination. It is far more realistic to apply what you learn in ranked, from watching… ranked. Although YouTube highlights and guides are fun to watch, and do provide insight, it’s important to watch unedited, raw gameplay to see what happens throughout the entire game, and not only the high points. Many professional players have public VODs on twitch that can be accessed, which is a very good place to start.

A final take-away point is that sometimes a good game plan to take map control isn’t enough to win games. If the other team is equally as strategic, and perhaps more mechanically proficient, there come times when good strategies don’t end up in round wins. It’s important to recognize when rounds are lost from poor engagements, and to not let those moments lower the team’s confidence when dealing with later rounds.


The idea of map control may seem complicated at first, but the fundamentals are easy to digest once they are broken down into how to view Valorant maps, and why taking different areas of the map are important. As you experiment with what works and doesn’t work for you, you build up a better understanding of the science behind Valorant games. The next time you find your team struggling in a ranked game, try to think about how you can utilize these concepts to fix mistakes, and to be the one to make the difference in turning the game around.

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