The third and last act in Valorant's Episode 5 kicked in last month, introducing a new water-bending agent, Harbor, and some new non-meta content. With Harbor's entrance, Valorant's Controller meta received a much-needed renovation. After all, Astra's brutal nerf in early 2022 and Viper's unrivaled capabilities even after a series of changes had left very little place for creativity in the visual barrier sector.
Astra was the fourth Controller to be added to the roster, and the 15th Agent, overall. Upon her introduction, Astra's kit seemed very interesting, considering her ties to cosmic energy. She has a very unique way of deploying her smoke and utilities that require her to enter the Astral form.
That said, Astra has consistently featured the lowest pick rate among Valorant's Controller Agents before Harbor's introduction. Given that Harbor is a new Agent, his low pick rate is understandable. However, many have pointed out issues with Harbor's design that render him a weak Controller.
Will Harbor's unconventional kit help Astra regain her popularity in the meta? Will the Ghananian cosmic Queen finally become viable in Valorant's Episode 5 Act 3? Keep reading to learn about how the Controller meta is shaping this act.
Astra gained immense popularity alongside Viper in the Controller meta in Valorant
After Astra's launch in Episode 2 Act 2, players quickly realized the steep learning curve associated with her. Most chose Omen, Viper, and Brimstone over Astra in ranked games. However, esports professionals and high-elo players discovered her hidden potential shortly after. Astra gained immense popularity alongside Viper in the Controller meta and overshadowed Omen and Brimstone entirely.
While Astra was still weak in the absence of team coordination, professional and high-elo players were able to extract immensely favorable outcomes using five stars, low ability cooldowns, and more. She slowly became an annoying agent to play against, with several pro players requesting Riot to nerf her.
It wasn't long before the developers realized the situation, and thus, the infamous nerf to Astra's kit came with patch 4.04. Following the changes, Astra's popularity fell fast and she has remained one of the lowest-picked Agents ever since.
While her pick rate in ranked games fell, professionals kept choosing her for maps like Ascent, Bind, Pearl, and sometimes, Haven. She has been used in double-controller setups and also as a solo controller on teams.
Astra is still struggling to compete with Viper, Omen, and Brimstone in ranked games. Her kit thrives on team-based strategies and most players on the ranked ladder choose to solo queue and don't communicate as much.
That said, players have learned new ways to utilize Astra's kit over the past few months. Considering her consistent pick rate in VCT, players have remained exposed to how professionals play her and have gained insights about how to adjust to the nerf.
With Harbor's kit featuring no conventional smoke utility, Astra may find a place in Valorant's Controller meta in Episode 5 Act 3. She is definitely a better 'Controller' than Harbor at the moment, considering her conventional smoke, her ability to control a site from far off, and more, which the 'Water Boy' in Valorant lacks.
As for her viability, Astra is full of uncharted cosmic power. Although her learning curve is steep, anyone who masters her utilities and likes to plan their moves ahead of execution can thrive with Astra's kit.