The Sad Life of a Sage Main
In VALORANT's latest update, Patch 1.07, Riot has once again nerfed everyone's favorite healer.
Sage has been a subject of controversy since her official reveal. Many felt as though there was no place for a character that could heal and revive teammates. At least not in a game trying to compete with Counter-Strike. As time went on and people gave the game a shot, the community eventually came to the conclusion that healing is just a part of the utility available in VALORANT.
While Sage was incredibly strong in the Closed Beta, Riot Games' first patches quickly knocked her down a notch. Both professional and casual players began playing with compositions that didn't include her.
VALORANT's latest update, Patch 1.07, introduced plenty of good things, such as observer tools and buffs to Viper and Breach. That said, Riot is continuing to nerf Sage to a point where it's hard to understand why?
Before jumping into Patch 1.07, we'll look at how Sage has been affected by previous patches since the Beta.
• / Slow Orb now also slows the air speed of players in the zone
• / Players can now walk through the Slow Orb without making noise
When I initially played the Closed Beta, I had a feeling that an update like this was just a matter of time. Sage's Slow Orbs were incredibly powerful early on, given that, for 100 credits, you could obtain a lot of information with little to no risk. Allowing players to "shift walk" through Slow Orbs was an excellent fix by Riot. In a way, stopping people from bunnyhopping by slowing the air above the Orb is a buff for Sage, but it felt like Riot had simply overlooked the possibility of it happening in the first place.
• / Barrier Orb will only spawn a chunk of the Barrier if it is supported by the ground, this means it will sometimes only spawn 2 barrier chunks
• / Barrier Orb can no longer be placed on "small" pieces of geometry, it must be placed on the ground or on top of boxes
In all fairness, this update was also required, given that the community was finding outrageous boosts. The Barriers would hang off of ledges that made no sense, but the fix still allowed for creative boosts, just not overpowered ones. Again though, this felt like something Riot has overlooked to begin with.
• / Slow Orb zone duration decreased from 9 seconds to 7 seconds
• / Slow Orb slowing amount decreased from 65% to 50%
This update marked the first time Riot tried messing with Sage's kit without changing it dramatically. I'm a fan of easing into changes and trying new things, but this change was the first of many to come.
• / Healing Orb cooldown increased 35 >>> 45 seconds
• / Barrier Orb segment health reduced 1000 >>> 800
• / Barrier Orb duration reduced 40 >>> 30 seconds
• / Friendly Barrier Orb walls now show on the minimap
Showing Sage's Barrier on the minimap is a nice addition that can help out your teammates. You don't have to communicate where your wall is or when it goes down; your teammates now have access to that information. Though the Barrier was pretty strong, reducing its health and duration isn't a move I'm very fond of. Sage is a Sentinel, and her purpose is to anchor sites and slow down rushes. Messing with her Slow Orb AND wall in two consecutive updates is a bit of a worrying sign regarding the character's basic design. Regarding the change made to her healing, I think it made sense considering you want Sage's heal to be a precious ability, not something she uses three to four times in a round.
• / Barrier Orb cast range reduced 20 >>> 10 meters
Riot justified the Barrier's range reduction by stating that the wall is supposed to keep map control, not take it. The previous 20 meter distance allowed Sage to wall off neutral territory rather than hold off rushes, so the change makes sense from a character design perspective. However, Sage has been tampered with so many times at this point that it's getting a little ridiculous.
• / Heal reduced from 100 over 5 seconds >>> 60 over 5 seconds
• / Self heal reduced from 100 over 5 seconds >>> 60 over 10 seconds
• / Slow Orb size reduced by 30%
• / Barrier Orb cost reduced from 400 >>> 300
• / Fortifying Barrier: Wall forms at 400 HP—after a 3 second delay, the wall becomes fortified to 800 HP
At last, we get to the final Sage nerf (thus far). More so than anything else, the changes to her kit in this patch are simply confusing. Everyone has encountered a "battle-Sage" at this point: someone who plays Sage aggressively and uses all of her heals on herself. While it's occasionally a necessary evil (because some Duelists don't understand their job descriptions), Sage isn't meant to go for opening picks. She is a supportive character, and it makes sense that Riot wants to discourage people from playing her aggressively.
With that out of the way, I can't stress just how bizarre the rest of the changes are. Reducing the amount of health you can give your teammates to the same amount you can give yourself doesn't give you a strong enough dilemma when choosing who to use your ability on. The only incentive a Sage has to heal her teammate is that it'll take them less time to heal up, but that probably won't do much to convince the average person. Ideally, Sage should heal her teammates by 100 points over 5 seconds and heal herself by 60 over 7 seconds. This would still incentivize Sage to heal her teammates, and her self-heal could still be useful in tight situations.
The changes to her Slow Orb and Barrier were both done in the hopes of limiting Sage's ability to stop rushes reactively, but a good rush isn't supposed to give you time to react. Considering the earlier changes made to both abilities, her powers as a Sentinel are limited with every new patch, especially compared to Cypher and Killjoy. Placing the wall preemptively at the start of a round ends up being a waste because it can't stop an execute in the middle of the round. Her Slow Orbs keep taking hits and are rendered more and more useless. It's honestly a miracle that Riot hasn't tampered with Sage's ultimate (though with how things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if it did).
Ideally, you don't want a character so strong that it becomes an integral part of a team's composition. But Sage's kit is no longer overpowered, and many pro teams are already playing with compositions that exclude her. Quite a few players, such as Hunter "SicK" Mims and David "Davidp" Prins, have showcased just how powerful Sage can be in the right hands, but not having her isn't equal to not having an advantage anymore. With this heavy Duelist-oriented meta, I'm afraid that people will develop bad habits and learn to play in selfish manners.
Nerfing the only healer into her grave very smart. But Raze/Jett are not OP at all so it’s fine guys. But seriously sage has been nerfed like 3 times now for what reason? Her impact on the game was already falling out of meta, the pain is indescribable.— Hunter Mims (@SicK_cs) September 1, 2020
While I'm nowhere near the professional level, I play a lot of Sage and tend to solo-queue. I play her in a way that allows my Duelists to get picks. The limitations continually being added to her utility make her feel like less of a viable pick with each new update. It doesn't encourage players to try her, to play with their teammates. It all feels especially absurd when you consider that Reyna is becoming a better healer than Sage, given her absurdly strong self-heal and overheal. Hopefully, Riot considers compromising on some of the recent changes because, otherwise, Sage mains will be an endangered breed.