VALORANT Team Roles: Sentinel
Welcome back to another instalment to this series breaking down the main team positions that we see in top-level pro play. Every position has its unique speciality and regardless of what you decide to focus on, it is important to understand them all.
Again it is important to say that these positions aren’t hard rules. Lots of players mix and match and will perhaps change roles depending on a map or various other factors, and some teams even have more than 5 players so the roles become even more niche. I have simply chosen the most common “standard” roles that you’ll often see.
Now it’s time to cover the most independent role. The sentinel
Typically there are a few main options. These are Cypher, Killjoy, and Viper. The whole idea of this role is site lockdown and anchor ability, and that’s something all 3 excel at.
Notice that this is different from what the game itself suggests. In the games sentinel category, they have Cypher, Killjoy and Sage. While Sage has great stall utility she doesn’t quite perform all the jobs of a true sentinel very well.
Instead, I think viper fills this extra slot better. Don’t get me wrong she’s a controller too for her ability to cut off sightlines but because of the decay and vulnerability of her kit, she can deny entry to a site as well as having lots of options with her kit to mix up her set-ups to make anchoring more effective as well as efficiently play for the retake.
Now for the meat of the guide. Let’s look at how the pros properly play this role.
To start we’ll look at defence as this is the most crucial half for any sentinel player. As I’ve touched on already, your primary job here is anchoring a site. All 3 sentinels have relatively defensively-minded kits making them excel at this job. The whole plan is to stop the attackers from being able to burst onto your site quickly.
Because you have all of this utility to help you, you tend to be left on your own a lot or with very little help. This means you have to start feeling comfortable in your own company and you have to learn to trust yourself and your utility.
This brings me nicely onto the next point. Every sentinel is built around static utility, the toxic screen, the trap wires, the nano swarms are all stationary pieces of kit. Sure some it can be moved but for it to be active and effective, it has to stay still. This means that you absolutely CANNOT afford to be predictable. If it gets to the point where attackers can know where you and your kit will be then you’re at a huge disadvantage as this “maze-style” stall you’ve set up can be destroyed very quickly and you can get swarmed before rotates can arrive. It’s so important to know and understand many set-ups to avoid cheeky shock darts ruining your day.
Equally important is making sure that you mix up your positioning across the map. If you only know set-ups for A on Haven, guess where the attackers won’t go? Much like your utility, you have to be flexible and creative with your positioning and this will give you a huge upper hand against the attackers.
There’s no way around it, it’s a tough job. You’re often expected to do a lot with a little and all by yourself so this changes the expectations for what is a successful round for you. When faced with a rush you’re effective 1v5, your only job is to get 2. If you can take down 2 pesky attackers before you die, you set your team up for success with an advantageous retake. Less than 2 and things are a little dicier. It’s also important to remember to stay alive. You’re probably the only line of defence and the only thing stopping them from planting safely. Even staying alive can be enough to change the course of the round
If the attackers don’t come to you, however, because of your anchoring role, you’ll be left in a lot of retakes. A good sentinel player should excel here. Remain calm under pressure and get ready to fight against the odds. Equally similar, you’ll be left in a lot of clutch situations and understanding how to approach these is crucial for a sentinel. Know when to save and when to go for it and learn how to effectively isolate opponents to create 1v1 situations to give yourself a chance.
The attacking side is a little simpler and expectations of you are lower. You don’t have any high-powered explosive entry tools, you’re still stuck with your static utility so it’s important to put this to good use.
Because of this you typically have 2 roles. Watching the flanks and lurking. On Cypher and Killjoy, you can normally do both. The trap wires and the turret are both key informational tools that can be left to watch for flanking defenders. Viper is a little trickier because she has no information so you have to do this a little more manually.
In general, your independence is what makes you perfect for lurking, there’s no reason why you need to be with your team so you can often find value on the lurk. Understanding how to lurk effectively is so important for a good sentinel player. You have to learn when is best to lurk and when is best to stick with the team and in general, you need an excellent understanding of timing to truly make the most out of this playstyle.
There’s no shortage of excellent sentinel players to study to improve your game. 2 of the most notable are dapr and nAts. Both are truly elite at this position and have a fantastic understanding of this role. Different sentinel players have different styles. Some might look for aggressive lurks more than others. Some might play more passive, retake style set-ups and others take more aggressive positions looking for kills. It’s important to find your style and then find pro players who match your preferences.
A good thing about watching good sentinel players play is that you can easily steal their utility set-ups. If you see something that looks cool, don’t be afraid to give it a try.
For me, the sentinel is an unsung hero. A lot of what you do isn’t flashy or highlight-worthy but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a vital role for a team. Sentinel players are best suited for the independent VALORANT player. Feeling confident in your own skills is crucial for success. The most important skill to develop is anchoring effectively and making the opponents afraid to come to your site.
A good sentinel wins games, but don’t expect many rewards for it. It’s not overly exciting or fancy and you have to be ok with that. Know your job on each half and try to be as consistent as possible because that is the key to success. Practice makes perfect. If you have an idea for a set-up give it a go and work to understand your set-ups deeper to understand your responses to your opponent's actions. If all of this sounds like it's for you then great! Dive in and get started!