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Understanding Icebox

Understanding Icebox
Image Credit: Riot Games
Written by: BigTime

Icebox is without a doubt a strange map. Over time since it was added to the game, we’ve seen an odd convergence of strategy. We’re at the point where the map is seen as almost solved and not many teams are really trying to innovate past the meta. Some teams love this rigid approach and have fine-tuned the map to make it their pick, others hate the lack of creativity and would rather routinely ban it out.


Regardless, this formulaic approach allows us to see clearly how the best of the best play Icebox and I’m going to lay it all out in the hopes it helps you improve your own gameplay. This is an intermediate-level guide so you’ll need at least a basic understanding of VALORANT’s mechanics and gameplay, but if you’re a professional this is probably already assumed knowledge. This is for everyone who isn’t playing tournaments every weekend but is still looking to improve.


The first thing to look at is some numbers. When examining compositions we see just how similarly most teams run this map.




















There are 2 main compositions taking up a vast majority of the meta, as shown above. With a combined pick rate of 68.36%, it’s clear that this is how most teams see best to play the map. I will give you a brief overview of how professional players use each of these 6 agents and how you can apply that to your own games.




The reason why we see Jett as the most common main duelist is two-fold. Firstly, Icebox is a map with an insane amount of verticality. Green, tube, rafters, 410, and the list keeps going. There are more vertical angles in this map than any other and Jett’s updraft and ability to glide means she can most easily take advantage of these positions. Therefore it goes without saying, as Jett you need to be making use of the verticality. Combined with the dash there are so many spots that you can sit on where you should be able to get one and back away, particularly as most people’s first instinct isn’t to look up high.


The second reason is the Operator. Due to the size of the map and the amount of incredibly long sightlines, the OP is unbelievably powerful on this map. This of course is an indirect buff to Jett as she enables the weapon more than anyone else. So much so, that many teams choose to run it on the attacking half too.


On defence, we typically see the Jett posted up on A site holding belt or main. These are both tough angles for attackers and the Jett has several different positions to hold from giving you a considerable advantage. This should be the main default but it should be mixed with a couple of mid and B holds to keep the opponent’s guessing.


When attacking, be ready to be the crosshair displacer. Dashing across mid or green fast with your team following is a great way to throw somebody off an angle. The cloudbursts are also more important here than most other maps as you will only have the Viper as a controller. You need to be aware of the Operator angles and smoking yourself and your team across, as well as using them to cover a plant or stop a push/retake if the viper wall isn’t there to help.




Sage is fast becoming a staple of EU VALORANT but in every region, she is pretty much a must-pick on Icebox. If I’m honest, this is due to some shaky map design points in my opinion. When attacking both sites there are so many angles to be aware of that makes planting the spike a nightmare. Sage’s wall helps solve this problem, being able to close off the most troublesome angle and provide some cover for the plant.


Your strategy on the attack is centred around the wall and it’s important you don’t waste it. The slow orbs are effective for slowing down a retake as it fills up the entrance points for defenders. Use these liberally. It’s better to use your kit as a deterrent than to try and save it for the perfect time, as it might never arrive and a key part of the agent is wasted. If you are playing in the Killjoy-based composition, expect to be more of a “Battle Sage”. You will most likely have to be the second person in after the Jett and should be ready to trade. If you are playing with a Reyna, you can be more of a support, being the third or fourth person in waiting with a heal to help out your entries.


On defence, your wall is a crucial tool again. In the past, we’ve seen it commonly used vertically to block off tube but recently this has fallen out of favour. Instead, we see it saved more for a retake. Sage’s tend to be positioned more towards mid to be able to retake easier and it’s crucial to remember that you shouldn’t be the first person in on this retake. Be ready to trade the person ahead of you and try to wall off a common angle they would peek the bomb from. The tube wall is still great in ranked though and is always a solid choice if you feel like you’re struggling to find value on the retake. We also see a lot of contact plays down mid to wall bottom mid.  If you’re against a team that doesn’t seem to take a lot of space here, give this a go. It limits their rotation options while expanding your own. On the pistol round, always save it for the retake because they’ll have a real tough time breaking it while you’re defusing.




Sova excels on Icebox due to the need for perfect information. The long sight range of the drone and the flexibility of the recon dart tend to give him the edge over Skye, as the precise information is crucial due to the large open areas. A Skye flash finding people in attacker spawn doesn’t tell you if there are 5 people ready to burst out B or A but Sova’s recon does.


When attacking it’s very much business as usual for a Sova player and all the basics stay exactly the same. Finding information is the key and droning to clear the tricky angles on both sites is a must. Lineups are definitely important too, decent recon darts can be made up on the spot but for maximum effect watch a lineup video or two. The same is true for the post plant. Some good double shocks will never hurt and if you have your ult, don’t be afraid to hang back and use it to get them off the defuse.


On defence, Sova is easily the most flexible agent. We typically see them towards mid if there is a Reyna or A site more if there is a Killjoy but ultimately, you’ll find it easy to get value wherever you position. A basic recon at the start of the round should be able to figure out if they’re rushing or defaulting and we see the drone used later for the crucial mid-round info. Keep things simple and don’t do something overly aggressive. It’s not your job, and the risk of losing all the team’s info gathering capability is not worth the reward.




Icebox is Viper’s home turf and easily her best map. Omen’s two smoke’s don’t provide enough cover, the map is too big for Brimstone’s smokes to be placed effectively, and Astra has the same problems as Omen as well as the rest of her kit being difficult to use here. This leaves us with Viper. Her long-range, reusable smokes fit the map perfectly and she is really the only viable choice of controller on Icebox. We see this reflected in the stats as she has a staggering 95.88% pick rate on this map.


Due to the extremely open nature of the site, Viper is typically the B anchor. Her wall is the key piece of kit and it’s important to have some variety. 


Diagonal Viper wall to hinder attackers




These are just a couple of examples but there are plenty of others to try and see what suits you best. The key to anchoring the site is slowing a rush to buy some time for your team to be able to rotate and help you. If you hear a lot of noise don’t be afraid to throw down a snakebite to make them think twice about rushing fast. Another key part of anchoring B site is denying the plant. If not being used for one-way, you can put the smoke on the default plant spot, and combined with a snakebite, you’ll delay even further or force them to plant somewhere unorthodox. Also, don’t be afraid to buy an Odin. It eats sage’s wall for breakfast and makes planting on the other side of the paper-thin green box a near impossibility.


Attacking with Viper is also very fun as you get a lot of free reign. There’s no reason why you need to be with the team on a execute so lurking up mid is always very strong. To help with this, you can place your smoke on mid blocking the line of sight from orange. This will deny the defenders information and give you a lot more space to play. A lot of teams like to use the wall towards B, as attacking without it can be very troublesome. Any simple wall that will block off the line of sight from snowman and mid, is acceptable. You can easily condition your opponents with it and begin to run fakes from it.




This is where the variation begins. Reyna is obviously the more aggressive choice of the two and should be picked up by teams that want to be more active, particularly on defence. You’ve got to make sure you have a good secondary duelist player who is comfortable rifling.


Defence is where Reyna shines brightest. She is such a common pick on this map because of how much of a labyrinth the A site can be. Typically we see the Reyna play very aggressively on A and often pushing up to find the first engagement. Jett will normally provide the cover. Reyna’s ability to get one kill and leave is unparalleled here as she takes one fight in an off-angle then repositions to another with ease. You’re forcing them to be on edge at all times and commit a lot of utility to clearing you. Don’t be afraid to flank and take your own initiative, you have a tool kit designed to bail you out so use it.


On attack, you have two options. You should either be supporting your Jett and be eagerly awaiting a trade, or you should think about lurking. You have a selfish set of utility and you can definitely find value here. Leer is the only flash on this composition though so make sure you put that to good use when executing the site.




Killjoy is the other, more defensively minded option. She brings more information passively to the team and is often a better pick for more traditional sentinel players who don’t want to make the jump to Viper. 


Defending on Killjoy is the opposite of Reyna. You’re generally positioned towards mid or A but there is a certain amount of flexibility here. You should be playing more passively and using your turret on long sight angles to be gathering information for your team and alarm bot in crucial positions that you can’t watch. The mollies are great for stopping pushes and with clever positioning can be used for plant denial. Lockdown is also a very potent retaking tool, forcing the attackers away nicely. If you have it available, don’t die stupidly and stay alive for the retake. Be careful to track the opponent’s Sova’s ult economy as he will be your biggest nemesis, try and use it when his hunter’s fury isn’t available.


Attacking with Killjoy is pretty simple and similar to most other maps. It’s your job to watch the flanks, lurking is all well and good as long as you can stay in range of your kit. Mollies can be put on the bomb for post-plant or to delay the retake. Unlike other maps, your ult has less value for taking the site. Don’t get me wrong it isd= possible but has to be placed in a precarious location. If you can comfortably take the site without it, it can be placed on-site in the post-plant to buy even more time.


To conclude, Icebox sucks. Until we see the map change in some way or huge buffs and nerfs come in, I see no reason why this meta would change. Find the role that’s best suited for you and you can easily master an agent on this map. I hope this guide has given you a good place to start from and you might not want to dodge Icebox as much now when the splash-screen appears.

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