Everyone wants to be a shotcaller in team games. Seeing twitch streamers organize a perfect push or counter all because of good communication shows how teamwork can overcome terrible odds.
However, more often than not, what we get in our ranked games tends to be a rush of rarely rational voices all contradicting one another and flooding your headset with so much noise that you can’t hear the footsteps of that pesky Reyna who has been destroying you 1v1 all game.
Shotcalling and being a good in-game leader, or IGL, looks a lot easier than it is. As much as we all want to help, sometimes saying less and letting your team play off their instincts is the right call but, if you are a good IGL, your team will sing your praises when the game ends.
Why we need an in game leader
IGLs are integral to team-based games. They organize the team around a strategy, keep everyone on the same page, and provide their allies with calls and intel that can save a round. They may not be the ones who top frag and earn the highlight reel play, but they refocus the remaining team to coordinate well enough on retakes so the Jett on your squad can make plays without getting lit up instantly. Rarely the kill leader, but always the voice of reason.
A bad IGL can lead to horrible rounds, miscommunications, and even some roasts in the chat. But a good IGL? They’re noticeable from the second you hear their calming voice wash over your team at the end of a tough round. They will be coming up with plays and strategies that leave the other team befuddled and may even make the game more fun as you and the rest of your team rally around your IGL. They help the rest of us get the most out of this team-based shooter.
First of all: have the right terminology for the game, callouts and locations. In VALORANT each map is built differently to favor different aspects of the Agents and how they can interact with the map. Despite the varying changes from map to map, the callouts stay the same. Knowing what and where catwalk, cubby, rafters, courtyard, A-link, and B-link are a lot to take in when you first start playing. Knowing these as a nooby is important as it will give you some direction on where to go from your teammate’s callouts. As an IGL or a designated IGL, you cannot mistake the areas you are calling out or flub a term. If you say an enemy is mid-high when they are actually on mid-catwalk, that will hurt your team.
Your team will play off of your callouts, so sending them into a fight with bad info could net the enemy team a free kill on your unsuspecting ally. Mistakes happen and Agents in VALORANT can reposition in creative ways to mess with your callouts but do as much as possible to keep the callouts simple and accurate.
When a half inch can be the difference on who gets the first headshot, you will feel very guilty if your bad callouts get your team killed. The longer you talk, the more confusion you create along with more sounds to contend with listening for footsteps or ability activations. Be concise.
We have all had those games where multiple teammates flood the comms and you can barely focus on the task at hand. Maybe they are trying to be helpful, maybe they are arguing. Regardless of what they’re doing, it’s rarely helpful. But it can be funny. When you’re down bad in VALORANT and already used your FF, sometimes humor is the only thing that will get you through to the next game.
We never discourage players talking or trying to coordinate in any game. They all rely on teamwork and shine in a way that is incomparable to a game where no one is talking. Be efficient and be quick with your callouts. Be as straight to the point as possible while being as accurate as you can. The longer you spend orating your callout, the more time it will take to coordinate. The game keeps going while you’re talking, so keep it short to avoid the situation changing and your play becoming useless.
This also works when you are spectating or in the backline. Don’t call out the obvious, or yell a repeating statement. The team knows. Let them concentrate and listen to the in-game audio since it can make or break a round.
This goes the same for pre round strategies. Don’t spend all forty of the seconds talking about some grand Ocean’s Eleven-esque ploy to steal a round. People will tune you out, get distracted in the buy menu, or be AFK for a quick break. The more convoluted the strategy is, the higher the chance it will go wrong.
A well-timed hype up, cheeky comment, or joke can completely turn the mood of an entire team and deescalate a potential rage quit. VALORANT can tilt you like no other when games last as long as they do. Tempers can flare but games can turn on a dime in your favor. Though the chances of that happening are lessened when you are angry. Find someone who says they play better tilted and we’ll find you a liar.
It’s not always easy to be calm in game. Circumstances play a big role, like if you are being abandoned to C point when the team has pushed C all game and you, like every other time, die from a 5 on 1. It’s tough.
Remember, no one enjoys losing, and going after players for not being as mechanically skilled as others is never going to leave you feeling good about your own game. If your teammates are getting heated, try and redirect them. Problem solve and see how you are approaching your fights and maybe look for a new approach. Not everyone will be willing to play along and be a team player, but that doesn’t have to stop you from killing them with kindness.
See how your team positions themselves before a round starts. Adjust to how the enemy is playing against you. Seeing how your team sets up a defense can be a big indicator of if you have any chance of winning a round.
Some like to play aggressively, regardless of if they have the skill to back it up. Maybe the team keeps pushing the C site where one poor Sage is defending by herself and has been the first death three times in a row.
As an IGL you should be looking at how your team and the enemy is playing each round. Maybe the aggressive player should be told to move back, or given an initiator to help them make a play. Maybe you can try a niche play where you overload one point and try to stop the team that thinks that poor, lonely Sage will be stuck there again by herself.
Don’t play an entry fragger
Shotcalling does not work as often when you are dead, despite being able to spectate your whole team. In Overwatch, the support characters do a lot of shotcalling and the reasons are twofold: They see the battlefield from the best perspective and they probably won’t be the first ones dead in a fight.
The same logic applies here. The IGL does not have to be a sage main by any means, but they should not be the first one through the door either. They should be the one coordinating the entry fragger to keep them alive or capitalize on drawing the defenders fire, directing the team for a reposition or trying to organize an ultimate/ability combo.
You can try and do that from the spectating menu but it is not very likely to go over well if you are playing with strangers. You lack any way to impact the game meaningfully, so just let the remaining alive teammates do their best. They lived longer than you did, afterall.
If the first teammate dies, sometimes that may be because the defenders have overloaded a bomb site, or the strong defensive characters have turned the lane you chose into a death trap. Full rotations are as normal as the sun rising in the morning, but you won’t be alive to coordinate them if you are the entry fragger.
Duelists are an attractive agent pick (everyone loves kits that center around getting kills) but, if you want to play duelist, don’t take on IGL responsibility.
Get used to staring at the map
So what does a good IGL do while they’re busy not entry fragging? Typically, they spend a large portion of their time, larger than the average player at least, staring at the map. Your role is to provide support to your team through intel and information gathered throughout the course of any given round. That will include staring at the map looking for agents to reveal themselves, listening for abilities, ultimates and footsteps.
Take that information and adapt it as needed for your team to succeed. The map gives away a ton of details to the player and not everyone can spend all of their time on the map screen while fighting. You can see enemy rotations and ability usage, very quickly determining how a site is defended through some creative poking on your duelists’ part. You’re the person in the agent’s ear offering them intel. That may mean less kills but it may also mean more wins.
Like we said earlier, a good IGl should be knowledgeable, but that isn’t just about the callouts or map locations. You should have some idea of every Agent’s kit, including its strengths and the possible counters to it. As the IGL you are the one devising the strategies for your team and knowing what you have access to on any given play comes from this agent knowledge.
You don’t have to play every agent but you should know what they are capable of. Know which Agents can pair well with other Agents. Which abilities make for good combo or entry plays. If you should push on an ultimate ability or play a reserved defense to try and bait the team in for a Killjoy or Brimstone ultimate. There is no right way to play a round, provided you just play it with the best resources you have available.
Try and keep track of the other teams’ ultimates as well. Knowing what to expect before a round starts can completely nullify the enemy ultimate or even their entire play if they built their round expecting you to zig when instead you zagged.
You should know your team’s options when it comes to economy. If your team is looking broke, get thrifty and make sure everyone runs a pistol round to generate cashflow without spending anything immediately gets dropped when you lose the round. Some rounds will be throwaways in VALORANT, but that’s the way she goes. It will also be your job to recognize that maybe you can buy for everyone, or maybe one teammate needs to dip into their own savings to buy a weapon for a teammate. There are some rounds where you can’t afford to throw away, especially if the enemy only needs one more win in a close match.
Always look for options during the round, but also between rounds. Look to adapt your strategies based on what abilities, ultimates and economy you have at your disposal and get your team on the same page as you as fast as possible.
Don’t worry if you bottom frag
IGL’s support the team, that is their first responsibility and it takes priority. You should be worried about staying alive, providing ideas and strategies and providing live info on the enemy’s whereabouts. You should also be avoiding the duelist role as they inherently take on more risk than any other role in the game and are used in player trades all the time. The IGL can’t be the first one spectating to be effective as a shotcaller.
In case you might not have noticed, that tends to mean you probably won’t be putting yourself in as many situations to pop off or get a lot of kills. That’s fine. That’s what the duelists are for. They don’t need to worry about the bigger picture like the IGL does, they point and they click. Not to mention, they are also rarely carrying the bomb. A duelist’s responsibility and an IGL’s don’t align with one another. Neither does taking risky trades with the top player on the enemy leaderboard.
Sometimes you will have to clutch up and enter the fray. Just be smart when it comes to picking your fights. If you tend to be the first teammate to die in a round, you should play duelist or initiator and not worry about shotcalling. If you want to shotcall, you may have to change your preferences on how you go about taking engagements in VALORANT. You can’t have cake and eat it too.