Update: We've added Lion and Finka to the list, and juggled a few other operators based on balancing tweaks and how they sit in the current meta.
Which Rainbow Six Siege operators are best? Writing a Siege tier list isn't as straightforward as you'd think: operators tend to be situationally useful, and some of that usefulness also depends on the skill level of the people you're playing with. Frost, for example, is a menace to newcomers who haven't familiarized themselves with Siege's 18 maps. Smoke can single-handedly deny chokepoints on narrow maps like Plane.
This guide is intended for most Siege players. Before I dig in, some more important advice:
Play your style
Siege invites you to play a distinct role in the attack or defense. You can be an annoying distraction, act as your team's scout, or anchor the bomb site. Part of enjoying the game is discovering which of these roles you're most comfortable in—your team is probably best served by you running an operator and role you're familiar with.
Complement your team
Some operators play especially well together, or have proficiencies that overlap. Rook and Doc increase the survivability of their teammates, so you probably don't need to run both. Mute and Bandit can block hard breachers by placing their gadgets against reinforced walls. Ela, Pulse, and Caviera are excellent lurkers, but running all three might leave your objective room vulnerable.
With those broad strokes laid down, let's play favorites.
Universally, always good
Hibana or Thermite
Siege's maps are balanced in a way that you almost always have to open up a ceiling hatch or wall in order to cancel out an inherent defense of the objective room. Think of it this way: you're changing the layout of the map and forcing defenders to leave favorable camping positions, shifting the advantage. It's key.
As Hibana or Thermite, the first thing you should do in a round (apart from dealing with any spawn-peeking assholes) is safely enter the interior and blow up the most valuable reinforced surfaces. Thermite makes bigger holes, but Hibana's are more flexible, and can launch her metal-melting pellets from safety.
Look, you can make a rock band without guitarists, but having at least one is probably a good idea.
Thatcher is the no-brainer sidekick to a Hibana or Thermite. If a defending team has deployed Mute's jammers or Bandit's batteries, they've countered your hard breacher. Thatcher is the counter to that counter: his EMP grenades can kill at least 10 different gadgets, including static surveillance cameras.
He also has three different primaries to pick from (including a shotgun), and can can carry a claymore. A downside is that he can't carry a SMG as a secondary.
Good guns and a fantastic gadget make Finka a useful operator in nearly any team. Her gadget gives a teamwide buff, steadying aim, increasing health and picking up any operators who have been downed. This can be used to great effect just before a push, tipping the scales of a firefight into your team's favor. Her powerful Spear .308 AR is a great complement the other parts of her kit. Run it with a vertical grip, ACOG, and flash hider, and focus on preserving your own life so you can buff your team throughout the match.
Undervalued; she's Pulse, but as an attacker. Lurk under the objective and pop traps and gadgets at will. Her main drawback is that she requires coordination and communication between teammates to get full value from her kit.
Her candelas are uber flash grenades that spit out charges in multiple directions. Though they can be untrustworthy, combining them with smoke grenades, which Ying can carry, usually means you're able to create a visual wall in a doorway or window, allowing your teammates to gain a foothold on a bombsite. Ying's especially useful in 'perimeter' bombsites, where attackers can immediately enter the objective room from the exterior of the map. Just keep in mind that all characters have a natural defense against flash grenades in Siege: turning away.
Her shock drone is usually less effective than Thatcher's EMP, but at the moment it's one of the only ways of safely dealing with Mute, Mira, Kapkan, and a host of other electronic traps. Experienced players will gun down her weaponized drones quickly, but Twitch still carries one of the better ARs in Siege in the F2 (aka FAMAS), with the option of a semi-auto marksman rifle instead.
Viable, but not essential
Think of him as the only operator in Siege with a helmet. A helmet that can quickly break. With his disposable shield up, he's the slowest operator in the game, moving at 62.5% the baseline speed, making peeking more difficult. He pairs well with Montagne or Blitz, as they combine to create layers of protection for peeking.
His gadget, the EE-ONE-D sonar drone, can reveal the location of any moving defenders for a few seconds—with full body outlines. Popping a scan at the right time can give roaming defenders a difficult choice-stay still and be unable to flank, or move and reveal their position to the attacking team.
When it works, it’s incredible, and can lead to some early picks. But more often than not the scan doesn’t tend to hit anything, merely inconveniencing enemies for a few seconds rather than revealing them. Lion’s guns, while good, don’t quite make up his usually counterable gadget. Fantastic in the situation, but far from a must-pick.
On objectives with a soft ceiling, he's your guy. Knocking out the roof over defenders' heads will send them scattering for safe positions, and is a great way of priming an objective for an attack.
With Sledge, she's the only soft breacher who can make a big hole without warning. Then again, her utility (concussing and breaching) is something almost every attacker can carry in weaker forms.
A unique tank who can fully protect himself from one direction with an extendable shield, Montagne's presence can make defenders uncomfortable. But if his teammates don't support him, he can equally find himself in awkward situations, unable to lower his guard without getting killed.
Unlike Montagne, he's got gaps in his armor: small segments of Blitz's hitboxes are exposed, even when he's crouching. In close, though, his ability to blind enemies without dropping his guard is paralyzing. Shield operators can be slow, but if you can isolate and corner a lurker with Blitz, they're probably dead.
Small hitboxes, highly mobile, and the ability to breach ceilings. For players that favor aggression, Ash is still a reasonable pick in the current meta.
In January, his Para-308 AR got a buff from 43 to 48 base damage, along with slightly reduced recoil, changes that made it a much better primary weapon. His gadget, however, remains situational. Capitão's flame crossbow bolt can kill or flush out defenders who are camping around a corner, but you'd often rather just shoot someone than fling a gadget arrow at them.
Versatility. Buck's combo shotgun/AR or shotgun/marksman rifle mean he can adapt for different situations more quickly than other characters. His shotgun is a great tool for ambushing anchors through soft walls. He's also one of the only attackers who carries frag grenades, an excellent piece of kit.
Months later, players are still figuring out Dokk's position within the meta. I love harassing defenders with Dokkaebi's annoying phone calls, but getting the most out of her ability requires clever timing, team coordination, and positioning. Likewise, her non-automatic primary weapons are some of the most difficult to use in the game for new players.
One of Siege's longest-enduring memes, Fuze is famously a bad idea in hostage situations. His indiscriminate grenade launchers spit bombs through any soft surface over a radius of a few meters, hurling in semi-random arcs that are usually easy to avoid. These explosive pucks can help take out enemy gadgets, but they also won't spare the lives of any valuable drones your teammates have snuck onto an objective. Useful and fun for newcomers looking for easy kills and destruction.
On paper, he's a hard counter to lurkers—Jackal can spot the current position of an enemy by scanning their recent footprints. In practice, the refresh rate of his tracking tech is too slow to make wallbanging reliable, and tracked players can often anticipate moves against them. Like Dokkaebi, he's slightly more effective against inexperienced players, who are more likely to freak out and make mistakes when tracked by his ability.
Siege's sole true sniper, Glaz's high-penetration bullets are lethal on a few bombsites, like the garage on House, but his lack of utility and versatility is too frequently a liability. He's not who I'd want in a 1v3 with 60 seconds on the clock. Tunnel vision is also a problem, leaving him open to counter-peeking outside his field of view.
Almost always useful
Mute or Bandit
On most maps and in most objective rooms, you're gonna want to deny breaching of a couple critical surfaces. Mute and Bandit's gadgets provide an extra layer of defense to reinforced walls—either will block Hibana or Thermite's breaching charges. And both of these operators have the added benefit of being a nuisance to drones.
If your opponent is dumb enough to not bring a Thatcher, Mute or Bandit will make life a lot harder for them. Mute's utility has only gone up in Operation Chimera, with his jammers acting as a hard counter to Lion's scan.
Rook or Doc
Having a durable anchor on your team who plays on or near the objective is a good idea. Rook improves the survivability on everyone on the team with his bag of armor plates (known colloquially as t-shirts or sweaters), and Doc, if he stays alive, can erase damage. Both of these defenders can attach ACOG scopes, too, allowing them to guard chokepoints from a safer distance.
Speedy and versatile, with thin hitboxes and one of the best traps in the game right now. Lurk around the corner from one of your concussion mines and peek after it triggers to catch dazed attackers.
An excellent anchor, Smoke can literally cover chokepoints with his asphyxiating gas grenades. The gadget allows him to 'eat' the clock better than any other operator: he can block entry to single-room objectives (hostage, secure area) with the poison cloud, daring enemies to run through it and risk death. His kit is also pretty strong: an SMG primary or secondary, and the option of barbed wire or impact nades.
A strong lurker and decent anchor, Pulse sniffs out enemy movement with his heartbeat monitor. The option of a nitro charge allows him to play below a bombsite, using his handheld wallhack in combination with the C4 to blow up attackers from safety.
Though his ACOG scope was taken away in a 2017 nerf, Jäger's mobility and 416-C Carbine make him an effective defender for players who like to play fast and peek aggressively. His gadget shuts down attackers like Thatcher, Ash, Fuse, and even Hibana in some situations, in addition to eating up the stun, frag, or smoke grenades that most operators can carry.
Viable, but not essential
Knowledge is power, and Valkyrie's sticky, throwable cameras can potentially feed your team with information. Half the battle, though, is knowing where to put them—Siege has 18 maps, and each map has a handful of objective rooms, so you might have to memorize 40 or 50 camera positions to truly maximize her ability. Here's an easy one: remove a barricade and toss one of her cameras outside at the start of a round to give your team another external view.
The most dangerous thing in cargo shorts since Lara Croft, Lesion carries a great SMG and a gadget that hurts the enemy while providing some passive info—enemies yelp in pain when they step on the trap, can't can't sprint until they pull it out. The key is staying alive long enough to maximize the distribution of his Gu mines. Pair his gadget with Frost's bear trap to create a potential insta-kill.
Seen often in high-level play, her one-way mirrors are powerful deterrents. One common strategy is to pop a small hole just outside the edge of her gadget's window, then lean out to shoot through it after you've watched someone through the one-way mirror. I'm less keen on Mira's fast-firing SMG, which is a little too hot to handle.
A genetically-engineered superlurker, Cav can sprint silently in bursts of about 10 seconds by activating Silent Step. Players who excel at using cameras (or simply their ears) to locate enemies can use this quiet movement to stage crushing ambushes. And if Cav can isolate an enemy, she can perform a melee takedown 'interrogation' to temporarily reveal the position of all remaining enemies—pulling this off usually guarantees a win.
An insane annoyance, potentially. His drone is the only one in the game that can stick to ceilings, where it perches invisibly as an elevated camera, ready to smack attackers with disorienting ultrasonic bursts (another form of concussion, basically). But he only carries one 'Yokai,' and it's fragile, and a bit hard to pilot for newcomers, and you're vulnerable while using it. Another example of an operator who takes tight team coordination and timing to maximize.
She's fun, but nine out of ten experienced players will dispatch Frost's ankle-biting 'welcome mats' before stepping into them. Her SMG is also one of the slower-firing guns of its type in Siege, a game where any headshot is a one-hit kill.
Unless you're a fan of the Spetznaz's unique weapon optics, he's simply a sluggish defender. Like Frost, anyone who's put a hundred or so hours into Siege will have built up an immune system to avoid his laser tripwire traps.
A tough one to grade. In the hands of a crack shot, his slug-firing shotgun is devastating, and one of the few guns in the game that can quickly break a Blackbeard. I go back and forth on the usefulness of his ability, which cloaks him from drones and cameras, but signals his general presence in the process. For me, knowing that Vigil's somewhere in a room is usually about the same thing as knowing exactly where he is, and he can't cloak forever.
Castle's walls can often be as much of an obstacle for defenders as they are for attackers, denying flank routes and preventing barricade wallbangs. They make the room you're trying to guard more rigid, but often that inflexibility can make your defense more predictable.
No amount of buffs can fix the Spetznaz soldier affectionately known as "Our Lord and Savior." If it's your first time playing Siege, Tachanka's shielded, static turret might seem powerful: it's a big gun fed by a big, 61-round frisbee that can cover a hallway or chokepoint. Unfortunately, it's countered by the most mundane gadget in the game: a drone. Revealing Tachanka's position almost instantly undoes his effectiveness, and the small rotation radius of the turret limits the positions he can place it. Otherwise, his mag-fed shotgun is a disaster. May he live on in memes. Amen.