Braxton ‘swag’ Pierce is a 23-year old Valorant pro player and streamer, currently signed to T1. Pierce is a former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player, and was once considered one of the game’s best up-and-coming talents before he and several other North American players were banned by Valve over allegations of match-fixing.
Pierce was born on September 20, 1996, and moved to North Carolina with his family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. His professional Counter-Strike career officially started with CS version 1.6 in 2011, before transitioning along with the rest of the competitive scene to CS:GO in 2012.
On March 9, 2020, T1, a prominent esports organization formerly known as SK Telecom T1 and based in Korea, announced the signing of Pierce as their first pro Valorant player, just a month before the closed beta officially released to the public.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Braxton ‘swag’ Pierce Won His 1st Tournament in 2012, Before His 16th Birthday
In late 2012, the landscape of competitive Counter-Strike changed when the game’s developers, Valve, released the latest installment of the series, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Following the release, many CS pros slowly but surely migrated from the 1.6 version of the original Counter-Strike to the new release.
One of the final events of the 1.6 days was the ESEA Season 11 Invite, which featured a prize pool of nearly $20,000. Pierce played alongside several names in the North American Counter-Strike scene that would eventually become standout figures in CS:GO, including Jordan ‘n0thing’ Gilbert, Sean Gares, and Kory ‘SEMPHIS’ Friesen.
Their team, named Maximum Effort, defeated Ultimax Gaming in the grand finals to take home first place and $10,000.
2. Pierce Was a Top-20-Ranked CS:GO player in 2014
In 2014, iBUYPOWER.com formed a roster of American and Canadian players to compete together, and rounded it out by acquiring 17-year-old Braxton ‘swag’ Pierce. Pierce had just spent six months playing with Complexity Gaming, which consisted of most of the Maximum Effort roster from 2012.
Alongside his IBP teammates, he had his best year of professional Counter-Strike. He frequently finished at the top of his team’s statistical performance charts, and went toe-to-toe with some of the world’s best teams such as Fnatic and Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Pierce and iBUYPOWER won a small collection of tournaments together in 2014, and he earned the number 18 spot on the annual ‘top twenty players list’ from Counter-Strike news site HLTV.
3. Pierce Was 1 of 7 People Banned by Counter-Strike Developers Valve in the Notorious iBUYPOWER Throwing Scandal
Pierce’s tenure with iBUYPOWER came to a dramatic and unfortunate close at the beginning of 2015.
In October 2014, IBP competed in a match against NetcodeGuides in the CEVO Pro Season 5. They were picked as the clear favorites, but ended up losing very decisively by a score of 16-4. During the match, the commentators could be heard remarking that something was seriously off in the team’s performance.
Rumors swirled that iBUYPOWER had perhaps thrown the match, but those rumors were quickly dispelled. That is until January 2015, when esports journalist Richard Lewis published an article revealing evidence that the players had coordinated with others to place large bets against themselves and then throw the match.
Pierce, his teammates, and the other coordinators were given indefinite bans from competing at any Valve-sponsored events, which included the all-important CS:GO majors. A year later, Valve upgraded those indefinite bans to permanent ones.
4. Pierce Remained in the Counter-Strike Scene for 5 More Years as a Player, a Stand-in & an Analyst
Following the ban from Valve, the players went their separate ways. Pierce was signed by the hugely popular American organization Cloud9 as a streamer for the organization. He also helped out the team as an analyst and performed as a stand-in at non-Valve events.
In 2017, other tournament organizers such as ESL and DreamHack, that had banned the IBUYPOWER players alongside Valve, rescinded their bans. Pierce spent the remainder of his CS career playing for teams such as Torqued, Lazarus, and most notably, Swole Patrol. During his final years, he also dropped the name ‘swag’.
On February 28, 2020, Pierce announced that he was retiring from professional Counter-Strike, and seeking to pursue a career in Riot Games’ upcoming tactical shooter, Valorant, which was then called Project A.
5. Pierce Has Already Won a Valorant Tournament & Has Reunited With 1 of His iBUYPOWER Teammates
Success in Valorant has already come early to Brax, who finished first place in the 100 Thieves Invitational as part of Team Shroud on April 14. Brax won alongside former iBUYPOWER teammates in Tyler ‘Skadoodle’ Latham and fellow ban recipient Kevin ‘AZK’ Larivière.
Skadoodle was not banned from CS:GO in 2015 after refusing to take any of the money earned from the match fix. AZK joins Brax on the T1 roster, after getting signed himself just a week before the 100 Thieves Invitational. AZK ended the tournament with an impressive ace in the final round.
Just a day after Brax and AZK’s victory, Riot Games released their roadmap for growing their fledgling esports scene for Valorant.