Top 20 players of 2014: swag (18)
The 18th spot on our Top 20 players of 2014 by Xtrfy goes to Braxton "swag" Pierce who represented compLexity and iBUYPOWER. The 18-year-old was the star for both squads throughout the year, and was a key member in their successful runs at several ESEA Finals and FACEIT Season 2 Finals.
Braxton "swag" Pierce first became known to the wider public in 2011, when CS 1.6 in North America was winding down. Despite his very young age he found his way to the ESEA Invite league and attended his first LAN in September that year after just turning 15, the Season 9 Finals.
There he played with Kory "SEMPHIS" Friesen and Sean "seang@res" Gares in Full Gaming and they finished 2nd behind the at the time untouchable Evil Geniuses featuring Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert. The team went on to win the next two ESEA seasons while swag put in MVP-worthy performances and established himself as one of the biggest talents not only in NA, but also the world.
In August 2012 he attended his first international event, WCG Pan-Am, as a stand-in for UMX together with n0thing where they finished 2nd behind Brazilians playArt.
At around that time CS:GO came out so he joined Keven "AZK" Lariviere and Eric "adreN" Hoag in Dynamic, his first big team in the new game. But he actually didn't make a clear cut transition, instead kept playing on both fronts, attending ESEA Season 12 Finals in both CS 1.6 and CS:GO and finishing second in both games.
DreamHack Winter 2012 was his first big international event where Dynamic made it to playoffs and lost to VeryGames in the quarter-final.
n0thing later joined the team but they saw no success at their next event, ESEA Season 13 Global Finals in April 2013, where they lost two close matches against VeryGames and Quantic to finish 7th-8th.
That led to the disbandment of the team, so swag and n0thing ended up reuniting with SEMPHIS and seang@res in a new team that first became Quantic, and then got picked up by the famous North American organization compLexity.
The new team was immediately a success as they made it to the grand final of the 14th ESEA Season and even managed to take a map off of the then-unbeatable NiP. They went on to make it to the playoffs of ESWC, as well as the semi-finals of the first CS:GO major, DreamHack Winter, establishing themselves as the best North American team.
In that time the 17-year-old swag wasn't the star of the squad, but he kept flashing his potential and it was only a question of when he will finally break out.
Coming into 2014 on the wings of recent DH Winter success, compLexity were in for an unpleasant surprise at the ESEA Season 15 Global Finals in January.
After losing a very close third map against favored Titan in the upper final, swag & co. fell to their local nemesis iBUYPOWER in the consolidation battle 2-1 and ended up 3rd in their first event of the year.
swag wasn't to blame for their disappointing finish though, as he gave it his all and was clearly the best player in the iBP series. In those three maps he had 84:59 (1.38 rating, 20 assists and 14 entry kills), while he put on one of the highest scoring regular time performances of the year on the first map with 37:21 (POV).
Besides that, he was definitely one of the best players of the entire tournament with the 2nd highest rating of 1.16 and as the 3rd most consistent contributor (68% of rounds with a kill, assist or survival).
compLexity restored some of their NA reputation by winning CEVO Season 3, although without meeting iBUYPOWER in the final as they were knocked out earlier, but they were still an unknown factor going into the next major, EMS One Katowice.
Despite being handed a tough group of LGB, Clan-Mystik and Na`Vi, compLexity managed to come out of it in 2nd place after besting Kenny "kennyS" Schrub's squad two times.
Luck of the playoff draw wasn't on their side though, as they met NiP in the quarter-final and couldn't move on further. Nevertheless, the North Americans put up a hell of a fight, winning the first map and keeping the third one close (16-12, 2-16, 11-16).
1vs4 clutch against NiP at EMS One Katowice
He was also the only above-average performer in the entire tournament from his team, with a 1.13 rating in what ended up being a solid playoff run. However, that led him to consider his options elsewhere after the event, and he decided to transfer to iBUYPOWER a couple of weeks later.
The task was to defend the title from the previous season, but it wasn't going to be easy with this time NiP, Virtus.pro, Natus Vincere, as well as swag's old team compLexity attending.
iBUYPOWER edged out Virtus.pro in a very close upper semi-final three map series, and then beat coL two times 2-0, in the upper and the grand final, to retain the title in a convincing fashion.
swag himself was undeniably the MVP of the tournament with a 1.36 rating overall and an incredible performance in the last match. In fact, it was probably the best grand final performance of the entire 2014 – 52:26 score, 1.86 rating, 4x 4K, 2x 3K (1st map POV, 2nd map POV)
3 actions from the ESEA S16 grand final
One month later the team decided to attend Gfinity 3 as preparation for the next major, but they didn't manage to repeat their ESEA success. It still wasn't a poor showing by any means as they defeated NiP in the group stage, and drew fnatic, but Titan were too strong for them in the quarter-final.
swag wasn't on the same level this time, only scoring a kill in 43% of the rounds compared to over 50% at the previous events. He was most missed in the Titan series which he ended near the bottom of the scoreboard, but he also didn't excel in the NiP win or the fnatic draw.
Overall it was an average performance from the still-17-year-old who ended up with a 1.00 rating and below average 0.67 kills per round, his year low.
The team stayed in Europe for a two week bootcamp ahead of ESL One Cologne, where they were set to meet fnatic and Virtus.pro in the group stage, two teams they played well against in the past two events.
However, at the major they got completely outplayed by both, losing 7-16 to fnatic and 2-16 to Virtus.pro in the deciding match.
swag's great play in Cologne wasn't enough to reach the playoffs
This time swag was back to top shape, ending up with an incredible 1.43 rating, including a Man of the Match performance against dAT (26:7, 1.94 rating, POV video) and putting up a great fight in the loss to fnatic (26:16).
After heading back across the Atlantic, iBP managed to qualify for FACEIT Season 2 Finals, which meant another prolonged stay in Europe at the end of October as they also had a spot at ESWC.
Before heading to Italy they went to CEVO Season 5 Finals where they reaffirmed their status as NA's best, defeating Cloud9 in two Bo3 series after coming from the lower bracket.
At FACEIT they were once again put into a group with fnatic, as well as dignitas, but this time they fared much better. First they put up a great fight against the ESL One Cologne finalists, losing 12-16 and 13-16, and then they demolished dignitas 16-3 and quickly won the four needed rounds in the last map to secure a place in the playoffs.
Full POV video of swag vs. dignitas at FACEIT S2 Finals
iBUYPOWER surprised LDLC and edged them out in the semi-final, and then even took the first map against fnatic in the grand final. They ended up losing 1-3 but it was still the best result by a North American team at a European tournament, and it was largely thanks to swag's great play.
He was one of the best players at the tournament, and of course his team's best, with a 1.15 rating while contributing in 70% of rounds. And it wasn't all thanks to the group stage, as he topped the board for iBP in the grand final and in the second map against LDLC (VOD).
But then a week later both he and the team didn't replicate that great play at ESWC, ending the campaign in the quarter-final against Natus Vincere.
swag didn't really heat up in the relatively easy group stage and then failed to make an impact against the Ukrainians when it was needed. Overall it was an average performance despite a solid 1.08 rating as he was only 4th best in the team.
The roster was broken up after ESWC
Shortly after that 5th-8th finish in Paris, France the team surprisingly dismissed Sam "DaZeD" Marine and steel, while adding less experienced Derek "desi" Branchen and Nick "nitr0" Cannella to the roster for the upcoming major, DreamHack Winter.
With around two weeks of preparation with the two new players they headed to Sweden, where an easier group than expected was awaiting them thanks to the removal of Titan from the competition. But despite that, the team failed to make it through, losing to dignitas and then in the deciding match failing to convert a 13-2 lead against German side PENTA.
swag was for the third time his team's best player at a major, topping their kill and assist list and having a 1.14 rating. He was also the only one who put up a fight in that last match in which they couldn't even buy a T-side round when they needed it the most, ending up with a 31:18 score (POV).
For the last event of the year, ESEA Season 17 Global Finals, iBUYPOWER had to look for a stand-in to replace desi, who was not allowed to play for them due to playing for two other teams in the regular season.
They turned to their old member adreN and took on Virtus.pro in the first round. They played great against the Poles, only losing in triple overtime on map three, and then went on to eliminate mousesports, Titan and Denial.
However, fnatic were too much to handle in the consolidation final, so iBP finished 3rd unable to defend their title.
swag at ESEA S17 Global Finals
swag had perhaps his most disappointing tournament as he didn't leave a mark on any match except the mousesports one, ending up with his only below average rating of the year (0.96). He still contributed in 67% of the rounds and was one of the best assisters of the tournament (0.20 assists per round), but his fragging was missed.
They also removed the other new addition nitr0 and added Cloud9 star Spencer "Hiko" Martin as a temporary member for the MLG X-Games qualifiers. The new all-star roster surprisingly lost to mouseSpaz in the first qualifier, but then won the second one to secure a place in Aspen, Colorado.
Why is he the 18th best player of 2014?
Braxton "swag" Pierce was of utmost importance to both of his 2014 teams, compLexity and iBUYPOWER, as he was always the star of the team during their successful runs.
However, that success wasn't too big in comparison to other stars, mostly coming at ESEA Finals (one title and two third places), and the only podium finish by a North American team in Europe – 2nd place at FACEIT Season 2 Finals.
In the majors he only has one quarter-final finish and two group stage exits, all of which he played great in though, and two other quarter-final finishes at Gfinity 3 and ESWC, during which he didn't stand out much.
His two best performances coincided with his team's biggest success – the MVP display at ESEA S16 championship run, and another impactful display at FACEIT Season 2 Finals where he was one of the best players of the tournament.
swag was one of the best fraggers in 2014
Overall he has very impressive stats – he is one of the best pure fraggers with 0.77 kills per round (6th) and 51.3% of rounds with at least one kill (4th). He also gets a lot of assists, so he contributed with a kill or assist even more compared to other players (3rd with 59.2%).
His importance to his teams is statistically best described by the fact that only three players had at least one kill in round wins more often than his 66.9%.
However, those stats largely came from ESEA events at which he played 29 of his 65 maps (45%), which puts them in a slightly different perspective.
swag still played great at the majors, had no bad tournaments and had a number of amazing matches against tough opponents, so his place in the Top 20 was always guaranteed, he just couldn't go any higher due to not making a bigger impact at more events.
Also notably he was the 3rd best rated player on Dust2 with a 1.27 rating and the 5th best rated on Cache (1.18).
What is your take on Braxton "swag" Pierce's performance in 2014? Was it enough to earn a place in the Top 20? Or should he have been higher perhaps?