On Jan. 26, 2015, the IBuyPower ban came in. This ban included such players as: Sam “Dazed” Marine, Braxton “swag” Pierce, Keven “AZK” Lariviere, and Joshua “Steel” Nissan. On that day time froze for their competitive CS:GO careers. They were all banned from Valve sponsored events, but many of the independent tournament organizers followed suite. Two years later, that changed as ESL were the first to repeal their ban on them on July 24th, 2017 . The decision came after a recommendation from the Esports Integrity Coalition. Nearly one year after the ban was lifted, Steel has led Torqued through the qualifiers to play at DreamHack Tours and ESL One Belo Horizonte. This is Steel’s life after death.
There were moments of hope, brought along by community sentiment. An unfounded rumor came about that they would be unbanned an year after their ban in 2015, but it was later cleared up as an indefinite (as in permanent) ban. That was the final blow and anger, sadness, or hope was gone. All that was left was acceptance.
Still the community rallied around the players, specifically swag and Dazed. Both were much more popular players than Steel. The two of them were talked in hagiographic fashion as if they could have been the saviors of the NA scene. Swag could have been the best player in the world, Dazed was the leader that could have saved NA from the doldrums. Those ideas were completely overblown, but it showed the amount of fervor that surrounded those players. It coalesced into the #freebrax tag. Unlike Dazed or swag, steel wasn’t talked about in such hallowed terms. Perhaps it was due to his personality, he was more blunt, more critical, and seemed to rub the community the wrong way.
For Steel this was a dark time. He became a streamer and content creator and though he was good at it, his heart seemed to always waver towards the competitive side. That is why he went to play in things like Fragadelphia or take a sabbatical from Counter-Strike to play Overwatch when there was some hope of competition. But he paid his dues, he understood what he did was wrong and tried to do what he could to atone for his mistakes. The most prominent example being the Beyond the Summit video of him warning Timmy about match fixing.
So when the ESL decision came down, it was a rebirth, a second chance for steel. Though the community had all of their attention on Dazed and swag, it was steel who would be the real deal. He reunited with Neil “montE” Montgomery and Trey “tck” Martin to reform Torqued. Together they played played in ESEA. It didn’t go as well as they had hoped, but he finally got to compete again. Got to grind his way up again.
The grind was too much for Dazed. He had formed a team with swag called GX and the hype levels surrounding the team was incredibly high. Those expectations could never be met and the vision of Dazed as the savior leader of NA or swag as an all-time great player were dashed. For Dazed had been too many years away from the game and had started to enjoy the streamer/content creator life more than he did competition. Swag was good, but was never the player the community made him out to be. This eventually ended with the GX players playing with Steel. With the blessing of his former teammates, Steel took on the Torqued brand and now he along with AZK and swag formed the core of that team.
Since the team has reunited under Steel, along with Matt “Pollo” Wilson and Kenneth “koosta” suen, they have been on the rise. In the last few months they have risen to the top of ESEA. At their first LAN back, they played at the CS Summit 2. They were a completely new team at the time as they had been together for six days and didn’t play at their best. Despite that, they defeated Vega Squadron, and though they ended up losing, that one victory must have been surreal. Months later they followed it up by qualifying to DreamHack Tours over Ghost Gaming, Swole Patrol, and compLexity. For ESL ONE Belo Horizonte, they defeated Bravado, NRG, Rogue, and compLexity. Throughout all of this, steel has proven his mettle as a leader for the team and is often the player top fragging as well.
Steel’s redemption has come full circle and his story resonates with the community. This is a player who had put in the grind, who put in the work because of his love for the game. He made a mistake and after initially mishandling it, he has owned up to it. He has accepted that what he has done is wrong. It is also a story of the community as they were willing to accept that the ex-IBP players had made a mistake and they should be punished. But after their punishment, they have been reformed and it shows that people can change, people can learn from their mistakes.
But most of all, this is about a player who has put his life into Counter-Strike. It’s about a player who put his heart and soul into competitive Counter-Strike. For one mistake, he was cast out, but now that he has atoned, now that the community has changed, he has been given a second chance. Steel can never get the years back he lost, he can never compete in a Valve Major circuit. But he can once again compete in the biggest lans, he can once again get the chance to meet and face the best in the world, and perhaps that is enough.