Solid CS:GO fundamentals, game sense and comms put brax as one of the best players in VALORANT

18:00, 28 May 2020

Braxton "brax" Pierce might be the best VALORANT player in the world. The retired CS:GO player formerly known as “swag” has been committed to the game looking for a new chance to make his name. He joined up with the multigaming organization T1 along with his longtime teammate Keven "AZK" Larivière, as well as Austin "crashies" Roberts and Victor "food" Wong. The team has been quiet for a while, trying to scout for a fifth player to complete the starting line-up. Having made the final of 5 out of the 6 tournaments, he has personally joined (some without his T1 teammates) and having won 3 of those, brax has a legitimate claim to the early adopter’s crown. What role does he play for T1 and what makes him so exceptional? Using the eye-test on top of statistics provided by CypherCam.org, we look at brax’s performances during T1 x Nerf Gamers Invitational in which the team filled up with CS:GO player Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski and also retired CS:GO player Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham.

Brax VALORANT
Image via CypherCam.org

What does brax do for T1?

As previously mentioned, T1 are in a limbo state without a full line-up of 5 so pinning brax to a definitive role which he’ll inhabit in the future might be misguided. During their run in this tournament, brax would play a lot of entry positions, playing Phoenix and Raze for most of his games but also playing Cypher for three maps. With 15.38% he had by far the most entry frags on his team, with EliGE and crashies coming in at 9.23% each.

Especially on Phoenix where he got the first kill of a round 17.05% of the time, brax turned into a focal point for his team’s success. Naturally as an entry, he also had the highest first death ratio but by the fact that T1 would only lose half the rounds in which brax died first, we can conclude that the core of T1 are not only solid themselves but that brax also rarely dies without trading value in the form of either a kill or a good chunk of cooldowns and information. What’s rather unusual for his position is that brax also consistently has the most kills on his team at 23.34% of his team’s kills, finishing the tournament with a score of 162-134 (+28) even though he had the second-lowest amount of trade kills (21, crashies had 18).  
 
While brax didn’t show himself as a decisive shot caller, he communicated concisely and inserted creative ideas into the discussion, allowing his team to find tactical solutions by consensus. Keeping track of his opponent’s utility and ultimates, brax also makes his team aware of the options his opponents have and reminds his team to prepare for those scenarios.  

On the fly thinking and solid mechanics 

Take the following play for example: Brax is tasked to hold garage close, to allow for quick rotations into C if help is needed. Calling out important information such as hearing an opponent jump in window, he asks AZK to kill the drone trying to scout him. As he realizes that his teammate won’t make it in time to hide his location, brax destroys the drone by himself and proceeds to flash out doors and swing, finding three unsuspecting opponents. Even though peeking into three is a worst-case scenario, brax manages to find a favourable trade, killing Sage and lighting two other opponents up.

While it isn’t textbook play, brax’s game sense allows him to consistently find off-beat engagements his opponents aren’t prepared for. Brax read that Sova knew about his position based on where his drone was killed from and was lining up an almost assured solid hit from his Storm Bolt. Instead of taking free damage, brax decides to take the duel. Even though three opponents tried to bait him for a free kill, brax’ solid mechanics and progressive thinking allows him to turn an unfavourable position into a solid trade.

Points for improvement – ultimate use

As expected for a CS:GO player, the concepts some abilities and especially ultimates is the part of the game’s core design which would give brax the most trouble. Statistically speaking, his ultimate usage is below average.

Brax VALORANT

While Cypher admittedly isn’t his main agent and the sample size is rather small, brax’s ultimate efficiency (as calculated by rounds won with ultimate minus rounds won when ultimate is used) with Neural Theft leaves a lot to be desired. For comparison, the average win rate of a round in which Cypher uses Neural Theft is 9.85%, brax’s is at -7,14% meaning that his team loses more rounds than they win when he uses it, strongly hinting towards mistiming it, even though there is a possibility that his teammates are just exceptionally bad at playing around it. Even his Run It Back ultimate efficiency is below average at 5.7% (2% below avg.).  
 
On Raze, however, brax shines, getting an extraordinary amount of kills with the ultimate far beyond the average and regularly deciding rounds with it (13.44%, avg. at 4.91%). VALORANT’s game design combines aspects from many different esports games and it’s only naturally that players master the overlapping mechanics of the games they come from first and have to play a catch up race on the aspects that are new to them. While brax’s ultimate usage on some agents is at least statistically behind, on others like Raze, he’s already become a monster and regularly makes the difference even against the best opposition currently available. 

Conclusions 

Brax combines crisp CS:GO fundamentals and comms with and increasingly adept understanding of the cooldowns and abilities, taking advantage of his outstanding mechanics but also being a smart player who seemingly contributes a lot to his team’s tactical output. This combination makes him one of the best competitive streamers to watch when trying to improve your game. He’s also a solid choice as a player to follow, as his career is likely to lead him to the top of at least the initial phase of competitive VALORANT.


Images via Riot Games and CypherCam

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