North America’s Shunned Star: The story of steel | VALORANT NEWS

Joshua “steel” Nissan is one of the most controversial players in the world of First Person Shooters. The British-Canadian is a figure that has been near the top of the scene in Counter-Strike since 2010, playing at the top level in CS:Source. CS:GO is where steel came into his own though, as many consider steel to be the greatest North American in-game leader in the game. On January 26th, 2015, a proverbial bombshell was dropped: steel, alongside six others, was banned for life from any Valve-sponsored competitive CS:GO match. Others banned included: Keven “AZK” Larivière, Braxton “Brax” Pierce and Sam “DaZeD” Marine, all of whom have made the jump to VALORANT. This is a story of one of the biggest scandals in the history of Western esports, and the career of one of North America’s greatest players.

Before Global Offensive, Source.

Steel’s first top tier event was ESEA Season 5, playing with CyberRevolution in 2010, taking home third place in the LAN finals, starting what would be one of the most impressive careers over nearly a decade of CS:GO. His next two events were his final with CyberRevolution, a silver medal at ESEA Season 6 and a fourth place at LanChamp Baltimore 2010. steel closed out 2010 on Team Dynamic, with AZK and former Team Liquid CS:GO player and coach, Eric “adreN” Hoag, on the team, steel got his first top tier event victory, winning ESEA Season 7.

Moving into 2011, steel had established himself at the forefront of the CS:Source scene in North America, though he had moved on from Team Dynamic, playing and winning ESEA season 9 with Fully Torqued, a roster and name that would see a return later in his career. The Fully Torqued roster, now with DaZeD, was signed by CheckSix Gaming for ESWC 2011, an event that marked steel’s debut on the international stage. The North American side garnered attention with a third place finish, falling only to VeryGames who would go on under Envy as one of the greatest French teams, and CKRAS Gaming, who would similarly go on to form Dignitas/Astralis.

2012 was a breakout year for steel, for numerous reasons, starting with ESEA season 10, where his same roster now played under the 3DMax banner, and took home a bronze medal. A short return to the Fully Torqued name saw a fourth place at Copenhagen Games 2012 and two silver medals, one at ESEA season 11 and the other at CEVO season 13. That marked the end of his Source career barring two events, ESL Pro Series Germany 2012 and Multiplay Insomnia 46 where he played the CS:Source bracket with his new mTw team.

Before the scandal and ban

Following the end of his Source career, steel was one of the first players to make the transition to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a jump that also saw him cross regions as he joined mTw on a European roster and played from the United Kingdom for better ping. steel, who holds a British passport and has family in the country, was able to make the switch with relative ease. It was around this time that steel began to garner the notice of the international scene, especially with wins at ESL Pro Series Germany and Multiplay Insomnia 46. The Canadian especially gained attention at Multiplay Insomnia 46, falling to only VeryGames in the grand final. That VeryGames roster featured many of the core that would go on to form the top end of the French CS:GO scene over the next seven years.

That was far and away the highlight of steel’s short time with mTw, towards the end of the year the rifler, who had fully transitioned to the in-game leading role by now, was teamless. To start 2013 he joined a Dignitas roster that only managed about a month together before joining a plethora of teams as he ended his time in Europe and made the transition back to North America with most of the old Torqued core, playing under the name ‘Homeless’. A short stint back in Europe opened 2014 for steel, who despite a growing reputation as one of the top free agents in global CS:GO, couldn’t find a consistent team. On March 27th, 2014, that changed, he joined iBUYPOWER, one of the North American teams that many tipped to pip Cloud9 at the top of the ladder in North America.

Flying too close to the sun

What followed next is an absolutely stellar run of form, not just in North America, but globally. The iBUYPOWER roster was taking on all comers, and taking them on well. They won CEVO Season 4 and ESEA Season 16 Global Invite, the roster’s first defeat was in Gfinity G3, to the hands of a legendary Titan roster. After that defeat followed victories over Natus Vincere, Cloud9 and mousespaz, before a defeat in FACEIT Season 2 to Fnatic, who at the time were the consensus number one team in the world.

Things were going nearly perfectly for North America’s new superteam and rumors were swirling about interest from top level organizations from around the world, with the most reliable rumors tipping Evil Geniuses to acquire the rising roster. What happened over the next two months is one of the strangest happenings in CS:GO, and FPS’ in general. Following a second place to Fnatic and a top eight at ESWC (the top placing North American side), they removed both DazeD and steel from the roster, swiftly ending one of the most promising rosters in North America. steel re-formed Torqued and went on to compete for the rest of the year, though he struggled mightily to get to the level he achieved with iBUYPOWER, even though the Torqued roster was in many ways a revelation of steel the in-game leader. The roster streamed a majority of their scrims and matches, giving the community an insight into the mind of the man many call the greatest of the North American in-game leaders.

January 26th, 2015

January 26th, 2015, a black mark on the history of CS:GO, and perhaps the tip of an iceberg that many suspected was hidden just under a thin veneer of perceived legitimacy in competitive CS:GO, was exposed. On August 20th, 2014 at 10:00 P.M EST, a match between iBUYPOWER and commenced on de_season, and to put it bluntly, it wasn’t pretty. iBUYPOWER, the heavy favorites, made simply ridiculous plays one after another, and the match ended in a 16-4 upset. Little was thought of it at the time, it was attested to jet lag, a relaxed mood, and a dozen other things, and yet, it was later confirmed that the match was fixed. Fast-forward to January 26th, 2015, and the strictest punishment ever handed out at the top end of the CS:GO scene was levied by Valve in an official blog post. Seven different people, six of whom were players or coaches, were banned for life from any Valve-sanctioned event. In the days following, nearly every major tournament organizer followed suit, and sentenced those seven people to an indefinite ban.

The fallout

It was an unprecedented punishment, and one that clearly laid down the law for anyone who would have even a moment’s thought about match-fixing. Steel turned to streaming and playing a variety of semi-professional tournaments, alongside friends under the team name Torqued.
The competitive drive was still in the British-Canadian, who made his way to Overwatch, playing under the name “Fine, I’ll go McCree”, a roster he found mixed success on, playing in a wide range of open tournaments in the relatively young Overwatch scene. He went on to join the Splyce Overwatch roster, but had an overall poor summer, with a plethora of 7-8th place finishes before Splyce decided they should look elsewhere for their Overwatch roster, and announced open tryouts for spots on the lineup.

Following an overall underwhelming transition to Overwatch, steel returned to CS:GO, and over the course of 2017 he continued his career as a streamer, finishing near the top of a variety of professional ladders across the year. Named FACEIT Pro League and ESEA Rank S. On August 1st, 2017, the players, following months of community input and protest, were unbanned by ESL. This was a momentous occasion, though they were unable to attend Valve Majors, the pardon from ESL and quick to follow, most other major tournament organizers, allowed the ex-iBUYPOWER roster to participate in all but the major CS:GO tournaments.

steel during cs_summit, ©Beyond The Summit
steel during cs_summit, ©Beyond The Summit

Unbanned, but not unmarked

steel was free in most senses of the world, and he jumped on that opportunity nearly instantly. The in-game leader re-formed Torqued once more and continued to try and rise up through the North American scene. Their results were mixed across 2017 and early 2018, but this period was an excellent showcase for steel, who now was providing a top level threat, as well being a respected in-game leader and captain. By the end of his tenure with Torqued they were playing in high-level DreamHack, ESL and FACEIT tournaments, with showings in DreamHack Open Tours, ESL One Belo Horizonte qualifiers, and a variety of other top level tournaments.

On June 6th, 2018, after nearly four years, steel was back on a sponsored, fully-professional CS:GO team, as he joined Ghost Gaming. The team, though they could not compete in Majors, played and placed well in a plethora of tournaments in the North American sub-top scene. Winning a variety of qualifiers to make their way into DreamHack Masters Stockholm, cs_summit3, and ESL Pro League Season 8. The issue for the roster, and any roster that steel joined, was simple: no matter how well they performed, no matter how well they dominated a sub-top, or qualifier tournament, they couldn’t attend or contest for any Major. When he joined Ghost they were far from the top level, but the in-game leader and captain lead the team to a peak of #15 on the HLTV CS:GO World Rankings and many called for them to be allowed to play in the Major circuit. On June 12th, 2019, Ghost Gaming made the decision not to renew steel’s contract, and he was once again left teamless, and in an awkward position. He had shown his talent, he had shown his work ethic, his leadership, and yet… no team would touch him, at least no team with top aspirations.

steel at ESL One Belo Horizonte 2018, ©DRAFT5
steel at ESL One Belo Horizonte 2018, ©DRAFT5

Chaos… and the end

For six months steel struggled to find a team, playing on a variety of mixed/PUG teams and competing in semi-pro tournaments, though the Canadian’s work ethic didn’t waver. On November 11th, 2019, he joined Chaos Esports Club, ranked 54th in the world on HLTV. A team that no one would have begrudged steel struggling to take to the top, and yet, over the next nine months, steel and Chaos steadily rose, from quite literally nothing. Strong showings in a variety of qualifiers saw the underdog side play its way into Flashpoint Season 1 and a variety of other events across North America. On August 31, 2020, steel accomplished what he noted as a goal, Chaos had reached the HLTV top 20. Chaos, a team that no one had counted on or expected, had made it to the top 20 of the world rankings. Shortly after that momentous achievement a similarly large announcement was to follow – steel was retiring. After an illustrious career spanning well over a decade, the in-game leader was stepping back from CS:GO to pursue a career in VALORANT. In the few days since the announcement, players from the CS:GO community begged in a last ditch effort for Valve to finally unban the iBUYPOWER team, and all that followed was silence. steel was gone, one of North America’s best in-game leaders had taken yet another team to the top of the region, and just like that he was done.

steel at DreamHack Atlanta 2019, ©DreamHack
steel at DreamHack Atlanta 2019, ©DreamHack

VALORANT and names from the past

Pretty much the minute Jarek “DeKay” Lewis posted an article saying that steel was moving to VALORANT, players, casters and fans alike guessed with an eager air about where the in-game leader would land. Chaos EC posted the next day, announcing that he would be staying with Chaos as a content creator focusing on VALORANT, though many doubted this, due to the competitive nature of steel, and how sought after he would be as a free agent. Some guessed he would move to T1, some thought that he may have created his own roster, but on September 4th, 2020, all guesswork came to a close. steel was joining 100 Thieves, alongside two former CS:GO players of the absolute highest order, Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella and Spencer “Hiko” Martin. While the roster has yet to be completed, roster rumours have been flung far and wide though most interestingly have been rumours involving Quan “diceyzx” Tran and Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk. If those two were to join it would thrust 100 Thieves into a position as one of the most promising teams in North America.

This new look 100 Thieves roster is built for one reason, to compete and win world championships, VALORANT has been a new pasture for a plethora of players, and steel joins their ranks. Will North America’s shunned, disowned and forgotten prodigal son make his return? steel has been on an upward trajectory since his first days in CS: Source, and now one of North America’s best in-game leaders has the chance to compete in any tournament, and join the world’s biggest stages.

What do you think? Will steel shine on the biggest stages in the world, do you think 100 Thieves will be at the top of the global VALORANT scene as it continues to grow? Who do you want to read about next? If you missed the first installment in “The story of” series you can find it here, where we profiled Hiko, and his career of “What if’s?”.