Hearthstone pro banned from tournament after accidentally messaging admin asking for matchup advice

Over the weekend, Blizzard confirmed that they had removed Jason "Apxvoid" Coen from the competitive field at the HCT Americas Winter Playoff over allegations of cheating. This was extremely weird news for a couple of reasons. Coen has been a well-respected player in the Hearthstone community for a number of years now, and is also regarded as one the best Mage players in the world with a strong chance of qualification from the event. So it was both disorienting and disappointing to learn that he might be cheating in some capacity. However, yesterday Coen posted the customary his-side-of-the-story Twitlonger explanation that seems to follow every esports controversy. With the benefit of that context, the whole thing sounds like an incredibly unfortunate misunderstanding.

Here's what happened: Apxvoid was in the final round of the Swiss tournament, and was selected to be one of the side matches on the Twitch stream. As he was waiting, he typed the words "do I play for hard fatigue in the Warrior matchup" into the chatbox that links players back to the tournament administrator without hitting send. He was hoping to get a "nod or something" from Frank "fr0zen" Zhang, the player sitting next to him who he's friends and practice partners with, in order to ease his anxiety going into what would be a very crucial game. By the books, this is a rules violation. You can't ask anyone else in a tournament for help piloting a deck, and Apxvoid admits that he did skirt the code of conduct. 

That being said, the question he prompted didn't have anything to do with the specific match at hand. He wasn't asking what was in his opponent's opening draw, or what class he expected his opponent to queue up first. In fact, I reckon that if Coen simply asked Zhang his question out loud, rather than putting it into text, all of this could've been avoided. It reminds me of that time Serena Williams got a point docked because she was receiving coaching from the stands. One poster on Reddit compared the situation to talking about the SAT test in between breaks. Yes, technically, you're not supposed to do it, but everyone does.

Unfortunately for him, Apxvoid made the mistake of hitting the "send" button in the chatbox, which made it so the administrator was immediately alerted to Coen's indiscretion. "I minimized it and forgot about it and then a few seconds after I was notified that I could begin my game," he explains in the Twitlonger post. "Once that game ended I typed enter to tell the admin my next class pick but before I could type I guess I pressed enter twice and managed to send the message from earlier to the admin which lead them to disqualify me under the suspicion of cheating."

"I was never trying to gain a competitive advantage since the question wasn't relevant to any game in particular as it was typed in the deck select screen," he continues. "But even though I didn't realize exactly what I was doing at the time, I still broke the rules so I accept the disqualification."

Thankfully, it seems like Coen is in better spirits now that we're a day removed from the disaster. (He's already back on Twitch, trying to hit legend with Tempo Mage.) Personally, I hope Blizzard takes mercy on the kid going forward. Yeah, he messed up, but any attempted foul play that ends with you literally messaging the administrator a clerical question about control warrior seems more like a hilarious balls up rather than anything truly nefarious. Most of his colleagues seem to agree.

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At the end of the day, it just proves that the stresses of high-level Hearthstone can make you do weird things. In the same tournament we also saw Facundo "Nalguidan" Pruzzo try to Coin out an 11 mana Malygos—a play he knew wouldn't work since, like, the very first week he started playing Hearthstone. Trolden comes for us all, even when least expected.

Luke Winkie
Contributing Writer

Luke Winkie is a freelance journalist and contributor to many publications, including PC Gamer, The New York Times, Gawker, Slate, and Mel Magazine. In between bouts of writing about Hearthstone, World of Warcraft and Twitch culture here on PC Gamer, Luke also publishes the newsletter On Posting. As a self-described "chronic poster," Luke has "spent hours deep-scrolling through surreptitious Likes tabs to uncover the root of intra-publication beef and broken down quote-tweet animosity like it’s Super Bowl tape." When he graduated from journalism school, he had no idea how bad it was going to get.