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Top AWC Players Banned for Real Money Trading

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Two top Arena World Championship players, including a BlizzCon champion and a 2nd place finisher, received suspensions yesterday, one permanent, as both were found to be using Real Money Trading.

First off we have Emil "Zeepeye" Ek, who won last year's EU side of the AWC and had previously finished in 2nd place during the 2019 AWC BlizzCon finals, and is now suspended for 6 months. The RMT was related to "coaching", which could be interpreted as boosting by some, and Ek had a lengthy explanation of what happened and why:

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MY STORY ENDS HERE


Yesterday I was notified that both my EU and NA WoW licenses have been suspended for 6 months because of real money trading. I want to start by saying that I did participate in real money trading and therefore the suspension is justified.

I've been competing in the AWC for several years now and have been seeing a lot of success, including winning last year. However, despite my success - the current WoW Esports ecosystem does not allow players like myself who invest a significant amount of time into competing to do well financially. WoW Esports are notorious for having a relatively low prize pool in comparison to other games and just like with any other competitive game, you have to invest a significant amount of time to even have a chance of doing well.
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I am by no means defending coaching or promoting real money trading, I’m just trying to give everyone a perspective on what it’s like being a professional WoW arena player. I want people to understand why I felt forced into coaching and why it feels so unfair to be banned for something that professional players in other Esports games do not feel forced into doing all because they're actually able to make a living from competing alone. The monetary gain from competing in WoW Esports is barely a competitive annual salary, and that's just if you win. What about all the other players that give it their all to compete and do well but aren't able to be as successful? How are they supposed to support themselves? As I already said, you have to invest A LOT of time to do well in Esports, and the only way to reliably monetize that skill within WoW Esports is to coach as the Esports program does not offer a stable support system for players that compete which just leaves me wondering, why do we ban for coaching? Why is something that happens in other games a problem in WoW? I'm not sure what the answer to these questions, I just know that trying to survive on just an income from WoW Esports alone just isn't feasible.

With all of that being said, what's next for me? Well, I started consistently streaming on Twitch back in November of last year and I fully intend to continuing pursuing that path. I'm very lucky to have grown my community so quickly and am incredibly thankful for all of the support I've been getting over the last few months. Sadly this ban means it's very likely I will never compete again.

Thanks for reading and I hope that one day we all have a better solution for players that are struggling to get by with how WoW Esports are currently setup.

Secondly, a previous 1-year suspension was made permanent, as Martin "Loony" Moazzez (who shared the EU AWC 2020 win with Zeepeye and had previously won BlizzCon 2014) also participated in Real Money Trading and coaching. There's a lot more to his story, as the initial 1-year suspension actually wasn't for RMT but more complicated and, well, worse:

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RMT and Hypocrisy in the WoW Arena Scene


As most of you already know, I was disqualified from competing in the AWC for 12 months after winning the AWC BFA 2020 finals last year. Yesterday I received an email similar to the one Zeepeye received, with the main difference being that I’m permanently banned from playing WoW. I respect their decision, although I’m obviously disheartened by it.

So, why was I disqualified from the 2021 AWC? A few years ago, our relationship with “Method Black” (Whaazz, Raiku, Swapxy, Chas) deteriorated after we had gained access to private recordings of them. In these recordings they discussed how they were actively trying to get us disqualified from competing because our team was coaching. They had a few main ideas on how to achieve this, such as spam reporting us in-game and talking to the WoW Esport staff.

At this point our friendship had essentially ended, and we actively avoided communicating with any of them. I also want to point a couple important things regarding this.

First of all, our relationship with «Method Black» and Whaazz was fine, up until the point where our team started doing better than them and consistently beating them in tournaments. This is supported by the fact that Whaazz stopped complaining about the fact that our team was coaching as soon as they started winning tournaments again, including Blizzcon.

Secondly, I already had access to the recordings of «Method Black» using racial slurs, which ultimately led to them being disqualified. However, I didn’t want to expose them for this since it was never my intention to get anyone disqualified from competing.

Going into the year 2020, our relationship with «Method Black» and especially Whaazzonly got worse. Whaazz continued to use his stream in order to shame us for coaching. I tried speaking with him privately a few times to resolve all the issues from the past, and he agreed to some extent. However, his stance on coaching never really changed. He continued raising his voice publicly, calling us out for coaching.

Now, why was I disqualified from competing in 2021? While everything was happening in 2020, I made a choice I still regret to this day. Like I previously mentioned, Whaazz continued to call us out for coaching. This led to me messaging his girlfriend in-game, telling her about how Whaazz cheated on her at BlizzCon 2019. She ignored me in-game, so I continued messaging her on two new characters asking her if she didn’t care about him cheating on her.

While I do agree that what I did was wrong and completely out of line, I certainly did not expect to get a 3 day suspension for it. However, Whaazz used this and took it to the WoW Esports team, which resulted in the 3 day suspension and a year long competitive disqualification. After this happened, a video was published which ultimately got Swapxy and Raiku indefinitely banned from competing in the AWC.

Fast forward to 2021 and I’ve been coaching players in-game as a means to support myself. Yesterday I received a permanent ban from ever playing WoW again, with the reason being RMT. I believe Zeepeye already explained a lot of the reasoning behind why people coach in the WoW arena scene, so I’m not going to go too much into detail. However, I do want to state that at least one or more players from each of the top 10 AWC teams is involved in coaching for real life currency in some way, and I have evidence to prove this for every single case. These players also include Whaazz’s new teammates Zunniyaki and Thesia, which is quite ironic. After all his hate towards coaching and the people doing it, he teams up with two of the biggest coaches in Europe.

While I was able to continue coaching after receiving an indefinite suspension from competing, this permanent ban from even being able to play World of Warcraft means my time has finally come - I’m forced to now move on and find a different path in life, after spending almost the last decade playing this game. I’ve accomplished many things, including even a BlizzCon win back in 2014. Thank you to everyone that made my time in this game so meaningful, but this is it.

The Arena World Championship continues in March.

Source.

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A lack much sympathy since they knowingly broke the rules, and well done for at least admitting that, better than the daily reddit poster (I got banned but totally wasn't my fault guys... posts). Looking into the prize money, it is a little low. 3/4 person team, $50k top prize pot. They do however have Twitch/Youtube subs, though Zeep only 92 apparently on twitch, 40k followers, plus sponsorship opportunities. 

There *should* be more than enough opportunity to earn a decent wage there, given you're just playing a computer game that I assume is something they enjoy though.

I think for actual coaching, they should be allowed to do it. They're the best or some of the best, and it'd be cool to actually learn from them. However what they do likely isn't coaching, it's boosting with a nicer name.

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Man there is a lot of little kids that play this game still, and by little I mean in the mindset. I can’t believe how toxic even the upper tiers are, just play the damn game and have fun and quit being children.

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4 hours ago, Bobbis said:

 However what they do likely isn't coaching, it's boosting with a nicer name.

That's the issue. If they had gotten money and were just doing vod reviews, I'm not sure they get banned. Their being a "player-coach" at best, which like you said is really just boosting.

It sucks they can't "make a living" but I agree that they should be able to. E-sports as a whole is NOT a way to make money unless you're at the absolute top of the most meta games (League of Legends, CS:GO, etc). Wow should have enough. Even then a majority of the players outside the top 100 in the world at those games don't make enough money to not afford setting up side hustles like streaming communities, personal sponsorships, organization deals, coaching (legit coaching), commentators, etc.

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I don't understand how this was ban-able, but streamers who do "viewer games" then get dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of donations from those viewers after they hit 1800/2100 goes completely ignored. Hell, one night one of them got a "viewer" 2100 rating and the person gifted 100 subs 5 times in a row. Back to back no less. That viewer had donated nearly 2k subs to the channel at that point. They're either incredibly loaded and are exceptionally generous to that one streamer or they clearly paid for rating. 

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1 hour ago, Rtcinema said:

I don't understand how this was ban-able, but streamers who do "viewer games" then get dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of donations from those viewers after they hit 1800/2100 goes completely ignored. Hell, one night one of them got a "viewer" 2100 rating and the person gifted 100 subs 5 times in a row. Back to back no less. That viewer had donated nearly 2k subs to the channel at that point. They're either incredibly loaded and are exceptionally generous to that one streamer or they clearly paid for rating. 

It's harder to prove that it was agreed upon beforehand though and Blizz can't really get into all of that. If it was agreed then yea I'd say they absolutely should get banned too. I'm also not a fan of boosting on any level at all, whether it's for gold, viewers, or even helping other people, if you can't clear a raid yourself then too bad, live with it, either enjoy the rest of the game, keep trying to clear it or play something else...

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23 hours ago, Laragon said:

That's the issue. If they had gotten money and were just doing vod reviews, I'm not sure they get banned. Their being a "player-coach" at best, which like you said is really just boosting.

It sucks they can't "make a living" but I agree that they should be able to. E-sports as a whole is NOT a way to make money unless you're at the absolute top of the most meta games (League of Legends, CS:GO, etc). Wow should have enough. Even then a majority of the players outside the top 100 in the world at those games don't make enough money to not afford setting up side hustles like streaming communities, personal sponsorships, organization deals, coaching (legit coaching), commentators, etc.

Does it suck? There's plenty of avenues to go down to make a living out of video games, the more popular being streaming alone and making vids for youtube/twitch which seems to be enough for some. As I've seen on Reddit and other threads, the AWC and MDI are Blizz's offering into eSports, but they're not great, not well pushed, and not well funded. Knowing that, the only reason to take part really is the prestige of winning, rather than trying to make a living off of it. He's gone down a route knowing the costs/rewards, and is complaining it's not enough.

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These rules are designed for a different era of gaming.

When WoW was the only big online game boosts and gear runs by top guilds were easy to spot and justify banning because they were the monopoly and the rules were cut and dry.  Professional leagues weren’t a thing, sponsored guilds were not a thing and the idea of a professional gamer was laughable.

Now there are numerous eSports, WoW is in a steady but no longer dominant online game by player count.  There are numerous professional leagues, games that offer rich prize pools and far more lucrative tournaments and opportunities in number.   If you want a top online community of professional players they need to be able to make money any way they can.

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