Image: Valve (Dota 2)

When Juan “Atuun” Ochoa was accused of cheating at Dota 2, he was playing one of its most complicated heroes, a grotesque-looking gnome who can clone himself, trying to help his team win the South American qualifiers for the 2018 International. Ochoa’s actions resulted in his team being disqualified, its dreams of attending August’s $14.7 million prize pool tournament shattered. The team denies any cheating took place, although its explanation doesn’t seem entirely waterproof..

Here’s what happened: Yesterday, Ochoa’s team Thunder Predator faced Brazilian team SG e-sports in a best-of-three series. By the third game, some people on Reddit noticed that something fishy appeared to be going on. Ochoa, playing as the hero Meepo, looked to be activating the characters’ Poof ability way too quickly. Poof lets one Meepo teleport to another Meepo, dealing damage in a small area of effect both where he started from and where he ends up. If used when all of them are in the same place, it can cripple opponents nearby. The catch is that .all of Meepo’s clones have to be controlled individually, including when they use Poof, meaning that even the most skilled players will have some delay in trying to activate the ability across all of them.

A dead give-away that something weird was going on was when the match’s combat log showed the same ability happening at the same time across three different Meepo.
Screenshot: Reddit

A Reddit user named caiovigg decided to investigate and, after looking at the match’s combat log, saw that each version of Meepo was tagged as having used the ability at the exact same moment. People proceed to accuse Ochoa of using a “macro,” computer terminology for a set of instructions that can be activated in a single batch. People use macros in Excel to quickly format reports, in MMOs to use repeat combinations of spells during fights, and in esports to cheat.

Ochoa’s team were initially declared the winners of the series, which would have placed them in the running to qualify for Valve’s annual Dota 2 International in August. But upon further review, sparked in part by caiovigg’s Reddit post, the organization running the qualifiers, found that Ochoa was indeed using some sort of shortcut that went against the event’s rules. Further scrutiny revealed Ochoa had done the same with a different character in another match as well, making it appear clear this wasn’t just an accidental one-off or a simple misunderstanding.

Thunder Predator was disqualified today as a result, making this the second time this year the team has been at the center of a controversy: In March, one of its players was dropped for attempting to fix matches. For its part, the team has been defiant, saying in a statement released earlier today that no cheating took place and the people saying otherwise were ”of an offensive and malicious character.”

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The team contends that the odd behavior was not caused by a script running in the background, but rather one setup using button-binding software that comes with the Razer Synapse mouse Ochoa was using. This could also have been against the tournament’s rules, but Thunder Predator doesn’t believe that these special button bindings gave them an unfair advantage. I wish I could explain further, but that’s as much of an explanation as the statement attempts to offer, and Thunder Predator did not immediately respond to a request for comment. One thing that is clear coming out of the South American qualifiers is that teams are best served checking what the rules are first to make sure even potentially innocent mistakes don’t end up being their downfall.