One of the quirks of esports compared to regular sports is that in addition to the normal complexities of competition, esports match-ups regularly require dealing with technical issues as well. For example, during this year's League of Legends World Championship series, multiple heroes were banned from being picked for the whole of the tournament when a reproducible bug was discovered.
That's frustrating, but perhaps the most devastating thing for an esports competitor to deal with is a mid-game disconnect. That's the story coming out of Dreamhack Winter's Hearthstone Grand Prix in Sweden today.
In the video above, you can watch a match-up between Borsss and Zetalot during the round of 16 portion of the event. All is going fine, beyond Borsss playing his tempo mage deck kind of greedy for a tournament setting. Then, four-and-a-half minutes into the match, something strange happens.
Here's the setup: Borsss has a flamewaker on the board, a minion that shoots off two hits of damage to random targets every time a spell is cast. However, Zetalot has silenced the flamewaker, removing that special effect. Borsss plays an Unstable Portal spell followed by an Arcane Blast, but then he suddenly can be seen pulling down his headset and throwing his hands up, visibly upset.
The casters initially assume that Borsss must have forgotten that his flamewaker was silenced and was thus upset that his random blasts of damage didn't go off. This seems like a huge mistake for serious tournament play, however, and as the camera cuts away from the game the casters instead suggest that a disconnect must have happened.
Eventually, a call is made and Borsss and Zetalot restart their match-up from the beginning. Zetalot goes on to lose the game and the series, despite (arguably) being slightly in the advantage at the time of the disconnect.
The Hearthstone subreddit has exploded with chatter about the controversial game, including some suggestion that the disconnect was all just a trick to help Borsss make up for his mistake in not realizing his flamewaker was silenced.
This screencap from Reddit user Doompriest seems to disprove that particular conspiracy theory by showing the disconnect error message on Borsss' screen in the lower left corner:
A representative from Dreamhack confirmed this to Polygon:
"We've spoken with the head admin and can confirm it was the Hearthstone client crashing, therefore the game was remade."
As usual, the simplest answer is the correct one. Still, this is a frustrating occurrence during a major tournament, and another example of the growing pains esports faces as the competition and prize pools balloon bigger than ever before.
If you'd like to follow along, Dreamhack's Hearthstone Grand Prix is ongoing over the rest of the weekend. You can check it out on the Dreamhack Hearthstone Twitch channel.