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Polaris team captain Zoe “Zoessie” Servais and her then-teammate Sophia “slaze” Ramirez received a short email the day after their qualification for VALORANT Champions Tour Game Changers Series 3 that left them devastated.
“I’m reaching out because our anti-cheat team found conclusive evidence of your main account (Slaze#444) being associated with boosting,” the email said. “This falls under a violation of TOS so we will be issuing a three month ban from all Riot affiliated events.”
Boosting is a form of cheating in which a high-ranked player uses a low-ranked player’s account, or plays on a separate account with the low-ranked player, to increase their rank, normally in exchange for money.
Later messages stipulated that the Polaris squad could still compete in Game Changers 3 as long as they found a suitable substitute by Sept. 29. However, getting such news a day after the squad had fought through a gauntlet of signed teams to qualify hit hard.
The entire Polaris team hopped into a Discord call together to discuss what was going on and to get slaze’s side of the story. They sent frantic messages and even called the Florida native as she was sleeping in a different state across the country.
“Our mood literally shifted all the way down from being completely ecstatic, to just stomped into the ground,” Zoessie said.
Initially, the team didn’t know what to think. The email, to them, almost looked like a scam outside of the Riot email attached to it. The message was only two paragraphs long and did not feature any Riot paraphernalia, such as a signature or anything else implying officiality.
The tournament officials, and the Riot Games administrators that the team contacted, did not provide any answers to Polaris’ inquiries into the ban. All Zoessie and her team had to go off of was slaze’s word and their own intuition.
“We thought either she was boosted or she was boosting,” Polaris manager Sakura, who declined to be identified by her full name, said. “And we were just like, no, she performed though.”
Later on, Riot specified the ban was for bussing, a cousin to boosting, where players queue with someone using cheats to achieve inflated ranks.
When slaze did join the call, she said someone at Riot was targeting her and that she was in no way boosted or boosting in VALORANT. Zoessie, who personally recruited slaze as her first teammate for Polaris, said she had every reason to believe slaze. According to Sakura, when Riot did get back to them about their questions, they couldn’t share any specifics other than the ruling.
“In our minds, at the time, it all added up to kind of how what slaze is saying: She’s being set up, she’s being targeted by someone else outside of Riot or someone’s influencing someone at Riot to get her suspended or banned or whatnot,” Zoessie said. “That was our mindset at the time. We really had nothing to go off of, and again, why we were inclined to kind of believe what she was saying?”
Slaze is going no where mind you. Regardless of the outcome this weekend, we are still standing by our teammate and will continue to support her.
— Zoe (@Zoessielol) September 27, 2021
Months after her ban, slaze is still pleading her innocence. She said she’s still working to get Riot to release the full video of what got her banned and the alleged “multiple red screens” that warned her she was playing with a cheater and continued doing so.
The former Polaris player isn’t sure what’s next, but she insists on one thing: She does not deserve to be banned, and if anything, she was a victim.
Slaze claims she did not know the person she was playing with was a cheater and that the Riot Anti-Cheat team has been trying to ban her and the cheater for months. She declined to elaborate on how she knew this.
“I have no way of knowing this person I’m playing with is cheating because he’s not blatantly cheating,” slaze said. “I’ve watched him whiff multiple times. I watched him be s***ty when he’s tired playing at night. I have clips of it, too, have him whiffing [shots] that I would roast him for.”
She claims to have met the cheater, called “forever” on Discord, during a live stream on her Twitch channel about two months before her ban. He asked to queue with her and from there slaze would duo ranked with forever after scrims or at the end of her day following their first encounter. Slaze said she never learned the cheater’s real name.
“He was a good player,” slaze said. “And also, usually I always solo queue, so having someone to queue with is the reason why I kept playing with him.”
After her ban came through, she said she confronted forever about the cheating allegations and said he copped to the crime.
Slaze added that she eventually blocked forever and has not spoken to him since. She said he is still playing with small streamers like herself and laments the fact that he remains active and unbanned.
Forever also allegedly sells high-ranked VALORANT accounts for money, and slaze said the Riot Anti-Cheat team has been trying to ban him for months. She declined to name the streamers she claims forever is queuing with because she does not want them to get banned as well.
“The Riot system can’t detect the cheats he used supposedly, so I don’t know how they know he’s cheating,” slaze said. “And he’s not banned. So, I mean, if he’s cheating and Riot says he’s cheating, then he’s cheating. That has nothing to do with me, though.”
riot first told me it was account boosting and now it’s a cheater(that isn’t banned)…
— sophie (@slaze444) September 30, 2021
Slaze’s contention with the Riot ruling is she says she only received one red screen while playing with forever. According to her, this red screen was due to a cheater aim botting, using a program to aim for them, on the enemy team.
Slaze has since asked Riot to release the videos of her receiving multiple red screens but Riot has yet to oblige. Riot declined to provide video evidence when approached by Upcomer, pointing to the original ruling.
“If they show the VOD, they’ll show they’re wrong. They’ll show that yeah, there was somebody aim-botting, and then I got a red screen, and that was it,” slaze said. “Other than that, they have literally nothing on me. That’s why they can’t really permanently ban me.”
Slaze even contacted a local lawyer to see if she could sue the game developer. But without monetary loss due to the ban — like wages from an esports organization — the lawyer said she did not have much of a case.
Slaze has served her ban as of Dec. 20, the date given at the end of Riot’s report, and Dec. 27, three months to the day after her ban was implemented. However, while she seemed apprehensive about returning to the women’s scene after first speaking with Upcomer, she later tweeted she was looking for a team in VALORANT and listed her accomplishments in the scene, including qualifying for Game Changers 3. Those tweets have since been deleted; the damage to her reputation, right or not, remains a hurdle that will be tough to overcome.
At this time, slaze said she is currently looking for a different lawyer to review her case to sue Riot in an effort to force the developer to release the videos of her receiving multiple red screens.
The day before the Riot ruling, slaze even sent a message to Riot Anti-Cheat Analyst Mohamed Al-Sharifi, better known as GamerDoc, over Twitter. She used to send him and the VALORANT Anti-Cheat Police Department account names that she thought were using cheats in high-ranked matches, alongside many high-ranked streamers and professional players.
“You can’t ban me for an account I’ve solo queued to Immortal every Act,” she wrote in the chat.
“Talk to the appropriate channels, I can’t help you,” GamerDoc responded.
Slaze responded with a raised eyebrow emoji.
“GamerDoc, I know the truth,” slaze wrote. “You know the truth.”
‘I saw the potential she had’
While slaze was the first member Zoessie recruited onto Polaris, she said she knew bringing in the 20-year-old would be a risk. Slaze had garnered a small reputation in the community as a player who is not afraid to call people out or get aggressive with tournament officials.
“I’d never played with her competitively before,” Zoessie said. “I’d always wanted to because I saw the potential she had. But I knew behind the scenes she had a mouth on her.”
The situation became more complicated as the suspension became public knowledge — first in the Game Changers official Discord through an administrator announcement and then on Twitter thanks to Shopify Rebellion player Kiana “KP” Lytle posting the announcement.
“My genuine reaction was ‘what the f***, why did she get banned,’ and I thought others would have more information or be buzzing about it on Twitter,” KP said about posting the announcement online.
Due to unforseen circumstances, Slaze has been suspended and will not be participating in this weekend's VCT:GC for her account being associated with boosting. All of us at Polaris do not condone or have had any knowledge of these actions outside of our matches and practice.
— Polaris (@PolarisVAL) September 27, 2021
Slaze also had her own moment in the sun on Twitter that day, posting the Riot email on her own timeline. Zoessie then quickly told both KP and slaze to take down their tweets, and they eventually obliged. But the damage had been done, and the word was out.
The response was mixed. While some people sided with Riot due to goodwill from the community for how they handled cheaters in the past, the lack of public evidence meant some people gave slaze the benefit of the doubt. Many within the community, and those Upcomer interviewed, had not even heard of bussing until the Riot ruling.
“I know a lot of the gals on Polaris, and I know that they wouldn’t willfully play with someone who would be cheating or would be using any kind of that stuff to get an unfair advantage,” Mimi “aEvilcat” Wermcrantz, a commentator for Game Changers and VCT, said.
“Further investigation revealed slaze’s consistency in queuing with a cheater and requeuing with them after receiving the Red Screen,” the report said. “In the past 28 days, slaze received the Red Screen and requeued with cheaters on multiple occasions, with at least four new accounts employed by cheaters after the initial ban.”
Riot also pointed out its commitment to targeting cheaters and bussers in competitive and higher ranks back in January of 2021. The VALORANT Anti-Cheat: Winter Update even stipulated a 90-day ban for bussing offenders.
From that point, public opinion shifted against slaze, especially after she doubled down on her innocence the day before the ruling in a Twitlonger titled “The Truth.”
In around 400 words, slaze detailed her side of events to the public with a small snippet of the Riot email included. Slaze said she started crying once she figured out she was banned due to how much work she, and her teammates, had put into making the tournament.
She also said that she was being personally attacked by someone at Riot, and that her account has not been banned. At the time of publishing, her main account is not searchable on multiple VALORANT account tracking websites.
“THIS IS A TARGETED ATTACK AT ME. I’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG,” slaze wrote. “What I was told is someone doesn’t like me and they talked to their friend at Riot and wanted me to be completely banned from my accounts and tournaments, they don’t have enough ‘evidence’ so they can’t even touch my accounts.”
Slaze said she received multiple death threats on Twitter following the ruling. She has not returned to competitive VALORANT play since.
Post-ban life for slaze and Polaris
Polaris have come out of the slaze scandal relatively unscathed. While it did hurt their Game Changers 3 run, they fielded an emergency substituted and were knocked out of the tournament in the first round.
— Polaris (@PolarisVAL) September 30, 2021
Today, the team is still together and playing in tournaments. They are even in the process of finding a team to sign them, with an agent helping in the search. The team recently played in the co-ed tournament Knights VALORAMAPAGE, bowing out in the Round of 64 open qualifiers.
“I didn’t have much to say to her at that time,” Zoessie said about kicking slaze off the team the day the ruling came out. “I don’t really have much to say to her now, either. There’s really nothing to say. I mean, she’s still going with that lie.”
According to Zoessie, kicking slaze out quickly and coming out against her online bought the team a lot of goodwill with the community.
Slaze herself has gotten back into streaming VALORANT and doesn’t seem keen on returning to the competitive community at the moment.
“I don’t want to be in that community of weirdos,” she said when asked why she deleted her look for team posts. “I was going to play again, but in the long run though it’s not worth it.”
Declan is an esports journalist and part-time editor for Upcomer. He is an avid gamer and League of Legends player. You can find him at the bottom of the leaderboard in most games or on Twitter.