'Is she even real?' Controversy swirls over identity of Hearthstone's top female pro
On Dec. 31, Hyerim "MagicAmy" Lee became Hearthstone's highest profile female pro. The enigmatic player had seemingly come out of nowhere to win the sixth week of the ESL Legendary Series, one of the biggest online tournaments of the year, on Dec. 27. And to top off that surprise victory, a few days later she signed with Tempo Storm, a team run by one of the game's most popular personalities, Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk.
Lee was previously a complete unknown. Outside of a public role in helping popular pro Jeffrey "Tarei" Liu prepare for his appearance at the World Championships, she has never appeared at an event in person or streamed on Twitch. Both Lee and Tempo Storm claim the player has a background in Starcraft: Brood War in Korea, but there's little evidence to prove it.
Now, Hyerim Lee's story and mysterious origins have embroiled the player in a bizarre controversy, as her fellow players and a former teammate have raised doubts about her very identity. Is MagicAmy even real?
The controversy, like many others in esports, began on Reddit. Earlier today, Eric "Specialist" Lee, one of Hyerim Lee's former teammates, claimed that she had screenshared with others while playing in the ESL Legendary Series, though he provided no evidence to substantiate this claim. (And it's worth noting that Eric Lee himself has been at the center of some controversy, as he was banned by Blizzard for cheating in October 2014.) He alleged that these people coached her during the games and helped her win. Adding to the mystery, Hyerim Lee pulled out of the ESL Legendary Series earlier today, citing visa issues, after qualifying for the LAN finals in California.
Hyerim Lee's story and mysterious origins have embroiled the player in a bizarre controversy.
Shortly after the Reddit thread hit the top of r/hearthstone and its 200,000 readers, a pair of pro Hearthstone players, Keaton "Chakki" Gill and Lewis "Blackout" Spencer, released a dump of screengrabs that they said, in total, added up to significant circumstantial proof of Eric Lee's claims. Specifically, the screengrabs hinted that the account that belonged to Hyerim Lee was actually run by a Canadian man, William Blaney.
My own reporting provides other links to Blaney. When I reached to Hyerim Lee's official Twitter account, @TempoMagicamy on Jan. 30 for a separate story, she passed along a Skype ID, "qkrtncu," as a way to get in touch with her. But other sites list that Skype account as belonging to William Blaney.
That includes penpal site Interpals. Both Hyerim Lee and William Blaney had separate profiles and are shown in pictures together. But Hyerim Lee told the Daily Dot this is because the two had once dated, claiming that they had "shared the same ID name on a website where we met"—though Hyerim Lee and Blaney's profile on Interpals share no details other than the Skype account.
The connections between accounts named "qkrtncu," "MagicAmy" and William Blaney do not stop there. A Facebook profile with the URL Facebook.com/MAGICAMY, which has since been deleted, directed to the profile of William Blaney. An account with the name "qkrtncu" also wrote posts on Hearthbuddy, a Hearthstone botting forum, though Hyerim Lee told the Daily Dot that this was not her. A Twitter account named "William Blaney", also since deleted, had the username "@magicamy_65199."
Additionally, one high-ranking source within ESL told the Daily Dot that Hyerim Lee twice changed her reason for withdrawing from the ESL Legendary Series. She first claimed that she had no passport, then that she didn't have a visa, and then finally that her parents were not allowing her to attend. That story differs from her claim on Reddit that visa issues were exclusively to blame.
Tempo Storm Vice President of Operations Dan "Frodan" Chou emphasized that the player should be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
"Rest assured, we are as eager to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible," Chou said in a comment on Reddit. "We will do a full investigation on these accusations and report back once we have definitive conclusive evidence."
Is MagicAmy even real?
Indeed, the evidence that has been dug up, including the original information provided by Gill and Spencer, ultimately adds up to little more than circumstantial evidence. There's no direct proof that anyone other than Hyerim Lee has ever played Hearthstone as MagicAmy. And until fans see Hyerim Lee playing Hearthstone professionally with their own eyes, these questions about her true identity aren't likely to go away.
Illustration by Max Fleishman