Delhi, Dota and some Counter Strike – A recap of AFK's journey at the ESL India Premiership Masters

Shounak Sengupta

25th, Dec, 2016
With a suitcase full of winter clothing, enough to survive Siachen, I made my way to the AFK gaming headquarters (before you overthink it, it's a room in Nishant a.k.a ClouDx’s house). Both of us were headed to the Delhi Comic Con where the Masters were taking place – a finale to the ESL India Premiership season. Hailing from a land where winter means turning down the fan speed by a single point, we were a bit skeptical about the Delhi cold. I found out that being the old man that he is, senpai has done a full Mumbaikar. Thermals as well as gloves. Fortunately I talked him out of taking his snow boots and feather jacket. As I walk into his house, and I can hear a cast going on inside and as the game winds down and I begin to settle down for the next couple of games we both decide to pick up pollution masks as well because why stop at gloves?
Day 1: The Grind
I’ll start the story from the beginning right back to day 1 of the Masters.  With 6 bo1’s and 2 bo3’s to cast and a flight to catch, it was already looking like a long day. Fortunately nazo had agreed to help us out. I solo casted my share of 2 games with both of them being pretty much stomps. BI destroyed Oram Po in a display of clinical execution while IW outclassed Standin 5 and sent them to the lower bracket. After a bit of a break it was finally time for a dual cast, as nazo and I settled down for the Council Vs IW. It turned out to be the best game of the day as the Bangladeshi squad put on a fabulous show of strategy, skill and Chen as Crowley and co had no answer to Jin’s Chen and Len’s mid Skywrath Mage. We finally pushed for the airport and even though our flight got delayed by quite a bit we surorisingly were'nt too bothered. We finally reached Delhi post 12 and it was pretty late by the time we checked in to the hotel. Still hungry from the long journey, both of us were a bit grumpy but with no choice at 1 a.m in a foreign city, we decided to suck it up and turn out the lights.
Day 2: The Metro – Delhi’s haste rune
Thankfully, day 2 was meant to start late for us and we took our time with breakfast before heading over to the venue. We met up with Gautam a.k.a Virkaholic who was in charge of setting up the stage and other technical aspects and also be led the production. From the venue we headed over to the NODWIN offices all the way at the other end of the city to cast the days games. Fortunately for us, Delhi has an insanely good metro system and we made it to the office without much hassle. There we met up with AFK’s resident joker and our third caster Veewake, who had flown in early to help with the player photo shoots (which by the way turned out pretty sweet). I managed to catch the tail end of the last CS:GO match, where D5 managed to pull off a savage 2-0 over fan favorites Team Brutality. The first Dota 2 action kicked off with IW picking up a simple straight up victory over Circle Gaming but it’s the second series which managed to deliver the most edge of the seat action at the Masters. Nepalese side 3C4DA and Chennai based Oram Po picked up a game each and with one team set to be knocked out, the stakes were quite high. The game went back and forth, with some crazy bloopers, misplays, highlight worthy clips and the momentum changing from one side to the other in the blink of an eye. But 3C4DA pulled off a very commendable comeback to seal the series in what can be described as one of the best endings I’ve seen in quite a while.
Day 3: Comic Con bound
Day 3 started off on a bit off a sour note as I got mobbed on the way to the venue because a bank on the way had run out of money  #JustDelhiThings. Things got pretty violent pretty fast and all I could do is sit and facepalm in my Uber. As a result I missed the first Dota game of the day and Veewake and ClouDx started the party without me. But on happier note, we witnessed the main stage setup in all it’s glory for the first time. It looked pretty amazing, and we could see lights and cameras everywhere. I managed to catch a bit of the Dota game in action (It was the lower bracket semi finals IW Vs 3C4DA). IW won 2 games pretty comfortably, with the Nepalese team barely able to land a blow on them. I was pretty excited for CS:GO game as I got to see Risky in action live. Map 1 they decimated Destructive 5 on dust 2, but it was map number 2 where things began to get interesting. Train got pulled into overtime after D5 manage to get some pretty crucial late game rounds but ultimately Risky took the map and the game at 22-18. A monstrous 50 frag performance from Greenz who is one of the newer members in the Risky squad. 
Next up was the last Dota game of the day and everyone was pretty excited. It was BI Vs The Council with both sides known to play some very disciplined Dota. No_chance let the Chen slip through and then proceeded to completely shut down the Council as BI read Council like an open book in game 1.  I was on observing duty for game 2, because Veewake wanted to get in on the action (pulls out his signature puppy dog face that’s ever so hard to refuse) and it was my first time obsing. Messed up quite a bit because not too used to smooth drag but I got to learn a lot as well. A much closer game this time with Council winning the early and mid game, but No_chance and BI using impeccable decision making to avoid fights and split push their way to victory in true BI fashion. Finally having pulled ahead in farm, BI took the fight on their own terms, crushing the Bangladeshi side and picking up the series. Very very impressive stuff from No_Chance, in both the games, showing what a true genius he really is. The 3 AFK boys finished off the day with some nice Delhi Biriyani and Kebabs.
Day 4: The AFK gang

Finally got to meet much of the AFK squad apart from the 3 Bombay boys. Have been in touch with them for over 6 months now but never met them personally. All really good kids and hard workers. There is Fenux, our resident photoshop maestro who also brought us some bomb homemade desserts. Bazzinga, who was in charge of the video content and hopefully will be putting up the aftermovie soon. NKT, the CS:GO video editor who was also in charge of the aftermovie. Vaibhav, who clicked some amazing photos some of which has been uploaded and finally S1NA who we only called because he has a car and would drive us around. There was only one game to be casted for the day, a grudge match between IW and the Council. Seemed like IW learned their lesson and realized the enemy mid laner LEN doesn’t have too big of a hero pool. With Skywrath mage banned, Len went for the Ember but honestly the hero has been quite underwhelming this patch. With Bocha on point on his Sand King and Passol’s Disruptor to back him up, the teamfights went pretty much one sided as IW picked up game 1. In game 2, LEN managed to get a solo kill on Archmage’s Tinker which was pretty fun to see, but it was  a one man show with Evil Ash showing some Jerax level plays on his Earth Spirit. Crowley too on his LS racked up the farm and eventually they managed to create enough space for Tinker to make a comeback. From that point on, Skywrath was jumped on by A35 almost every fight and taken out in the beginning and the fights went only one way after that. IW picked up game 2 as well to set up a date with BI in the grand finals. In Counter Strike we saw, IW Vs D2D which turned out to be a feisty affair. IW got a bit lucky with the third map with it being train and picked up the series with psy doing psy things all around. In the second series, D2D was up against favorites Risky, but Risky were feeling savage having been knocked down to the lower bracket by D2D. It was a gory affair, with Risky showing no mercy, no pity and picking up the series in an emphatic 2-0. Felt a little upset that D2D (personal favorites) got knocked out, but with 2 standins, impressed with their play as well. Last up was the show match between some of the NODWIN folks and personalities as well as players. They chose to call it an ‘all star’ match but I doubt any of them really know what it means. It basically boiled down to a trash talking extravaganza more than anything else. But it’s always nice to see ClouDx getting knifed in the back. We finished off the day with dinner with the AFK crew with Crowley from IW joining us as well.
Day 5: The Grand finale
Day 5 kicked off with the Dota grand finale. Unfortunately it was early in the day and the comic con gates hadn't opened yet, which meant that the crowd wasn't there to witness the games. But with Redbull providing us perma Bloodlust, we started the stream and got on with the cast. BI ripped apart IW in game 1, and you could see the difference in team play and shot calling as both sides played out the game. Archmage’s decision to put Roshan in the Astral costs his team quite a bit, as IW lost the rosh fight, the aegis as well as the game. In game 2 they last picked an Alchemist and put Tinker on the safelane which was very bizarre to see. BI punished the Tinker quite a bit, but fortunately Alch managed to get the ball rolling picking up a well timed Radiance. IW try and play the map with the Tinker and the Alch, but No_chance on his Nyx was everywhere getting kills and more importantly, information for his team.
His movement was delightful to watch and he single handedly created enough space on his side for his Luna and Invoker to keep farming. The action kept going back and forth, but in the end, an Alch and a Tinker just didn't have the tools to deal with a late game Luna, Invoker and LC, as BI picked up the game, the series and the trophy. Next up was the cosplay competiton, and my mind was blown by the talent and creativity that those guys/gals have. Each and every cosplay was mind blowing, but was happy to see Purple Shrimp win. The CS:GO finals had a huge crowd cheering for the Indian side IW, especially for local boy Simar “psy” Sethi. But Risky were definitely the better team, and it showed as Osman the standin/coach stepped up big time in both maps to help his side walk away with the trophy. Finally the Masters came to an end, and after a photo op with various groups we left the venue for the last time. My AFK crew abandoned me as they headed back to the hotel (they said too tired, it was more like too old). I headed out for some post event revelry with Crowley, Vageesh and Farhan(was joined by Phobia and Manoj later as well). It was pretty late by the time we came back, but I still spent a couple of hours awake as the patch notes for 7.00 just came out. Dead tired and sleepy I failed to understand this cruel joke played on us by Icefrog and called it a night.
TLDR; Great event, loads of fun. Met a bunch of new people. Easy casts, no marathon casting required. Shoutout to all the new people I met, the AFK gang, Team Council from Bangladesh, Antidote from D2D, Purple Shrimp (congratulations on Genting), Archie from JAGs, a lot of the Nodwin guys who were working their asses off, Vageesh who is always high on life, the SoStronk crew who are always so much fun to talk to, special shout out to Anand “petrichor” Shankar who was handling the in game production, and was ever so willing to answer all my queries.
Bonus shoutout to Sid Joshi, Shodhanth Ramaswamy and Bari/Zedisbugg who saved mine and Raunak’s butts when we were lost in Delhi and running out of charge on our phones. For full story, drop me a message. It's 18+.

[Picture Credits : ESL India]


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