The Fall edition of the ESL India Premiership 2017 kicked off earlier this week with Entity Gaming going up against JMD Gaming, and as expected, the former recorded a comprehensive victory wrapping up the game in 32 minutes, indicating that the Fall season might very well be as top heavy as the Summer season.
Last season featured, among many things, the first 8k MMR player in an Indian LAN, the end of Entity Gaming’s incredible win streak at 26 games in the Grand Finals, A safelane Lich off all things and Team IQ’s first major SEA LAN victory. The tournament also showcased some of the most impressive Dota we’ve ever seen in a competitive LAN tournament in India.
Featuring the best Dota teams in the subcontinent; The Summer season champions Team IQ, the star-studded Entity Gaming roster, the rejuvenated Aggressive 5 and the unpredictable dark horse GoFigure, the ESL India Premiership 2017 – Fall Season promises to display the best of the Indian Dota scene. Without further ado, let’s jump into this preview.
1. Entity Gaming
"When you're finished changing, you're finished." – Benjamin Franklin
Entity Gaming has undergone yet another roster shuffle to further improve their roster. They are due for a statement win. One of the Fall season favorites, now with only one Indian Player Jeet ‘Sw1fty’ Kundra, need to perform extraordinarily well in order to justify the removal of crowd favorite Balaji ‘BlizzarD’ Ramnarayan from the team.
The true strength of the retooled roster has yet to be fully revealed, however. The current iteration of Entity Gaming has not really played that many official matches. In act, they debuted their superstar roster in the Master League of the ESL Indian Premiership – Fall Season - Phase 1. And they looked just as, if not more, dominant than their previous iteration.
Their new acquisitions Seleri and Bokerino debuted in their game against JMD Gaming. While Seleri performed up to the level expected from him, Bokerino shone in the offlane role, completely outplaying the enemy trilane.
As a result of the new acquisitions, Ab1ng transitioned to the safelane while Sw1fty continues to style on his opponents in the midlane. Jobeezy, reliable as always, continues to play as the 4 position playmaker for Entity Gaming.
Entity Gaming has yet another player up their sleeve, PlayHard. The 8k MMR SEA star will also be substituted-in replacing Seleri as the Entity Organization tries to figure out which of the two players would be the better permanent addition to the squad.
2. Team IQ
“The conquerors return; upon an unfamiliar battlefield”
Love, Kumi, No7, SeoBaby^, and captain Xing surprised most of us at the Summer Season LAN Finale. If we were asked who to expect to win the Summer LAN Finale, we would have heard most of the Indian Dota fans say Entity Gaming. Instead, Team IQ prevailed. After dropping their first game of the Season to Entity Gaming in the Winner Bracket Finals, they went on to 2-1 GoFigure and in a spectacular display of Dota skill and decision making, they took a 2-0 win over Entity Gaming in the grand finals.
In a sense, Team IQ are living the dream. Coming out of nowhere, they managed to top an entire Dota region and did so in style. The thing is, it is not the first time Team IQ has surprised us, though. Their TI7 open qualifier run, where they beat teams like Quantum Esport and eventually finished in the round of 16 after losing to Team EVOS, and their flawless run through the Starter and Challenger leagues of the Summer Season showed that they could be a threat given more time to hone their skills.
The Fall season will be anything but easy as they face off against teams like Entity Gaming, Go Figure, and Aggressive 5 in the Master League. They are no longer the underdogs or the unknowns, they’ll have a huge target on their backs going into the Fall Season.
They’ve seemed to have started on a good note though, beating Go Figure in a calculated but dominant manner.
The Dark Horses
3. Go Figure
“Nothing to Lose”
GoFigure had looked like they were emerging as a powerhouse in the Indian region mere months ago. They surprised us all by winning the COBX Indian Esports Championship against a strong and experienced Aggressive 5 side. They have since gone from strength to strength performing phenomenally in all 3 phases of the Summer Season as well as being one of the only 2 teams to take a game off eventual champions Team IQ.
GoFigure have arguably the strongest pure Indian roster. They’ve managed to have had a somewhat successful start to the season with their COBX victory. But a string of losses at the hands of Entity Gaming proves that they still aren’t there yet. There is still quite a big skill gap between them and the truly elite teams. The ESL India Premiership will provide them the opportunity to close that gap, It will also be the best chance that Archmage will have in the upcoming months to see if he has what it takes to play against some stronger mid laners in the SEA region.
Drafting wise, GoFigure seems to have a clear idea of what they want to do. Where they seem to fall short is in-game execution. Often times, errant positioning leading to too many pick-offs or poor teamfight execution like trapping allies in chrono, missing spells, or just failing to all focus down the same target, leads to GoFigure putting themselves behind in games that would have been in their favor with slightly crisper play or perhaps stronger communication.
Too often do they rely on Archmage to carry the game on his back. Even in their first game of the Fall season, against Team IQ, Archmage was put in a position where he needed to 1v5 the opponent team in order to win, sadly he failed. They need to alleviate some of the pressure from him. If GoFigure can manage to do that, their drafts are actually quite strong and they have the potential to win the whole thing. Their support duo works well together and syncs up seamlessly with Snax in the mid game phase.
4. Aggressive 5
“An unstable concoction, It either blows up in the enemy’s face or their own”
An explosive team with a streak of aggression and being a source of constant mayhem, Aggressive 5 is one of premier teams in Indian Dota. Since their appearance at the ROG Master in Malaysia, Aggressive 5 has become a very popular household name amongst Indian Dota fans.
All in all, their fanbase has grown by leaps and bounds since their appearance in the Malaysian tournament back in January. For the most part, underdogs tend to be easy to cheer for, they allow us to be optimistic without the same sense of expectation. Aggressive 5 with their unique in-your-face playstyle and their charismatic players will be cheered for throughout the fall Season.
They have also shuffled their roster replacing veteran offlaner Battosai with another veteran A35. A move that further strengthens the roster as Battosai with all his experience just couldn’t get back to his Beyond Infinity era form, whereas A35 was still performing extremely well prior to being dropped from the Entity roster to make space for Ab1ng. Meanwhile, Battosai has teamed up with WeaponX, Haunter, Prophecy and Krowaz to form Team Turlte as they make their way through the Starter Cup.
Much like their namesake an Aggressive team to the core, A5 embody everything the subcontinent has come to represent. Their playstyle draws inspiration from the TI3 era Navi side, they are powered by their two main cores, and it is this one-two combination that powers them through the majority of their games.
A5’s play is built around the brilliance of Padling and Negi and it is on the backs of their #1 and #2 that they typically ride to victory. A highly competent mid player, Negi can be counted upon to win his lane, and, it must be said, to do so in style. Whether using Sunstrikes all over the map with insane accuracy or zipping around on his Storm Spirit, Negi is a mid player in the tradition of Sumail, and while he is more than capable of winning a last hit battle, he is much more comfortable flat out killing his opponents.
The other arm of this two-pronged carry lineup is Padling, one of the first ever Indian players to get to 7k MMR. He is one of the most aggressive, yet mechanically sound carries out there. And no, that’s not just flattery. Padling has been, without a doubt one of the best carries in the Indian Scene, whether he is running the Ursa or the Lifestealer, he has shown us time and time again that he is capable of walking to victory with his entire team on his back.
But, A5 will undergo a role swap in a bid to shake things up. Negi will transition to the safelane as the carry while Padling will be taking over the reigns in the middle lane. However, I would be surprised if A5 change up their playstyle. They’d still be one of the most aggressive teams in the ESL IP
As brightly as Aggressive 5’s flashy cores perform when given the opportunity, they only do so because of how the team plays as a whole. Their supports PasoLL and PinkMan are the primary enablers for this style of play.
A5 is a team that loves to fight, and while the current meta does favor early aggression starting from the laning stage, it is important to remember that these guys were always adept at bringing the teamfight, no matter the meta. In some ways, one could describe them as the VP of the Indian Scene, a team that is most comfortable taking the fight to their opponents.
5. Team Akatsuki
The Nepalese team is a relatively new addition to the ESL India Premiership. Although not much is known about this team, they’ve started off the season pretty well picking up a crushing victory against team White Unicorn. Madara and Dreamy are two of the best Nepalese players who had performed amicably under the 4merical Esports banner in the Summer season. It will be interesting to see if they can live up to the high standards they set for themselves
It’ll also be interesting to see if they can build up on the victory over Team White Unicorn and finish in the upper half of the Master league table.
|See Your Self||5|
6. JMD Gaming
JMD Gaming made it through to the Master League just in time for the Summer LAN Finale. They barely made it to the top of the Challenger League. So expectations were really low with this team when they arrived for the LAN event. But they surprised us all with a massive upset victory over Aggressive 5 which lead us to believe that there was something more than meets the eye with this team.
But they met Team IQ in the next round. IQ ended up stomping them. This lead to a clash with fellow newly promoted team, Team Standin 5. That was the longest match of the Summer LAN finale, an epic brawl between the two teams. But when the dust settled, JMD walked away as the losers.
But they are back with a vengeance in the fall season, they completely stomped the White Unicorn side in their first game. And now they will try to put up a fight to finish in the upper half of the table.
7. xRG Gaming
xRG Gaming took most of us by surprise when they hit their first big break when a place in the Summer season finale was offered to them after a few teams dropped out of the LAN event opting not to participate despite qualifying. They grabbed at the opportunity with both hands. But with a lack of experience in the highest levels of competition, they were eliminated from the tournament without winning a single game. Hence, it is difficult to think xRG Gaming will manage to obtain decent results in the Master League.
But if I was part of one of the top teams, I’d tread with caution against a team like this considering that we have already had several surprises in the past from teams that appeared to be 'free wins' for the other teams. So the stronger teams would do well to not take them too lightly. After all, xRG Gaming is the team where it all began for Entity Gaming's very own Swifty!
8. White Unicorn
White Unicorn is likely one of the weakest teams step foot into the Master League. And it's not exactly hard to see why; They have 2-10 win-loss record in the Master League/Playoffs and their only two victories came against xRG Gaming and 3C4DA.
Their start to the Fall season has also been quite atrocious. They’ve already lost to Akatsuki and JMD Gaming. They have a very slim chance of making it any higher than 8th in the Master League.
However, they a strong up and comer with a glimmer of talent - RedempT1oN, their support. Although WU has yet to show they can really compete with the big boys there is still ample time for improvement, but will that be enough for these young men to pull a major upset to stay in the Master League? We will find out soon enough.
1. Can Team IQ do it once again?
Team IQ is a classic example of a team getting everything together just in time for the climax of the season and performing when it matters the most. Team IQ, are on top of the Indian Dota scene. Their path to the semifinals won’t be as easy as last time though. Entity Gaming has strengthened their roster by a huge margin and there are new powerhouse teams (Genesis and Signify) in the challenger league, waiting to pounce at the top dogs of the Master League. It's a rough path to the title, but if they win it all, then Team IQ is far and away the best team in the ESL India Premiership.
2. Can Entity Gaming live up to their potential?
No one can resist a redemption story. A real life legacy created by picking up the pieces of a broken dream and putting them back together with determination and pure grit. Entity Gaming has failed on the cusp of victory one too many times recently. While they struggle to find a foothold on an SEA level, the team continues to be a prominent team in the Indian region.
On paper they are undoubtedly the strongest roster in the Master League - can they live up to our expectations and realize their potential?
3. The UnderDog story?
“The dream, the reality” were the words TobiWan uttered when TNC did the impossible in TI6, eliminating Team OG. Underdog stories are some of the best parts of the ESL India Premiership. Teams achieving the impossible. Despite the roadblocks, and against all the odds, their confidence and drive never waivers and they defy all logic.
Typically, the exclusively Indian teams struggle to take down elite teams with players from multiple nations. GoFigure lives to defy all those odds, they had to endure a 16-hour bus journey to make it to the summer LAN finale where they surpassed all expectations and finished top 3. They even took a game off Team IQ, a team who I put in an entirely different tier compared to them.
Can they perhaps repeat history? Maybe even rewrite it by going one step further and actually beating them, we’ll find out in the Fall Season.
Even after a dramatic offseason filled with roster swaps, the dust still hasn't settled since the conclusion of Summer Season. But there is no rest for the wicked as ESL India has already kicked off their second season, and we are very very excited for it.
Although there are other tournaments in the Indian scene, the storylines in the ESL India Premiership have always been exciting and exhilarating. I hope this season will also continue the same trend and contain a little bit of everything: redemption, high expectations, assertion, regional feuds, and most importantly, some seriously entertaining Dota.