Game Side: My Experience at the Boston Major

This article is part of our Game Side series.

As someone living on the East Coast of the United States, I had all but written off the possibility of attending a Valve Major. I had thought about saving up money for eight or nine months to try and make it out to Seattle for an International, but the cost of a flight, hotel and tickets was always overwhelming. The last time an event came to the East Coast before this was ESL ONE in 2015, and in 2016 it was hosted in Manila which put it extremely far out of reach. I got the news I would be attending the Boston Major about two weeks beforehand, but the reality of it never really set in until the night before I left.

I woke up around seven in the morning on Thursday in order to make it to the first game of the second day, Digital Chaos vs. Faceless. I got my first taste of the feeling of being in the area during an event. You can hear the crowd when watching on, but being in the theater with them was an entirely different experience. Even on a Thursday at 10 in the morning, enough people showed up to fill up the entire bottom floor of the Wang Theater. The crowd slowly got bigger as fans of Jackie “EternaLEnVy” Mao and Team NP filed in to watch them take on EHOME. That was the first real taste I got of just how excited Dota fans can get when their team triumphs against the odds.

The crowd for Ad Finem vs. Newbee was just as excited. Chinese fans showed up in force to cheer for Newbee, but just as many people were there to root for the underdog, Ad Finem. When Ad Finem won I have to admit I was shocked. Newbee manhandled them in the first game, and it looked like the Greeks would be bowing out early after all the work they put in over the past year to get to Boston. They came back in force though, largely on the back of some exceptional carry play from Omar “Madara” Dabasas. As someone who likes to play safe lane, his Morphling play in Game 2 was inspiring.

The third day was when the real heavy hitting teams started to face off, with the exception of the unfortunate Day 1 Wings vs. Evil Geniuses series. EG vs. Virtus.Pro was probably the most anticipated series of the event. At The Summit 6 Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk said that Virus.Pro was most looking forward to playing EG, but the two never got the chance until now. The first game was disappointingly one-sided, and Virtus.Pro conceded after only 19 minutes. Game 2 was much more exciting though. It ended with a Roman “Ramzes” Kushnarev Divine Rapier purchase on Sniper to try and pull out a win for Virtus.Pro, but in the end EG closed out a convincing 2-0 win. The largely American crowd went absolutely nuts when EG won, and if I hadn’t been standing near the stage and one of the speakers all day it probably would have been quite the shock.

The rest of the day went largely as expected. OG eliminated WG.Unity, but WG.Unity did manage to take the first game on the back of some exceptional Legion Commander play by Chua Soon “KanG” Khong. Digital Chaos eliminated Team NP, much to the chagrin of anime fans everywhere. EternaLEnVy’s absolutely abysmal Timbersaw game in the second game of that series ranks up there in my mind with Artour “Arteezy” Babaev’s infamous Vitaility Boost Ember Spirit game at Starladder IX. His 1/9/0 KDA was one of the worst of the tournament, and it seems that the spirit of Cloud9 is truly alive and well in Team NP.

Ad Finem continued to shock the Dota world in the final series of the night, eliminating Zhang “xiao8” Ning’s LGD.Forever Young squad. Once again, both team’s fans were there in large numbers. Ad Finem continued to excite, once against taking the crowd through all three potential games of the series. This left us with an interesting final four. The two champions, EG and OG, and then Digital Chaos and Ad Finem. Both DC and Ad Finem had something to prove here at Boston. DC were looking to prove that The International 6 wasn’t just a fluke, and Ad Finem were just looking to prove themselves.

The EG/OG series was not particularly exciting. Game 1 was a Naga Siren game and Game 2 was an Alchemist game. I’m just glad Icefrog decided to nerf illusions in the 7.00 patch by giving them a gold and experience bounty. The nerfs to Radiance also give me hope that competitive Dota won’t be dominated by Radiance illusions pushing into the enemy base while the hero is safe in their jungle. Ad Finem vs. DC was honestly not a very exciting or close series, but watching the crowd react to Ad Finem’s win was incredible. The entire theatre was on their feet, even fans of DC, but the Ad Finem players were the most excited people in the entire building.

You could probably count the number of people that predicted an OG vs. Ad Finem final on one hand, but that’s what we got at Boston. The Wang Theater was absolutely packed. The only free seats were at the very top of the theater, which was quite a hike. The crowd there was largely rooting for Ad Finem. Although there were a lot of OG fans in the audience, the chants of “Ad! Finem!” and the Spartan yell from 300 were almost deafening, and it was hard to hear the casters when the crowd really went wild. I could feel the passion of this crowd when the entire room would shake after a big play. The 80-minute Game 3 was one of the most stressful experiences of my life, and after watching I’m really not so worried about my upcoming final exams. When Ad Finem won that game the theatre exploded. It was an absolutely epic game of Dota 2, and probably the best way possible to wave goodbye to the 6.xx era. The final game of the series was comparatively a letdown. OG buckled down in the time between games and decided that it wasn’t going to go to five games. They picked the classic Sven and Invoker combination along with Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka on Earth Spirit, the hero that made him famous. It was a relatively one-sided affair, especially compared to the last game. Ad Finem’s Lifestealer and Templar Assassin got shut down by Warcry, and OG’s teamfight was much stronger.

OG added an extremely impressive third major championship to their belt. This win is made even more impressive by the fact that OG recently changed three players, and Anathan “Ana” Pham only started playing competitively earlier this year. Ad Finem’s run through the Boston Major was extremely impressive, despite not being able to take it all the way. They eliminated Newbee, LGD.Forever Young and Digtial Chaos all on their way to the finals. I would have called all three of those wins an upset at the time, but not anymore. Ad Finem are going to be a team to fear going into the future, which means they are going to have to adapt to being heavily studied by other teams. Picks like Verros “Maybe Next Time” Apostolos’ Bounty Hunter or Madara’s Morphling aren’t going to be so easy for them to get their hands on in the future.

The Boston Major was a very fitting send off to patch 6.88, the longest and probably most widely enjoyed patch in Dota history. What the future holds is unknown, but from the patch notes released today it looks like we will be in for some drastic and exciting changes.

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