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Virtus.Pro, The Return of the CIS Powerhouse

Photo: By Helena Kristiansson for ESL

Virtus.Pro, The Return of the CIS Powerhouse

The CIS region has been one of the most important regions in Dota 2 history. They were the region from which Na`Vi emerged and the first three Internationals had a Na`Vi team in the finals. It was the golden age of Na`Vi’s Dota 2 history and so when fans spam “Na`Vi is back!” it is both a meme and a desperate hope that Na`Vi really are back, that they can reach that glory age again. It never happened and it never looked like it would until an organization and a leader teamed up. Virtus.Pro and Alexei “Solo” Berezin forged a team from the chaos of the CIS region and have created a team that is the worthy successor of what Na`Vi once was, a CIS powerhouse that has dominated the world.

 

To understand how incredible this accomplishment is, we have to first understand Dota 2. Dota 2 is a game where we have seen plenty of pub stars rise up throughout the years. They all have incredible mechanical skill and at least have an understanding of what they need to do in their own role. However, why is it that we have never almost never seen five pubstars make a team and then go on a deep run into a tournament?

 

The answer is because that Dota 2 is an incredibly deep game. It takes more than MMR to make a team and that is why we have always seen star players have to team up with incredible in-game leaders to get results. Dota 2 is a game that has success follow the all-time great leaders rather than the all-time great talents. It is no mystery to me why Peter “PPD” Dager has had more big tournament achievements than Artour “Arteezy” Babaev despite the latter being one of the all time great players.

 

So when Clement “Puppey” Ivanov and Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi left Na`Vi, there were no great in-game leaders left. Instead what we had were a bunch of talented players that played musical chairs with their rosters. You could get the odd upset, you could get a team have a decent to good run of form, but you could never get a world title team without someone that leader.

 

The CEO of Virtus.Pro, Anton “Sneg” Cherepennikov, ranted about this in the middle of 2016. In a post he talked about the various problems including the lack of a leader, the lack of professionalism, and the army of pubstars that knew how to play, but not to win.

 

“I think the biggest problem with the CIS is that there are no captains. No leaders.” – Solo in an interview with Cybersport

 

This was when Solo entered the scene. Virtus.Pro took their time building the roster and eventually settled on Solo becoming the leader and the other players of the roster included: Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev, Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko, Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov, and Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk. From the chaos that was the CIS region, they formed together under the leadership of solo. Later on in 2017, Ivan “Artstyle” Antonov joined the team as a coach.

 

This was the birth of the new CIS powerhouse. It was a team filled with talents, much like other CIS teams that have been built before. But unlike before, Virtus.Pro had made sure that everyone saw eye to eye on how they played and the expectations of the management. Solo was as old school as it got, a veteran player that had been in the scene for a long time. The rest of the players were young up-and-coming talents. They hadn’t harnessed their abilities to a world class, but the potential was there. It would take a leader the likes of which the CIS hadn’t seen since Puppey had left to get them there and Solo turned out to be that leader.

 

The results in the qualifiers quickly came in as they became the most dominant team in the CIS region. Soon after they followed it up with a victory at the Summit 6 and made themselves one of the most feared teams in the world in 2017. They played an incredible series at the Kiev Major 2017 against OG where they barely lost 2-3 and at The International 7, played one of the best series ever against Liquid in the 5th-6th qualifying match and despite their placement at that tournament, it could have been argued that they were the second best team there.

 

As a team they played with that classic CIS aggression, but now it had a purpose. Now they could use it and fulfill map intermediary objectives with their pickoffs, pressure, and teamfights. It was a sight to behold and it felt like when they reached their peak, nobody could stop them. However they were unable to break through at that point. After TI7, they were a top 3 team along with Liquid and Secret in the months after. However, this was a team that had greater ambitions than being just one of the best teams, they wanted to be the best.

 

In the final roster lock of the season, they kicked out Lil to get Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan. It seemed to both be an internal decision relating to personality conflicts as well as an in-game decision. RodjER looked incredible on Na`Vi and the heroes he specialized in was what Virtus.Pro needed to take them over the edge. It was not an amiable split as the drama slipped into the public sphere only ending when Solo came in. It speaks volumes that Lil for all of his cockiness and ego bowed and deferred to Solo when he said it was enough.

 

After RodjER joined they won back-to-back Major victories in the DPC and got top four in two more. They have been the best team across the DPC circuit with multiple tournament victories and top placings. They are new CIS powerhouse and have come to uphold that legacy that Na`Vi started long ago. Of a dominant CIS team in the Dota 2 world. The one that everyone looks to to uphold the pride and legacy of the CIS region. Now they go to The International in search of Dota 2’s greatest trophy, the Aegis.

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