Road to Seattle: Virtus Pro

Formed in the middle of TI6 and having stayed together since, Virtus Pro have become the unlikely face of CIS Dota, dethroning the region’s long-time heroes, Natus Vincere.

CIS Dota’s Unlikely Champions

Established in 2003, Virtus Pro have long been a staple of the Russian Esports scene. However, the organisation’s Dota 2 roster has never exactly been stand-outs. Even after an unbelievable run at TI5 where they took down heavy favourites such as Fnatic and Team Secret en route to a 5th-6th place finish, much of CIS were still rooting for Natus Vincere. 

This year proved different, however.

With Natus Vincere having shown little to no signs of going back to their winning ways and with the region in a complete mess competitively, Virtus Pro swooped in Post-TI6 to give the once-proud region a team to cheer for.

Virtus Pro / Facebook

Winning one qualifier after another, often in dominant fashion, Virtus Pro played with the reckless abandon that CIS teams were known for and brought their top-heavy farming, aggressive playstyle with them to The Summit 6 where they absolutely dominated against a stacked competition.

Many of their games ended early, and it’s not like they were up against slouches either; Virtus Pro took down EHOME 2-1; swept the reigning TI6 champs Wings Gaming; gave the then-two-time Major winners, OG, a beat down twice to claim the organisation’s first Dota 2 LAN title in quite a while.

Unfortunately, they were unable to maintain the momentum and would follow their win at The Summit 6 with 5th-8th place and 3rd-4th place finishes at The Boston Major 2016 and ESL One Genting 2017 respectively.

Cocky and Confident with a Dash of Arrogance

“Just call GG minute one. Don’t waste our time.”

Those were the exact words uttered by Ilya ‘Lil’ Ilyuk during one of his interviews at The Boston Major 2016.

Yet, after losing to Team Faceless at the Dota Pit League Season 5 and failing to qualify for DAC 2017, it seemed like the cocky badasses from CIS had already gone as quickly as they came in.

But then, the Kiev Major happened.

Click here for a full translation of the entire interview, courtesy of liquiddota.

Virtus Pro put their money where their mouth were at The Kiev Major 2017 as they dropped just a single series to secure a Summit 6 rematch with Team OG in the Grand Finals.

Unlike their previous matchup last year, however, this one was much more competitive and saw just the 2nd time in a Valve event that the Grand Finals went into a fifth and deciding game.

lil’s words during the earlier interview linked above seemed prophetic then as they went home with a 2nd-place finish as Team OG would go on to come back from a huge deficit in Game 5 to secure their record 4th Major title.

Despite securing a 2nd-place finish at a Major, many criticised the team, especially after they didn’t do so well at EPICENTER 2017. In particular, critics pointed out they were unable to win with anything other than Magnus, Warlock, Troll and Ursa. 

Virtus Pro

So, as they returned to defend their title at The Summit 7, Virtus Pro set out to prove their critics wrong, successfully defending their title after picking 81 heroes in 17 games.

Had Team Secret not started banning out heroes they had yet to play, Virtus Pro could’ve easily gone the full tournament not having picked a hero twice.

Virtus Pro – The Pride of CIS

  • Roman ‘RAMZES666’ Kushnarev
  • Vladimir ‘No[o]ne’ Minenko
  • Pavel ‘9pasha’ Khvastunov
  • Ilya ‘Lil’ Ilyuk
  • Alexei ‘Solo’ Berezin

Unlike in year’s past where the team’s roster headed into TI as dark horses and underdogs, Virtus Pro now enter The International 7 as one of the heavy favourites.

They’re also easily Dota 2’s most arrogant squad, thanks to their confidence that’s borderline arrogant and their overall demeanour. But then again, it’s hard to call those significant flaws when they’ve proven all throughout the year that they’re not just all bark and no bite.

With their entire region cheering for them and their contracts extended through 2018, it’s time that Virtus Pro proves that their confidence is absolute as they try to bring back the Aegis of Champions to CIS.

Be sure to follow us here at Esportsranks for the latest on your favourite Esports titles and for our next “Road to Seattle” feature, where we’ll talk about the TI7 North America Qualifier winners, Digital Chaos and Team NP.