Consistency. It’s what separates good players from great players, and great players from champions. There are multitudes of strong players throughout the world that show sparks of greatness and can make incredible plays against the best professionals, but their inability to play at this level consistently is what keeps them separate from the best. But we aren’t here to talk about them today. We’re here to talk about the winningest team of the past two years; Virtus.pro. While the Aegis has eluded them thus far, the core of VP have been a favorite to win almost every tournament since they formed the team in August 2016.
It didn’t take the new VP long to be considered a threat, winning most of their qualifiers and taking home the trophy from The Summit 6 over EG. They were contenders to win at the Boston Major before falling to EG 2-0. The next few months would be as rocky as it got for the roster with losses in smaller tournaments and qualifiers, though they ended that run with a nail biting five game loss to OG at the Kiev Major. They went into TI7 as favorites to win, but fell short in disappointing fashion. While they did lose out to two very strong teams, LFY and Liquid, a 5th-6th finish was still surprising. In spite of this, VP were not disheartened and they were determined to go into the inaugural Dota Pro Circuit season as the champions they knew they were.
And champions they would become. VP have dominated the DPC rankings for the entirety of the season, coming in at over 12000 points, enough to qualify for TI several times over. In fact VP hoarded so many points this season that any team could win a single major and qualify. They might have had a slight hiccup in the middle of the season when internal issues lead to them trading Lil for RodjER, but RodjER has fit in perfectly and the team didn’t skip a beat. VP made it to the finals in five of nine Majors this season and won four of them, only losing out to Team Liquid at the China Supermajor. Now, VP have proven that it takes either an immaculate performance from a weaker team or a strong showing from the likes of PSG.LGD or Liquid to compete with them. Safe in this knowledge, and still stinging from their losses to their arch-rival Team Liquid at both the Supermajor and TI7, VP will be strong and hungry coming into TI8. Will they be able to dethrone the current champions? One thing is for sure, no one has a better shot than Virtus.pro.
VP has a playstyle that can be separated into two distinct styles and which one they choose is entirely dependent on how much they respect their opponents. VP knows they are the best team in the world and they play like it. If you aren’t one of the best teams in the world, VP will draft seemingly-randomly. They will draft heroes they know are terrible just for fun, and they will crush you while doing it. Two great examples of this are the Summit 7 from last year and the most recent major, the China Supermajor. At the Summit 7, Virtus.pro decided to play the tournament with a major restriction on themselves. They tried to complete the All Hero Challenge throughout the event. They picked five unique heroes in 16 of their 17 games, only repeating picks in game 5 of the finals against Team Secret. In the finals Team Secret even began to ban heroes from VP’s remaining available heroes. VP ended up taking home the trophy having picked 81 of the 112 available heroes, laughing their way through the competition in classic VP fashion. The more recent example of VP’s overwhelming confidence happened at the China Supermajor in a lower bracket semifinals against Team Secret. In game 2 VP chose to pick Wraith King, though Nahaz was on point with his commentary “VP is styling at this point.” In the winner’s interview after VP took game 3, Solo commented that Ramzes really wanted to pick Wraith King and that “You know if you pick Wraith King that something went wrong in your draft.” There is no decision that you could look at that more embodies VP’s style and mentality. In the lower bracket of the largest major, the largest and final major before TI, VP are still joking around and playing with their opponents.
So against easier competition Virtus.pro regularly walk over the competition, but what do they do when they feel tested? VP are known for their aggressive drafts and strategies, often trying to win lanes before snowballing their advantage into victory. While VP decidedly have a preference towards aggression, they can also play defensive games well if the opponent drafts an even faster team. This is sometimes shown when VP drafts an experimental or goofy lineup, but still manages to stay in the game despite an overwhelming draft disadvantage. This ends up being more important than one might think as VP doesn’t always win the draft, forcing them to just outplay their opponents to win.
On to VP’s drafting, so given their aggressive style of play, what are their heroes of choice for this? Recently they’ve shown strong preferences towards Death Prophet, Sand King, and Beastmaster. Two of these obviously work well with VP’s aggressive style, Death Prophet and Beastmaster. VP have been somewhat unique in their ability to make Death Prophet work, reaching a 75% win rate with the hero while other teams struggle to make it work at all. Also of note is how often they choose to play her in the safelane rather than the mid lane. Death Prophet works well for VP because she is somewhat of an anchor hero, meaning that she serves to prop up both their draft and style of play in the game. She gives VP a core that has a very straightforward gameplan and can punish the other team hard while ahead. Death Prophet does this utilizing a strong, high-cooldown ultimate that can both win teamfights and take towers. This is often complemented with a Beastmaster pick, which makes pushing much faster while providing a vision advantage and a bkb-piercing stun. By often picking these two heroes together, VP have a great amount of freedom in their other picks as these provide the most key part of their aggressive playstyle: pushing. Without a way to quickly push, VP’s aggressive style falls short because of an inability to quickly take objectives.
Virtus.pro also has a good mentality towards their drafting and games in that they are perfectly willing to experiment and try new things even in the midst of major tournaments because it will help them in the future. We saw this at the China Supermajor when they refused to ban Io against PSG.LGD and they ended up losing 2-0. This was extremely important as Io is an incredibly strong hero right now and VP rarely have the chance to play against other top teams drafting the hero. If VP end up figuring out how to beat Io these games will surely have been a large part of that. We even saw how once they were in the lower bracket, they took their games more seriously as they wanted to meet their rival, Liquid, in the final.
Ramzes is Virtus.pro’s carry and, as expected, fits their style of play perfectly. He is skilled enough to outplay most offlaners when given the opportunity, and is prone to diving enemy heroes with backup from RodjER or Solo. Ramzes has a large variety of heroes he can play, from the traditional hard carries of Lifestealer and Morphling to the oddities like Death Prophet and Leshrac or even the cheeky Broodmother pick. Luckily for VP, Ramzes is a very reliable core and their faith to put farm in his hands is almost always rewarded. Ramzes was also found to be drafting for VP at the China Supermajor, which is somewhat rare as usually carry players do not sit in the drafting seat. This may have been a strategic move by VP to help give the non-captain players more drafting experience in preparation for TI. Hopefully this pays off and we see an even more gifted Ramzes at TI8.
Graphics: Valve, Julmust, Exitiums
Graphics: Valve, Julmust, Exitiums