Virtus Pro’s Dota 2 branch raised eyebrows when it shook up its seemingly bulletproof roster last month, but it’s hard to question the decision now. That’s because the Russian squad took first place at the ESL One Katowice Dota 2 Major in dominant fashion.
Facing Vici Gaming in the grand finals, it capped off what was an already-impressive run through the group stages and playoffs with an absolute rout of the Chinese powerhouse.
The first two games were vintage VP, as the Alexei "Solo" Berezin-led team found consistent success with early aggression, found the farm to cement the lead and went for the sub-30-minute coup de grace. The fast-paced, take-no-prisoners style visibly shook VG and while it ultimately avoided a sweep by taking Game 3, it only delayed the inevitable as VP regrouped in Game 4 to close out the series with another dominant win.
Winning a major LAN event is never a small thing, this was a particularly great performance by Virtus Pro. The crowd favorites in Poland had a particularly tough draws in the tournament and had to defeat OpTic Gaming, Mineski, Evil Geniuses, Fnatic and Vici Gaming in order to make this run. What’s more, it had to do so with new support player Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosyan, who replaced Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk last month.
VP still managed to come out on top and, frankly, it’s easy to wonder if this may have been an early sample of what the International will look like come this Summer.
Fnatic and EG Both Better Off After Roster Changes?
As with any breakup, Dota 2 roster changes are always a drama-filled affair. Hearts are broken, feelings are spurned and change, inevitably, makes the comfortable uncomfortable.
The biggest shakeup in the most recent cycle was the one centered around Saahil "UNiVeRsE" Arora. The longtime Evil Geniuses offlaner was shockingly sent to free agency after the team’s unimpressive start to the season. The remaining roster was retooled and former Digital Chaos captain Rasmus "MISERY" Filipsen was brought in to round out the lineup.
The move raised many eyebrows among longtime EG fans, but things only got more complicated from there. SEA contenders Fnatic were quick to scoop up UNiVeRsE, dumping its own longtime offlaner, Khoo "Ohaiyo" Chong Xin, and angering its fans in the process.
Ultimately, however, esports are sports and in sports the quality of roster moves is determined by results, not hurt feelings. So while UNiVeRsE, Ohaiyo and the fans of either player may still be frustrated by the move, at ESL One Katowice, Fnatic and EG both looked to have done the right thing.
While neither took home big prizes from the event, both looked stronger than either had to this point in the season.
After falling into the lower bracket of Group A early due to a best-of-one opposite LGD Gaming, EG ran roughshod through the lower bracket, sweeping Infamous, Team Kinguin and Newbee to make it into the playoffs. Fnatic, on the other hand, surprisingly took first-place in Group A, defeating NaVi, Team Kinguin and Team Secret to lock up a berth in the semi-finals.
Both fell in the playoffs to eventual winners Virtus Pro (with Fnatic then dropping the third-place game to Team Liquid) but it’s hard to find fault with their performances. The goal at ESL One Katowice for either team was to show that they could hang with the cream of the crop. Despite falling short of the grand finals, they did just that.
Dota Pro Circuit Standings After ESL One Katowice (And the Roster Shakeups)
All on its own, ESL One Katowice (and the 1,500 qualifying points it injected) would have shaken up the Dota Pro Circuit standings. Couple that with last month’s roster changes and things look quite different than they did last month.
Natus Vincere was the biggest mover of the month, jumping from well outside the top-eight all the way to sixth place. None of those points came from actual tournaments, mind you. All of them came from its trade of Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosyan for Virtus Pro’s Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk. While that should have raised some red flags in regards to how easily manipulated the DPC qualifying system is for teams with sister organizations, nobody seemed to take issue with this.
Past that were a series of minor, but noteworthy shakeups.
Virtus Pro, after sitting in third place behind Team Liquid and Team Secret for most of the season, jumped into first with the 750 QP it took in Katowice. Team Liquid, meanwhile, remains very much a part of that three-team race at the top with the 225 points it took for finishing third in Poland.
Vici Gaming, after raking in 450 points for taking second, overtook Chinese rival Newbee and moved to fourth place. Both, however, trail the VP-Secret-Liquid trifecta by a considerable margin.
Finally, outside the top-eight, Fnatic has gained a lot of ground with its fourth-place performance in Katowice and its aforementioned acquisition of UNiVeRsE. Alongside OG, it remains just a fingertip away from being positioned for an invite to TI8.
Things are set to accelerate from here, with the Bucharest Major being the next DPC event. Depending on how that shakes out, we may start seeing teams mathematically locked into a TI8 spot.