Steven R. March 23, 2019
Virtus.pro is close to making the grand finals of its third major this season.
The Russian team locked up a top-three spot at the DreamLeague Major and advanced to the lower bracket finals. It did so on the second day of arena play in Stockholm by defeating rival Team Secret 2-1.
The series started off hot with an aggressive performance from Secret. Facing Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko's Alchemist, Secret stalked him and scored three kills on him in the first ten minutes to give Michał "Nisha" Jankowski free reign of the late game. That strategy paid off for a time, but when Virtus.pro broke off a team fight 25 minutes in the scales tipped and never evened again.
The momentum swing allowed No[o]ne to snowball, creating a force Secret was unable to respond to.
Secret rebounded brilliantly in the second game. With a lineup drafted for the combination of ultimates, Secret’s players adapted to different roles with Nisha flexing his muscles as an initiator and Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg playing as a support Enigma. That might have raised an eyebrow if it hadn’t panned out, but both Song of the Siren and Black Hole were used expertly by the two players and allowed Secret to even the series, making captain Clement “Puppey” Ivanov look like a genius.
Unfortunately, that brilliant draft in game two was followed up by a massive mistake in the decider. Despite playing against an Enigma and a Queen of Pain, Secret did not draft a single hero with a stun. That would have been troublesome all on its own, but when Virtus.pro snagged a last-pick Weaver, the game became almost unwinnable.
Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev skittered around with impunity on Weaver and helped VP seal up the series emphatically.
Secret was eliminated from the tournament with a respectable fourth-place finish. Though an opening loss at the hands of Vici Gaming teased that Secret may have begun its traditional summer decline, the team’s run in the lower bracket showed that it remains a force.
Puppey and company entered the event with a direct invitation to The International 2019 in its pocket, so it was playing for little more than pride in Stockholm. While it fell short of a grand final, the squad still posted a performance to be proud of.
Virtus.pro is now just one series away from making another appearance in the finals of a Dota 2 major. The team won the Kuala Lumpur Major and nearly did the same at the Chongqing Major.
The Russians will have to take on the winner of the upper bracket final between Fnatic and Vici Gaming in order become the second team to achieve that feat.