Big changes were expected for Virtus.pro’s Dota 2 team and they have started to arrive.
The organization announced the release of longtime offlaner Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov. The news of 9pasha’s release was broken by competing team Natus Vincere, who announced that they had signed him to replace their own offlaner, Evgeniy “Blizzy” Ree.
“Pasha is a true veteran and one of the most respected players of CIS Dota,” Virtus.pro GM Roman Dvoryankin said in a statement. “I can hardly imagine VP without him, but sooner or later everything comes to an end. We are endlessly grateful for Pavel’s contribution to our success and wish him the best of luck in Na’Vi.”
Virtus.pro’s coach Arsenij “ArsZeeqq” Usov was also released from the team.
VP has been one of the most stable rosters in all of Dota 2, retaining the same core group of players since 2016. The team has enjoyed considerable success in the years since, which includes first-place finishes in five majors as well as a second-place finish at the Kiev Major.
Despite strong results throughout the year, a similarly strong placement at The International has eluded the team. Virtus.pro finished in the top six of both The International 2017 and 2018, but stunned many by finishing 9th-12th at The International 2019. While the sixth-place finishes had given the team an unfair reputation for underperforming at The International, 2019 was the first year where they legitimately looked out of sorts at the event.
Virtus.pro has not revealed a new offlane player and it is unclear if more roster changes are to come for the team.
Now done with Virtus.pro, how will 9pasha do with Natus Vincere?
After a prolonged decline, Natus Vincere returned to form in 2019. Long dogged by roster issues and poor results, the team looked solid at live tournaments during the 2018-2019 season. Na’Vi never truly separated itself from a competitive field of teams in the CIS region, but did manage to qualify for The International 2019.
The team was among the first eliminations from the main event as one of the early best-of-one victims, but looked generally capable.
Good chemistry sometimes trumps raw talent when it comes to building a Dota 2 team, but 9pasha does represent an upgrade at the offlane position for Natus Vincere. Though Blizzy is strong in that role, 9pasha has long been among the world’s best and could be the piece that helps Natus Vincere truly return to the forefront of the scene.
Answers should come quickly after the start of the 2019-2020 Dota Pro Circuit season.