Virtus.Pro rebounded from a disappointing finish at ESL One Genting to reestablish itself as arguably a top-three team in the world at the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice. Behind Virtus.Pro's signature flashy team fighting compositions and stubborn aggressive mentality, the squad stomped through a stacked field that included every top team in DOTA 2: Team Liquid, Team Secret, Evil Geniuses and Newbee.
Virtus.Pro's captain, Alexei "Solo" Berezin played exemplary throughout the tournament. He constantly out drafted opponents and played a pivotal role as one of the main initiators for every major fight. The team stayed true to protecting Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev and Vladimir "No[o]ne Minenko's farm for success and it paid off in a big way. RAMZES666 was allowed to rotate at will and clean up kills even if his farm was lackluster and No[o]ne's deep hero pool prevented any true limit.
Grand finals: Virtus.Pro against Vici.Gaming
The battle of similar concepts was a fitting end to a fantastic tournament. Vici.Gaming mixed it up between its usual all-in team fight compositions and pushing lineup configurations to keep it versatile. Although its limited hero pool (Tusk, Dragon Knight and Death Prophet) ended up biting the team when it counted the most, there was still plenty of creativity within its drafts (Puck dream coil into a Keeper of the Light blinding light combination as a highlight). In addition, it was a positive sign to witness the Chinese team attempt lineup compositions akin to teams like Team Liquid or its opponent, Virtus.Pro (Terrorblade and Puck cores) in critical games.
- ESL Dota2 (@ESLDota2) February 25, 2018
Virtus.Pro combined its superior lanes and hero choices (multiple games with Chen and Gyrocopter) to dominate the lane phase and avoid any potential death ball or pushing composition scenarios. Virtus.Pro's superior teamfighting timings and tight rotations during the early phases of the game provided large gold leads that would not relinquish. It was through a relatively simple strategy to draft difficult-to-kill heroes for the offlane and babysit the two fighting cores that the eventual tournament winners would triumph in an anti-climatic final set against Vici.Gaming.
If there was another team to feature other than the victors, it was Fnatic. The inclusion of Saahil "UNiVeRsE" Arora looked like a step in the right direction. UNiVeRsE's aggressive play complemented the flashier styles of Abed "Abed" Yusop and Djardel "DJ" Mampusti and provided plenty of space for the farm-centric Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao to itemize to his heart's content. The frenetic pace of the Southeast Asia squad made every game into a mad scramble and provided plenty of suspense to the tournament results.
Push and more push
If you tuned into ESL One Katowice, the trend was painstakingly obvious -- the trend to hero drafts revolved around pushing heroes. Whether it was Dragon Knight, Terrorblade, or Death Prophet, multiple drafts from every regions bore a resemblance to the other. Despite one hero's near-constant ban (Beastmaster), there were other heroes to take its place such as: Chen, Pugna and Shadow Shaman.
Despite two teams that were known for its teamfighting capabilities in Virtus.Pro and Vici.Gaming in the grand finals, even those drafts were centered around the ability to break high ground than breakdown combos. It will be interesting to see if the next patch will limit many of the popular picks that are circulating the professional scene and provide a little more versatility to the hero drafts.