“They have this class, VP. OK, if this is an important tournament, then we’ll show now that we’re the best team in the world. That is why I never see VP winning two tournaments in a row. There is something about the Polish guys. Go back to 1.6: they always came into a tournament favorites because they were wrecking everyone two weeks before and they just went completely cold. Always the hot and cold Poles. In the first match, you will know if it’s the plow or if it’s just a small cow driving.”
When I started to watch CS:GO, there were certain rules: laws of the universe that seemed inevitable. Fnatic will win no matter the situation. NiP can unleash the magic at any point. Astralis (then Team SoloMid) will choke whatever the size of its lead. The French will shuffle periodically like a deck of cards. The Virtus.Plow can come at any moment. Years after my first steps into the game, the statutes that guided my understanding have mostly changed. Fnatic no longer wins anything. NiP has become a magician whose best trick is disappearing from tournaments in a flash. Astralis now ranks among the most clutch teams, and G2’s members have stated they want this to be their last shuffle. The only remaining rule that still holds is the reality of Virtus.Plow. VP will rise, it will fall, and from the ashes of defeat it will rise again.
Virtus.Pro is a class unto itself. Ever since its incredible run at ESL Katowice back in 2014, VP has never declined to a point beyond recuperation. The team can go cold for extended periods of time. It can fall against unfavored opponents in the most disappointing ways. It can fail online leagues time after time after time again. But when it came to the biggest LAN tournaments, VP would always rise up. When it came to decide who was the best in the world, in those moments, Virtus.Pro would appear and challenge any who dared to stake their claim.
The Polish powerhouse boasts an imposing presence dating back to the beginning of CS:GO. Throughout the game’s history, the same players have been contenders against the best teams of every era. They battled NiP from 2013-2014, then Fnatic and EnVyUs in 2015, Luminosity/SK last year and Astralis at the beginning of 2017. A central part of their success comes from their willingness to evolve. No matter how grievously its form declines or habitual victory feels, Virtus.Pro refuses to be complacent. VP is at the forefront when it comes to learning new maps and establishing popular approaches to playing them. Early on, the team took up and deconstructed maps like Cache, then later Mirage, the reworks of Train and Cobble, and the newest version of Nuke. The players change roles all of the time when they feel something isn’t working. The star player at any given moment could be Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski, Jaroslaw “PashaBiceps” Jarzabkowski, Pawel “byali” Bielinski or — for a few months at the end of 2016 — Filip “NEO” Kubski. They rotate the AWP regularly between Pasha, NEO and Snax.
It’s somewhat of an insult to believe any other team in CS:GO can replicate what Virtus.Pro achieved with this particular roster. They are the only team to return to the top (multiple times) while sticking with the same five players; it’s possible they are the only team that can. They are unique, not just in CS:GO, but in all of esports. No team has lasted this long together and has been able to roll back their years as often as Virtus.Pro. Although there’s an ironclad argument that the Polish scene hasn’t produced upstarts capable of replicating anyone on the roster, I don’t believe any other group could have lasted so long either.
My faith in Virtus.Pro sounds like madness. Perhaps I am a little crazy on this topic. After all, even Hume noted that there are limits to what we can draw from induction. Everything I’ve said is based on patterns from the past, and those can’t guarantee results in the future. VP’s recent form has been disastrous. In online leagues, this team is barely distinguishable from a highly talented MM stack. VP also went out in the group stages of its last two LAN events. McLuhan once said, “We drive into the future using only our rearview mirrors.” This is very much the case here. I have no tangible evidence that confidently predicts Virtus.Pro will return to its old form. I’m not sure Virtus.Pro knows its fate, either. One day the sun will stop rising and the stars will die out. The only thing certain in life is that time and death will get their due. One day this Virtus.Pro lineup must die.
Yet I can’t help but remember how the team struggled at the end of 2014-2015, only to come roaring back in the Cologne Major (finally stopped cold by the Fnatic miracle pause). I can’t help but recall how VP smashed the best teams in the world to win ESL ESEA Pro League Invitational a month later. I can’t help but reminisce about VP’s 2016 struggles, when Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas said that if things didn’t improve they would have to consider the unthinkable. When they lost in ESL Pro League, few anticipated VP could recover to win ELEAGUE Season 1. Worries flared up prior to the ELEAGUE Major as Virtus.Pro had an embarrassing loss at WESG, but the team came back stronger and fought Astralis tooth and nail in a Major final for the ages.
Now, watching them at their depths, I can’t help but believe that in the most competitive era of CS:GO, Virtus.Pro will find a way to leave its mark. VP is the final boss, the last guardian of the gate, the team that prospective champions must beat to prove their greatness. VP embodies the entire legacy of the game itself. One day the Virtus.Pro lineup will die, but I don’t think that day is today. I have no proof to believe it can continue, but I also have no proof to believe otherwise.
All other laws have been extinguished, but this law alone has remained constant. Without proof, without logic, I can’t help but believe VP will rise again to challenge the top. And so does Virtus.Pro, so does its opponents. That is the weight of a team, the weight of a legacy. That is Virtus.Pro, the hot and cold Poles.
Cover photo courtesy of ESL and Turner Sports, illustration by Slingshot