Before the Major started, I called ESL One Hamburg a harbinger of a new age. It represented IceFrog’s own belief in the constant evolution of Dota 2 itself. Change is inevitable, and it was brought forth in this tournament. This was the first new Major of the circuit and with it came new memes, new teams, new players and a new champion.
Hamburg was an amazing tournament, almost as amazing as the Mercedes e-Class sedan. “The most intelligent E-Class family of all time welcomes a powerful new member to the dynasty. The E400 Sedan model arrives this year, boasting a 3.0L V6 biturbo engine producing 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque — the same powertrain that currently drives its E400 Coupe, Cabriolet and 4MATIC Wagon cousins. Paired with the 9-G-TRONIC 9-Speed automatic transmission and DYNAMIC SELECT, it promises a bracingly…”
Wait, sorry. I lost myself there for a moment.
Beyond the birth of what looks to be Dota 2’s new great meme was the rise of new teams. Keen Gaming was a surprise as it initially appeared to have fluked its way into a spot from the Chinese qualifier. It was a lineup filled with players unfamiliar to the non-Chinese viewership and though they were eliminated early on, they were different from the iG.V of last year. iG.Vitality was infamous as pure onliners who were unable to give a stable LAN performance, whereas Keen Gaming showed a surprising amount of cohesion for a rookie squad. Some of their drafts and strategies admittedly leaned more into gimmick territory. There’s a reason we don’t see Aghs/Dagon Bloodseeker as the standard. Nevertheless KG showed the basic macro and map movements we would expect from a top Chinese team. I’ll eagerly await their next international appearance.
Beyond them, the big surprise was Team Secret. A week prior to Hamburg, Secret was eliminated by Immortals in the group stage of PGL Bucharest. Although the result itself hardly raises an eyebrow, the manner in which Secret lost was horrendous. The team threw a huge lead against the IMT squad that did not inspire confidence. Secret was able to turn it around here and won its group by defeating EG and Newbee. Yet the real shocker came in the semifinals: Secret upset The International 7 champion Team Liquid with some convincing victories and slick drafting. Hamburg showed the potential that had formerly escaped Secret and exasperated its dedicated fanbase.
But in the end, the biggest sign was the victory everyone had anticipated for a long time. Virtus.pro dominated the tournament as it swept through the competition, defeating Keen Gaming, Liquid, Newbee and then Secret in the finals. Purely from watching the games and the level of opposition it regularly faces, Virtus.Pro stands as one of the best teams in the world.
Yet despite widespread acknowledgement of its prowess, VP had come up short in the big tournaments. VP’s only two trophies from the last tournament circuit were Summit 6 and Summit 7. Beyond thatn VP lost at the Boston Major to EG, took 2nd at the Kiev Major to OG, and lost to Liquid at TI7. This was a critical victory for the squad as they beat all of the best teams here to get over that hump.
Now Virtus.Pro has one and they owe it in large part to Alexei “solo” Berezin, the captain and creator of the modern roster. With Clement “Puppey” Ivanov and Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi leaving the CIS region to create Team Secret after TI4, the player base was caught in a rut. CIS teams always recruited skilled players, and the first words of praise from casters and fans inevitably accredited their individual skill. But the region lacked world class leaders with the will and vision to turn a group of players create a cohesive whole. The infighting, the egos, the stubbornness and lazy attitudes proved too much. In effect, there was no one left who could control the davai. No one until Solo.
Prior to Solo joining the team, Virtus.Pro in Dota 2 had an alternate nickname: Virtus.Throw. They were a chronically aggressive team that could rack up a huge lead, but they were also players who pushed the envelope and created levels of throw that could almost baffle Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao. Solo was able to control it and created a perennial contender that exemplified the best aspects of this style while holding it onto a short leash.
This is a huge victory for Virtus.Pro and the CIS region. It has always been a huge reason in Dota 2 as the CIS region was the birthplace of Na`Vi, Dota 2’s biggest Western team at the game’s inception. Their aggression, creativity, and instinctual teamplay captured the hearts of fans worldwide. When they went into a slump, CIS despaired of ever having another team reach those heights. Hamburg crowned a new successor to Na’Vi, one that could stick around for a very long time. Virtus.Pro is now no longer just among the best teams; it now has a Major trophy to back up that statement. In the long campaign through the Major/Minor circuit of 2017-2017, Virtus.Pro has struck first blood, and Solo drove off in his new Mercedes E-Class sedan.