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On August 2nd, 18 teams will descend upon Seattle for the start of the The International 7's group stage. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of those teams. Today's team are the Russian Bears, Virtus.Pro. Check back each day leading up to the tournament for more previews.
Virtus.Pro is back in The International after missing out on last year's tournament. And not only are they just back in Seattle, they come into this TI as one of the favorites to win the aegis. After a bad performance in the TI6 European qualifier, VP dumped their entire roster and formed a new squad. To build this new team, VP turned to a veteran of the CIS Dota scene, Alexei "Solo" Berezin.
Solo's career has been a tumultuous one. In 2013, while playing for Rox.Kis, it was revealed that Solo had placed a bet against his own team and was given a lifetime ban from a number of events. Fortunately for him, that ban was shortened to a year and he has since slowly rebuilt his reputation. This opportunity to build a team from scratch gave him the chance to fully distance himself from the "322" meme (in reference to the amount of money he would have won from his bet). The first two members of his new team were a couple of fellow CIS veterans, Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk as the 4-position support and Pavel "9pasha" Khvastunov to play offlane. Lil had played with VP at TI5 and spent parts of the TI6 season with Polarity and 9pasha had played with Solo on Vega Squadron. For the two core positions, Solo turned to a couple of younger players, Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev, formerly on Team Empire, and Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko, another ex-Vega Squadron.
The new squad started off last Fall playing very well. They won The Summit 6 in November and successfully qualified for the Boston Major. VP rolled through their group stage and First Round matches in Boston before running into a blue brick wall named Evil Geniuses in the Quarterfinal. The months after Boston were disappointing for VP. Lackluster performances and even technical problems that forced them to drop out the 2017 Asian Championship plagued the team leading up to the Kiev Major. However, VP were able to shake off those problems at Kiev as they made a run to the Grand Final against OG. Despite losing that final 3-2, that performance, coupled with defending their title at the Summit 7, was enough to earn Virtus.Pro a direct invitation to TI7.
The reasons for VP's success can be attributed to No[o]ne's emergence as one of the best mids in the wold, Solo's leadership and sacrificial style of play, and the versatility and wide hero pool of the team. That versatility was on full display at the Summit 7. VP played 81 different heroes and had picked entirely new heroes every game until the Finals. Last year at TI6, Wings won the aegis with a similar style of picking unconventional heroes to keep their opponents off-balance. Virtus.Pro will hope to achieve the same result this year.
|Player||Role||Country||Signature Heroes||Best TI Finish|
|Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev||Carry||Russia||Lifestealer, Ursa, Drow Ranger||First TI|
|Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko||Mid||Ukraine||Dragon Knight, Outworld Devourer, Templar Assassin||Wild Card (TI5 - Vega Squadron)|
|Pavel "9pasha" Khvastunov||Offlane||Russia||Dark Seer, Batrider, Sand King||Wild Card (TI5 - Vega Squadron)|
|Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk||Support||Ukraine||Io, Visage, Chen||5th-6th (TI5 - Virtus.Pro)|
|Alexei "Solo" Berezin||Support||Russia||Disruptor, Shadow Demon, Rubick||Wild Card (TI5 - Vega Squadron)|
- No[o]ne is known for his flashy play in game but he tends to be more reserved out of the game leading to sometimes awkward post-game interviews.
- Solo is fortunate to be able to play after the betting scandal in 2013. Valve has been much harder on players involved in other, more recent betting scandals. Most notably with the Peruvian team Not Today, where players that were proven to be involved in betting were banned from Valve-sponsored events for life.