It took five long years, but ESL One finally has a Bogeyman. And the name is Virtus.pro!
For the longest period, there were no two-time winners in the ESL One tournament series. Similarly to The International, no team managed stay on top long enough to secure themselves a second trophy. But after nine unique champions lifted the trophy across five years, Virtus.pro finally broke the pattern. Hamburg. Katowice. Birmingham. After TI7, Virtus.pro came out swinging. All three ESL One Majors in the 17-18 season went into VP’s carry-on luggage. On top of that, they made it look easy. Across three grand finals, they only lost a single game.
ESL One Hamburg 2017
After TI7, all eyes were on Team Liquid. They had already won the first Minor of the new season and were hot favorites in Hamburg, the first Major of 2017/18. Instead, the tournament would mark the start of Virtus.pro’s impressive Dota Pro Circuit campaign which would eventually lead them to a Rank #1 finish ahead of TI8.
After being knocked out of the competition by Team Liquid at TI7, the bears managed to exact their revenge. A 2-1 victory over the reigning TI champs secured them first place in their group, pitting them up against Newbee in the Playoffs. Newbee ended up taking VP to a third game as well, but what are you gonna do when Virtus.pro catches you off-guard with the last pick Brood? In the end, the grand finals against Team Secret were almost anticlimactic. VP turned on the style for a swift 2-0 victory over Puppey’s squad to lift their first ever ESL One trophy with Solo earning MVP honors for captaining his squad to dominant success.
ESL One Katowice 2018
But not even Virtus.pro were safe from roster changes. After an undesirable result at the ESL One Genting Minor, Lil left the squad and was exchanged for Team Empire’s rising star - RodjER. It was a trial by fire for the team’s new addition, whose first tournament with the team would be the ESL One Katowice Major. All eyes were on VP this time, as fans and doubters were excited the see whether or not it was worth it for the team to change a roster that looked so dominant.
Yet again, Virtus.pro had a shot at some sweet revenge. This time upon Evil Geniuses, the team that sealed their fate at ESL One Genting, partly prompting their small roster shuffle. As we all know now - punks were left unsatisfied that day. VP would get the result they wanted which fueled their run to the grand finals. Their final hurdle this time was Vici Gaming. Even though the Chinese squad managed to take a game in the grand finals, the performance by Virtus.pro looked so dominant that nobody was surprised to see them lift the ESL One trophy for a second time - the first team to ever do so. To top things off, their newest addition RodjER was crowned MVP in his first tournament for the team. What a way to kick things off!
ESL One Birmingham 2018
When ESL One Birmingham came around, Virtus.pro were firm favorites to three-peat at ESL One Majors. After all, they seemed unstoppable in the previous two. And this time around, they had an unlikely ally - the TI8 Battle Pass. Birmingham was the first event after the introduction of the new in-game tips and voice lines, which made for one of the most entertaining tournaments of the year. Virtus.pro especially went all-in on the new features and it’s safe to say that they managed to get under their opponent’s skin.
The tournament itself was almost an afterthought. Virtus.pro didn’t lose a single game. All tournament! All that while seemingly clowning around, all chatting and throwing tips left and right. The eventual grand finals against OpTic Gaming ended in a 3-0 drubbing with only one game being a close affair. After so many years of unique ESL One champions, Virtus.pro lifted the trophy three times in a single season.
Unfortunately, Virtus.pro’s season didn’t end with the crowning achievement, a TI victory. They instead joined the ranks of Team DK (TI4), Team Secret (TI5) and OG (TI6) to have dominated the scene that year without capitalizing on their performances. But luckily for all fans, Virtus.pro have no intention of slowing down. Even though they said goodbye to their long-time coach Artstyle, the main roster remains unchanged after TI8.
Can anyone stop the Bogeyman at ESL One Hamburg 2018? We can’t wait to find out!