Building a Legacy: 5 time Major Champion Virtus.pro look to further cement its place in Dota 2 history with its first TI title in Shanghai
With the conclusion of the second even Dota 2 Pro Circuit campaign, the attention of the Dota 2 world now shifts to the game’s biggest and most prestigious of stages: The International. The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season set the stage, but now the time has come for 18 of the world’s best teams to take their shot at earning immortality as they look to cement their place in Dota 2 history with a victorious run at The International 2019 in Shanghai, China. For the first time in its history, TI moves away from the western world into the waiting arms of the Chinese scene, with TI9 set to be hosted in the Mercedes-Benz Arena as the venue will transform into the crucible from which one squad will emerge with the Aegis of Champions in hand. With the even itself fast approaching, this series will serve to highlight each of the 18 participating squads that will be making their way to Shanghai in the hopes of becoming TI9 Champion. Each post will focus upon a specific team in the field for this event, with a small overview of the organization’s history, a review of its 2018-2019 season, a run down of the members of its roster, keys to success entering TI9, and expectations for the squad at the event itself. Whether one is a newcomer to the pro scene or an avid Pro Circuit spectator, these posts will hopefully serve as a useful source of information or a refresher course on the teams that will be battling it out in Shanghai in August. With that in mind, we will take a look at the 2nd ranked squad in the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit Rankings, and the team that currently holds the record for most Major Championship titles in Dota 2 history: Virtus.pro.
Region: Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
Pro Circuit Rank: 2nd (13,500 Pro Circuit Points)
Qualification Method: Direct Invite (Pro Circuit Top 12)
2018-2019 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 5 (4 Top 4 Finishes, 1 Major Championship Title)
Previous TI Appearances: TI3 (13th-16th), TI5 (5th-6th), TI7 (5th-6th), TI8 (5th-6th)
2018-2019 Season Notable Achievements:
Pro Circuit Majors:
1st – The Kuala Lumpur Major
2nd – The Chongqing Major
2nd – DreamLeague Season 11 Major
3rd – EPICENTER Major
7th-8th – MDL Disneyland Paris Major
Pro Circuit Qualifiers:
1st – The Kuala Lumpur Major CIS Qualifier
1st – DreamLeague Season 11 CIS Qualifier
1st – MDL Disneyland Paris Major CIS Closed Qualifier
2nd – The Chongqing Major CIS Qualifier
2nd – EPICENTER Major 2019 CIS Closed Qualifier
Non-Pro Circuit Events:
3rd – ESL One Hamburg 2018
3rd – MDL Macau 2019
5th-6th – MegaFon Winter Clash
1st – Maincast Autumn Brawl
1st – Adrenaline Cyber League 2019
VP stands as one of the longest lived organizations in the esports world, with the CIS powerhouse having existed since 2003. VP’s first foray into the Dota 2 world came in May of 2012, but right from the start the organization was beset by roster changes. By the end of the year, the organization had replaced 3 of its original 5 players, and by March of 2013, yet another of the team’s original players had been replaced. After all of those changes though, VP emerged from the other side as a stronger squad, with the team putting together some impressive but somewhat inconsistent results over the following months to earn itself a direct invite to TI3. The event itself went very poorly for VP, with the squad finishing in the 13th-16th place position in its TI debut. In the aftermath of TI3, VP went through another round of roster changes, as the organization had 10 instances of a player leaving its roster between August of the end of December.
After months of poor results and constant changes to its lineup, VP came into 2014 looking for some form of stability, and the squad finally appeared to find it as it kept its roster intact over the first half of the year. The stability led to some improved performances from the team as a whole, but its overall results continued to be somewhat inconsistent, and the squad failed to qualify for TI4 after finishing 2nd in the European Qualifier. In August, the longevity of the previous VP lineup was broken, as the organization once again put together a new roster that proceeded to close out the year with 8 Top 4 finishes in its final 15 appearances. Around the same time, the VP organisation opted to pick up a second squad to play under its name, signing the roster of NVMI to play as VP.Polar. The new squad proceeded to immediately out perform its sister squad, with VP.Polar closing out 2014 with 10 Top 4 finishes in 13 total appearances. As 2015 began, the main VP squad was not showing the kind of results that the organization had been hoping for, and in March VP opted to drop said roster, keeping the VP.Polar (at that time called ASUS Polar) as its sole lineup. One month later, the Polar lineup was officially rebranded as the main VP roster, just in time for the squad to put together an impressive run on the international level with 7 Top 4 finishes in 8 appearances between April and July. Those performances earned the squad a direct invite to TI5, where VP would put together its best TI performance yet with a 5th-6th place finish at the event. This time around, there would be no sweeping roster changes for VP, as its breakout year on the international level led the organization to keep the majority of its lineup intact. Over the final months of the season, VP earned a 7th-8th place finish at The Frankfurt Major 2015, and tallied 4 Top 4 finishes in its final 5 event appearances to close out the year.
2016 would prove to be a somewhat bumpy year for VP, as the organization got off to a rough start with some inconsistent performances and a 9th-12th place finish at The Shanghai Major 2016. In March, the team attempted to fix its issues with a change to its roster, and while those changes did lead the squad to a stretch of 6 Top 4 finishes in 8 appearances, it wasn’t quite enough to get the team over the hump. After failing to qualify for TI6, the organization dropped its Dota 2 roster entirely, determined to start from scratch with an entirely new lineup. In August of 2016, the squad unveiled its new roster, with veteran player Solo captaining a new squad consisting of RAMZES666, No[o]ne, 9pahsa, and Lil. The new roster went on an absolute tear over the final months of 2016, finishing either 1st or 2nd in 7 straight appearances before claiming a 5th-8th place finish at The Boston Major 2016. 2017 would only see the squad improve upon that strong close to 2016, as the squad claimed a 2nd place finish at The Kiev Major 2017 in April before winning the Mr. Cat Invitational Europe, the Russian eSports Cup 2017, and DOTA Summit 7 in May and June. With a 5th-6th place performance at TI7, the team brought its season to a close, completing one of the most impressive turnarounds for any organization in the history of Dota 2.
The 2017-2018 season would take things to an even greater level for VP, as the team claimed its first Major Championship title at the ESL One Hamburg 2017 Major and its first Minor title at DOTA Summit 8, all while starting off the season with 11 Top 4 finishes in 12 total appearances. The 2019 section of the season begin with a surprising roster change for the squad, as VP opted to trade Lil to Na’Vi in exchange for rodjER. The addition proved to be successful in the coming months, as rodjER helped VP earned another 3 Major Championship titles over the 2019 section of the season as well as an additional 3 Top 4 finishes in its other Major appearances. Considering its record breaking campaign on the Pro Circuit, VP entered TI8 as a clear favorite to claim the Aegis of Champions, but the squad ended up falling a bit short of that mark in Vancouver. The team finished in the 5th-6th place position though, further cementing its place among the elite teams in the Dota 2 world as the squad prepared for the start of the 2018-2019 season.
Season in Review
The pre-season period would see VP keep the entirety of its roster intact, although the squad did end up making a change to its organization with the departure of Coach Artstyle and his replacement by Arszeeqq. The coaching change did little to effect VP though, as the squad got off to an impressive start to its 2018-2019 campaign with back to back 1st place finishes within its home region and a 3rd place performance at ESL One Hamburg 2018. Those showings set the stage for an even stronger performance in the team’s season debut on the Pro Circuit stage, as VP won The Kuala Lumpur Major to earn its fifth Major Championship title, officially breaking the previous record set by OG. The team would close out 2018 with another Top 4 finish in its second Pro Circuit qualifier, but would suffer its first stumble on the international level with a 5th-6th place performance at the MegaFon Winter Clash in December.
The start of 2019 would see VP immediately return to form though, as the CIS titan claimed a 2nd place finish at The Chongqing Major in January to guarantee itself a direct invite to TI9. After Top 4 finishes at both MDL Macau 2019 and the DreamLeague Season 11 CIS Qualifier, VP would notch yet another 2nd place finish at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major itself. The team closed out the month of March with a victory in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major CIS Closed Qualifier, but 1 month later would put together its worst performance of the season on the international level with a 7th-8th place performance at the Major. Despite that weaker performance, at least by the team’s standards, VP closed out the year in impressive fashion, claiming its fifth straight Top 4 finish in a Pro Circuit Qualifier with a 2nd place run in the EPICENTER Major 2019 CIS Closed Qualifier and winning the Adrenaline Cyber League 2019. In June, the team made its final appearance of the season on the Pro Circuit stage, putting together a 3rd place run at the EPICENTER Major on home soil in Moscow to finish out its 2018-2019 campaign.
Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev (Carry)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 8.23 kills, 10.29 assists, 3.01 deaths per game (136 matches)
RAMZES666 comes into TI9 as one of the most well known and well regarded Carries in the current professional scene, and he has earned this position at the age of just 20. His career began at just 15 back in 2015, as the young Carry earned a place on the roster of minor regional squad ScaryFaceZ. After 6 months with the squad and a series of impressive results in smaller regional events and tournaments, RAMZES666 joined the roster of CIS Rejects in September of 2015. 3 month after joining the roster, CIS Rejcts was signed by Team Spirit, giving RAMZES666 his first experience with one of the bigger organizations in the CIS scene. With Team Spirit, RAMZES666 would attend his first Valve event with a 13th-16th place performance at The Shanghai Major, and the young Carry found himself picked up by Team Empire just days after the end of that event. RAMZES666 would spent a period of around 5 months with Team Empire, making another Major appearance at The Manila Major 2016 but failing to qualify for TI6. In August of 2016, he was announced as a member of the new VP roster, and he has remained with the organization ever since. Over the course of this 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, RAMZES666 has excelled in his role at the team’s Carry, preferring a style that emphasizes high volume farming heroes with significant late-game power. His most played heroes includes the likes of Terrorblade, Morphling, Juggernaut, Phantom Lancer, Troll Warlord, and Spectre, and his efficiency with those types of heroes has been significant for VP throughout the season. RAMZES666 has averaged an impressive 342 Last Hits per game this season, with only 5 of the players attending TI9 coming into the event with a higher average. Earning Last Hits and gold have not been the only strengths for RAMZES666 though, as he also comes into TI9 leading VP in terms of average kills per game at 8. That average sits at tenth among all players at TI9, putting RAMZES666 in elite company at his position as he has managed to remain involved in his team’s overall game plan while still finding near unparalleled levels of farm for his own heroes. That efficiency and effectiveness both in terms of fighting and farming will likely play a massive role in VP’s potential success as the squad searches for its first TI title in Shanghai.
Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko (Mid)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 7.76 kills, 10.89 assists, 3.44 deaths per game (136 matches)
Like teammate RAMZES666, No[o]ne has emerged as one of the top players in the game despite still being fairly young at just 21 years of age. His time as a professional officially began in November of 2014, when his relatively unknown squad BUHLO-UroPb was signed by the Vega Squadron organization. Over the final months of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, No[o]ne and Vega Squadron struggled to find its footing, as the squad posted some inconsistent results within the European and CIS regions. However, the latter half of the year saw the squad break through, posting a string of impressive performances and even making an appearance at The Frankfurt Major 2015. 2016 saw Vega Squadron continue to make improvements, but an unsuccessful showing in the TI6 Europe Qualifiers spelled the end of No[o]ne’s time with the organization, as both he and teammate Solo left the team to join the newly reformed VP roster in August of 2016. He has remained with the VP organization ever since, becoming one of the focal points of the team’s roster over the past 3 years. Over the course of this 2018-2019 season, No[o]ne’s position as the anchor of this VP lineup became even more apparent, as the Ukrainian Midlaner favored a style that put him right the thick of the fighting as often as possible. With heroes like Invoker, Outworld Devourer, Storm Spirit, Monkey King, and Dragon Knigh among his most played this season, No[o]ne has had no qualms with throwing himself into the mist of a fight and demanding the attention of his opponent. His skill with high damage heroes like those previously mentioned has made him extremely dangerous, and his season averages of 7.71 kills and 10.28 assists on just 3.25 deaths per game speaks to the power and efficiency that he has brought to his role. No matter the hero that he ends up being put on, No[o]ne provides VP with a strong and reliable source of damage and team fight power that the squad has often found itself rallying around, and that consistent strength is something that the team will almost certainly find itself relying upon heavily at TI9.
Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov (Offlane)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 4.58 kills, 12.88 assists, 4.15 deaths per game (123 matches)
While 9pasha comes into TI9 as VP’s offlaner, and one of the most well known players in the Dota 2 world at his positions, the 27 year old has spent a large section of his professional career in the Carry role. He began his career as an Offlaner back in 2014 as a member of the BUHLO-UroPb roster that was signed by Vega Squadron, but moved to the Carry role after about 6 months with the organization due to changes to the team’s lineup. 9pasha was a member of Vega Squadron during the team’s incredible 1st place performance at ESL One New York 2015, and was also a part of the team’s first ever appearance at a Valve event at The Frankfurt Major 2015. In March of 2016 though, 9pasha parted ways with Vega Squadron, joining the roster of Polarity. That stint would last just 3 months though, as 9pasha left Polarity in June just 2 weeks before the squad’s official disbanding. He would briefly join up with Fantstic Five in July for an unsuccessful run through the TI6 Qualifiers, before being officially picked up by VP in August of 2016 as part of its newly formed roster. Throughout his time on VP, 9pasha has been asked to fill a number of roles, but over the course of the 2018-2019, he has drifted towards the role of team fight controller and damage dealer. Brewmaster, Centaur Warrunner, Doom, Phoenix, Pangolier, Dark Seer, and Enigma are his most played heroes this season, being the only heroes that he has at least 10 appearances on in official matches this season. Across those 7 heroes, 9pasha has put together a combined win rate of 68.75% in 112 total matches, and has averaged double digits assists with every one of those heroes. Across the season as a whole, 9pasha has averaged 12.56 assists per game, which sits at eighth among Offlaners at TI9. While he may not average as many kills or assists as some of his peers, 9pasha has proven himself capable of making his contributions to his roster with incredibly little risk to said squad, as he comes into TI9 with the third lowest death per game average among Offlaners at just 4.22. As the saying goes, “discretion is the better part of valor”, and the fact that 9pasha has been able to consistently contribute to his team’s success without putting himself into frequent danger is a valuable asset for a team about to embark on a quest to claim its first TI title in Shanghai.
Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan (Support)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 3.34 kills, 13.39 assists, 6.00 deaths per game (136 matches)
Technically speaking, RodjER is the most recent addition to the current VP lineup, though that statement rings a bit hollow considering he has been with the team now for over a year. That stability has been something of a new experience for RodjER though, as the Support has spent the majority of his career to this point as a journeyman within the European and CIS regions. His time as a professional began back in 2014 as a member of the Cleave Gaming/Aware Gaming roster, though by the end of that year he had parted ways with the squad. After spending nearly the entirety of 2015 as a free agent, he would pop up on the roster of Prodota Gaming in January of 2016 for a stint of around 5 months with the team. After leaving Prodota Gaming in June of 2016, RodjER spent the rest of the year bouncing between the rosters of GUS Gaming, FlipSid3 Tactics, Skorokhod+4, and Rebels. It was with that last squad that RodjER began to see some success, as Rebels earned itself 5 straight Top 4 finishes across the final 2 months of the year. In January of 2017, the Rebels roster was signed by Effect, though the team’s results would begin to slip with the new organization. In May of 2017, RodjER parted ways with Effect to join Team Empire, helping the team qualify for TI7 before mounting a 7th-8th place campaign at the event itself. In the aftermath of TI7, RodjER moved on to the Na’Vi lineup, spending the first half of the season with the organization before being traded to VP in February of 2018. With VP, RodjER has shown a talent for aggressive, play making Supports, and that skill has been on display across the team’s 2018-2019 campaign. Over the course of this season RodjER has preferred to play heroes with either high levels of team fight power or significant levels of lock down and ganking potential. Subsequently, his list of most played heroes this season includes Enigma, Earthshaker, Shadow Shaman, Nyx Assassin, Tiny, Phoenix, and Earth Spirit, giving the Position 4 Support a strong mix of potential both as a roaming Support and as a team fight controller. His average of 12.56 assists per game is not quite at an elite level compared to some of the other players at TI9 (31st highest average among all participants), but considering the fact that VP is one of just 7 teams in the field for this event to have at least 4 members of its roster average double digit assists, it is understandable that his personal average might not be among the leaders. Even so, his ability to consistently provide damage and control for his team has been vital to VP’s success this season, and will play just as important of a role in the squad’s run at TI9.
Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Support, Captain)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 2.53 kills, 14.07 assists, 6.55 deaths per game (134 matches)
Solo comes into TI9 having made one of the more interesting transformations over the course of his career. The Support went from the progenitor of the infamous “322” meme to one of the most successful and venerated Captains in the Dota 2 world (though he is technically not the team’s captain coming into this event), having led this VP squad to a record breaking 5 Major Championship titles. His time as a professional did not begin with that level of glory though, as Solo spent a large portion of his career languishing in the lower levels of the CIS regional scene. His career began in 2012 as a member of Moscow Five, but he would spend nearly the entirety of 2012 and 2013 bouncing between the roster of 9 different squads and organizations, finding only limited success with those various teams. In February of 2014, Solo made his third run with Rox, but that stint would last just 3 months before he left the team, only to be picked up by Team Empire a few months later in August of 2014. After closing out the year with Team Empire, Solo was on the move again to start 2015, briefly joining up with XX5 Gaming before moving to Vega Squadron in April. With Solo at the helm, Vega Squadron quickly made a name for itself in the CIS and European regions, posting a string of much improved results with its new lineup. Though the team failed to qualify for TI5 with a 2nd place result in the qualifier, the squad did put together a victory at ESL One New York 2015, and followed up that performance with a 9th-12th place showing at The Frankfurt Major 2015. Solo continued to lead Vega Squadron to a comparably impressive run in 2016 as well, but after failing to qualify for TI6, he and teammate No[o]ne were both picked up by VP as part of its new roster. Since then, Solo has been one of the minds behind VP’s meteoric rise to power in the Dota 2 world, while employing something of a defensive and sacrificial style himself. Across the 2018-2019 season, Solo has picked up heroes like Oralce, Bane, Lich, Disruptor, and Silencer, balancing lane support and defensive skills with lock down potential and team fight strength. Those efforts have resulted in an average of 13.41 assists per game for the Support, an average that leads the VP roster this season. Though he will not be holding down the role of Captain for his team in Shanghai, Solo’s veteran experience and sacrificial style of play should allow him to set up the rest of his squad for success on the TI stage.
Arsenij “ArsZeeqq” Usov (Coach)
ArsZeeqq certainly had some big shoes to fill when he joined up with the VP organization, as he was taking the position that had formerly been held by Artstyle, who had helped guide VP to 4 Major Championship titles during his time as coach. ArsZeeqq himself was no stranger to either coaching or playing though, as he served as a Support for 3 years from 2014 to 2017 before transitioning to the coaching role, serving as a coach for Effect and Team Empire in 2017 and 2018. Though the VP roster is supremely talented in its own right, the addition of ArsZeeqq in the coaching role had given the squad an advantage that had translated into continued success for the team on the Pro Circuit stage, as the squad added another Major Championship title to its list of accomplishments while earning Top 4 finishes in 4 of the season’s 5 total Majors. A good coach can turn a good team into a great team, and for a squad as talented as VP currently is, the hope is that ArsZeeqq can help turn this great team into a Championship team in Shanghai.
Keys to Success at TI9
Coming into this event, the term “success” has a number different meanings depending on which team one is discussing. Obviously, the ultimate measure of success for any of the squads attending this event would be to walk away from Shanghai with the Aegis of Champions in hand and the title of TI9 Champion. Considering the fact that only 1 of the 18 participants at TI9 will be able to do that though, and also considering that not all of these teams are regarded as being on an equal footing in terms of skill and experience, a “TI Champions or bust” mentality won’t fit for every squad in the field. With that in mind, this section is not a “do these things and win TI” sort of list in terms of keys to success. Instead, success in this section will be marked in a team’s ability to play its best level of Dota and put itself in the best possible position to push as far up the event standings as it reasonably can.
Take advantage of RAMZES666’s wide hero pool
Ever since he came to the VP lineup, it has been abundantly clear that RAMZES666 is a supremely talented player, and that talent has been an incredibly large part of the team’s success over the past 2 years. Coming into TI9, RAMZES666 will again be called upon to play a big role in the team’s game plan, and one of the biggest advantages that he brings to the table is the fact that he can produce high level results with a fairly large pool of heroes. While the Carry has most often been placed upon hard-farming, late-game oriented cores, the sheer number of heroes that he has found success with over the course of the 2018-2019 season is staggering. Across the entirety of the 2018-2019 campaign, RAMZES666 posted a win rate of at least 50% with his 14 most played heroes. Taking that a step further, the Carry had a total of 26 heroes that he played at least 2 times in official matches this season, and recorded a win rate of at least 50% with 23 of them. The ability for RAMZES666 to find success with so many different heroes is and advantage for VP that really can’t be overstated, as the Carry stands as a reliable force that opponents will be effectively powerless to contain via drafting alone. Between his incredible versatility and impressive results, RAMZES666 brings a level of strength to this VP roster that few of his peers can match up against.
Let RAMZES666 and No[o]ne be active and aggressive
The Carry/Mid duo of RAMZES666 and No[o]ne come into TI9 as one of the elite pairs at their positions in the Dota 2 world, as they have played an impressively large role in the team’s record breaking 5 Major Championship titles over the past 2 years. If the CIS powerhouse wants to have a shot at claiming the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai, then that duo will have to continue to lead from the front for VP. Throughout this season, the two players have had somewhat differing play styles, as RAMZES666 has preferred the slower building, hard-farming cores while No[o]ne has often seen action on more aggressive heroes with fighting and pick off potential. The one thing that the 2 players have in common across their disparate styles though is a penchant for finding kills, with the duo combining to average 15.71 kills per game this season. That average puts them at sixth among Carry/Mid duos at TI9, and speaks to the incredible ability of the pair to lead this VP squad to victories. Coming into the event itself, VP should lean as much as possible into that ability by allowing RAMZES666 and No[o]ne to be as active as they wish to be across the team’s matches. The duo have often been the ones setting the pace for VP, and that trend will most likely have to continue for the squad to get the maximum level of strength out of its star Carry/Mid duo in Shanghai.
Don’t rely too much on any 1 player to set up the team
This one might sound strange coming right after the point in which we discussed how important the duo of RAMZES666 and No[o]ne are to VP and how much they control the pace of the team’s strategies. However, nobody can win matches on their own efforts alone, and setting the pace of play is not quite as valuable if the rest of the team’s roster can’t match up to that pace and do so comfortably. With that in mind, it is important for VP to avoid over-relying on a single player to set the rest of the squad up for success or to single-handedly carry the team to a win. While the duo of RAMZES666 and No[o]ne lead the team in terms of average kills per game this season, VP is at its best when every member of its squad is heavily involved in team fights and engagements. In fact, the squad comes into TI9 as 1 of just 7 teams in the field to have at least 4 of its 5 players average double digit assists per game. The team’s Carry/Mid duo may end up with the majority of the kills in a given match, but the responsibility of setting up favorable engagements, team fights, and pick off opportunities is one that the squad tends to share fairly evenly among its members. So long as the team continues to spread out those duties among its roster, it should never end up becoming too reliant upon any 1 member of the team to have a strong performance to find success. Star players certainly make for exciting highlights and individual plays, but it takes a balanced team to claim the Aegis of Champions, and VP certainly seems to fit that bill heading into TI9.
Expectations at TI9
VP come into TI9 as one of the most historically successful teams to ever play the game, as the squad currently holds the record for the most Major Championship titles in the history of Dota 2. In a CIS region that had long burdened under the massive shadow of the dominant 2011-2013 Na’Vi squad, VP has emerged as a dynastic power that has clearly cemented its own position in the region’s history. For all the team’s success though, there is one title that has still eluded the VP organization: that of TI Champion. With the squad appearing to be at the peak of its power though, with talented and experienced players and a record breaking degree of success under its belt, VP hopes to finally lay claim to that coveted title with a victorious campaign at TI9.
Prior to the start of the event itself, it’s hard to argue that VP doesn’t sit in an incredibly favorable position among the field of teams for TI9, as the squad has just finished an incredibly impressive regular season on the Pro Circuit. The team claimed another Major Championship title, and put together Top 4 finishes across 4 of the 5 Majors this season, all the while finishing no lower than 2nd in 7 total appearances in regional events and qualifiers. The team has proven itself to be an elite team in the Dota 2 world, and it has put together an incredibly impressive 75-56 record against its fellow TI9 participants over the 2018-2019 season as well. Between a dominant season on the home front, consistent success on the international level, and a strong record against the other top squads in the Dota 2 world, VP appears to have every factor working in its favor heading into TI9 itself.
With all of that in mind, it seems fairly clear that VP is one of the strongest teams in the entirety of the Dota 2 world, and the CIS powerhouse should be considered one of the favorites to claim the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai. Of course, success is never guaranteed on the TI stage, as VP certainly knows after failing to claim the title last year after a spectacular regular season that saw it claim 4 Major Championship titles. Becoming a TI Champion always seems to require some sort of balance between talent, leadership, poise, and just plain luck, and until a team actually takes the TI stage, it is never clear just how much of each it will end up needing. As of right now, no one can speak for luck, but in terms of talent, leadership, and poise this VP roster appears to have all 3 in abundance heading into TI9. The squad should be considered one of the biggest favorites in the field for this event, with Team Secret likely being the only other squad with equal expectations to the CIS juggernaut. The squad will almost certainly be one of the stronger contenders in the field to claim the Aegis of Champions, and anything below a finish in the top third of the event standings will likely come as a disappointment to this team as it has its eyes on immortality in Shanghai.