Virtus.pro: Always one step behind
Overall, Virtus.Pro has been one of the most consistent teams in CS:GO this year. They’ve taken part (from EMS Katowice 2014 until now) in 16 different events, and they’ve only failed to reach the top four three times.
In spite of this amazing streak of good results, Virtus.pro has only won three out of the 16 events, EMS Katowice 2014,Gfinity G3 and Copenhagen games 2015 and finished 3rd-4th in most of the others. For a team that has a very high skillset and a huge potential, the results have actually been pretty disappointing; after all, they’ve had more than enough chances to reach the finals and get more wins this year. So why can’t they show up like they did at the start of 2014?
Rather than one single problem that sets them back, Virtus have a bunch of different, smaller internal and external issues that keep them back.
Virtus.pro’s history can be separated in two, depending on who they lost to:
1st era(EMS-one Katowice-ESL one cologne 2014):
In this first era, Virtus are considered a top 2 team in the world, their main rivals being Nip, the best team at the time.
Virtus.pro’s main roster has at its core the cs 1.6 veterans Neo, Taz and Pasha. Moving to CS:GO, they brought in two new guys to the lineup, Snax and Byali. The move was a success, as Virtus took their first big win at Katowice, crushing Nip in the finals. But Nip later managed to turn the rivalry around, beating Virtus two times, at Copenhagen Games and Starladder. The poles eventually came back in force, beating Titan 2:0 to win Gfinity G3, but this was the last win they would win in a long time.
(Virtus.pro, winners at Katowice)
At ESL Cologne Virtus lost to team LDLC(the former one that had Apex in it), marking the end of the first era.In summary, during this time they mostly lost to Nip, the best team at the time, but also dropped some games against teams such as Na’vi, Complexity or LDLC, teams that were under them in the rankings.
Virtus managed to win those two events because of their “plow” mode; where they start off strong on the favorite side, and their individual skills and coordination makes them able to chain rounds together, leading to a shut down on the CT side or a very good scoreline on the T side.
2nd era: Post-Cologne-present
What is interesting about this era is the fact that Virtus didn’t change much in their play style, and they solidify their position as the 3rd best team in the world, until Dreamhack winter. However, ever since Cologne, two new superteams, with a very similar play style joined the scene: the new Fnatic(with Krimz and OlofM) and the new LDLC (now Envyus). What’s special about them is their strengths: both of them have the best CT sides, but they also manage to have very good T sides, but because of different reasons:
Fnatic, after they solidified their position as the best team in the world, were a brick wall on the CT sides because of their star players(especially Krimz, who could shut down an entire site on the CT side) and a very good rotator in Olofmeister. On the T side, they would take control of as much of the map as possible, then they rely on their leader, Pronax, to read the enemy team’s positions and make the right call to attack one site.
On the other hand, Envy is a team of superstars. Having the likes of Shox, NBK and Happy means that you can never count them off, as any of these players might get the 3 or 4 frags and win you the round for you. Their play style is very aggressive and they want, like Fnatic, to shut you down as early as possible on the CT side by using their skillset and veteran mentality, and on the T side they rely on these players to take the entry frags, get the cleanup kills and so grind the rounds needed to end the game.
The reason why these two teams are so important in Virtus’s history is because once Nip went to sh*t(around ESWC), these two teams basically pushed Virtus off the top two, and claimed the top spots for themselves. Remember, those are new, fresh and very talented teams, and the poles were cut off by surprise, because the meta itself has changed so much ever since: First off, Fnatic and Envy started the whole CZ-75(and later the Tec-9) meta, by making “force buys” whenever they couldn’t afford weapons, and because of their skillset you could NEVER count them off an eco round. On the other side, Virtus never really embraced this meta, and probably never will at the level these two teams can. You have to remember, the “ old” guys in Virtus, Neo Taz and Pasha played back in the 1.6 days, and there were no such OP pistols back then, meaning this new style of play must have thrown them off their comfort zone.
Their other problem is their team. First of all, when Virtus won at Katowice and Gfinity it was mainly because all of their players were on fire, especially Pasha. Ever since Gfinity, they just haven’t been able to reach such a high level, as the only consistently good players in Virtus are Snax and Byaly; yes, we’ve had rounds or maps when Taz, Neo or Pasha would dominate, but there haven’t been series where the whole team played to their level at Katowice, meaning it’s much harder to get into the “ Plow” mode they need to actually have a chance against these two teams. Especially Pasha; sometimes he’s trying to AWP, but he is no match to the likes of Kenny, Guardian or even JW, and when he is rifling he is way too inconsistent: sometimes he plays like his old self, killing everybody with crazy sprays, but sometimes he just can’t hold the site and dies quickly.
Their second big issue is the leadership. Since Katowice, they continuously changed in-game leaders, and they’ve finally settled with Taz as their leader. However, sometimes they just seem to crumble under the pressure, especially in the mid-late parts of the round. Their decision making is sometimes off, they can’t predict what the enemy will do next, and sometimes they seem to go on tilt mode, like TSM does in the semis; just look at this match from IOS Pantamera against Fnatic, and you can see how they literally drop the game, having a pretty bad T side against Fnatic, even though they started almost perfectly on the CT side, but only managed to get a draw, which was not enough for them to go through, even though they are supposedly on their best map.
(Losing in the group stage at IOS Pantamera marked the first time Virtus didn't get to the playoffs in a long time)
Which brings us to another big issue for them; their map pool. Yes, they’ve tried many different maps, including the likes of Cobblestone or Overpass, but to no effect. First of all, tell me a map on which they might have an advantage against the likes of Fnatic or Envy. Is it Cache? They were, at some point, the best on Cache, right? No, not really, Fnatic and Envy managed to beat them on this map. Mirage? Nope, it’s Fnatic’s second best map at the moment, and Fnatic has shown that they can beat them on it numerous times. Inferno? Not a chance, as both of Fnatic and Envy are beasts on this map. And this is a real problem that both Virtus and Nip, for that matter, face: their home maps are the same as their opponents best maps, but the opponents are better than them individually and as a team, so they will lose on their best maps too.
Admittedly, they tried to master some new maps, like Overpass or Cobble, but even those couldn’t bring them the win they needed; they faced both Fnatic and Envy on overpass at Fragbite Masters and lost, and they also lost against Fnatic at the last major, Katowice 2015, on Cobble, even though they had all of the fan support that everyone said they needed to win. They lack the ability to shut down the CT sides like Envy or Fnatic do, which is a problem because you can't grind those T rounds against these teams.
Video Fnatic VP Cobble:
One of the maps they could have stood a chance on realistically was Nuke, but even there they managed to lose in dramatic fashion against the likes of Nip, who are at the same level as Virtus at the moment, so how could they beat Fnatic or Envy then, even though these teams don’t usually play the map? Even if they could, Fnatic could just ban Nuke(which they do most of the time anyway), and then win any other maps. Well, now we are sure they won’t be able to, since the map is going to be pulled out from the active duty and will be replaced with Train, so maybe they might have a chance on Train, but I highly doubt it, since Train is historically almost just as CT-sided as Nuke is, and Fnatic already beat them on it(the old one), for a matter of fact.
In the end, Virtus.pro managed to take a win at Copenhagen Games, but there was almost no real competition there, with the exception of TSM, who are notorious for their pressure moments fails anyway, so that’s not much of a win.
Admittedly, they had to face both Envy and Fnatic at their peaks, and it’s not like they couldn’t have won, but these issues prevent them from beating winning a series, meaning Envy and Fnatic can just dumpster them all day long on pretty much any map, that’s how far ahead of the curve they are at the moment. One moment that immediately comes to mind is the ESEA global 17 championship. After an early finish at Dreamhack Winter, Fnatic attended the event with much controversy surrounding their future, and some players even stated they might leave the team. There, Virtus managed to beat Fnatic in the upper finals 2-0 and went into the finals against the same Fnatic, but with a huge advantage: they had to play two best-of-threes, and Virtus.pro had a best-of-three advantage, meaning they just had to win another BO3 to win the title. No chance, as Fnatic literally smashed them, only dropping a single map during the WHOLE series, even though they were supposedly on their worst moment of their whole career. This shows just how far these guys are, in terms of both individual skillset and team chemistry.
As for the poles, I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon. After all, the’ve already shown us what they can do. Replacing any member of this team is also not really the best way to go, since there is currently no talent in Poland that might make a huge difference anyway. Plus, they have already signed a two year contract last years, so it seems like no one is leaving anytime soon. It feels like they are always one step behind, in terms of individual skill, adaptation to the meta, knowing your role in the team and map picks.
Still, their results could also be considered somewhat good. At least, unlike in the previous era, they only lost to the two best teams in the world, up until the “revival” of Nip. The poles have proven that they can beat everyone that is not called Fnatic or Envy(or Nip, for that matter), they are no longer losing to the likes of Na’vi, TSM or Titan in the playoffs series, which is a good thing, but not enough to win you a championship.
I’d say their last chance of winning is by having a run like they did in Katowice, where all of their players are on fire. However, they've already had many chances to prove themselves, especially at Katowice this year, but they still disappointed.
For now, the polish dream of having the best team in the world at Counter-Strike, like they did in 1.6 is on hold, at least for the moment.
Photo taken from csgo-emsone.com
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