Historically Framing Virtus.pro
The qualifiers we use to define Virtus.pro in a historical sense are tired. Are NEO and TaZ undisputed veterans? Yes. Are they a pedigreed, experienced roster? Yes. Are they the longest standing five in CS:GO history? Yes.
This much is axiomatic when approaching any discussion around the Poles.
Yet, it might even be an injustice to simply describe Virtus.pro in the limelight of their tenure and trophy cabinet. People find it hard to award them the same immortal, romanticised stature we give to the likes of 2014–15 Fnatic or vintage NiP. That’s largely because, unlike the great dynasties, we have seen Virtus.pro for extended periods of time out of elite play.
When Fnatic fell, they fell quickly. From winning ESL One Cologne 2015, it was two months before the roster disbanded. It’s almost impossible to look back on this Fnatic roster and not think of the high points. The same rules apply even more-so to VeryGames who, with most newer fans not having an opportunity to go back and watch demos, rely on the historical rhetoric of those that look fondly back on their glory days.
These same graces are not bestowed on Virtus.pro.
They are a team which exist right now, fighting to constantly be in the elite, and fighting to win titles. We can’t establish them in the rose-tinted lens of historical hindsight because, for many at least, it’s hard to get over their current form of online results or group stage upsets.
In this sense, it’s not about assigning them pedigree or titles. That will come much later after we have the entire bank of their results to go over as a five-man core. In the present at least, the best way to look at their history is through the narrative archetype of a gate keeping side.
Due to their length of time in the scene, there is likely no other team in CS:GO history that has had as heavy a hand in shaping the current landscape we see today. They have won in crucial moments that has helped usher out teams or instigate roster moves, and more importantly, have lost in high press scenarios moments that has facilitated CS:GO’s greatest dynasties.
Their history is littered with these moments that — now with the benefit of historical hindsight — can be broken down with far more context than the actual impact that the result had at that moment.
In terms of their key losses — they truly have played the role of a gatekeeper. Virtus.pro’s Bo3 losses across five different majors can be directly attributed to the sustain, or birth, of three CS:GO ‘eras’ of play.
At both ESL One Katowice 2015 and ESL One Cologne 2015, Virtus.pro played Fnatic in the semi-finals. Fnatic would eventually win both tournaments, being the first roster in CS:GO history to win two Majors, and in back-to-back fashion. These two crowning jewels in the Fnatic dynasties crown thwarted any attempts of not defining them as the resident kings of Counter-Strike. Whereas TSM were the Swedes kryptonite throughout the year, they could never muster up the performance to disrupt the Fnatic era when it counted — in the majors.
So with Fnatic’s primary rivals in TSM struggling at the Majors, and the other competition in EnVyUs and NiP failing to match the Swedes with any consistency — with NiP playing Fnatic in that epic Bo3 at Katowice 2015 one day, and then losing to nV in consecutive series in LANs afterwards — it came onto Virtus.pro’s shoulders to put up a fight.
At Katowice we saw them take Fnatic into the brink of overtime before the infamous Fnatic tac pause was called, and the Swedes managed to impose their raw will to win the game, and then destroy VP on their own map pick of Mirage to win the series. Cologne brought about a similarly close affair, with VP being two rounds away from winning the series outright before Fnatic managed to claw their way back into the game with their vicious Inferno CT defence.
Twice VP stood before the Sith Lords of CS:GO and twice they gave them a fight to the death. Fnatic’s reign is now cemented in the annals of time because they could overcome Virtus.pro as the gatekeerpers.
The same can be said for MLG Columbus and ESL One Cologne 2016. At both these tournaments we saw VP face off against the fiery and in-form Brazilians in the quarterfinals and semi-finals respectively. Both series went a full three maps, with an overtime game in each. Virtus.pro, although at the time boasted an atrocious online record, took what would become one of the greatest teams in CS history to the edge of their in-game boundaries.
To put in perspective, across the two majors that the Brazilians played, they only dropped two maps, both of those maps were dropped to VP.
After beating VP the Luminosity/SK line-up would, like Fnatic, calcify their place in CS history as legends.
Even more in-line with the gatekeeper archetype was VP’s performance at the ELEAGUE Major. Here, they would keep out the likes of North and SK Gaming, both of which would change rosters afterwards, and then play Astralis in a nail-biting Bo3.
Astralis’s triumph over the poles was one of the driving forces for the first half of 2017 to be defined as their era. VP beat out the two main competitors outside of Na`Vi that could rival Astralis, thereby proving that if Astralis can beat VP, they deserve the number one spot. One can imagine, especially given the pattern, that the PGL Krakow Major has potential to bring about another close affair.
To recap, that’s 5 Majors played. 5 Majors lost to the eventual winner. 3 Eras established. 1 team of Poles.
It’s far more difficult though, to reasonably apply this same train of logic to the teams VP actually beat and how that affected CS:GO history. If VP beat a team and they disband the next day, it’s unreasonable to assume that they disbanded just because they specifically lose to VP, in that specific moment. So it’s hard to comb through their results and find the cause and effect of their win over a team directly leading to a change in course of another teams make-up or outlook.
That’s mostly because any changes that VP have made by beating sides has been subtle, behind-the-scenes course corrections which, as any pond rippling enthusiast will tell you, can in-turn have a drastic outcome on the effect of CS:GO history.
In saying that though, one of the more immediate examples that jumps to mind is their performance in Group D of MLG Columbus. Considered to be the closest thing to a ‘group of death’ at the tournament, Na`Vi, VP, G2, and Cloud9 would all have to face each other. VP would destroy G2 16–1 in their first encounter before beating them again 2–1 in a Bo3 to knock G2 out of the group.
This defeat by Virtus.pro marked the sixth consecutive groupstage exist by an Ex6tenz led team at the Majors. This poor performance compounded mounting pressures within the team and eventuated with Ex6tenz being kicked from the side and shox taking over as IGL. This move would take G2 to the top of the CS:GO heap and seriously contest with Luminosity for their number one spot as shox’s significantly looser style, and star-focussed calling facilitated the rise of himself and ScreaM throughout the year.
These are the framing devices we should view Virtus.pro through. They are not just simply a team veterans who were at one point a great side and could one day become great again. These Poles are one of the few boulders in the stream of CS:GO’s history that actively forces the stream to fit around them. Their impact can be measured by the dynasties they’ve helped create ON TOP of the results they’ve gathered and pedigree they carry.
This is a team who are not only the gatekeepers in Majors, but gatekeepers for new fans to understand how CS:GO history functions. For understanding their story and rivalries is to understand some of the greatest narratives CS:GO has to offer, and appreciating possibly the most unique side to ever grace this game.