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Team Secret and Virtus Pro – A Great Rivalry in the Making

Mythos 2019-02-02 12:02:13
When great rivalries form, the world around them is enriched. Expectations are heightened as an epic series is anticipated. Even when one side is highly favoured, we wonder “will this be the one?” or “can inevitability be staved off until the very end?” Often it's the presence of a great rivalry that can bring two groups of fans together as they learn to appreciate not only the competition, but how the opponent challenges their favourite team or player. Everyone remembers “El Classico”, words uttered by analysts and community alike whenever Alliance and Natus Vincere clashed throughout 2013 and 2014. So when Team Secret and Virtus Pro made it both to the winner bracket final, and the grand final for the second major in a row, the question started to float: was a great rivalry forming?   Where the EL Classico matchup in its prime was a battle of Alliance's well-rehearsed system and ability to seize every opportunity, against Na`Vi's overwhelming chaos; this new clash of titans is of Secret's own perfect system, coupled with their flexibility and creativity, against the harmony of skill that is Virtus Pro. Ironic perhaps, that Puppey now finds himself staring down the barrel of the metaphorical CIS shotgun, after spending the first years of his Dota2 career captaining it. The Secret “system” is one of unique role allocation. Built around Nisha's incredible carry power, the usual game plan involves giving him the space to take over late game. Where they differ from other teams is primarily around the 3rd and 4th position. Despite being the offlane core player, Zai is frequently permitted little more than scraps of farm. Contrasting this is YapzOr, whom eagerly sets up to absorb any resources opened up by the movements of MidOne and Zai. Despite being a “position 4 support” by technical definition, in the early to mid game transition, YapzOr tends to upgrade himself into a mock-core, typically ending up as the third most farmed member of his team.   Virtus Pro on the other hand, follow a more traditional format, with the farm priority spectrum starting with Ramzes as the safelane carry, and slowly lowering from mid, to offlaner, to 4 and 5 supports.They like to set up all cores for success however, with 9pasha getting notable success and gold throughout the laning phase. Even RodjER manages to accrue items abnormally fast, often enough. A structure like this is only made possible by their incredible talent. They seemingly have the highest-skilled player from the CIS region at every position, save the hard support. Playing to their strengths is their lineup formulation around Ramzes, who is just as effective at going into late game with a Terrorblade, as he is steamrolling with an Ursa. Such power at all phases of the game has paid off big time for Virtus Pro. In terms of DPC, they were easily the highest-scoring team of last season and have a shot at repeating that success. It’s the kind of squad that will never fall off a cliff when their dominant playstyle is nerfed. When these two teams battled at the Kuala Lumpur and Chonqing majors, spectators were treated to the highest level that competitive Dota has to offer, this season. As the playoffs get deep, the disparity between them and the next tier of teams opens up so obviously, that the winner bracket final is treated as little more than learning for both teams to use in the grand final; as if the lower bracket final is a foregone conclusion!   We are treated not only to the logical conclusion of the patch’s meta, but a totally new one, unique to the philosophy these teams develop specifically for the match up. Take game 1 of the winner bracket final at the Chonqing major for example. Slark had been residing at the bottom of the “viable carry” bin, borderline unpickable for most lineups. Yet Secret picked it in the second drafting phase as a counter to the formidable Ramzes Medusa. A surprise pick that no one could quite understand on paper. Slark was repurposed not to be a hard carry, but as a secondary core, opening up a last pick Phantom Assassin. Adding to the innovation was placing Slark in the hands of MidOne, at the midlane. Previously, the hero was seen as a safelaner and like any melee hero, would surely struggle against a Medusa’s Mystic Snake. Yet, he won the lane, putting tremendous pressure on Ramzes and buying precious time for his team. Pushing the oddity of this hero even further, MidOne rushed a Diffusal Blade and made it his mission to create as much space for Nisha’s PA as possible. The result may have been messy, but it was a win for Secret. secret Although Virtus Pro would learn how to handle MidOne’s Slark by game 2, it no less illustrated that these teams are more concerned with what’s needed to win this matchup, than what tools of the current meta play in their favour.   As we approach the Stockholm major, the challenge for most teams is not simply winning the event, but figuring out how to knock out either one of VP and Secret, let alone both. Should they maintain the form we’ve seen so far, the first half of the 2018-2019 competitive season will go down in history as the Secret/Virtus Pro two-team era.  
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