VP's general manager on the cost of Dota 2 players, what to expect from CS:GO line-up and when will the Cypher's problem with entry to the USA be resolved.
After the TI7 you mentioned that the 5-6 place is a deserved outcome. Does the team agree with you?
Our guys played to win, understanding that they're fully capable of victory. Players are never satisfied with just top-3 or top-4 – everyone aims for the first place. The same goes for those who understand that even the group stage will be challenging for them. At the time I posted that, some players wouldn't agree with me in the heat of the moment. But now, a month after our return from Seattle, everyone more or less understands that it was a rather justified result.
What did your team and you learn from the TI7?
Two weeks ago Lesha Berezin arrived in Moscow, and we chatted quite a lot. Together with our wives and our host, Masha Ermolina, we went to a restaurant of Buryat and Mongolian cuisine and tasted frozen horse liver. A rather exotic dish!
At first we talked about life in general, but in the end, the topic got changed to Dota anyway. By the way, Solo played quite a lot during his vacation. So, Lesha told me that the most important lesson he learned from the TI7 was that he needs to trust his instincts more.
The defeat against Team Liquid and the Chinese team didn't break his spirit. Quite the contrary – he and the boys are full of determination and are ready to prove that they're capable of much more. About the organization side – our guys asked us to create the best conditions possible before the tournament. It was very expensive, but we managed to provide these conditions. And it was well worth it. This was an example of a great partnership that will definitely work in the future.
How will you prepare for the tournaments in the upcoming season?
The new season is going to have a vastly different schedule with a lot of Majors. We don't really know what to expect from the ranking system yet, but we're planning to shift away from the idea of long bootcamps before Majors. Basically: instead of spending three weeks on one bootcamp, our guys will hold three one-week-long bootcamps.
Bootcamps – in Russia or abroad?
Our guys will gather in Mosсow on 16th of September to play qualifications for three tournaments: two Minors (Croatian and Romanian) and one Major in Hamburg. They'll arrive in Bucharest a couple of days prior to the tournament and will stay there after its conclusion. The Minor itself will be some sort of practice-run before the Hamburg Major, so our team is guaranteed a great week of training combined with official games. Afterwards – Hamburg, and after – Croatia. In Croatia, guys will bootcamp and play qualifications for DreamHack – the Winter Major - that will take place in Sweden.
You've been familiar with the team for a year already. Is there a player who changed your opinion of him?
When we just met, we were complete strangers. To add to that, we have a significant age difference with everyone but Lesha. But we went to Boston together, then – to Kiev. During The Summit I was the team's manager already, in The International we also were together most of the time. Even if we aren't buddies, we know each other really well now – as colleagues, and as companions. For instance, Vova turned out to be a rather deep person. At first glance he doesn't seem like it, but he has clear judgments about a lot of things and a clear life plan. One of the parts of said plan – to become one of the best midlaners in the world – and he's visibly working on it.
After the TI7 the team announced that disbanding is not happening. Does Virtus.pro get transfer requests, like in football?
I really don't want to find myself in Evgeni Zolotarev's situation – when he announced in his interview that OG wanted to poach Dendi, and OG refuted his claim the following day. So I'll just say the following: yes, last winter a team was interested in one of our players. I'm talking about the team that won one of the last years' Majors. In order to retain him, we slightly improved conditions for our entire team.
Is there a sum that Virtus.pro is willing to accept to part ways with a player?
Every player, regardless of their discipline, has their exit package specified in their contract. Naturally, I can't reveal it publicly, but I can hint that it's measured in tens of their salaries - obviously, this sum is quite huge. Again, I want to mention that while we do everything we can to retain our players, we don't try to put them in dependency from us. The way we resolved our issues with Blasting from League of Legends is a great example of how we always strive to find a compromise between an org and a player.
If you had to urgently replace someone in your team, what position would you choose and what hero would you pick?
I wonder which position will make the 4 v 5 less apparent. I think the best I can do is cheer up our guys in between matches instead of ArtStyle. But If I absolutely had to play, I'd choose support – after all, my job in VP is to support our players, so it hits closer to home for me. I'd pick Visage – he looks cool!
When you just arrived at Virtus.pro, they were in the middle of re-signing the CS:GO roster. How did it go?
The negotiations took about four months. It was a civilized, but a rather difficult process. Considering that it was a long-term contract, we had to agree on a huge list of conditions. It was Anton's [Cherepennikov] idea to sign the polish team for such a long term, and I supported this idea. After a year, I can safely say that I don't regret this decision in a slightest. Even despite the slight decline in the latest results.
First of all, there's a commercial side. It's not the main reason, but our organization functions thanks to the funds of our sponsors, streaming, sticker sales, etc. Regarding that, it is obvious that our Counter Strike roster is one of the most financially potent in the world. The other part of the equation is that currently, we have a few of the best players in the world skill wise. For example, Snax is a regular in HLTV's top five rankings, and everyone knows what NEO is capable of. I think everyone noticed how much pasha improved in the last six months, TaZ is playing quite confidently in the last tournaments, byali retains his level. Their experience and personal skill level are out of question.
It's a unique situation - both our CS:GO and Dota2 lineups are ready to claim titles and to outplay any opponent. It's just a matter of correct preparation and mentality.
What do you think of CS:GO team's mentality, judging from the latest tournaments?
Our guys have had impressive results in the fall-2016 and winter-2017 – three finals and a brilliant victory in Las Vegas. Right now there's no need to fool anyone – the situation is really tricky. First things first, it's because the in-game leader's role got passed from NEO to Snax – guys had to realize this change and adapt accordingly. Everything seemed to go smooth, though – our guys won the Adrenaline Cup (but this victory shouldn't be overestimated) and worked productively during Cologne's bootcamp. Krakow Major's results look fine on paper – but it's well understood that it was possible to reach a much higher place with such bracket and home turf support. Regarding the changes - we're in touch with the team and the coach - in the following days I'll fly to New York for ESL One. We have a huge session planned with the guys, and we'll have things to say after its conclusion.
Is Av3k's story only one QuakeCon long? Or is he to stay in Virtus.pro?
We made a clear decision to sign a second player. Av3k is an old sparring partner of Cypher – right now they're even planning a joint bootcamp. Most likely, in Kiev – they both can arrive there without a visa. So they're practicing together, playing together, helping one another. They used to be opponents, and now they're teammates who sometimes have to play against each other – like Solo against RAMZES during the AllStars Match.
Would you like to see Cypher and Av3k in the finals of the next QuakeCon?
Not only in QuakeCon – in any tournament. Right now, there's going to be a huge number of them. Hopefully, organizers will form brackets in such a way thay they won't meet earlier than the finals.
Is Cypher's issue with entering the States being resolved in any way?
We made progress towards resolving Alexey's issue, but the problem isn't closed yet. He's a citizen of Belarus, which means that due to the latest events with American embassies, he'll have to apply for a visa in Warsaw. We are cautiously optimistic. I hope he'll be able to attend the upcoming tournament.
QuakeCon 2017 turned out to be rather weird. Any bad feelings about entering this discipline?
Judging a discipline from one, even an important, tournament is incorrect. The game's in the late beta – many things need more polishing and don't work as intended yet. We are not an organization that makes decisions based on 2-3 months. We are positive that the discipline is moving in the right direction. More concrete indicators of the scene's dynamics will be available as a result of 3-4 tournaments and, at minimum, half a year of time. If the scene won't develop in a way that satisfies us, we would take a corresponding action, but so far we're happy with the scene's dynamics.
Community questioned Virtus.pro's choice. Why Cypher instead of Cooler? How did you arrive at this conclusion?
We could sign basically any player. I can say that I specifically chose Alexey due to the number of reasons - most importantly, the in-game ones. So far Na'Vi is, no doubt, leading this one – Cooler at least attended The QuakeCon. I wish all the best for Anton, but only time will show who made the right call – we or Na'Vi.