All for Ramzes: Breaking down Virtus.pro's signature draft and playstyle

All for Ramzes: Breaking down Virtus.pro's signature draft and playstyle

When one is analyzing Virtus.pro, there is one thing to consider first and foremost, and one thing only: their focus on Roman "Ramzes666" Kushnarev:

  • Everything VP does, every movement VP makes, every decision is dependent on Ramzes.
  • Ramzes will be picked a lane he can succeed in.
  • Ramzes will never be left alone in his lane if he’s not doing well.
  • Ramzes will never be sacked.

With this in mind, it’s time to look at what some call the most important thing in Dota 2.

The Draft

The emphasis on making sure Ramzes succeeds extends into every single one of VP’s drafts. Observe firstly, VP vs Clutch Gamers Game 2 (author’s note: read these images bottom to top - the bottommost match is VP vs Clutch Game 1).

Virtus.pro's picks and bans in their matches throughout EpicenterCG first-picks Legion Commander which is ran in the offlane by herself. VP picks Troll and Treant (we will expand more on these heroes later). Troll Warlord is capable of being ran as a mid or a safelane hero, but VP definitely wants him safelane, as Troll is one of the heroes that will find success against a Legion. Ramzes lane is secured. As additional aid, VP pick the Treant. Treant is capable of roaming around the map and creating kills in the early game, while giving the ability to babysit Ramzes with a Living Armor or two without being nearby.

With two picks, VP has set Ramzes up for success while giving them a stellar early game and teamfight with the Treant Protector. The enemy offlaner doesn’t need to be picked first to give Ramzes a good lane-VP picks Troll Warlord for Ramzes many times.

In VP vs Planet Odd - Game 1, VP picks up the Troll Warlord early. Seeing the Lone Druid come out from Odd, VP decides they have to change their gameplan and pressure the bear. So they pick Bane and Io and create an aggro tri-lane with Ramzes. Ramzes lane is secured, and they put pressure on the enemy carry: win-win scenario. However, all of this also may be one of their biggest weaknesses in the draft.

As you can see here, VP has a borderline dangerous tendency to pick Troll for Ramzes. Even more important is that Ramzes doesn’t play any carries that aren’t melee. This is not a death sentence: iG picked Earthshaker in all three of their games, and VP still managed to win two. However, Evil Geniuses did not fail to notice VP’s reliance on melee cores, and picked up heroes like Void, Venomancer, Razor, and Enigma.

EG had VP’s number this series, and knew exactly how to beat them. Let’s take a look at the game 1 draft: VP leads with the Io, a hero they love to put Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk on for its benefits, and Earthshaker. It appears to be a good start for them-they get one of their favorites, and a hero that proves annoying against VP’s melee cores. Earthshaker can also swap between support and offlane, giving them versatility. EG picked up CM and Sand King. With the SK being versatile in his own right, it also gives EG two heroes with control right off the bat, in addition to the CM aura. EG then picks Venomancer. EG is now incredibly dangerous in a teamfight, with a massive amount of slows and damage, and I consider this the first nail in the coffin for VP.

READ MORE: Lil at EPICENTER: "OG won't make it to the playoffs"

VP picks Juggernaut. Jugg. is a pretty decent pick here as it’s a comfort hero for Ramzes, the magic immunity from spin can help him survive a lot of the damage and control from EG, and healing ward can mitigate some of the damage from Poison Nova. EG then follows it up with Faceless Void: the second nail in the coffin. With proper positioning (and it’s Universe Void, one could argue he’s the best void in the scene), Void can completely stop a Juggernaut’s damage output, leaving him exposed to the rest of EG’s damage.

The rest of VP’s picks, in my opinion, do them no favors. The Dazzle support pick offers no control, and a mediocre saving mechanism due to the sheer amount of Damage over Time from EG. Then they pick Ursa, which I view as a hefty mistake. Ursa already has trouble being kited, and every single one of EG’s heroes has a method of control, be it stun, root, or slow. EG puts the third and final nail in the coffin by picking Razor. Razor is considered an “anticarry” by many. Not only does he win mid against an Ursa, static link and his ultimate spell doom for most melee cores in the game. EG takes the game, and then the series with another control-heavy lineup.

These issues continued to plague them against Liquid, as the KotL and Earthshaker on top of Liquid’s dominant teamfight punished them. Along with the Lone Druid push, VP failed to move further at Epicenter.

Why does drafting around VP’s melee cores work for opponents?

VP have one of the most top-heavy farm dynamics in professional Dota 2. VP always stacks farm onto Ramzes and Vladimir "No[0]ne" Minenko. This, of course, ties back into their dynamic of revolving everything around Ramzes. This also means that the rest of VP is standing in line for the soup kitchen.

Image taken at the 21 minute mark, VP vs Clutch Gamers game 1.

For instance, if the enemy has Batrider, and you are a core, you would like a Linken’s Sphere to help protect you from it. However, you may not have the gold for a Linken’s, or other items might be more important. In such cases, your support might have the gold for one to cast on you. VP, in this example, has no such luxury: their other heroes are simply not allotted the necessary gold to buy a Linken’s Sphere, a Lotus Orb or a Force Staff against a Clockwerk. This makes any hero that is capable of throwing a wrench into VP’s cores an incredibly valuable pick. It forces Ramzes/No[0]ne to get the item themselves, or watch them fall to pieces. This can happen against a Void, this can happen against a Venomancer, and it can happen against an Earthshaker. This is one of VP’s largest weaknesses.

The Supports

Not deviating from their playstyle at the Kiev Major, VP continued their formula at Epicenter. There is typically a roamer and a lane-support to sit near Ramzes, otherwise they go with two roamers. Which of the two scenarios VP would choose depends entirely on how the draft goes. Normally, Alexei "Solo" Berezil will play the babysitting hero, usually a Disruptor or Jakiro, while Lil roams with heroes like Sand King, Night Stalker and Io. However, if Solo goes for Treant Protector, with which he can protect Ramzes through Living Armor from anywhere on the map, he can join Lil in roaming to make the most of VP's early aggression and follow the two-roamers strategic path.

Even in the case of having two roamers, VP will not abandon Ramzes entirely - Lil and Solo will still return to the safelane if Ramzes feels threatened. This makes VP predictable and by putting heat on Ramzes, a player can "lock" VP's supports/roamers from leaving the lane - essentially dissolving Virtus.pro's early-aggression strategies.



READ MORE: Ramzes666: "CIS tournaments send shiver down your spine"

One of VP’s smallest but most important shortcomings

In the latest episode of True Sight, focusing on the Kiev Major, No[on]ne wondered how, in the grand finals, OG ended up winning a team fight even though VP had the gold advantage and were invisible through Smoke of Deceit. The game in question is Game 1 (video below: 55:53), where at one point VP were ahead 14K gold. "Smoked", VP sees n0tail's Terrorblade attacking their mid Tier 2 tower.

Through him, VP see a vulnerable target but what they don't know, due to lack of vision, is that OG are all waiting up on the hill. Upon engaging, VP are almost completely wiped out due to OG's superior highground vision. 

Later, in Game 5 of the same Kiev grand finals, VP were ahead 22-5 and 10k gold by minute 39, but they still lose the game and the series after a single bad team fight caused by lack of vision. OG are positioned sweetly between VP's Alchemist and the dire creeps. The Alchemist has no idea OG are there and their Troll Warlord and Timbersaw jump on him, erasing him from the map. With a good Overgrowth, OG tear through VP and gain 9,000 gold over the next 30 seconds, essentially eliminating the gold advantage that VP had.

This subpar vision control is something that VP has not improved since Kiev.

VP are punished for pressuring EG's barracks without high ground vision. Youtube.com

The video above illustrates another example, taken from Game 2 between EG vs. VP at the recent EPICENTER. With only a milimeter of uphill vision, VP try to take the barracks against EG's line-up, which containts Enigma, Sand King and Bristleback.

Game 1, EG vs VP. VP is a nice bit ahead in this game, having played incredibly well up to this point. With nothing but a shrapnel for uphill vision against EG’s lineup (an Enigma, a Sand King, and Bristle among them) VP tries to take the barracks. Unfortunately for them, EG are hiding just out of vision range. Their combined teamfight ends up flattening VP and removing a good chunk of their net worth lead. Nevertheless, VP can still win: They’re still leading by a few thousand gold, even if this is by no means anything significant. They pick off Universe’s Enigma in the midlane. Emboldened by this, they throw themselves to chase the Arteezy's Venomancer spotted by No[0]ne’s Sniper's Assassinate ability.

Little do they know, the rest of EG is sitting on that ridge. The ensuing fight goes EG’s way, and EG continues to win the series. Whether it’s pushing a tower or fighting in an area, VP is always willing to fight even if they don’t have vision in the area. This isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Once again, VP are punished by lack of information where the enemy team is. Youtube.com

To Conclude

VP is an incredibly talented team of individuals. They’ve pulled off drafts better than most teams could hope to, and have taken their overlying strategy far. Their most easily fixable mistakes, however, is the decision-making process they use to take fights. Their vision game is their biggest weakness, and has cost them at least three games where they were crushing the opposing team: world-class teams in all instances. Their second, yet easier to fix problem is their current grasp on the meta. They need more time to test heroes that they’re comfortable playing so that Ramzes' hero pool this patch can expand a bit. As we’re already seeing though with VP at The Summit 7, Ramzes has played Drow Ranger and Venomancer in two of their matches - a welcome change of pace. Many eyes are on VP to see how they stack up to international competition once again at The Summit 7: the last big LAN before TI.