In a nail-biter of a series that went the distance, the unproven underdogs pushed the reigning CIS kings to the brink.

As the end of the DPC Regional Leagues draws near, we take a look back at the defining series of the CIS DPC: Virtus Pro vs Team Spirit. Coined the “Grand Finals” of the region, the crucial series would all but decide the new reigning CIS team, with the winner walking away with an additional 200 DPC points.

What was at stake in Week 5?

Coming into this series, both teams had a perfect record of 5-0 in their matches so far. The winner of this bout would all but secure a top seed in the league, and a playoff spot in the upcoming major.

CIS 2021 DPC Season 2: Upper Division standings after Virtus.pro's win over EXTREMUM.
DPC CIS Standings going into the match (via Liquipedia)

For Virtus Pro: Being undefeated wasn’t something new to them . Since the roster’s coronation in November last year, they had yet to lose a series against any other CIS team. Up till this point, they had only dropped 3 individual games against their counterparts. As if that wasn’t show enough of their dominance, VP’s mid laner Danil “gpk-” Skutin recently went six full games without dying once, tieing the world record set by Yao.

For Team Spirit: Despite finishing 4th in Season 1, and missing the major, they turned it around in Season 2. Showing immense improvement, and living up to their name, they’ve grown to become the top dog alongside VP. A win here for Spirit would be especially pivotal, as it’d punch them a ticket straight to TI10.

Here’s a full recap of how the undefeated kings of CIS were almost upset by the fiery underdogs:

Game 1 – Virtus Pro expertly Dodge-The-Dusa

Contrary to their Western European counterparts, the CIS teams played a more conservative brand of Dota 2. This was reflected in the opening game of the series, where Team Spirit opted for a 4-Protect-1 Medusa strategy. Unfazed, VP picked up a Morphling and Underlord in response.

VP vs Team Spirit draft
Draft from Game 1 of Virtus Pro vs Team Spirit (via Dreamleague)

The early to mid game saw the teams trading kills back and forth, with the gold staying mostly even. This relative stalemate allowed Team Sprit’s Medusa, played by Illya “Yatoro” Mulyarchuk to get fatter by the minute. VP was against a ticking time bomb – or so it seemed.

In reality, VP had simply been biding their time. With swerving that would make Lightning McQueen proud, VP continuously dodged major fights waiting for gpk-‘s Morphling came online. Displaying perfect team coordination, a self-cancelled Dark Rift from Dmitry “DM” Dorokhin’s Underlord signaled the beginning of the end for Team Spirit.

With their three cores fully online on VP, Spirit’s only relevant core, Medusa, could not match up. From there, VP broke Spirit down piece by piece, and secured the first game.

Game 2 – Spirit punches back with TORONTOTOKYO’s Flawless Void Spirit

In a show of pure confidence, Virtus Pro once again drafted the same core duo in Tiny and Morphing going into Game 2. Team Spirit responded with a draft of heroes with immense kill threat early. Most notably, Alexander “TORONTOTOKYO” Khertek finally got his hands on a spirit hero – and he was ready to play.

Virtus Pro vs Team Spirit Game 2 Draft
Draft from Game 2 of Virtus Pro vs Team Spirit (via Dreamleague)

While Game 1 remained even throughout most of the match, Game 2 was the complete opposite. Spirit, now with powerful tools for early aggression, brought the heat to VP. As soon as the Spirit heroes got their ultimates, they immediately converged mid and juiced gpk-‘s Morph.

Knowing that VP were desperate to change the state of the game, Spirit postured perfectly around their Wraith King, ready for a smoke from their opponents. With a perfect bait using Yatoro’s reincarnate, Spirit cleaned VP up, and took Roshan for themselves.

Team Spirit continued their domination throughout the mid game, chaining successful team fights and tightening the choke on Virtus Pro. An early Boots of Travel allowed TORONTOTOKYO meant that no one was safe, even executing gpk-‘s Morph out of nowhere.

With the Tiny and Morphling duo that won VP Game 1 completely neutered and constantly killed off, the fights fell easily into Spirit’s favour. VP could do nothing but watch as their heroes fell one by one. Spirit cruised into their base, and closed out the game with a 33K gold lead, evening out the series 1-1.

Game 3 – Crowning the One True King of CIS

With a whole chunk of DPC points, and the title of the top dog of CIS on the line, Team Spirit opted for pure comfort in Game 3. Tidehunter, Wraith King and Mirana – these were heroes that Spirit had been basically unbeaten with so far. Not to be outdone, VP locked in the classic Chrono-Cataclysm combo – hoping to strike their rivals down in one fell swoop.

Virtus Pro vs Team Spirit Game 3 Draft
Draft from Game 3 of Virtus Pro vs Team Spirit (via Dreamleague)

Riding the momentum from Game 2, Spirit translated a strong laning stage into a 10 minute death-ball mid yet again. With Chaotic Offering, Ravage AND Arena of Blood, Spirit crushed VP right under their tower.

The young guns of Spirit were beginning to choke their opponents out again – and VP knew it. Even after Spirit had just taken Roshan – a crucial smoke movement to pick off TORONTOTOKYO’s Mars bought VP crucial respite. By the time Spirit regrouped to breach VP’s high-ground, gpk- was ready. With a perfectly placed Ice Wall, and Cataclysm on top of Chronosphere, Yatoro was slain not once, twice – but three times to send Spirit packing.

Unfazed, Spirit regrouped and once again rallied to fight. Following a whiffed Chrono from Egor “Nightfall” Grigorenko, Spirit wiped out 3 of VP’s heroes.

Without their combo, it looked like the beginning of the end for VP. Spirit were the closest they could’ve been to winning – and they knew it. Perhaps though – this might’ve been what lost them the game. In an overeager jump by Yatoro to strike Nightfall down – a gpk- buyback turned the hopeless defense into a teamfight Virtus Pro should’ve never won.

From there, the game quickly slipped out of Spirit’s grasp. By the time Spirit respawned – a perfect Chrono from Nightfall dashed any hopes Spirit might’ve had, netting him an ultra-kill.

Just as quickly as Spirit had risen to challenge CIS’s reigning kings, it was not yet their time. Despite a valiant last-ditch effort – VP showed no mercy, and defeated their would-be usurpers 2-1.

What This Means For the CIS Region and Virtus Pro?

With their biggest rivals beaten, VP stomped Winstrike a couple of days later to cement themselves in the top spot. They’ve repeated their Season 1 7-0 record. With a total of 1200 DPC points, they’re in prime position for a direct TI invite.

As for Spirit, they have one last game against EXTREMUM that should go their way. Despite finishing second in the league, this is just the beginning for this fresh roster. With the growth and level of gameplay they’ve shown within such a short period – it’s only up from here.

There’s no doubt that these two contenders will bring CIS’s methodical brand of Dota 2 to the upcoming major. With each region developing their own style of the game, when the different leagues collide – it’ll be a battle to watch.

For everything DPC and Dota 2, stay tuned to esports.gg.

Mike Tsang - Writer of the Month: April

Mike Tsang

Writer of the Month: April | Twitter: @permasneeze | Twitch: permasneeze

Mike is a digital content producer from Singapore who lives and breathes Dota 2. When he's not playing or watching the game, he can be found slurping ramen or sleeping next to his cat.