One year ago Virtus.pro decided to completely rebuild its CS:GO lineup. Three new players, who were supposed to restore the formation to its former glory, joined the team,. However, today Polish Virtus.pro is already a history. We talked about that decision with Roman Dvoryankin, General Manager of VP.
How did you feel on Monday when Virtus.pro said goodbye to its Polish CS:GO team and at the same time announced its new lineup?
It felt like sort of end of an era. Obviously I spent a lot of time with the guys even though only Snax and kuben remained from the historic lineup. It felt like there was no other option. Since we parted ways with TaZ almost two years ago in January 2018, I think we have tried almost everything and if you think about all the current Polish players, on paper we have one of the best, if not the best, lineup. It just seems like the chemistry is not clicking anymore. We made sad but needed decision. Unfortunately it had to be done.
The end of the Polish Virtus.pro coincides with the end of your adventure in the organisation. How will you remember this period?
For me it was an amazing experience. I will definitely remember some of the moments forever. Our experience in Dota and some other titles has been much more successful than in CS though. I definitely feel certain responsibility for the situation we are in right now. At the same time if we look at where the players from the Golden Five are right now, it is not like they left us and all of a sudden their careers boosted up and it looked like we somehow limited them. I think it was sort of natural course of life.
I have already said this — I basically regret that the changes that we started by bringing in MICHU in February 2018, that we didn’t make them faster, that we didn’t sign more younger players and it took us another year before NEO and pasha left. I think if we have parted ways earlier, it might have been better for both sides. We stuck with the previous lineup for too long and we all know how it ended.
Which success is the most memorable for you?
Good question. I think that the one that definitely comes up is DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. I remember very well watching the games late at night, because of time difference between Vegas and Moscow. This whole thing about beating Astralis in the semifinals after the promise that TaZ has made after Atlanta Major – that was a very memorable victory. If I think about some different moments, it was really nice to win Polish Esport League last summer. Despite it not being a major tournament, I still was very glad for the guys.
I think it is also very clear to everyone that in the last couple of years we lost a lot of finals – twice at V4, IEM Shanghai, twice at EPICENTER, ESL One NY, Atlanta Major. We lost a lot of finals and obviously these are sad experiences but before that there was a lot of games that actually brought us to the finals – the one against North in Atlanta, the one against SK at ESL One NY 2016, so I have a lot of really nice memories.
Which defeat was the most painful? One of these finals or maybe for example in Minor qualifiers?
For me losses in Minor qualifiers definitely weren’t that heartbreaking. Right after byali’s departure and Vegi’s arrival I just told the team that its goal for May and June is to show improvement in the game, to deliver some results. If you look at June, we were the only Polish team to make Minor’s closed qualifiers, we won Polish Esports League, we placed 2nd in ESL Polish Championship. These results met our requirements that we set for the team. Lack of qualification was sort of expected, because it still was a new roster.
It is always sad to lose finals, but I would pick Boston Major when we got 0-3 in the group stage and were to replace TaZ. One evening we all gathered in the steakhouse in Atlanta and told Wiktor we have made this decision. There were tears in the eyes of many people so for me it is one of the hardest moments of my experience with Polish lineup.
VP has been a symbol of stability for a long time, but over the last two years 11 Polish players have played in this team. What was the most difficult change for you to make? Do you regret any of them?
Look at the context of every change that we have been making; think about MICHU and TaZ – obviously at that time MICHU was the most promising young player who was showing consistent results while playing in Kinguin, he knew the guys, he used to stand-in for VP, so that basically looked very logical. Throughout those 2 years with us MICHU has been one of the most reliable, sustainable, effective and committed players in the team.
Couple of months later mousesports came up with an offer for Snax. My policy is very simple, I don’t want to limit players, put them in the gold cages. We had a good offer in terms of money and Janusz just said: „I think I need to give it a try”, so I responded: „Well, let’s do it, let’s keep good relations”. We replaced him with snatchie, who was one of the reasons why AGO has been successful. We were replacing Snax by new Snax, so it was another logical choice.
We gave it a try with morelz, didn’t work out, same with TOAO and OKOLICIOUZ. When we got Vegi, PACT also had certain success back then, we have tested Sobol and Sidney as well. If you look at the context, all the changes made sense. With morelz we knew from the start that we were just testing him and it did not work out. It was great experience for him, nice experience for us. Parting ways with players is always difficult thing, especially when it comes to NEO and pasha. It is never an easy solution.
What can you say about roster moves that ultimately didn’t happen? At some point our community used to gossip for example about VP targeting GruBy’s from AGO Esports.
Obviously there was a lot of options that we were considering. I can’t really comment on any specific ones, but some of them were just rumors, some of them players didn’t want to happen, some of them org didn’t want to or couldn’t reach an agreement. All I can say is that it is a natural part of esports when people are talking and sometimes it is serious, sometimes it is not.
What was the process of roster changes like? Did you just accept or reject ideas of players and coach or did you have bigger impact?
It is always a balance. Obviously I can’t just come to players and say „Let’s get snatchie, I read on Polish website that he would be a great addition to the team, let’s do it”. It doesn’t happen like this. I am speaking to players and coach consistently so first conversation about TaZ’s future took place at ESL One New York 2017, four months before the actual move. I have spoken to a lot of players, separately and in groups, to understand them. When I realized that there is no way the swap wouldn’t happen, I agreed with their decision, but I had a right to say no. Would they keep playing if I said no? Most likely not.
Sometimes it is also a matter of money. Despite us being able to buy a lot of great players, we don’t have bottomless pocket.
When for example we parted ways with one of our players, it was solely my decision, because of some non-game related stuff. It is always a combination.
Why after all these roster changes VP didn’t manage to rebuild its power? Some of these line-ups didn’t lack anything, at least in theory.
When any team doesn’t succeed, there is a combination of responsibilities. It means that we as an organisation and me personally, we didn’t create the environment that allowed players to show their best. That is my part but on the other hand everyone knows examples where team had terrible contracts, didn’t have proper bootcamps but still managed to show great level. Players can achieve success without any conditions and good conditions are not always guaranteeing success. I think that players or at least some of them could have done more and we as an organisation definitely could have done more in terms of creating the atmosphere that would inspire and unite the team – that didn’t happen and we all know the result.
When and under what circumstances you made the final decision to part ways with Polish lineup?
As you can imagine, organisations and players all always estimating other options, so there’ve been some initial contacts with AVANGAR for quite some time in form of some informal inquiries; but obviously it wasn’t only AVANGAR. All I can say that the specific negotiations had been lasting for couple of weeks. Everything before that was just informal communication that was similar to any other ongoing talks with different teams.
Why did you initially renew Polish team’s contracts for 2020, but eventually decided to go for AVANGAR’s team? Could you explain your approach?
It is very simple. At that time negotiations with AVANGAR weren’t anywhere close to be finalized. There was a very high probability that they wouldn’t be completed the way they were. In that case we would have stayed with the core of the team, maybe making some changes and that is what I have been telling the guys. It just didn’t work out.
Are Polish players still contracted to VP?
They are currently benched and we are talking with some organisations, we will explore their options and then we will have to see how it goes.
Did VP have such moments in the past when you were close to leaving Polish scene?
What relations did you build with Polish players during all these years? Would you say that you developed a friendship with at least some of them?
I am sure that there is nothing that I’ve done during my time in VP when I haven’t been open and sincere. I have always tried to keep my word. My approach was always “players first”. We create conditions so players can deliver their best game and when we do this we come to them and tell: „Here is what you asked for, now go and deliver”.
When it comes to some negative moments, we should always be very open and transparent and I can fairly say that I’ve been doing this. Yesterday I was messaging with pasha because I was super happy to see his famous stories when he was feeding Negev. I was just chatting with him and it was really nice. To be honest, I understand Wiktor’s decision – we are not speaking since we parted ways, but I am a little bit sad about this. I had a very nice chat with Filip at Berlin Major couple of months ago, but I am in Moscow and they are in Poland, so that creates certain limits. I think we have nice relations though; I wish them the very best in their future and I will definitely watch them playing.
What did you learn from more than three years spent in esport?
First of all I really enjoyed this period; it’s been an amazing experience that I am really grateful to Anton, at that time owner of VP, who brought me on board. It was an amazing time for me. I didn’t know much about esports when I joined Virtus.pro back in August 2016, but I think the industry has a bright future. It was super cool to see that smaller countries like Ukraine or Poland have amazing scenes, players and communities. One of the things I really enjoyed was how involved the community always is, how reactive and active it is. You have to stay very focused, you can’t pull bullshit because everyone will just see that. You have to be very open and sincere. That’s what I like a lot.