The core of VP’s roster — Timur “buster” Tulepov, Aleksei “qikert” Golubev and Dzhami “Jame” Ali — were on the AVANGAR team that made the grand finals of the StarLadder Berlin Major 2019 before losing to Astralis. Since that time, they’ve added Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis and Evgeniy “FL1T” Lebedev to round out their roster.
In spite of the team’s new look, sjuush feels that they still play with the same trademark VP playstyle.
“VP has a … special way of playing the game,” sjuush said. “It can be annoying, but if you know what they’re doing it can also be easy to read.”
🔥Only 2 hours until the first match on the main stage of Avicii Arena
— PGL (@pglesports) November 4, 2021
The CIS team relies heavily on late round T executes in the dying seconds of the round and heavy commitments to fakes. Opponents have to contend with YEKINDAR’s aggressive peaks and Jame’s seemingly omnipresent AWP. But Heroic have tricks of their own, playing a looser style of Counter-Strike that can net them wins if individuals like sjuush are hitting their shots.
“I feel good,” sjuush said. “I feel pretty confident. We’ve all done a little preparation. We’ve also practiced against them, so we know how they like to play. We’ve been playing really good. It feels like we finally found ourselves.”
Heroic’s early troubles
Heroic and Virtus.pro are coming into the playoffs as the only two teams from the top eight who played through the Challengers stage. Heroic, in particular, had a strenuous beginning to their tournament, eventually landing on a 2-2 match record and facing elimination point in the Challengers stage.
“There was a lot of pressure because we didn’t want to be the team that went 2-3,” sjuush said. “I think we fell back into old habits, like at IEM Fall, where we had mental blocks with the whole ESIC thing. Many of the players, it affected them a lot.”
Things got better for the Danish squad when they got to play their first game outside of their practice room, in the studio against the Movistar Riders. Heroic won the match 2-0. Afterward the team celebrated, erupting in the chaotic elation and bursting emotions that CS fans have come to expect of the team. The team got flak from the analyst desk of the major and from some fans online for celebrating a match win that was expected to go their way. To sjuush, the criticism was unwarranted.
“We moved on from the Challengers stage and that’s what’s important,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who we win against. We celebrate because we love winning and it meant a lot to us. It’s weird to me that people dislike you celebrating a win.”
With Challengers stage done, Heroic progressed to the Legends stage. There, they had an easier time. Their first match against Natus Vincere was the most mortal the CIS powerhouse team have looked at the PGL Major so far.
“We felt like we should have won that,” sjuush said. “It’s our mistakes that make us lose and not really them playing good against us. We go confident into the match every time we play them.”
As Heroic and Na’Vi are on different sides of the playoffs bracket, the Danes have a very real chance of getting a rematch against the tournament favorites if both teams make a deep run.
“If we get to the grand finals, I have a good feeling we’re going to beat them,” sjuush said.
The rest of the Legends stage was smooth sailing for Heroic. They beat Team Vitality and then reclaimed their throne at the top of Danish CS by beating regional rivals Astralis and then the Copenhagen Flames, who they’d previously lost to at the event. With their three wins secured, Heroic booked their ticket to the arena in dominant fashion.
But the playoffs are a different beast. Team will be playing in the Avicii Arena in front of thousands of CS fans, and VP have the edge in terms of arena experience. The largest crowd that sjuush has played in front of, so far, was a thousand or so fans at the V4 Future Sports Festival in 2019.
Even still, the team aren’t worried. “I don’t think it’s going to affect us too much,” sjuush said. “But it’s hard to say because we haven’t tried it before.”
The match between Virtus.pro and Heroic begins at 11:30 a.m. ET.