Westward bound; Vega's journey into Europe
Photo courtesy of DreamHack
At the end of October 2018, the well-established Russian organization, Vega Squadron, picked up their first non-CIS region Dota 2 roster. Team Lithium was formed at the start of the new DPC 2018-2019 season and had been a solid fixture in the European scene with a promising future ahead.
Vega dipped their toe into the Dota 2 European pool in September 2017 by picking up coach and analyst Murielle "Kipspul" Huisman of the Netherlands. Kips was part of the organization for nine months as Vega tried to find a place in the top ranks of the CIS region. Changing rosters and strategies over the span of the last season, the various iterations of the team struggled to find many notable achievements. After failing to qualify for The International 8, Kips and Vega went their separate ways as Vega was left to decide what their next steps should be.
According to Georgy "drAmer" Faleev, Sports Director, as far back as then, the organization started to look at some European prospects and inquire into picking up a new roster from the region to represent the sharks.
drAmer disclosed that they had started some talks with Team Lithium immediately, as well as with another team that is currently representing the North American region but "it was pretty hard to finalize all the things with contracts etc. and we gave last chance to CIS rosters since we already had a team". They had given one last chance to the CIS region, but once again they felt the results were subpar and their sights returned to Europe.
The decision on what to do seemed relatively easy at that point. Having had experience with European players in Starcraft 2 and LoL, it wasn't a completely new concept to spread their reach into the region for Dota 2. Team Lithium was still without an org and was showing a lot of potential in the region.
Discussions started to take place and things were in the works already when luck sided with Vega Squadron even more. Due to reported illness, Team Liquid was not able to attend DreamLeague Season 10 Minor and was replaced by Team Lithium. The team had come in fourth place at the qualifiers, behind MangoBay - but due to Mango's disband, Team Lithium was able to step in and claim the coveted opportunity.
The team ultimately came in 5-6th place but thanks to the new DPC system, they already racked up 24 DPC points. It is 66 points less than the entire amount accumulated for last season —not a bad start for a newly formed team and beginning of a fresh start for the organization.
Speaking of fresh starts, things are going to be done slightly different with this team than with prior iterations of their squads. The team is getting ready to head to their first Bootcamp as Vega for the upcoming Major/Minor and ESL One Katowice 2019 qualifiers. Previously, the teams would gather in the designated facilities in Russia for extended periods of time. The Kyrgyzstan players had 50-70 latency from home and were happy to stay at the base as long as possible. Overall, the longest period of time for a team to remain together was 7-8 weeks, something that is often difficult and taxing on the players.
drAmer is positive and optimistic about the future of the team and the organization. He thinks highly of the individual players — in skill and personalities and has confidence in their manager Allen "Bonkers" Cook and their coach Niklas "okcya" Koskinen. So much so, the team is heading to London without any of the executive Vega staff. Their involvement this time around is much less hands-on and coordinating from behind the scenes than in the past.
As expected, not all of the response was positive initially. Regional fans expressed some frustration with the Russian organization for leaving the region. However, most of the comments and disappointment seemed to be directed mainly at the players in the CIS scene for "being so weak and toxic that even Vega went West", but Vega is sure their new squad will win over hearts. Fans can catch up and get to know the captain of the new Vega Squadron, Maurice "KheZu" Gutmann.
The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifiers kick off on November 28th, make sure to check out the various streams in Engish and Russian to watch the action and follow their progress.