ProxyPL sat down with Vega Squadron’s mid laner, Vladimir Minenko – also known as No[o]ne – to talk about Vega’s unusual, yet admirable choice of sticking together after failing to advance into The International 5 main event. No[o]ne discusses Vega Squadron’s recent ESL One New York victory, their direct invite to the Frankfurt Major, and explains why he sometimes “hates” his team.
No[o]ne is an 18-year-old Ukrainian from Kherson. He had been playing World of Warcraft for seven years before he developed an interest in Dota 2. Despite being a part of one of the best teams in the world, No[o]ne isn’t playing Dota full-time. He is studying Computer Science and he tries his best to keep up with his classes and squeeze in Vega Squadron’s training sessions and tournaments. “I try to play as much as I can,” he says when asked about it.
No[o]ne started to eat, sleep and breathe Dota 2 in 2012. “I saw The International 2 Grand Finals on the Internet. Na’Vi were going up against IG, and then I found out that the Ukrainian players had won the first International. After that, I just asked one of my friends to give me a Dota 2 key and I started playing because I felt really motivated by the Ukrainian boys!”
Is Dendi one of the players No[o]ne looks up to? “Yes, I think so,” he answers.
No[o]ne was part of the original Vega Squadron roster under ArsZeeqq’s command. ArsZeeqq decided to walk away from the team, due to some internal issues. Soon enough, Vega was down to three. They started playing with Andrey “Mag” Chipenko and Alexei “Solo” Berezin, who were already established players at the time, while the Vega trio were still relatively unknown. How did that happen?
“They didn’t have a team at that moment and they were our best option. Honestly, we were their best option, as well. I think we were just lucky to find Mag through some guy and Solo from EEL (inhouse league).”
Going into The International 5 qualifiers, Vega Squadron were far from being the favorites. As it turns out, No[o]ne thought the same way: “I didn’t expect that we would beat everyone. I seriously didn’t even expect that we would come in second in our group. But when we got to that point, I knew that if we won against Ninjas in Pyjamas, we would go to Seattle. While we were losing the last map against Na’Vi in the qualifiers’ finals, I was like: I don’t even care about this match anymore. In hindsight, it was a big mistake to think that way,” the Ukrainian player said.
Just like every single team that goes into the Wild Card matches, Vega flew to Seattle with very high hopes. However, after some very close and incredibly high level encounters, they finished third – one place short of qualifying for the main event.
“Of course, when you lose being one step away from your dream, you’re going to feel badly, no matter what. But seriously, we are the first team that didn’t disband after something like that. We didn’t even make one single roster change, because everyone understood that we lost to teams that ended up finishing 2nd and 8th in the main event. Anyway, when we lost, I was very sad,” No[o]ne said.
When did Vega decide not to disband? “In the next few hours after the Wild Card games,” he answered.
How does a team that traveled to Seattle ready to play, but failed to get to the main event pick up the pieces and get a fresh start without making any roster changes? No[o]ne makes it sound simple: “After the Wild Cards, we were just playing pubs, relaxing and of course watching The International games. We played a few scrims, about three or five, but I won’t reveal versus which teams and what the score was! (smile)”
After coming back from Seattle, Vega Squadron were hungry to play. “Four of us were playing pubs all day. Mag was on vacation with his girlfriend for about 10-12 days, but after that we started playing four to six scrims everyday.”
Unsurprisingly, the roster lock deadline enforced by Valve for the first Dota Major didn’t affect Vega Squadron at all. No[o]ne is satisfied with the new rule: “It’s fine for every team, because in this short period of time players have to decide upon a team that they will be the most successful in. And then they can’t leave right away if they don’t have results, like it used to happen in the last 2-3 years. I think roster stability is very important.”
When the new season started out with qualifiers for all the upcoming LAN events, Vega Squadron were ready. Vega played the most out of all teams in Europe and with pretty good results. However, they managed to qualify for only one out of three LANs.
They made up for it when they ended up claiming the championship title. What were No[o]ne’s expectations going into ESL One New York? “I seriously don’t know. I didn’t think about how high we could finish, I just wanted to win.”
Quite surprisingly, they didn’t spend much time researching their ESL One New York opponents. “We didn’t prepare for any team at this tournament, play-style-wise, we only researched the picks,” Vladimir said.
They knocked out The International 5 champions, Evil Geniuses, from the very first round, moved on to defeat Invictus Gaming, and then bested Team Secret, in the Grand Finals: “I think Evil Geniuses were not so strong, of course, but they still played their Dota. Every team in New York was very strong. Secret is an amazing team with an unreal pool of heroes, they can pick everything and play very well, you can’t expect only one thing from them.”
Almost a year ago, No[o]ne’s previous captain, ArsZeeqq, referred to him as the Ukrainian SumaiL, in an interview. “It was a joke from Ars,” No[o]ne claims.
How was it to go up against EG’s prodigy in the mid lane? “It is very hard to play versus the best mid laner in the world.” Humbly, No[o]ne denies being the best mid player in the CIS scene: “It is God of course, I think he’s the second best mid laner in the world.”
During ESL One New York, the English panel praised No[o]ne’s Shadow Fiend as being one of the best in the world, top 5 at least.
“It’s my favorite hero for sure, but I’m not as good on him as I would like to be, because we play with mek, and it’s so bad for me. I want to kill everybody but my team always says: get mek and let’s go win. I hate them for this. (laughs)”
Although they managed to eliminate The International 5 champions and grab the championship title from Team Secret, No[o]ne’s most memorable games from ESL One New York were against Invictus Gaming:
“I remember our games against IG the most because in the second and third game everything went exactly according to our plan. We picked our heroes and everything we did – team fights, smokes, baits – everything was 100% successful. We just understood what they would do. And of course, there was that moment when Solo’s ulti on AA brought on wild screams from the fans. They went ‘OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO’ when his ulti was coming for the low hp Gyro. He evaded it because of the fans’ reaction. (sad face)”
EternalEnvy said on his ask.fm profile that he thinks Secret would have won the ESL One New York title if the finals had been best-of-five.
“I don’t know what would have been if the finals were Bo5. I don’t want to say anything because they were Bo3 and we won (smile),” No[o]ne responded.
On the back of their ESL One New York championship title, Vega Squadron got invited to the first Dota 2 Major. However, some people claim that the CIS squad doesn’t deserve the direct invite. “It’s their opinion, they can think whatever they want (smile),” No[o]ne said, adding that he would love to win the Major, but would be happy with the third or even fourth place.
No[o]ne’s shoutouts: “To our fans (if we have them) and of course to our sponsor Nitrogen and to the whole organization – Vega Squadron.”