Nearly two years have passed since Windigo won the WESG 2018 World Finals in Chongqing, China, and netted the top prize of $500,000 after defeating the likes of MIBR, G2 and AGO. They peaked at No.13 in the world rankings in April 2019 but could not build on that momentum, with the team disbanding later that year after the Windigo organisation closed its doors due to cash flow problems. Valentin “poizon” Vasilev is the only member of the WESG-winning lineup playing at the highest level nowadays.
That, however, is about to change. Viktor “v1c7oR” Dyankov and Kamen “bubble” Kostadinov helped VOYVODA, an emergent Bulgarian mix, defeat the likes of OG and Cloud9 in the DreamHack Masters Spring Europe Closed Qualifier earlier this month and book a spot in the main event, which will have $250,000 on the line.
After those upsets, it’s almost inevitable to draw comparisons between VOYVODA and Windigo. “To be honest, I think we can become an even better version of the mighty Windigo,” v1c7oR told HLTV.org. “If we keep grinding, rolling and believing that we are capable of winning great trophies, things will come naturally.”
Despite VOYVODA‘s overnight success, the project has been months in the making. The core of v1c7oR, bubble, and Hristiyan “REDSTAR” Pironkov has been grinding together since October 2020, initially under the MBAPPEEK tag. The trio were joined by Martin “mar” Kuyumdjiev and Simeon “dream3r” Ganev in December, but the team didn’t make a good impression at first, struggling in tournaments such as Snow Sweet Snow 2 Regionals and the European Development Championship Closed Qualifier.
“One of the reasons that led us to do well in the DreamHack qualifier is that we did not give up, even when we had bad tournaments under the MBAPPEEK tag,” v1c7oR explained. “Nowadays, the game is so stacked that anyone can surprise you in the next moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s tier two, tier three or tier 100.”
The team changed their tag to VOYVODA ahead of the DreamHack Masters Spring Europe qualifier as it sounds more like a team name than MBAPPEEK, according to v1c7oR, though they will not be using the new name much longer as they have already found a permanent home.
“It’s not like we don’t have the support of an organisation,” v1c7oR revealed. “We do have, but it’s a matter of time before it’s registered as an esports organisation and we start playing under a real name. It’s better if we follow the same path and just keep grinding. If we manage to fix some small in-game mistakes and work on everything else, good things will come.”
With their results in the DreamHack Masters closed qualifier, VOYVODA have dethroned SKADE as the No.1 team in Bulgaria. While the revolution that many expected in the Bulgarian scene following Windigo’s success didn’t exactly materialise, v1c7oR is still happy with the current state of affairs.
“There are a lot of teams taking it seriously and putting in a lot of hours,” he said. “It’s really nice to see your homies trying hard. The scene has grown so much. There are some amazing players and I’m pretty sure that everyone might see more Bulgarian flags in prestigious events very soon.”
Regardless of what happens in DreamHack Masters Spring, competing in this prestigious tournament is an achievement in itself for v1c7oR, who hasn’t been in the spotlight since Windigo benched him in July 2019. He also spent several months living off savings following the delayed payment of the WESG prize.
“It was a really rough and long period,” v1c7oR recalled. “Being away from the competitive scene wasn’t good at all. I tried to make a comeback several times during this period, but something was really missing all the time so I decided to take a step back from offers and keep waiting for something special.
“Right now, I feel the game and I feel that this could be my new place and home where we can achieve things together. We’ve got to have great teamplay, because this is not a one-man army type of game, it’s a team game. I feel this is just the beginning of something greater.”