Ole “Naiman” Batyrbekov and Artem “DrHippi” Kravets are the newest additions to Virtus.pro’s Artifact roster, the organization confirmed Friday. The two join Maria “Harleen” Kobzar, completing the line-up.
Both players come from extensive Hearthstone backgrounds, with accolades to show. Following a year-long ban from the game, Naiman returned in 2016 to become the HCT Europe Winter Champion and secure several top 4 finishes in major LANs throughout the year.
DrHippi took it a few steps further. After losing to Naiman in aforementioned Winter Championship, the Ukrainian went on to win the Europe Summer Championship and finish second at the 2016 World Championship. The following year, DrHippi’s Ukraine reached the finals of the Hearthstone Global Games, resulting in yet another silver for the player.
Both Naiman and DrHippi were among the founding members of Virtus.pro’s Hearthstone team in 2016 and stayed with the “bears” until the organization disbanded the roster in 2018. At the same time, VP were one of the first teams to come forth with their plans to commit to Valve’s card game, way back at the start of this year. In January, VP’s general manager Roman Dvoryankin said in an interview with Cybersport.ru that “VP will definitely have an Artifact team [in 2018].”
In a later interview from July, Dvoryankin further added that both Naiman and DrHippi have remained on VP contracts despite the disbandment of the Hearthstone roster, with the agreement to form the core of the Artifact team if they like the game. In the same interview, Dvoryankin also justified VP’s commitment to Artifact by saying the game fills a niche they find quite interesting.
“We believe that Artifact might expand the niche of card games esports. Hearthstone may still keep its share, but it’s gonna be the same share of a much bigger niche. We just want that niche to grow and be part of that growth.”
Virtus.pro’s venture in Artifact is the latest in a string of commitments coming from hallmark esports organizations. Most recently, Evil Geniuses signed caster, streamer and content creator Sean “Swim” Huguenard. Earlier, Team Liquid, EHOME and compLexity also made the move to Valve’s title, becoming one of the pioneer organizations in the game.
Both Naiman and DrHippi will represent VP’s colors at the WePlay Mighty Triad: Strength tournament, Nov. 29 – Dec. 4.