Blacklist International: Will they defy the odds once more?

Photo from Moonton

by Drew Malihan

MAKATI - Welcome to the show, let everybody know. I'm done playin' the game, I'll break out of the chains.

Just like Nemo, the winner of the Eurovision 2024, Blacklist International is done playing “games” and has put everyone on notice, that all should “buckle up.”

However, it was not smooth sailing for the Codebreakers, who have been the subject of criticism, including from some of the Agents, and from others who disguised themselves as one.

Unfamiliar territory for the new fans

Fans of Blacklist International, despite a rocky season that is Season 13, can recall that this is the lowest regular season spot the team ended up since Season 9. That season was something to forget for the Agents and Codebreakers alike, as they dropped outside the playoffs spot for the first time in their history in MPL Philippines.

And it remained that way, as they bounced back in Seasons 10 to 12, getting their third MPL PH trophy and two runners-up finishes, as well as podium finishes in both the M4 and M5 World Championships.

However, it was a difficult road for the Tier One-backed side, as they found themselves in a tight race with Smart Omega for the last spot in the playoffs until the penultimate day of the regular season. They even had a rough patch, going 0-8 in games played in Weeks 3 and 4, which were against the top four teams in the league in ONIC Philippines, ECHO, RSG Philippines, and AP.Bren.

Sudden change in form?

However, the league saw a different Blacklist International from Week 5 as they became the hottest team in the league with five wins in six matches, all of them in 2-1 wins, and four of it after being down 0-1 in the series.

Photo from Moonton

It seems like a surprise for many as Blacklist, known for their reliance on healers and limiting themselves to a certain number of heroes, played 44 out of 78 heroes and had Salic “Hadji” Imam playing crowd-control-armed heroes instead of them going for the usual Estes, Rafaela, or even the Mathilda.

In this six-series stretch, the so-called KDA Machine showed nine unique heroes out of 11 total, including Selena, Floryn, and Ruby in their three-game thriller against TNC Pro Team, telling them he has as many heroes in his pocket as the top roamers in the league.

Not to mention, Blacklist, along with RSG Philippines, have the best run of form after a huge mid-season patch in which the Codebreakers and the Raiders won 3-1 in matches and 5-3 in games played, albeit the former defeated the latter in the last series of the regular season.

Beware of the unassuming guys

Blacklist had the vocal Kiel “Oheb” Soriano leading the kill count, as he had a league-leading 124 total kills during the season, but this is far from his best tally, which is 181 back in Season 10. But with the PH MLBB meta going for more objectives rather than kills, the team will take this as a huge W.

However, it’s not the Filipino Sniper we are highlighting here, despite “Kiel1” being used in the spotlight.

Instead, we will have our attention to the meeker members of the quintet, Kenneth “Yue” Tadeo and Edward “Edward” Dapadap.

Photo from Moonton

Yue, who gained prominence after testing the limits of Blacklist International back in the SEA Games combine as a member of MHRLK Esports, found himself in perhaps the best form in his career. In his 35 games this season, he has led all players in assists per season with 217. He also had a respectable 4.12 average KDA this season, among the top 15 league-wide.

The volleyball-player-aspirant-turned-MLBB-star was a prolific Vexana user, with this hero appearing 14 times for Blacklist with 4.309. He also had the annoying Valentina and Novaria in his main arsenal.

Edward, arguably the most consistent star over the course of his MLBB career, is the Blacklist’s main workhorse, doing all the spacing and dirty work to give the Codebreakers a significant advantage from the early to the late game.

The Bataan young veteran still has his signature Paquito and Benedetta as his main choices but has added Arlott, Cici, and Thamuz to his main weapons. Not to mention his last performance with the Edith with an absurd 13 KDA with no deaths.

What lies ahead?

Blacklist will have a mountain to climb as they have to go all the way and battle at a minimum of four days of the MPL Philippines Season 13 playoffs, and that will not be an easy feat as they have to go against Minana EVOS, and possibly ONIC Philippines, and AP.Bren.

With the meta slowly evolving as shown by teams during the last two weeks of the regular season, Blacklist can explore more options. However, they have to be careful as they will battle a hungry Minana EVOS who will be raring to take the most important match between the two sides this season.

Perhaps Hadji can fully go back to his KDA Machine days and show he’s the most explosive player in the league by unveiling more unorthodox roam options. Perhaps Stephen "Sensui" Castillo can go to more high-sustain heroes such as Martis to expand his hero pool.

But just like Nemo winning Eurovision 2024, they once did go to hell and back. The question is, can they pull it again for a spot at MSC and even win Season 13? Can they see their kingdom come again between the O’s and Ones?

One thing is for sure. This will not be an easy climb for Blacklist, despite rival teams acknowledging them as being the most dangerous come playoff time.

And they must start their ascent against the very team who put them to the limit twice last regular season in Minana EVOS.

Follow him on X: @drew_corner