THE GREAT ESCAPE | How Blacklist bounced back from erratic midseason to enter MPL PH Playoffs

Blacklist barely escaped elimination after winning five of their last six matches. Moonton (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--At least since the VeeWise era, Blacklist International is among the first teams to qualify for the MPL Philippines playoffs without the need to wait for the last week of the regular season to find out if they are in.

However, things changed this season.

After a seemingly OK start after Week 2 at 2-2, Blacklist lost all of their matches in Weeks 3 and 4, getting swept on all four occasions by teams that would eventually clinch the top four seeds in the postseason.

Eight matches in, Blacklist found itself surprisingly below Minana EVOS for fifth place and was just hanging in sixth place by just one game against Smart Omega and TNC.

Some fans even thought Blacklist could be in the outs all the more that Smart Omega gradually brought the core of its MDL PH squad led by Joshua Mangilug to the main roster.

Blacklist, though, swept its Week 5 assignments against Minana and TNC to solidify its hold of sixth place, although the 2-1 result against TNC somehow kept the latter in the playoff race.

Then came one of the big news from Week 6.

With Mangilug, also known as Ch4knu, officially back in MPL Philippines' top flight, Smart Omega swept Blacklist in their April 27 clash.

Following another shocker the night after, in which Smart Omega stunned reigning world champion AP Bren, Blacklist's fate boiled down to the final weekend of action with tough assignments against Echo and RSG Philippines coming up and Smart Omega having "winnable" opponents TNC and Minana plus the tiebreaker edge if both teams end up tied at 5-9 with 16 points.

Blacklist, though, completed the great escape.

Despite needing just one game win to eliminate Smart Omega, Blacklist went for the jugular, beating both Echo and RSG PH in similar 2-1 fashions to seal its playoff berth in style.

To summarize, Blacklist won five of its last six matches including the last three against tougher teams to survive early elimination, and coach Dexter Alaba said that the team is proud to pull off the late-season brilliance.

"Sobrang satisfied talaga kami kasi nakita niyo naman, sobrang struggling talaga kami, lalo na sa identity at chemistry ng team," Alaba said.

Blacklist steals crucial advantage from Minana

The win against RSG PH right in the final match of the regular season was a crucial one since Blacklist stole the fifth seed from Minana ahead of their Wednesday night clash in the first round of the playoffs at SM Southmall in Las Pinas.

Based on MPL PH rules, teams with the higher seeds ahead of their playoff matches will get to choose first which side they want to defend, giving them some advantage in terms of strategies and playmaking.

"Yung pagpili ng sides, siguro may advantage siya sa preparations," Alaba further said.

"Kami yung magdi-dictate kung red or blue side kami."

Even in other MOBA tournaments, teams that are given the advantage to choose sides first have mostly preferred to start the game from the left side of the map, in the case of MLBB events, the Blue Side.

Being in the Blue Side means the team will get to select first in the draft, mainly dictating the offensive flow of the games.

In this MPL PH season, "Blue Teams" won the games the majority of the time, so going blue has been an effective strategy if you get to choose sides first.

Despite the advantage, Alaba remains wary of what Minana could do especially since the Setsuna Ignacio-backed club is in the playoffs for the very first time since inheriting the franchise from Nexplay.

"Lahat naman ng teams, may ibabaon pagdating ng playoffs, so para sa akin, pantay pa rin ang fifth and sixth places," Alaba further said.

However, knowing how Blacklist could be a different beast in the playoffs, being the fifth seed could still be huge.

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