OF ALL the offseason trades that transpired before the seventh season of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League - Philippines, Blacklist International’s acquisition of Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna and Danerie “Wise” Del Rosario proved to be the best.
How they would fit with the squad led by Dexter “DEX STAR” Alaba was the biggest question mark at first. The duo practically built ONIC PH from the ground up, and seeing them sport a jersey with colors other than yellow and white was nothing short of weird.
However, with OhMyV33nus’ unique hero pool and Blacklist International’s knack for theory-crafting, the answer eventually became apparent.
Sporting a flawless 7-0 win-loss record after the halfway point of the regular season, Blacklist International proved that they weren’t just the winner of the off-season trades — they are ultimately the team to beat.
The hashtag #BreakTheCode fits Blacklist International to a tee. It encapsulates not just their brand's vibe, but also the team’s general philosophy, which is the main attribute to their recent success.
The addition of "The Queen" further expanded the team’s hero pool. OhMyV33nus was a key factor that allowed Blacklist International to devise a style of play that none of their other competitors could emulate nor decode.
This is the reason why Hack-a-V33nus became a thing. Teams that go up against the Tier One-owned squad would opt to limit his hero choices, eventually making Estes, Popol and Kupa, Mathilda, and Rafaela the most banned heroes versus Blacklist International.
But Blacklist International is more than just OhMyV33nus.
Nice one, baby
Sure, the rise of the ‘Nice One, Baby’ tactic could be traced back to his signature Rafaela and Estes, heroes with the ability to sustain a core’s health in team fights. The team’s success basically cemented the strategy’s viability in the current metagame trend. However, allotting several ban slots solely for their captain’s picks opens up the field for the comfort heroes of their other players.
As a result, Wise has yet to be defeated as Yu Sun-Shin in six games while his Granger sports an 86% win rate in seven games. Edward “EDWARD'' Dapadap, meanwhile, has a flawless win rate as Benedetta in five games. Kiel “OHEB” Soriano’s Harith and Alice, on the other hand, both boast 88% win rates on eight respective games.
Blacklist International, so far, has only lost three times out of all their 17 games. The teams that were almost able to break the code were Aura PH, Work Auster Force, and Omega Esports. Out of these losses, however, the only time that OhMyV33nus’ squad was blatantly outplayed was when last season’s runners-up pulled off an insane comeback off of a clutch Luminous Lord takeover.
The rest of their losses provided better hints on how to crack their almost indecipherable drafting. Versus Aura PH, for example, Wise was forced to play a core Karrie after Jaypee “Jaypee” Dela Cruz stole the arguably better Yi Sun-Shin pick. Mark “ESON” Gerardo’s inability to setup game-changing Implosions as Tigreal also made it harder for Blacklist International to fend off the mismatch as well as the early game deficit.
The same drafting loophole was exploited by Work Auster Force when they forced a rubber match versus Blacklist International in their sole regular season meeting. Wise settled for a Bruno pick after Shemaiah “Chuuu” Chu picked Granger for himself. The rookies also took for themselves Alice and Mathilda while banning OHEB's Harith, EDWARD’s Benedetta, and OhMyV33nus’ Popol and Kupa.
Breaking the list?
Even though Blacklist International eventually came out on top of the series, it didn’t stop their coach, Kristoffer “BON CHAN” Ricaplaza, from pointing out how their battle versus the promising squad highlighted the flaws in their drafts and strategies.
Much like in all multiplayer online battle arena titles, the draft decides half of the game’s outcome in MLBB. The other half relies on the execution of the said draft, and it usually depends on multiple variables such as team chemistry, mechanical capabilities, as well as each player’s individual attitude, among other things.
The merit of Blacklist International's drafting and execution are both outstanding. Coach BON CHAN's posts also reflect that even those aspects that are hardly visible whenever they enter the Land of Dawn — aspects like their maturity, discipline, and willingness to learn from their mistakes — are very well instilled in the team's mindset.
Blacklist International's best-of-three meeting versus Bren Esports in the fifth week of the regular season will ultimately test the extent of the team's undefeated streak.
The defending MPL-PH and M2 World Championship champions may have yet to get back in perfect shape, but if they won't be able to solve the current powerhouse, it's highly likely that Blacklist International's codes will remain unbroken for the rest of the season.