SINCE THE IESF campaign, Blacklist International no longer seemed to be the dominant team that suffocated every opposition in the M3 World Championship.
Myanmar swept Blacklist Sibol in the IESF qualifers, Geek Fam Indonesia eliminated the Codebreakers in the MPL: Invitational, and EVOS' MDL roster won the gold medal match over the Filipino powerhouse.
Fast forward to the M4 group stages, and Blacklist encountered a huge level of resistance from their rivals. They were swept aside by Falcon Esports, while Incendio Supremacy made sure that the Turkish flag would fly high despite losing to the Codebreakers.
For Coach Kristoffer "BON CHAN" Ricaplaza, Johnmar "OhMyV33nus" Villaluna, and Danerie James "Wise" Del Rosario, these two teams garnered their overall respect, which they further revealed in the post-match press conference.
Turkish delight for Blacklist International
To see Incendio give Blacklist a hardtime during the tiebreaker session was something that surprised Coach BON CHAN, as he got used to the usual narrative that Turkey is considered to be at the bottom of everyone's list.
"We were very surprised, who would’ve thought that a team from Turkey would be able to go toe-to-toe with the other regions like Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines, and especially Brazil," said Ricaplaza.
He added: "I think I read some article that they’re from the bottom, but now they show[ed] what they got. I think they’ll be promoted to the top tier teams."
Meanwhile, OhMyV33nus expressed her overall experience when clashing with Incendio. She even talked about her favorite player from the team.
"I love Incendio! Every since we fought them, I get really interested in them especially knowing the players and coach and I think they’re a really good team, they’re very good individually, macro and micro, and I think they will beat a lot of teams and my favorite player is Rosa."
Danerie "Wise" del Rosario added: "Same with OhMyV33nus, I think Rosa really stood up because using Pharsa like that, it’s like my first time seeing again in the big international tournament and I think when they don’t change their gameplay, they’ll beat a lot of teams."
Losing to Falcon, twice
Then when it came to Myanmar's Falcon Esports, the three of them were left with nothing but praise for their rivals. Previously, Falcon couldn't secure a slot for the world championship due to the political situation in Myanmar, and BON CHAN finally saw the reaps of their hard work after a long period of absence in the competitive scene.
"They are consistent since Season 7 of the MPL. They’re already playing even though they encountered problems in their country. They still continue playing up until today. I think that’s them paying off their hard work."
And while it could be an alarming prospect to lose to Falcon, for OhMyV33nus, the loss could be more of a blessing.
"To be honest, I don’t feel that much. I’m not sad that we lost twice to Falcon because I think it has a reason and it could be a blessing in disguise because we might face Onic Indonesia."
She added: "I think the two losses would contribute to a lot of experience and learnings, moving towards the upper bracket."
As for Wise, securing the upper bracket slot is more important.
“For me being in the group stage, your number one priority is to be at the upper bracket. And I don’t care even if Falcon beats us twice because we are still in the same group with them in the upper bracket," said the Blacklist jungler.
A more exciting scene ahead
With what Blacklist has experienced, it can be argued that teams are slowly catching up to their dominance. While this could be a threat to Blacklist's dynasty, for V33nus this could bring more excitement in the scene.
"Siguro mas naging exciting ngayon, hindi lang para sa Blacklist kundi para sa lahat ng teams, kase lahat ng in-underestimate na team, nakita natin kung paano sila sumabay. Kahit ako, naglu-look forward ako sa lahat ng matches na pwedeng mangyari...Incendio number one," she said.
And to add to the thrills is the fact that any team could be the alpha or the dark horse, said Coach BON CHAN.
"We don’t have any idea on who is the dark horse or who is the strongest. I think all of them are equal."
With Blacklist looking more vulnerable, fans tend to criticize Blacklist for utilizing their signature methods of utility junglers and UBE strats left and right. But V33nus still believes that the team's methods are still the winning formula.
"If that is their opinion, they can say that. Even when we were starting with Blacklist International, people were saying that we’re using the same rotations, the same heroes, but we can still see that we can still win," she said.