IT'S ALWAYS the same story for Blacklist International. They select Estes and Alice, group up together, win every series, and be on the receiving end of criticism from the community for their so-called boring and repetitive gameplan.
Yet even though their coveted ‘UBE strategy’ has been there since MPL Season 7, teams are still struggling to contend with it. Even when Execration managed to end their dominance in the MSC, the codebreakers have managed to refine their antics in Season 8, leading to their unblemished record.
Teams have tried to look for loopholes in their game plan, only for them to fail. Here are some methods that they’ve tried.
Blacklist UBE strat counter #1: The V33nus Rules
If the Detroit Pistons developed the “The Jordan Rules” to clamp Michael Jordan to the ground, the MPL has their own version with how teams have tried to target Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna.
This worked back in Season 4 when Sunsparks decided to ban V33nus’ signature Estes and Rafaela, but this no longer works in the current setting given his vast hero pool and the explosiveness of his teammates, just like Michael Jordan’s sidekick, Scottie Pippen.
Just ask Bren Esports where they banned all of V33nus’ heroes in Week 3, only for them to suffer from his Diggie. And even if that hero isn’t viable, the so-called “Queen” of the MPL has other options through Nana, Carmilla, or Kaja. We haven’t even mentioned what he said in a post-match interview, where he jokingly mentioned that he might reveal his Ling or Benedetta.
However, banning his hero pool isn’t the only way of shutting him down as RSG PH revealed another method, seen in Week 5.
Initially, it looked like Blacklist were about to experience their first series loss as Earvin John “Heath” Esperanza’s Angela and Arvie “Aqua” Antonio’s Yve were seen harassing V33nus and his teammate Kiel “OHEB” Soriano on the top lane.
While “The Queen” was left scrambling on that lane, his teammate Danerie James “Wise” Del Rosario was struggling to find any space at his own jungle given the immense pressure from Nathanael “Nathzz” Estrologo.
This led to RSG gaining the upper hand in the early stages of the game. Things grew worse for the codebreakers when the duo of Jonard Cedrix “Demonkite” Caranto’s Benedetta and Joshwell Christian “Iy4knu” Manaog’s Natan were seen flexing their mobility to dispatch any foe with only a pint of HP.
And with the Avarice emblem on Nathzz, it seemed RSG’s early game lead could translate all the way to the final moments of the game.
But everything changed in the 14th minute, where Blacklist hid inside the bush and delivered the killing blow to the unsuspecting Nathzz.
RSG's dominoes all fell from there. Slowly, the team members were picked off, leading to a Lord takeover and a final push to victory.
Blacklist UBE strat counter #2: Aggressive early rotations
This approach requires two important catalysts: strong poke damage dealers and mobility based heroes.
Both TNC and ECHO PH followed this method. However, it was the latter who was able to snatch a victory.
And how did they prevail? With the use of Pharsa, Grock, and Lancelot. Jason Rafael “Jaymeister” Torculas made important Guardian’s Barrier blocks to force members from Blacklist in awkward situations that when combined with the burst damage from Rion “Rk3” Kudo’s Pharsa and Jaymark Aaron “Hadess” Lazaro would spell doom for the codebreakers.
And it likewise helped that ECHO capitalized on the lack of mobility in Blacklist’s lineup, dismantling V33nus’ Carmilla and Wise’s X.Borg.
Though their Game 2 win was an impressive feat, given how they easily dispatched their foes with an 18-4 scoreline, Blacklist were able to find the solution to their Pharsa, Grock, and Lancelot combo in Game 3.
While ECHO prevailed in one game using this counter, TNC would give their best effort, only for them to suffer the same fate that RSG experienced.
Instead of using the trio mentioned earlier, TNC opted to use Baxia, Lylia, Popol and Kupa, and an electro-flashed Brody, which allowed them to dominate the early stages of the game in Week 5.
Baxia’s speed allowed TNC to roam around the jungle with ease. Combined with the scouting mechanics of Popol and Kupa and the damage outburst from Brody and Lylia, an opportunity opened up for the Phoenix to snatch the jungle creeps and the lanes away from the defending MPL champions. This also gave them the opportunity to kill important targets.
Unfortunately for TNC, they suffered in the 15th minute, while battling their way to secure the Lord. With only a sliver of HP left on the Lord, Wise’s Yi Sun Shin popped his Mountain Shocker while the Lord delivered a knockup effect on TNC’s members, leading to a momentum building moment for Blacklist.
Blacklist UBE strat counter #3: A combination of disruptors and area-of-effect specialists
Blacklist’s victory over ECHO in their recent encounter revealed a very important revelation this season: The same methods used by Execration from last season and in the MSC finals are still effective.
The key formulas for this tactic? A disruptor like a Gloo, Mathilda, or Paquito to control a key target or force Blacklist to react, combined with an AOE specialist like Claude or Lunox. Their damage outburst could gum up the ‘UBE’ strategy.
Further maximizing this strategy requires the use of chokepoints to weaken the escape mechanisms of the codebreakers, which in turn would enhance the impact of AOE abilities.
ECHO had the upper hand with this tried and tested formula, but suffered during the crunch time moments. Blacklist proved their superiority in the 25th minute, when OHEB made a crucial kill on Frederic Benedict “Bennyqt” Gonzales in the final teamfight, which limited their damage output.
Blacklist UBE strat counter #4: Is the late game a charm?
Teams like Onic PH and Omega Esports have struggled to contend with Blacklist’s early game aggression given the codebreaker’s systematic use of their abilities.
A key reason for Blacklist’s strong early game? To quote OhMyV33nus in an exclusive interview with Spin.ph, “It all boils down to execution.”
And this was evident in most of Blacklist’s victories. A sudden surprise entrance from Edward “Edward” Jay Dapadap would force the opposition to react, unleashing their abilities out of desperation... only for them to encounter a follow-up as OHEB would randomly appear in the heat of battle while his teammate Salic “Hadji” Imam would zone out a potential threat.
But this can alternate. OHEB or Hadji could lead the charge, while Edward serves as the counterattacking option, forcing teams to be on high alert, knowing that an RKO out of nowhere would randomly appear, followed by another signature wrestling finisher.
If teams struggle to deal with their early game antics, perhaps gambling might be the best solution. Both Onic and Omega relied on a defiant stand in the latter stages of the game, where they capitalized on a random mistake from the codebreakers.
For Blacklist to commit such an error is an unusual occurrence given how they mastered the art of execution in teamfights. Maybe Blacklist was overconfident. Maybe they overthought the situation. Maybe their brain cells were already fried from the nonstop back-and-forth action. Maybe an important factor was overlooked. Who knows what happened?
But relying on Blacklist to make a blunder requires a huge degree of luck.
Will Blacklist be finally toppled?
Though Blacklist International are currently on top of the standings, their recent performances against ECHO, RSG, and TNC, have revealed that teams have already dissected their gameplan.
Perhaps history could once again repeat itself. Remember back in Season 5, when Bren Esports was considered to be one of the most dominant teams with their revamped SIBOL-filled roster?
But then the playoffs came, and the team looked shaky, given how their opponents were able to dissect their funneling strategy.
Will Blacklist suffer the same fate? According to V33nus, the ‘UBE’ strategy can be easily deciphered.
However, Blacklist is capable of learning from their flaws. Back in the MSC finals, Execration dealt them a Mathilda, Estes, and Aldous ban which worked in their favor, but ended up looking irrelevant when Season 8 rolled around and Blacklist were able to adapt to the team now known as Omega.
Plus, Blacklist's vast hero pool makes them one of the most unpredictable teams this season. The fact that OHEB was able to play Bruno and Kimmy effectively (even though he is always known as an Alice or Harith main) are signs that this team has a lot of tricks up their sleeve.
And to once again quote the Queen, “It all boils down to execution.” Blacklist has proven that in most of their victories, even after suffering from heavy casualties at the beginning.
We are now on Quento! Download the app to enjoy more articles and videos from SPIN.ph and other Summit Media websites.