IT WAS a season that began with a strange accident, when a double decker bed fell onto Execration’s Kiel “Kielvj” Hernandez, sending him to the hospital a day before the opening matches of MPL-PH Season 7.
But Kielvj and the rest of Execration survived that opening day, and then some very tough match-ups, powering through with gritty, tenacious strategies to go all the way to the finals.
It was there, however, that they met their match: Blacklist International, bannered by team captain Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna.
Blacklist is known for their #BreakTheCode hashtag, which shot up in popularity from the start of the regular season. The squad dismantled the opposition’s every strategy as they worked their way to a remarkable 12-1 run — with their only loss coming from defending champions Bren Esports.
But Juicy Legends caster Rikaexa “Athena” Paloma — who’s been watching OhMyV33nus since his days in the Dream High squad — hints that the #BreakTheCode hashtag could possibly refer to the breaking of another wall entirely.
“In the middle part of Season 7, medyo nag-boom [ang Blacklist International] because of some issues ng ibang mga fans and viewers,” said Athena during a guesting at All Chat, an audio livecast hosted by Dan “Leo” Cubangay and co-presented by Spin.ph.
Athena was referring to a brief spark of controversy during the Bren Esports-Blacklist International match, when fans began leaving ugly, homophobic comments against OhMyV33nus in the stream.
Teams took swift action. Bren Esports began banning fans in their livestream, and Blacklist, OhMyV33nus’ former team Onic PH, and a strong network of influencers issued messages of support.
Villaluna himself took to Facebook to issue a brief statement, acknowledging how difficult it sometimes was to be both "a member of LGBTQ+ Community, and a pro player of MPL-PH."
Looking back on that incident, Athena said, “I like that they converted it into something positive, into promoting their advocacies, in promoting something positive in the environment — not just for all women, or for all men, but also for the LGBTQ community.”
Another All Chat guest, Mobile Legends correspondent for Spin.ph and former MPL-PH caster Carlos “WanderDrift” Pineda, also gave his thoughts on what happened.
“During that controversial moment where V33nus was heavily ridiculed? He was able to move on from it. He did not let that bother him,” he said.
WanderDrift continued, “Let's face it, there are some athletes who, when they reach a certain peak, all of a sudden, there will be haters who will charge forward and try to demoralize you. But V33nus was like, forget it. I'm just here to let my game do the talking. And he proved it. For him to overcome the number of heated comments directed on him, the fact that he was able to silence everyone, V33nus is the leader of this team.”
And prove it he did. And the Queen, as OhMyV33nus is fondly called, was able to successfully overcome his haters to become one of the most popular players in the league.
A May 30 post on OhMyV33nus’ personal page, uploaded right after Blacklist took home the championship and showing a famous photo of Villaluna putting on an imaginary crown, garnered more than 700,000 likes. Majority of commenters sent the Blacklist captain heart reacts.
But beyond the OhMyV33nus moment, Leo believes that, in the end, it was just solid gameplay fundamentals that allowed Blacklist International to dominate Season 7 so definitively.
“For Blacklist, they were just ahead of the curve. Blacklist was way ahead of the curve from Day 1. Yun na sila. That's their key to success,” he said.
During the hour-long audio livecast, Athena, WanderDrift, and Leo extensively discussed both Execration and Blacklist’s strategies coming into the edge-of-your-seat finals. In the end, as Athena said, it was really the depth of strategies that BLCK could call on that ended up overwhelming Execration’s aggressiveness.
Perhaps emblematic of Blacklist's versatility? The finals MVP nod didn't go to OhMyV33nus or longtime partner-in-crime Danerie "Wise" Del Rosario... but to Edward "Edward" Dapadap, who played a crucial role in Blacklist's series turnaround against Execration.
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