What makes the MPL-Philippines Season 7 Playoffs truly exceptional, compared to its previous editions, is that all eight teams are title contenders. No one is assured of a victory—not even the World Champion Bren Esports—but yes, each team has a chance to win the coveted MPL-PH trophy and represent the country in the 2021 Mobile Legends Southeast Asia Cup, be they veterans or rookies. However, there are characters and storylines to watch out for as the playoffs kick-off.
The Protagonists: V33Wise duo and Blacklist International
No one expected them to be here, but so far, Blacklist International is the headliner of MPL-PH Season 7. Finishing the Regular Season with a stellar 12-1 record and 92% win rate, the addition of Johnmar “OhMyV33NUS” Villaluna and Danerie “Wise.” Del Rosario proved to be metamorphic for the Tier One-backed squad.
Blacklist International immediately shut down doubts on how OhMyV33NUS’ unique hero pool will synchronize with Coach Kristoffer “BON CHAN” Ricaplaza’s quirky drafting. It seems like the game itself conspired to help the team refine its identity. The game patches gave birth to the Nice one, baby meta that Blacklist International integrated with the ultimate bonding experience.
The only question left is, can the Blacklist agents continue to break the code towards the championship? The Playoffs is a different animal compared to the Regular Season. Wise. acknowledges that among the team, it’s him and OhMyV33NUS who went through the most heartbreaking games in MPL-PH history. The flashback of a daunting past can haunt them in a snap. The duo experienced being dominant the whole tournament long but fell short in the Grand Finals of Seasons four and five.
Will history repeat itself? Or is it now the time for the V33Wise duo and Blacklist International to prevail?
Low-key Antagonist: Bren Esports
Coming from a monumental feat in the M2 World Championships, it is easily presumed that Bren Esports will reign once again in the local pro league.
The defending champions were supposedly the heroes of MPL-PH Season 7 until they published videos on their YouTube account talking about who’s the best player in each team while also subtly trash-talking them. This fired back, and the team found themselves in a three-game losing slump in the early weeks of the season. A championship curse, fatigue, or probably a strategy upon their sleeves. Bren Esports had all the reasons to stay. If anything, those losses were a wake-up call.
Bren Esports had to fight for an upper bracket seat until the very last game of the Regular Season. No one even knows if the team will enter the playoffs in their dominant form.
On a brighter note, Bren Esports was the lone squad that successfully decoded Blacklist International. But can the reigning kings do it once more as they clash in the first round of the playoffs?
Public Enemy No. 1: Work Auster Force
After an unblemished campaign in the Open Qualifiers, Work Auster Force proved that they belong to the league and defeated MPL-PH giants ONIC PH, AURA PH, and Execration.
Talk got louder that the super rookies are the new ONIC PH- the fabled squad that stunned the league back in Season 4. But no, they are not. Instead, Work Auster Force is like Nexplay Solid last season, except that their stats can back up their social media antics. From the arrogance on interviews, social media trash talk, and in-game TPs that even cost them games, you name it.
Work Auster Force is the new guys in town that act as if no one can bring them down. Despite that, there is no one denying the team can win it all.
From being just scrim partners, can they dethrone Bren Esports? Is Work Auster Force going to be the first MPL-PH rookie champion?
1. Kielvj and Renzio vs AURA PH
Despite a dismal performance last season, AURA PH came out with the surprising announcement of Kielvj "Kielvj" Hernandez and Renz "Renzio" Cadua's departure from the team. Both players were instrumental in the teams' iconic two-peat championship in Seasons four and five.
A month before the Open Qualifiers started, Kielvj and Renzio had yet to find a new home. It was revealed later on that Kielvj was in conversation with Nexplay Esports’ coach Setsuna "Akosi Dogie" Ignacio, Execration's Billy "Z4pnu" Alfonso, and Cignal Ultra.
The duo landed with the Cavite-based squad, as Nexplay Esports have already locked in their lineup for Season 7. Coincidentally, Execration lost Bennyqt, who replaced Kielvj's role in AURA PH.
Kielvj expressed his eagerness to prove to AURA PH that they made a mistake during the pre-seasons Bootcamp Raid. Execration's team captain Patrick "E2MAX" Caidic asserted, "AURA ang nagsaing, Execration ang kakain."
Kielvj's transition from gold laner to jungler role has not been smooth. His morale took a dive after committing crucial mistakes in the team's five-game losing streak midway through the season. Yet, the 15-year old prodigy redeemed himself and steered Execration to the playoffs.
Meeting their ex-teammates is a tall order for Kielvj and Renzio. Execration will face ONIC PH in the first round and hope that Omega Esports upsets AURA PH. Best scenario possible, the team will have to fight for their lives until the Grand Finals.
2. Renechange and Nexplay Esports
From being the league's bad boys, character development has been the name of the game for Nexplay Esports. Although there are still glimpses of cockiness, beating last season's finalists Bren Esports and Omega Esports still says a lot.
The addition of Dexter "Exort" Martinez and rookie James "Jeymz" Gloria revamped the identity of the squad. Exort's Lunox partnered with Tristan "Yawi" Cabrera's Akai spelled doom for their foes.
However, the team, specifically Renejay "RENEJAY" Barcarse, suffered internal conflicts throughout the Regular Season. NXP had to play several games without RENEJAY's presence in the Aether House.
Fortunately, RENEJAY bounced back with a deadlier version of himself that they called "Renechange." It may sound like a funny joke to some, but how the 18-year old showed professionalism was unquestionable. From being tagged as a "Chou only" kind of player, RENEJAY flaunted his mastery of Marksman, Mage, and Fighter heroes.
Will Nexplay finally bring back the glory of AE hood and give Akosi Dogie's first MPL title since leading the infamous Aether Main in Season 1?
Eight teams. One championship. MPL-PH Season 7 is definitely one for the books.
The #MPLPH Playoffs starts on May 26 (Wednesday) at 4 PM. For more MPL-PH Season 7 info visit the official website: ph-mpl.com.
E-mail the author: Aeron Gabriel Pantig firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Tammy Tavid