The year 2021 has been a monumental one for the Filipino esports scene. From world championships and local online tournaments, esports proved it can thrive amid a pandemic.
But the battle for pride and glory is just about to get more intense as both the 19th Asian Games and the 31st Southeast Asian Games will feature esports competitions. These tournaments will commence in September and November 2022, respectively.
As we are about to enter another chapter in the field, here are 10 Filipino esports athletes to watch out for in the coming year:
1. KarlTzy (Mobile Legends)
Bren Esports’ dreadful performance in MPL-PH Season 8 does not exactly reflect what Karl Gabriel “KarlTzy” Nepomuceno is capable of. Arguably, KarlTzy is still the best player in MPL-PH in terms of mechanical skills—or if not, then probably second to Kairi of Onic Philippines.
After some players expressed their lack of drive in competing during their post-M2 World Championship slump, it is evident that Bren Esports’ players need a fresh environment. Last December 21, Echo officially revealed that KarlTzy would be boosting their MPL-PH Season 9 campaign.
KarlTzy will be bringing his wide range of experience as a SEA Games gold medalist, MPL-PH champion, and M2 World Championship MVP to Echo’s star-studded roster. With a new set of veterans to guide him, the only question left is: will the guys have good chemistry? If yes, then we might see KarlTzy at the top once again.
2. DubsteP (Valorant)
At an age where most esports players retire, Jayvee “DubsteP” Paguirigan saw himself representing the Philippines in the grandest stage of Valorant. Last December 1 to 8, the 29-year old DubsteP, along with his squad, Team Secret, competed in the Valorant Champions Tour 2021 in Berlin, Germany.
Despite being considered as the biggest underdog in the tournament, Team Secret finished 5th - 8th place and gained the respect of its peers, proving that Filipinos can keep pace with the best teams in the First-person shooter (FPS) scene.
DubsteP wrapped up the competition at the top 8 of the Average Combat Score leaderboards with 237.7. The promising duelist also dropped 45 frags on their Playoff-clinching series against Team Vikings.
As Riot plans to start VCT 2022 in February, it will be exciting to see how DubsteP and the rest of Team Secret will continue their journey.
3. Karl (DOTA 2)
Karl "Karl" Matthew Baldovino was one of the first child wonders of the Filipino esports scene. At 13, Karl became a professional player of the original Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III under the moniker “Santino.”
Karl, however, struggled with his transition to DOTA 2. He moved through several organizations but was never able to replicate his success in the original game.
The boy started to redeem himself after he was acquired by the South Korea-based squad T1 last year. A few months later, he was reunited with former Filipino teammate Carlo "Kuku" Palad in the same organization. T1 competed against the best of the best in The International 10 last October 7 to 17 and finished 7th-8th out of 18 teams.
Karl may have taken a decade to step onto the biggest stage for DOTA, but it is also undeniable he is just about to enter the prime years of his career.
4. Demonkite (Mobile Legends)
Jonard “Demonkite” Caranto stunned the professional league upon his arrival. As a former Jungler for JNA Esports, Demonkite was highly-touted in amateur tournaments before he was recruited by RSG Philippines.
The 18-year old Demonkite tallied the highest total kills and KDA for three consecutive weeks during the MPL-PH Season 8 Regular Season. He averaged 4.16 kills and 5.14 KDA per game and was eventually hailed as the Rookie of the Season.
Demonkite was also able to showcase his skills on the international stage as RSG PH finished eighth in the MPL Invitational 2021. How he took no time to adjust from amateur competitions to the professional scene was impressive. And with veteran mentor Coach Panda at his side, the sky is the limit for Demonkite.
5. Skerd (Call of Duty Mobile)
Blacklist International.Ultimate broke the code in the Call of Duty Mobile World Championship 2021 - East Finals last December 11 to 12 and Averson “Skerd” Salaya was hailed as the Most Valuable Player for his stellar performance.
Almost two weeks after their world title stint, Skerd led the Tier One Entertainment-backed squad in the PH Invitational 2021, where they stunned local powerhouses Omega Esports, Por Esports, and Fantasma.
However, winning two championships in a month wasn’t that easy. Skerd and the rest of the Blacklist International.Ultimate were forced to play with only 60fps during the CODM World Championship as the official tournament smartphones which support 120fps did not arrive on time.
If Blacklist International.Ultimate has already conquered the world stage on a limited graphics setting, what more can they achieve once the best peripherals are on their hands?
6. Xavi8k (Valorant)
Xavier "Xavi8K" Juan was a collegiate Valorant superstar who leaped to the professional scene. He was the duelist of De La Salle University's Viridis Arcus that dominated the University Alliance Cup Valorant for three consecutive seasons.
His dominant performance in the biggest local intercollegiate league caught the attention of professional teams. Last October, Bren Esports announced that they had acquired the services of Xavi8K. But prior to his recruitment by Bren, Xavi8K already had the opportunity to play in the pro division under Sunsparks for the Valorant Champions Tour Playoffs.
Despite his impressive aim, Xavi8K still needs more tournament experience to lead Bren Esports back to where it was before its former roster moved to Team Secret.
7. Woopiiee (Call of Duty Mobile)
Jerrold "Woopiiee" Regay was once considered the best or one of the best snipers in the Philippines. Woopiiee and his former organization, NRX Jeremiah 29:11 were among the first local esports teams to compete professionally in Call of Duty Mobile.
CODM- Philippines Championship 2020, CODM World Championship 2020 - Garena, and CODM World Championship 2020 - Global Finals are just some of the prestigious tournaments where NRX Jeremiah 29:11 displayed their mastery.
Unfortunately, after Omega Esports absorbed the NRX Jeremiah 29:11 roster, other teams slowly caught up to them. The only recent achievement the squad bagged was a runner-up finish in the PH Invitational 2021. But at the end of the day, Woopiiee and Omega Esports will always be a squad to watch out for because, just like their MLBB counterpart, they are the public’s favorite.
8. WaningMoon (Hearthstone)
Dustin “WaningMoon” Mangulabnan is a long-time pro Hearthstone player and has already represented the Philippines in different competitions since 2014. Unfortunately, WaningMoon and his teammate Jacinta “Jia” Dee came up short in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
This year, WaningMoon continued to shoot the works in Tier 1 tournaments and qualifiers. He emerged victorious in the Masters Qualifiers: Ironforge #90 and Masters Qualifiers: Silvermoon #100.
As esports prepares to make its debut at the Asian Games 2022, it would be exciting to see WaningMoon bounce back and bring home the country’s first gold medal in Hearthstone.
9. Tatsurii (League of Legends: Wild Rift)
After Team Secret launched its League of Legends Wild Rift roster last February, the all-Filipino squad steamrolled in the local tournaments. After eight months, Team Secret completed a Cinderella run in the Wid Rift SEA Championship to qualify for the Horizon Cup 2021, the first-ever international championship in League of Legends Wild Rift.
In the world championship held last November 13 to 21, mid-laner Heri “Tatsurii” Garcia had his moment in the limelight. His Zed delivered 11 kills in Game 2 of their Semifinals series against the eventual world champions Da Kun Gaming. With less than a year of playing together, Team Secret capped off their Horizon Cup 2021 campaign with a 3rd-4th place finish.
Now that the Philippine National Esports Team Sibol has announced they are looking for players to compete in the League of Legends: Wild Rift: Men’s Division of the 31st SEA Games, Tatsurii and the rest of Team Secret are definitely worth considering.
10. Vigor (PUBG Mobile)
Out of the 256 teams that competed in the Mineski Masters PUBG Mobile tournament, it was UTG International Pro that came out on top and John Vincent “Vigor” Almodal that claimed the MVP plum.
The 21-year old Vigor and the UTG International Pro also bagged the title in the PUBG Mobile Club Open - Fall Split 2021: Philippines last August 21 to September 5.
As PUBG Mobile officially makes the list at the 31st Southeast Asian Games which will be held on May 2022, Vigor is someone to watch out for.
Aside from the names mentioned above, there are still plenty of promising local esports athletes and games we should also pay attention to. As Filipino talents continue to be a revelation on the international stage, one thing is for sure: exciting times await for the Philippine esports scene.