MANILA – Like a well-oiled machine, RSG Philippines went past being derogated for having a "chop suey" squad to being crowned as the country's best MPL team.
The team’s chemistry, topped with head coach Brian “Panda” Lim’s “Pandamentals” of discipline and systematized gameplay steered the Kingslayers to their first ever title, even shutting down criticisms over their inability to close out matches through a 4-1 win against “comeback kings” Omega Esports.
The SEA Games winning coach emphasized the players’ mentality, the way they adapted to discipline and the chemistry the squad developed en route to clinching the title.
“You guys should see what happens when we go through a 30-minute game. My players’ mentality are very strong. We don’t really get slow with our movements, [whether] micro [or] macro. It still becomes consistent because when someone is tired and wants to go down, we are all putting each other up, and that is the best thing about this team,” Panda said in the post-championship press conference, Sunday.
After a stint at Laus Playbook Esports, Panda entered RSG Philippines in 2021 with a mix of veterans, amateur players, and a popular social media influencer under his wing, with the squad drawing flak for its "chop suey" roster.
But with a mix of systems, discipline, and their formed chemistry, RSG Philippines did the unthinkable and dominated the recent ML:BB season, exceeding analyst power rankings ahead of Season 9.
In earlier interview with Omega Esports players, Omega captain Patrick "E2MAX" Caidic said Panda's system paired with the kids' hunger for the title fueled the Kingslayers' championship run.
"Sobrang disiplinado niya [Panda] eh. And yung players na nakuha niya sumasakto sa pagiging workaholic, kasi masisipag, and lahat gutom. Kaya [naging maganda] ang run nila kasi mayroon silang system na ginagawa na tuloy-tuloy hanggang play-offs. Dumating sa point na na-perfect na nila 'yon kaya ang hirap na tapatan," the older E2MAX said following their loss to RSG in the Grand Finals.
CHOPSUEY? 'IT'S TIME TO OPEN YOUR EYES'
Now that they are at their peak, Panda believes it's already past the point of questioning the team's lineup choices as all his players had roles to fill in and out of the field.
“I never believed that there was a bad player. Just people calling the players chop suey, outcast that was what people see on the outside. So when I actually got these players It’s either through instinct or I got them personally. Because they are all in some part of my head," Panda said during an April 30 interview.
For instance, influencer Elyson "Wrecker" Caranza and veteran Earvin "Heath" John Esperanza assumed the role player status in developing the teams' chemistry, while Dylan "Light" Catipon was in charge of being the major in-field chemistry builder.
"Even when I first started I did not know what picture to draw - I just went with it. And in the end I keep trying to make an effort to make it work. I don’t know how long it will take, basta in the end this picture will be maganda. If people think that they are still a chopsuey team, then I want them to open their eyes na” Panda added.
Last season, it was Jonard "Demonkite" Caranto who carried the team to a performance that already cast aside certain doubts about the squad's potential - although much had to be questioned at the time about their ability to close out games they've already played aggressively.
With the newest additions to their main five in Season 9 such as Light, Nathanael "Nathzzz" Estrologo, and Eman "EMANN" Sangco filling in for veteran Joshwell "Iy4knu" Manaog, questions on whether they could address their woes were yet to be solved.
Now, the Kingslayers turned things around thanks to their in-game and off-game chemistry. In particular, it was season MVP Dylan “Light” Catipon’s ability to keep up with Demonkite’s aggressiveness on the field that led them to the title.
“Light actually definitely brought up the aggressiveness of [Demon]kite because Kite wants to be ‘aggressive, aggressive, aggressive’ and actually even the teams they all look like they are shy [or] tahimik. When you actually see them in game, they are saying [curse] words or ‘let’s do this, let’s do that’ and when Light came in they can actually do that more,” Panda said.
With the title, they also notch one of two slots for the Philippines in the ML:BB Southeast Asia Cup, and Panda is placing all his trust and confidence in his players as they prepare for the Malaysia-based tilt.
“Just like when you have five fingers, these are all my players, not only my players right now. But let’s say I have five players right now and each finger has to be very very strong and their bone is their muscles and then you need to hold them tight to make a fist, and that’s what I’m thinking: there’s no other team not only sa Philippines that we have a fist like this like five fingers, and we punch through a wall there is nothing that can stop us. I am confident - I’m not being mayabang. I just have that trust in my players,” Panda said.
Arvee “Aqua” Antonio, who emerged from the lowest-seeded team in Season 7 to reestablish himself as one of the veterans in the ML:BB scene in Season 9, lauded Panda’s trust in his players.
“Sobrang laki ng trust niya sa'kin kahit ano ang gawin ko sa laro sa ginagawa ko sa boot camp, sobrang saya ko dahil napakadami kong natutunan kay coach Panda na mga experience fundamental lahat po ng sinasabi niya tinuruto siya inaadapt ko po. Love na love ko si coach Panda,” he said, before the Korean coach ensnared him into a tight hug.
RSG Philippines will have time some time to rest before they prepare for MSC 2022 in Malaysia to be held from June 11 to 19.