Upon the conclusion of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League-Philippines Season Eight, the ECHO coaching staff knew that they needed to inject some new blood into the roster in order for them to reach greater heights.
The core, which was composed of Benedict “Bennyqt” Gonzales, Mark “Hadess” Lazaro, and Christian “Rafflesia” Fajura, has yet to gain significant success besides its bronze finish in the MPL Philippines Season Seven.
With that, ECHO country manager Mitch Liwanag asked the coaching staff led by Michael “Arcadia” Bocado a list of the players they wish to see don the purple and black colors for next season.
And it’s no ordinary list – it’s a star-studded one.
“Actually, I thought it was impossible kasi sabi ko, parang ang hirap, kasi yung mga gusto nila are mga franchise players ng mga organizations nila. So sabi ko parang mahirap ata itong gusto niyo,” Liwanag shared to Tiebreaker Times.
The former Philippine Mobile Legends: Bang Bang national team manager told Tiebreaker Times in an exclusive interview how she moved heaven and earth to pull off what could arguably be the biggest signing spree in league history.
The Jungler List
First off in the jungler position was Kairi “Kairi” Rayosdelsol, but Liwanag quickly shot the idea down given ONIC PH’s silver finish in the M3 World Championships.
Next on the list was rising star Jonard “Demonkite” Caranto, who has been a revelation for RSG PH in the past season. Liwanag saw the Mandaluyong-bred jungler as a more viable option than Kairi, however, it was later revealed that Demonkite is actually one of RSG PH’s most prized possessions, thus the rejection.
“Ang first choice namin is si Kairi, kaso sabi ko imposible pa sa imposible ‘yan so do I asked them if they have another player in their mind.
“So sabi nila si Demonkite, sabi ko mahirap din ‘yan pero we will try. So, we actually asked RSG PH if he’s available for buy out and another no, so sabi ko isip pa tayo na tingin niyo puwede pa nating kunin,” said Liwanag.
Then came Bren Esports superstar Karl “KarlTzy” Nepomuceno, who was actually the last jungler on the coaching staff’s list.
“Sabi ko si KarlTzy mahirap din kasi franchise player ng Bren Esports ‘yan. Knowing Bren, isa sa mga famous players nila ‘yan na parang ang hirap kunin sa kanila. Actually ayun, nagkaroon kami ng negotiation and then pumayag then sila eventually,” said Liwanag, who is no stranger to building super teams having played a part in Bren Esports’ superstar haul which also included KarlTzy back in 2019.
Make no mistake, the 17-year-old’s position in the list is in no way an interpretation of his caliber.
In fact, the reason why KarlTzy was at the last spot was that Liwanag and her coaching staff knew that it would be impossible to lure the M2 World Championship MVP out of Bren Esports’ lair. And that’s why they were so surprised when the storied organization eventually agreed to the buyout.
“Siya yung last option namin kasi para sa akin siya yung pinaka impossible. Pero nung tinanong ko si Boss Jeff [Victoriano] na ayun nga, open naman sila sa negotiations,” revealed Liwanag.
Of course, questions about KarlTzy’s passion for the game were brought up in the conversation prior to the acquisition. But the Mobile Legends wunderkind assured Liwanag that the same fire that brought Bren Esports to the top of the M2 World Championship is finally back and blazing.
“I know maraming tao yung nag da-doubt kay KarlTzy kasi sabi nila nakuha na niya yung pangarap niya, yung M2 championship, MVP. Actually, nung kinausap ko si Karl yun yung unang question ko sa kaniya. ‘Tingin mo gutom ka pa bang manalo?’ And he said, ‘Of course’,” shared Liwanag.
“Kaya siya nandito is because gusto niyang manalo. As I can see with him nung nag pa-practice sila and may scrimmages sila, sobrang competitive talaga ni KarlTzy na kahit scrim lang ayaw niyang natatalo and yun yung pinakagusto ko sa player. Siya ‘pag trabaho, trabaho.”
The Other Tzy
Before finalizing his deal with ECHO, KarlTzy asked for one more thing from Liwanag.
“Actually, personal request ni Karl na makasama si 3Mar,” bared the player-turned-manager.
Liwanag did not hesitate to grant KarlTzy’s request. After all, she will be hitting two birds with one stone because 3MarTzy happens to be in Arcadia’s wish list following his stellar rookie season with Work Auster Force back in Season Seven.
The colorful EXP laner, who Liwanag claimed as ‘too expensive’ at the time, found himself in free agency after being let go by TNC a month ago. With the opportunity finally presenting itself in a more fitting situation, Liwanag immediately pulled the trigger on the deal and locked 3MarTzy’s services.
And to say that she was surprised after meeting the 3MarTzy is an understatement.
“Itong si 3MarTzy akala ko napaka tigas ng ulo. Siya pala, itong batang ‘to napakalambing. Doon ko nakita na.. Sabi ko nga, ‘Ito ba si 3MarTzy?’ Kasi akala ko talaga matigas yung ulo niya.”
Third Time’s the Charm
Just like 3MarTzy, Yawi has been on ECHO’s radar for a long time now.
And at last, after asking for the 20-year-old ever since Season Six, Liwanag finally got Nexplay EVOS’ sweet yes.
“Si Yawi kinukuha na namin ‘yan since Season Six pa and I’m so glad na nakuha na namin siya. Matagal na siyang plano,” said the wife of former MPL Philippines champion Jaypee “Jaypee” Dela Cruz.
It was after the 2021 Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League Invitational last November that Yawi finally became available. Liwanag, though, bared that luring the social media star to join ECHO was not an easy task.
After all, ECHO was not Yawi’s first choice of destination. According to Tiebreaker Times’ sources, the former Area 51 standout was considering a move to ONIC PH before eventually signing with ECHO.
Yawi, who initially said no to the transfer, finally said yes after learning that KarlTzy and 3MarTzy are already on their way to ECHO. He even expressed his willingness to expand his hero pool for the upcoming season just to fit in with his new teammates.
“Si Yawi, si Yawi talaga kasi hindi naman kami yung first option niya. Pero nakita naman niya yung potential nung nakasama niyang maglaro yung apat and we’re happy na iba yung direksyon ng pananaw niya and he chose ECHO,” said Liwanag.
“Last season pa tina-try na namin kunin si Yawi then tinanong ko ulit si Dogie after MPLI, I asked Dogie if it’s possible to get Yawi. Actually, hindi kami yung first option ni Yawi, meron pang isa but nung nalaman naman niya kung ano yung plano namin for the team, nagustuhan niya.”
Addressing the Elephant in the Room
Aside from being exceptional players, KarlTzy, 3MarTzy, and Yawi have one more thing in common – they all have strong personalities.
With that, Liwanag knew that these young individuals are bound to clash heads anytime soon, but the assurance she received from her coaching staff was more than enough for her to pursue the deals.
“Actually, that’s true, yun yung pinakaunang sinabi ko kay Arcadia nung nakita ko yung dream team na plano nila. Sabi ko sa kanila, siraulo na ba kayo? Nababaliw na ba kayo?
“Pag binuo natin ‘tong team na ‘to mahihirapan tayo kasi meron silang mga issues na naririnig ko. Yung sinasabi ng mga tao na may attitude si ganito, ito maarte ‘to, itong player na ‘to may ugali, tinanong ko sila kung sigurado ba sila,” Liwanag added.
For Liwanag, building a great working environment is a two-way street.
That is why she also told the players that they have the management’s 100-percent trust as they gear up for the upcoming MPL Philippines Season Nine.
“They just told me na pagkatiwalaan namin sila na babaguhin daw nila kung ano ’man daw yung tingin ng mga tao sa kanila, kila 3Mar, Yawi, KarlTzy and sabi ko sige bibigay namin yung tiwala ng management sa inyo,” she said.
“Napakagaan nilang ka-trabaho, nung nag team building kami mas lalo ko silang nakilala. Mga simpleng bata lang, siguro namisunderstood lang ng mga tao. In real life hindi sila unprofessional napakabait nila.”
With Great Power Comes Great Expectations
As early as now, the players are already feeling the pressure that came with grouping together.
It’s a ‘ticking time bomb’ as Liwanag described. That’s why the former Bren Esports team manager is keeping her expectations down. After all, she knows that it takes time to build a championship-caliber team.
And with that, Liwanag made sure to give his wards a piece of advice for the grind to come.
“Yung binigay ng tao na pangalan sa kanila is super team. Sabi ko, ang bigat kasi parang feeling nila bawal matalo, kailangan perfect yung galaw,” said Liwanag.
“But I told the coaches and the players na ‘wag nila yung dalhin sa ulo nila and gawin lang nila yung best nila. Nandito yung management para suportahan sila. Nandito naman kami para tuparin yung mga pangarap nila e.”