Six teams will duke it out in the playoffs of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League, with fewer competing teams than usual after the league shifted to a franchise-based setting entering Season 8.
The playoffs, to be held on Thursday to Sunday, boasts a prize pool of $150,000 (about P7.5 million) as finalists will have the chance to compete for the M3 world championship.
Expect eliminations as early as Day 1 of the playoff series, as RSG Philippines face Nexplay EVOS, and Echo Philippines square up against Omega Esports.
Winners of the said matches will face Blacklist International and Onic, who automatically qualified for Round 2 after placing first and second in the league rankings.
WHO ARE THE QUALIFIED TEAMS?
Without much changes to their lineup save for the addition of regular season MVP Salic "Hadji" Imam, Blacklist International dominated MPL anew in Season 8, banking on their signature UBE strategy while throwing in a bunch of surprise draft picks to end the regular season with a record-breaking 13-1 win-loss record.
They will, however, have to go through Day 1 sans the services of star gold-laner Kiel Calvin "OHEB" Soriano, who was suspended for one more game after flashing his middle finger post-game against Omega Esports.
Finishing the regular season with a 93 percent win rate, will they be able to replicate this in the playoffs or will the 7 percent prevail?
COACH: Kristoffer Ed "BON CHAN" Ricaplaza
- Johnmar "OhMyV33nus" Villaluna (captain)
- Danerie James "Wise" Del Rosario
- Kiel Calvin "OHEB" Soriano
- Salic A "Hadji" Imam
- Edward "EDWARD" Jay Dapadap
- Mark Jayson "ESON" Gerardo
- Dexter Louise "DEX STAR" Alaba
Onic Philippines, who placed second in Seasons 4 and 5, have established themselves as a championship contender from the get-go behind Blacklist, behind the services of head coach Paul Denver "Yeb" Miranda, who came off a Cignal Ultra squad that went winless last season.
With the help of masterful plays and the growth of Onic's superstars "The Future" Kairi, and returning player Allen Jedric "Baloyskie" Baloy (formerly Greed), they sit second in league rankings, and led the standings at one point after Week 2 after a strong MPL start.
They were the only team to decode Blacklist International this season behind a shocking 2-0 sweep. Will they be able to replicate this and secure their first championship after years of heartbreak?
ONIC PH roster
COACH: Paul Denver "Coach Yeb" Miranda
- Allen Jedric "Baloyskie" Baloy (captain)
- Kairi "Kairi" Rayosdelsol
- Gerald "Dlarskie" Trinchera
- Karl Mico "Micophobia" Tarala
- Mark Christian "Markyyyyy" Etcobañez
- Jaylord "Hatred" Gonzales
- Paul Ian "Beemo" Sergio
- Nowee "Ryota" Cabailo
When the Malaysian-based organization set its sights on creating an ML squad in the Philippines, it put in a formidable squad steered by 2019 Southeast Asian Games head coach Brian "Panda" Lim and paraded by a mix of rookies and veterans. Turning heads midseason, the new kids on the block pose a serious threat.
Two of its players, Arvie "Aqua" C. Antonio and Jonard Cedrix "Demonkite" Caranto, lead the league in kills-deaths-assists (KDA) ratio, and helped RSG rank to as high as third-place mid-season.
But toward the end of the season they found themselves in a losing skid, ending up in a 3-way tie. They capped off their regular season run with a 2-1 loss to Onic, but it was enough to book them a playoff slot.
However, the loss meant they ended the league with a 4-game losing streak, will they turn things around with a W in their first playoff match and sink 3rd seed Nexplay EVOS?
RSG PHILIPPINES roster
COACH: Brian "Panda" Lim (Changrok Im)
- Kenneth Jiane "Kenji" Villa (captain)
- Earvin John "Heath" Esperanza
- Arvie C. "Aqua" Antonio
- Joshwell Christian "Iy4knu" Manaog
- Jonard Cedrix "Demonkite" Caranto
- Eman "Emann" Sangco
- Dexter "Exort" Martinez
- Nathanael "Nathz" Estrologo
- Elyson Edouard Caranza
Paraded by MSC champions' Execration's lineup and some rookies as they ushered in the league's shift to a franchise-based format, Smart Omega's MPL campaign was a rollercoaster.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News last September, head coach Jomie "Pakbet" Abalos admitted to struggling early, as they adjusted their lineup amid a suspension on one of his players.
But with some tweaks to their gameplay, with the entry of rookie Dean Christian "Raizen" Sumagui in the lineup and a drive to finish any set even before their signature "Omega timers" strike, they are not to be counted out for this season's series.
Entering the playoffs, they will try to repeat over Echo Philippines, coming off a rebrand from Aura PH, a team Omega Esports' players eliminated when most of their players were still with Execration.
SMART OMEGA roster
COACH: Jomie "Pakbet" Abalos
- Patrick James "E2MAX" Caidic (captain)
- Kiel VJ "Kielvj" Cruzem
- Renz Errol "Renzio" Cadua
- Joshua "Ch4knu" Mangilog
- Grant Duane "Kelra" Pillas
- Billy Jazha "Z4pnu" Alfonso
- Romiere "Allidap" Padilla
- Dian Felix "Dian" Cruz
- Dean Christian "Raizen" Sumagui
- Robert Remar "Hito" Candoy
Coming off a rebrand through a partnership with Southeast Asia giants EVOS Legends, Nexplay, one of the most popular teams in terms of viewership want to make a splash in the upcoming playoffs.
After struggling early into Season 8, they ended the regular season at third place, capped off with a win against Smart Omega that figured into a controversy after members of the MPL community accused both squads of throwing the first 2 sets of the match. Nexplay resident analyst Neil “Midnight” De Guzman has since apologized for the incident.
"I’m the one who calculated the points, I’m the one who supported the idea, and I’m the one who is responsible for the team’s development. There’s no more explanation to the story, we simply finished our match for the regular season in an improper way," De Guzman said.
With veterans such as Jhon "H2wo" Salonga, Tristan "YAWI" Cabrera and Jeniel "YellyHaze" Bata-anon, and the brimming reserve potential with 15 year old rookie Sanford "SanFord" Marin Vinuya, will Nexplay carry on their momentum entering the playoffs?
COACH: John Michael "Zico" Dizon
- Jeniel "yellyHaze" Bata-Anon (captain)
- John Paul "H2wo" Salonga
- Renejay "RENEJAY" Barcarse
- Tristan "YAWI" Cabrera
- Setsuna "DOGIE" Ignacio
- Sanford Marin "SanFord" Vinuya
- Jhonwin Dela Merced "Hesa" Vergara
- James "Jeymz" Gloria
From their league debut as Aura PH, Echo have entered the playoffs each time, finishing their campaign the strongest yet in Season 7 where they placed 3rd. From the rebrand, Echo Philippines look to improve from their bronze finish last season and storm through to the finals, backed by mainstays Frederic Benedict "BennyQT" Gonzales and Jaymark Aaron "Hadess" Lazaro.
Echo figured in a 3-way tie between RSG and Omega towards the end of the season, before being the last in the league to enter the playoffs after dealing a death blow on reigning world champs Bren Esports' playoff hopes in the local league.
Entering the playoffs, they will face Omega Esports, laden by players of Execration, the team that eliminated them in the lower bracket finals of MPL Season 7. Will they be able to avenge or will Omega Esports come out triumphant anew?
COACH: Steven Dale "Dale" Vitug
- Christian "Rafflesia" Fajura (captain)
- Jaymark Aaron "Hadess" Lazaro
- Jason Rafael "Jaymeister" Torculas
- Jankurt Russel "KurtTzy" Matira
- Frederic Benedict "Bennyqt" Gonzales
- Kenneth "FLYSOLO" Coloma
- Aaron "AaronQT" Lim
- Samuel Josef "Invoker" Cruz
- Rion "Rk3" Kudo
- Joshua Nathaniel "Aspect" Tating