Just over a year after their resounding victory at the M3 World Championship, Filipino powerhouse Blacklist International are gunning to become the first-ever two-time Mobile Legends world champions at the M4 World Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The defending champions are off to a good start, earning an upper bracket berth at M4's Knockout Stage this weekend. But the question remains, can Blacklist International repeat as world champions?
Let's look at how the Filipino juggernauts performed at M4's Group Stage as well as in previous tournaments to gauge their chances.
Greatness is already in their DNA. They're back to prove their reign has only just begun.
Presenting the M4 World Championship roster, the defenders of the world title in Jakarta, Indonesia:
— BLACKLIST INTERNATIONAL 👑 (@BLACKLISTINTL) December 31, 2022
As the defending champions, Blacklist International were pegged as the favourites to top what was seen as an easy Group A. Their competition included Cambodia's Burn x Team Flash, Myanmar's Falcon Esports, and Turkey's Incendio Supremacy.
However, Blacklist International are looking mortal as they only managed to finish second in their group.
They defeated Incendio Supremacy and Burn x Team Flash but lost to Falcon Esports, resulting in a three-way tie for first place in Group A between Blacklist International, Falcon Esports, and Incendio Supremacy.
The Filipino squad defeated Incendio Supremacy but lost once again to Falcon Esports, giving the Burmese team the top spot.
Despite that less-then-ideal start, Blacklist International remain in a good position as they will start the Knockout Stage in the upper bracket, where they will first face Brazil's RRQ Akira.
There's a widely-held belief that Mobile Legends teams from Southeast Asia, especially from top countries like the Philippines and Indonesia, are superior to those from other parts of the world. Blacklist International knows all too well that belief is unfounded.
Back at M3, Blacklist International were stunned by North America's BloodThirstyKings (BTK) in a 3-2 upset in the first round of the Knockout Stage. Even if they ended up winning M3, getting their revenge over BTK on the way, the Filipino squad knows that complacency can be their undoing.
But while we expect Blacklist International to win against RRQ Akira, their first big test should come in the secound round, where they will face either Malaysia's TODAK or Indonesia's RRQ Hoshi.
Considering past results, it's not going to be a walk in the park for the defending champions.
At the ONE Esports MPLI last November, Blacklist International only managed a 5th-8th place finish after losing to Geek Fam, a Malaysian squad. In the IESF World Esports Championship 2022 last December, they got swept in the grand finals by Team Indonesia.
The Filipino squad won't be facing those same opponents this time around, but it's still going to be a toss-up and dropping to the lower bracket will be a real possibility.
But that's hardly a death sentence for Blacklist International, who are known to flip a switch when facing elimination. Let's not forget that, after dropping to the lower bracket at M3, they went on an incredible 14-2 lower bracket run to get to the grand finals.
What are their chances?
So with all that said, how good are Blacklist International's chances to repeat as world champions?
Well, the competition this time around is looking to be much harder, so the window for them isn't as wide as it was back in M3, even if they had to come from the lower bracket. But the Filipino squad has shown time and again that they have the mechanical ability, understanding of the metagame, and championship pedigree needed to emerge victorious.
Whether or not that will result in Blacklist International becoming the first-ever two-time Mobile Legends world champions, and ensuring the title remains in the hands of a Filipino team for the third-straight year, remains to be seen.
The M4 World Championship will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 1 to 15 January, featuring 16 of the best Mobile Legends teams in the world competing to claim the world championship title as well as the lion's share of the US$800,000 prize pool.
The M4 Knockout Stage will be held from 7 to 15 January in the Tennis Indoor Stadium Senayan.
For everything you need to know about the M4 World Championship, check here.
Blacklist International M4 roster:
Edward "EDWARD" Dapadap
Danerie "Wise" Rosario
Salic "Hadji" Imam
Kiel "OHEB" Soriano
Jonmar "OhMyV33NUS" Villaluna