The biggest storyline in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang esports is whether Blacklist International can secure an unprecedented back-to-back-to back championship title heading into Season 9 of the MPL PH. The challenge will be complicated by the absence of two of their best players and the continued improvement of their rivals in the competition.

MPL Philippines Season 9: the most important storylines

The Mobile Legends: Bang Bang world champions return to action, aiming for a third title win in a row. However, their challenge will be much more daunting than before as two members of the all-conquering squad decided to take a sabbatical heading into the new season to represent the Philippines under Team Sibol for the upcoming SEA Games, meaning BI had to make some changes gearing up for Season 9.

Indeed, the absence of exceptional players like Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna and Danerie James “Wise” Del Rosario would be nearly impossible to cope with for any MLBB team, if there’s anyone who could get it done, it’s the back-to-back world champions.

The other teams are gunning for them, however: ONIC, PH, Smart Omega, TNC and the others are all looking to take down the wounded juggernaut.

Blacklist International’s MPL Season 9 roster: who’s who in the squad?

Here are the players and coaches Blacklist International will rely upon to once again defend their title against the competition.

  • Salic "Hadji" Alauya Imam – Mid Laner
  • Kiel "OHEB'" Calvin Q. Soriano – Gold Laner
  • Mark Jayson "ESON" Gerardo – Support
  • Kent Xavier "KEVIER" Lopez – Jungler
  • Edward "EDWARD" Jay Dapadap – EXP Laner
  • Dexstar "Dex Star" Louise Cruz Alaba – 6th player
  • Kristoffer Ed "BON CHAN" Ricaplaza – Coach
  • Aniel "Master the Basics" JIandani – Assistant Coach

Who is ESON Blacklist International?

ESON returns to the starting squad after an extended period in the wilderness, being in the reserves for Blacklist International for an extended period of time. KEVIER, previously of Origen Esports, is the only new addition to the squad, and he will look to serve as a capable replacement of the previously incredibly successful Danerie "Wise" James Del Rosario.

Here’s everything you need to know about KEVIER in a video discussion format, courtesy of Tryke Gutierrez:

KEVIER teases a different style of play and a brewing rivalry with ONIC PH’s assassin main Ygnacio “Kairi” Rayosdelsol in the video, setting up interesting and exciting storylines for MPL Season 9. His addition to the squad should offer more opportunities for Blacklist International to make use of assassins as a potential alternative of their Ultimate Bonding Experience (UBE) strat which has proven to be so successful in the past.

MPL Season 9 schedule and format

Season 9 of MPL Philippines will feature an eight-team regular season, the second time the competition has a franchised format. A whopping $150 000 is on the line in the prize pool, with the season winner nabbing a cool $35 000 and a bunch of coveted GS points. The season will be played in an offline environment.

The teams also receive money for their individual matches in the regular season, with 2-0 winners getting $900, 2-1 winners getting $600 and 2-1 losers receiving $300 for their time and efforts. Beyond the money, the teams also earn a different amount of points depending on the overall outcome: a 2-0 win is worth 3 points while a 2-1 triumph gets you 2. Interestingly, even a defeat can get you a little something as long as you take a map: a single, solitary point, to be precise.

Six out of the eight participating teams will advance to the playoffs, where the top two teams are seeded into the second round of the double elimination bracket. While the group stage matches are best-of-three affairs, the playoffs are best-of-five barnburners, with the Grand Finals serving as the ultimate test of skill and cunning in the form of a best-of-seven series to close to the season on April 30.

MPL Season 9 opening week schedule

These are the starting MLBB matches of the new competitive season:

Day 1 – February 18

16:00-18:00 - Blacklist International vs ONIC PH
18:00-20:00 - Smart Omega vs TNC

Day 2 – February 19

16:00-18:00 - RSG PH vs Nexplay EVOS
18:00-20:00 - Bren Esports vs ECHO
20:00-22:00 - Blacklist International vs TNC

Day 3 – February 20

16:00-18:00 - ONIC PH vs Nexplay EVOS
18:00-20:00 - Smart Omega vs ECHO