He didn't quite know it yet, but Kiel "OHEB'" Calvin Q. Soriano was going to take the championship with his team Blacklist International at the 2021 M3 World Championship.
Having finished off his opponents, Indonesian squad RRQ Hoshi, 3-0 in the lower bracket quarterfinals, OHEB initially looked pretty nervous as he sat down for his interview with Yahoo Esports SEA.
The 17-year-old gold laner wasn't used to the media spotlight, especially when doing an interview in English. But the future MVP winner was keen to step up to the challenge, as he had done many times in his career.
OHEB got his start playing Mobile Legends: Bang Bang seriously when his aunt's boyfriend introduced him to the game.
The boyfriend, whom he affectionately calls "uncle", asked him about the game when he visited. OHEB had previously tried out the game and uninstalled it, stating that he would uninstall games when he had no one to play with.
"He asked me if I was playing Mobile Legends, then said he was good at it. Then I said 'I'd be better', and then I started grinding until I was," he said.
The rise of a future MVP
Even before he got into MLBB, though, OHEB was a dedicated League of Legends player.
He has since picked up League of Legends: Wild Rift to play, but only when he's done practising with MLBB.
That's because most of his friends are also playing it, and, as a former LoL PC player, he also likes the game. But don't worry, ML fans, OHEB has said he likes MLBB "for sure".
Having found that he was really good at MLBB, OHEB started dominating the leaderboards.
Eventually, he got a call from Tier One Entertainment's esports organization, Blacklist International, and decided to go pro without hesitation.
"When I was playing Mobile Legends, I never thought I'd become a pro player. I didn't have it in my mind to become one. I just wanted to be good at the game and play for fun," said the Blacklist gold laner.
"I was so happy when I got the invitation to play for Blacklist, I was willing to sacrifice my schooling for this. I know there's a future in gaming and that there's so much opportunity ahead of me."
OHEB added that when he realised that he was actually good, he then made the effort to be more competitive. And while he currently plays as the team's gold laner, he doesn't quite feel the pressure — he just wants to enjoy the game.
Support from both family and team
Thankfully, his family was quite supportive of his fledgling career, and gave their blessings for him to pursue his dreams.
"At first, they did not agree and told me to finish my school, but in the end, when they saw that there was a future in esports and that I'm good at the game, they let me go play and supported me," said OHEB.
Being the youngest in the team, OHEB says he gets a lot of advice from the older players, on both life and in game.
In fact, he thinks he can be a bit impulsive at times, but the other members help to calm him down to focus on the game.
"They always give me advice on how to become better at the game. They also give me advice out of game, because I'm pretty young. I always listen to them," said OHEB.
"I think my emotions are something I need to improve on, like if my emotions eat me, I tend to do sh***y things. I'm sometimes hot-headed, sometimes I control it. My team is always telling me to calm down and focus."
Focused on victory
After a shock defeat to North America's BloodThirstyKings (BTK) in the upper bracket quarter finals at the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M3 World Championship, Blacklist International stomped their way back.
In an incredible lower bracket run, which saw them knocking out tournament favourites ONIC Esports, Blacklist International also scored three-straight sweeps of their own over Keyd Stars, RRQ Hoshi, and EVOS SG, only dropping two games out of 19.
"We were not in the right mind when we played against BTK and that made us realize who we are and we should bring back our old play and just focus. BTK helped us a lot. The loss to them helped them to win all their games in the lower bracket," OHEB said.
"We didn't just want to lose and we wanted to bring home the trophy to our country."
And as for 1v1 matches with his uncle, well, OHEB says he's the winner.
Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com