Filipino Dota 2 powerhouse Blacklist Rivalry have put themselves in prime position to qualify for The International (TI) 2023 after they soundly swept Singapore's Bleed Esports, 2-0, in the upper bracket semifinals of the tournament's Southeast Asian regional qualifier on Tuesday (29 August).
With Talon Esports already with a direct invite, Blacklist and Bleed were pegged as the two biggest favourites to win TI 2023's Southeast Asian regional qualifier.
Blacklist and Bleed both handily won their opening matches of the qualifier against Army Geniuses and BOOM Esports, respectively, to set up a hype showdown in the upper bracket semifinals.
While many expected this match would be a hard-fought one, Blacklist made it look easy as they dismantled Bleed in back-to-back games that ended before the 40-minute mark.
Blacklist opened the series with a four-protect-one strategy anchored by Marc Polo "Raven" Fausto's Gyrocopter while Karl "Karl" Baldovino on Batrider and Damien "kpii" Chok on Dark Seer provided initiation and teamfight control.
Thanks to a dominant performance in the laning stage, the Filipino squad were able to cleanly hit their timings and form an unstoppable deathball that forced Bleed to call GG after 37 minutes.
Raven paced Blacklist's 21-6 kill lead in game one with seven kills and seven assists against just one death. Karl also pitched in with five kills and 10 assists on one death.
Game two was a similar story, this time with Raven spearheading Blacklist's deathball as Luna and flanked by Karl on Queen of Pain and kpii on Primal Beast.
Blacklist had another stellar showing in the laning stage, thanks in large part to timely rotations by Timothy "Tims" Randrup on Rubick and Carlo "Kuku" Palad on a support Invoker that shut down Bleed's gank attempts.
Raven once again farmed freely until he hit his midgame timing, all while Karl and kpii racked up kills across the map to shut down any hopes for a Bleed comeback. Despite the Singaporean squad's best efforts to defend, Blacklist closed out the 2-0 series sweep in 39 minutes of action.
Karl fueled Blacklist's 21-8 kill lead in game two with eight kills and six assists against two deaths. Raven and kpii also combined for seven kills and 21 assists against one death apiece.
With their victory over Bleed, Blacklist have advanced to the upper bracket finals on Wednesday (30 August), where they will face Team SMG for the first spot in the qualifier's grand finals.
Meanwhile, Bleed drop down to the lower bracket quarterfinals, also on Wednesday, where they will face the winner of the lower bracket round 3 match between Neon Esports and Geek Fam.
TI 2023's regional qualifiers will run until 31 August, with the competition being split into three five-day phases where two regions will compete in each phase. With the qualifiers for North America, China, South America, and Eastern Europe now concluded, Western Europe and Southeast Asia will then close things out from 27 to 31 August.
China's Azure Ray, North America's Nouns Esports, Eastern Europe's Virtus.pro, as well as Vivo Keyd Stars and Thunder Awaken from South America were the first five teams to earn a spot in this year's world championship tournament for Dota 2 through the regional qualifiers.
TI 2023 will be hosted across multiple weekends from 12 to 29 October in Seattle, the United States. This year's tournament also features a revamped format split into two distinct phases, called 'The Road to The International' and 'The International' itself.