“Hey,” Yuel called out. “Could you move to the center?”
“Huh?” John cocked his head.
“I’ll pass you the ball,” Yuel explained. “Then, you pass it to Robert.”
“Wut?” John raised an eyebrow. The heck was Yuel talking about? He didn’t even have the ball right now.
On the other side of the court, far away from both of them, Alex was in the middle of dribbling through the enemy defenders. That’ll likely turn into a goal, and neither John nor Yuel will play any role in it.
“It’ll work.” Yuel insisted, sticking to his alien reasoning. The kid was a weirdo alright.
“Well, okay.” John shrugged. It’s not like he had anything better to do anyway, so he might as well head toward the center. Alex gonna score soon anyway... or not?
The enemy defenders surrounded Alex on all sides. Breaking through with a dribble was no longer an option, even with his skill. The only option was to pass the ball to somebody else, but even that was difficult. The enemy defenders were prepared to intercept any pass.
“Over here.” Yuel raised his hand. He was in an unguarded area, which was perfect for receiving a safe pass from Alex. With enemies about to steal the ball, Alex had no choice but to pass to Yuel.
Perfect. Yuel got the ball and passed it toward the center, toward John. At least, that was the intention...
“Huh, the ball’s really here.” John nodded to himself. Did Yuel predict this? Nah, probably just a lucky guess. Either way, according to the “plan”, Yuel was going to pass the ball to John next.
“Wait, what!?” John exclaimed. The ball did sorta roll in his general direction. As in, a VERY GENERAL direction. It actually rolled way past the center, toward the enemy side of the court! “Move to the center” he said, “I’ll pass you the ball” he said. John cursed internally as he chased the ball.
“Huh.” Yuel knotted his brows as the ball roll in an awkward direction, missing its target. Well, to deceive the enemy, you first have to deceive your allies, right? So, it’s all part of the plan! Yeah...
Thankfully, John reached the ball before it was snatched by the enemy. Phew, that was close. The whole plan nearly went down the toilet.
Okay, what’s next? John looked around after securing the ball. Yuel said something about passing the ball after getting it. Pass it to who, again? Oh, right. To Robert.
For some reason, Robert was completely unmarked, even though he stood so close the enemy goal. Well, John didn’t complain. It was an easy and safe pass, so he kicked the ball toward Robert.
The ball effortlessly cut through the enemy defenses and reached Robert. A moment later, it was inside the enemy goal. They scored!
Yes! Yuel pumped a fist. He barely touched the ball in this whole play and he wasn’t even the one who passed to the kicker. Nevertheless, it felt amazing. The plan he weaved was executed to perfection, minus his lousy pass.
Back then, when all enemy defenders were leaving their posts to surround Alex, Yuel spotted the fatal opening in the enemy’s formation. He deduced that, once all defenders gather around Alex, they’ll leave the other side of the court completely open. That’d leave Robert unmarked and in great position to score.
So, if Yuel could quickly get the ball to Robert, it was assured to be an easy goal. For that, he found a safe position for receiving a pass from Alex. In addition, he arranged a middleman in the center for passing the ball Robert.
With that, the chess pieces were set in place. Before the enemy defenders even got to surround Alex, Yuel already visualied this sequence of plays in his head. He perfectly calculated that goal.
“Great pass!” Robert grinned and raised his hand for a high five. But, it wasn’t meant for Yuel.
“No problem.” John high-fived Robert and returned a smile.
“Man, that was close,” Alex shook his head as he approached Yuel. “You almost lost that ball. What’s with that shitty pass?”
“Hey, guys!” Alex grabbed everybody’s attention. “Yuel can’t handle the ball for shit, so don’t pass to him unless you’re in deep shit. And even then, I rather not pass to him, haha!”
“W-Wait, I-” Yuel’s words drowned in the wave of replies.
“Yeah, Yuel sucks.”
“I think he’s playing for the other team, haha.”
Yuel clenched his fists, but didn’t utter a word. He wanted to tell them about the amazing plan he crafted, about how he found a weaknesses in the enemy’s formation and exploited it to let Robert score an easy goal. But, nobody was going to listen.
It’s nothing new. They were all kids, it was just grade school soccer. There’s nobody here to appreciate Yuel’s sophisticated tactics. The other kids simply couldn’t comprehend the finer strategies of soccer.
They only saw how well somebody sprinted, dribbled, passed or kicked. Alex was considered the “ace”, because he penetrated through enemy defenses with his masterful dribbling and fired blazing shots. He was on a junior soccer team, so he stomped everybody at school through sheer strength. All the boys looked up to him.
As for Yuel? He had the fitness of a slug, dribbled like a three-legged frog, passed like a drunk and his shots were as strong as a todder’s. Indeed, he was a kid of many talents.
Because of that, his achievements in sports always went unnoticed, overshadowed by his poor performance on court. He understood soccer strategies better than anybody, but it meant nothing to the other kids. He was just dead weight, a “weak player”.
Whenever the kids decided on teams for a match, Yuel was always picked last. Nobody really wanted him on their team.
At first, he had the freedom to play anywhere on the field. However, over time, everybody learned how bad he was and “demoted” him to play as a defender or a goalkeeper. For them, soccer was about chasing the ball and scoring goals, so the passive backline positions were boring. Nobody openly stated so, but these positions were effectively reserved for the “useless players”.
Yuel didn’t share the same view, because calculated defense created chances for counters and those led to goals. But, that’s only in coordinated teams, way above the level kids played at grade school. Nobody bothered cooperating with Yuel in the backline, so he was completely useless most of the time. And, even when he achieved something, the credit usually went to somebody else anyway.
The same thing repeated in every other team sport he tried. In basketball, he was too weak to stop aggressive players, his throws barely reached the basket and a single sprint exhausted him to death. In volleyball, his arms were nearly torn apart whenever he did a receive and his knees constantly threatened to buckle over after a jump.
No matter what team sport he tried, he was always a weak player. A useless player. Dead weight.
Still, Yuel wanted to put his skills to practice, to compete against others and win. Since none of the sport clubs worked, he turned to chess. There, his talent was quickly recognized.
Chess had no execution bar, so any idea he came up with could be immediately executed. There’s no need to sprint, dribble or kick in order to move a chess piece on the board.
Also, chess was a 1v1 game, so anything Yuel achieved was directly associated with him. There was nobody in the middle to take credit for the tactics he devised.
“Wow, did you see that move?”
“Man, Yuel is legit genius.”
Praise like that became commonplace. Yuel deconstructed his opponents’ strategies, predicted their moves and struck at their weakest spots. With enough experience, he learned how to stomp most opponents his age. He even won the regionals once, topping every other kid from the region. He couldn’t quite win the national championship, but he finished as a runner-up.
Dominating in chess felt empowering and fulfilling, but only at first. Classmates called him “genius”, which was a welcome change from being called “useless” all the time. However, eventually, he soon grew desensitized to such praise
With that sense of fulfilment gone, Yuel started questioning why he even played chess so much. Everybody considered chess a game for “intellectuals”, contrary to soccer which was a game for “hyperactive brats”. But, Yuel disagreed.
Chess was indeed a deep and complex game, allowing for countless possible developments and interesting situations to analyze. It required reading the opponent’s plans, predicting their future moves and finding the optimal moves in every situation. There was a lot of fun to be had with it, for sure.
But ultimately, it was a 1v1 game. It had many pieces on the board, but they were all controlled by a single strategist. In other words, Yuel had only one enemy to analyze during a match. Either Yuel was stronger, or his opponent was stronger. That’s what most matches boiled down to at his level..
Compared to that, strategy in soccer was much more dynamic. Each individual player had his own strengths, weaknesses, quirks and thoughts. Predicting the movements of so many different players was way more interested than deconstructing a single opponent.
Therefore, despite his success in chess, Yuel felt unsatisfied. In team sports he was a useless player, whereas in chess he didn't get to deconstruct an entire team of players. Wasn’t there anything else? Wasn’t there any team sport which was both challenging and accessible for somebody like him?
During his last year of elementary school, an unexpected possibility presented itself. Special lessons were scheduled for his class, teaching about a new “sport” which had been on the rise: Classmancers. It was a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) video game, which had been turning into an official team sport in many countries recently.
“Unlike other MOBA games out there,” The teacher explained. “Classmancers is recognized as a sport even in schools. No matter which middle school you’re going to attend next year, it’ll surely have a dedicated Classmancers team which represents it in tournaments.”
A video game as a sport? Really? Yuel had his doubts, but it piqued his interest.
The popular video games among his classmates were mostly braindead as far as he was concerned, so he didn’t hold video games in high regard. But, the idea of a video game team sport was a spark of hope. Even though action video games required a certain degree of mechanical skill, they weren’t nearly as physically demanding as real sports. A team sport without a fitness barrier was exactly what Yuel yearned for!
“Before a match begins, each player selects which class they want to play as,” The teacher explained. “There are classes like Warrior, Archer and Wizard. Those of you who like role-playing games will feel right at home. It’s very important to pick the right combination of classes to form a strong team, but we’ll cover that topic later. For today, pick any of recommended beginner classes”
Following the teacher’s instructions, the students split into trios. Yuel formed a team with John and Jim. He wasn’t particularly close to either of them, but John was a pretty reasonable fellow and Jim... well, he was John’s friend.
For their first taste of the game, each team was told to play against computer-controlled enemies on the lowest difficulty. Yuel wanted to play against others right away, but he understood the importance of mastering the basics.
Do we really need to start from “Easy”, though? Yuel made a face. To his knowledge, the “Easy” difficulty in video games was usually meant for incompetent players. It’s like an insult. His team could surely do better than that, right?
Yuel glanced at his teammates and the teacher. Nobody was paying attention to his monitor. He was in charge of configuring the game room, so he sneakily dialed up the difficulty to “Intermediate”. He considered going even higher, but decided that’d probably be too obvious. Besides, with all things considered, it was still his first time playing this game, and MOBA in general.
After logging into the game room, the “Class Selection” screen appeared. Each teammate had to pick the class they’ll play during the match. Duplicates weren’t allowed among teammates and it’s impossible to change one’s class after the match begins.
John picked Archer and Jim went for Warrior, both were labeled as “Easy” classes. The teacher recommend these beginner-friendly classes, since they were easy to pick up and learn. Of course, Yuel also followed that advice... NOT!
Let’s see what “Intermediate” has to offer. Yuel messed around with filter. When he pressed “Intermediate”, the list of generic RPG classes was replaced by a much more interesting roster. It featured more complex-sounding classes like Pyromancer, Cryomancer and Aeromancer. Seriously, the game had “mancers” for days.
Based on class tags, Jim’s Warrior was a physical bruiser and John’s Archer was a physical damage dealer. So, their team lacked in the magical department. Yuel applied another filter to show only “mage” classes and started reading each class’s description.
“You done yet?”
“C’mon! Everybody is already playing!”
“Just a moment...” Yuel sighed. He wanted to read some more, but he realized everybody else already started their games. So, he went with Pyromancer, the first mage on the list.
Before locking-in, Yuel disregarded the teacher’s advice once more by unchecking “Auto-Buy”. The teacher warned there were many items to buy in Classmancers and that a new player would be confused by the variety But, Yuel didn’t fancy leaving such important decisions to an automatic system. Besides, he had a little experience with RPGs and strategy games, so how hard could it be to buy items by himself?
Finally, the match began. He and his teammates spawned inside blue team’s base, behind a giant Colossus.
Likewise, the enemy bots (AI-controlled players) started off in the red base, located on the other end of the map. At least, that’s how it worked according to the teacher’s explanation. The mini-map was shrouded in a fog of war, so they couldn’t see what was happening in areas without allied forces.
The goal in Classmancers, and MOBAs in general, was to invade the enemy base and destroy the main objective. In Classmancers, said objective was the Colossus inside the enemy base.
The spawning point inside the base doubled as an item shop for players. John and Jim kept Auto-Buy on, so they dashed out of the base without even checking what was sold there. On the other hand, Yuel had to manually spend the 1,000 gold he started with.
Thankfully, there’s a 40 seconds countdown until the action begins. He had enough time to check out the shop and figure out-
W-What’s all this stuff? Yuel flinched. There were items, consumables, items, utility skills, items, items and even more items! The variety was staggering!
A-Alright then. No problem. Easiest purchase of my life. Yuel gulped. 40 seconds? He’d need at least two hours to figure all this out! It was nuts!
Demonic Arm, Necronomicon, Staff of Ages, attack speed, cooldown reduction, magic penetration... So many names. So many stats. So many effects. By the time he figured out one item, he nearly forgot everything about the previous one.
“Yo, Yuel!” Jim called out. “The game’s starting! Get over here!”
“Coming...” Yuel sighed. He barely went through four items and didn’t even understand how to compare them. Did he need more magic power or more cooldown reduction early on? How was he supposed to know!? Ugh...
In the end, he found the option to filter items by “recommended” and picked the first item on that list: Demonic Arm. It provided 20 magical power and 10% attack speed. Was that good? Heck if he knew!
He had 200 gold left after buying Demonic Arm, but there was no time to find anything else spend them on. The countdown hit zero and a message appeared at the top of the screen:
『Minions have spawned!』
A gate opened in front of the base and soldiers charged out of it. The teacher called them “minions” or “creeps”. They were weak AI-controlled allies who fought for his team.
The way Yuel understood it, they were the disposable pawns of this game. Their whole purpose in life was to push toward the enemy base until they die. It sounded like a suicidal game plan, but it’s not a big deal because new waves of minions will keep periodically spawning throughout the whole game. No matter how many of them die, there will never be a shortage. If only chess pawns worked that way.
As soon as the minions came out of the gate, they charged straight ahead along the paved road. Their destination was the center of the map, where they’ll collide with enemy minions. Yuel hurried after them and effortlessly outran them.
Look how athletic I am now! Yuel chuckled. It’s a childish reaction, but for him this meant a lot. After being constantly held back by his poor athleticism, moving freely like this in a “team-sport” was huge. Finally, a game where he started on equal footing with everybody else.
Before long, Yuel approached the center of the map. It didn’t take long, since the map was small and straightforward. It had only one main road, stretching all the way from the blue base to the red base.
The teacher referred to this road as a “lane”. In order to reach the enemy base, Yuel’s team had to push their minions forward along the lane.
In addition, there were two curved paths stretching on the sides of the lane. Based on the mini-map, these routes had various obstacles and narrow passages. They’re probably difficult to maneuver in and their curved shape made them less efficient for traveling.
The teacher only briefly mentioned these side paths were called “jungle” and advised to stay away for now. Yuel was still recovering from the traumatic shopping experience, so he decided to heed the teacher’s advice this once. He ignored the jungle and ran along the lane like a good boy.
Before long, he arrived at the center of the map. John and Jim, the Archer and Warrior, were already waiting there.
The enemy team also gathered near the center. Their group consisted of three characters: Warrior, Archer and Wizard. In a normal match, the enemies would also be player-controlled characters. However, in this practice match, they were mere bots. Hopefully, they’d pose at least a little challenge on intermediate difficulty.
“Yo! Let’s hit these guys!” Jim grinned and charged straight at the enemy team.
“Wait,” John objected. “Teach said it’s best to wait for the minions before attacking.”
“I agree,” Yuel nodded. “Let’s play it safe for the first minion wave and get used to our classes.”
“Boo.” Jim made a face as he retreated.
The same way allied minions spawned from the blue base, enemy minions spawned from the red base. The two minion waves were identical to each other in every way, except allied minions wore blue uniforms and enemy minions wore red. It’s like the two sides were fighting over their fashion statements.
After crossing half the lane, the two minion waves collided into each other in the center. Each side consisted of three swordsmen and three bowmen. The swordsmen took the front line, whereas the bowmen stayed behind and fired arrows from a distance.
Both minions waves used the exact same battle formation and it’s impossible to manually order them around. Therefore, if left to their own devices, the two sides will wipe each other out and no minions will remain on the lane. In other words, neither blue team nor red team would gain any advantage. The same would repeat for any subsequent waves, maintaining a status quo.
Players had to actively interfere with these fights to break the deadlock. As soon as the minions clashed, the enemy team advanced forward and attacked the blue minions. Likewise, Yuel’s team attacked the red minions.
Yuel slightly advanced his Pyromancer to get the enemy swordsmen within attack range. The Pyromancer’s basic attack fired a small fireball, its long-range allowed Yuel to stay in the backline while shooting. John’s Archer had the same advantage. Only Jim’s Warrior had to move to the frontline to hit enemies with his sword.
Each class in Classmancers had one passive ability, unlocked from the beginning of the match. For Pyromancer, it was the Warmup ability. On top of the standard health and mana gauges, it gave Pyromancer the heat gauge.
Heat was filled up by hitting enemies with basic attacks and gradually decreased over time. The more heat the Pyromancer had, the more damage his spells dealt.
It’s weird to build attack speed on a mage, but it works well with this passive. Thanks to the recommended Demonic Arm he purchased, the Pyromancer’s basic attacks were 10% faster. This allowed to charge heat faster.
In RPGs, and apparently in MOBAs too, magical classes usually had weak basic attacks. Therefore, they didn’t benefit much from increasing their attack speed. Point in case: John’s Archer dealt way more damage than Yuel with basic attacks.
However, due to the Warmup passive, the Pyromancer had an unusual benefit from attack speed. Attacking faster charged heat faster, which allowed to cast stronger spells faster. It took about 20 hits to max the heat gauge, so it seemed pretty much mandatory to build some attack speed on Pyromancer.
Intermediate class, huh. N-No problem. Easiest thing I ever played. Yuel twitched. On top of being a mage, he also had to focus on landing his basic attacks and maintaining his heat. This implied his combat tactics and item build will have to be unconventional for a mage, and he had no idea yet what’s even considered “conventional” for a mage here in the first place. Great.
Oh, and that’s just the passive. Pyromancer had four more abilities: three active skills and one ultimate ability. These abilities were locked at first and required SP (Skill Points) to unlock. Each player began the match at Lv.1 and gained 1 SP with every level.
At Lv.1, Yuel already had 1 SP. He spent it to unlock the skill Flame Wave. Based on the skill’s description and parameters, it was the Pyromancer’s main damaging spell. It sounded like an AoE (Area of Effect) attack, so it should be able to hit multiple minions at once.
But, Yuel didn’t use it right away. Activating a skill spent mana and put the skill on cooldown for a while, making it unusable. He couldn’t carelessly shoot the only damaging spell at his disposal.
To make the most out of Flame Wave, he first had to fill up his heat. The more heat he had, the more damage Flame Wave will deal. In addition, when the heat bar hits 80%, Flame Wave will also burn its targets, making them lose HP over time.
With all that considered, it’s best to grind some heat first. Thus, he only spammed left-clicks on his mouse to repeatedly fire basic attacks.
Contrary to him, the enemy Wizard had no qualms about casting his AoE spell. A fierce gust of wind shot through the blue minions, hitting all of them in one fell swoop. That’s bad. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time until the blue minions are wiped out.
Nevertheless, Yuel stuck to basic attacks and didn’t respond with a spell of his own. Soon. 49%. 54%. 59%. Very soon.
“Say, Yuel,” John called out. “You don’t have any skills you could use? They gonna push us back at this rate.”
“I need to charge it first. Any moment now.” Yuel was almost there. 73%. 78%. 83%. That’s it! It’s time! He activated Flame Wave and directed it toward the enemy minions.
The Pyromancer charged flames in his palms and shot them forward in a form of a wave. The flame torched all the enemy swordsmen... but that’s it. The flame died out before reaching the enemy bowmen.
I see. So, hitting a whole minion wave from afar is a privilege of “easy” classes, huh. I’m sure you’re very proud of yourself, Wizard. Yuel cursed. The bot controlling Wizard was playing cheap!
The Wizard’s wind spell had the perfect width and distance for hitting an entire minion wave from afar. Compared to that, the Pyromancer’s Flame Wave only had decent width. Its poor traveling distance prevented it from reaching all the way to the enemy’s backline. What a pain.
If Yuel wanted to hit a whole minion wave, he’d have to advance to the frontline and cast Flame Wave from there. That’s incredibly risky for a squishy mage. Pyromancer was an intermediate class alright.
Due to Yuel’s failure to wipe out the enemy bowmen, the red minions won the clash. All blue minions fell , while the enemy still had three bowmen standing. With no blue minions to fight anymore, the red bowmen targeted the closest blue player.
“Yo! They’re shooting at me!” Jim exclaimed. He was the only one with melee attacks, so he was the closest to the enemy forces. Fortunately, Warrior was a frontline bruiser, so he had more HP and defense than Pyromancer and Archer.
Even so, Jim was only Lv.2. He wasn’t strong enough to endure many hits from minions. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, the enemy bots also focused their attacks on him.
“I’mma show them!” In this grim situation, Jim decided it was a brilliant idea to charge straight at the enemy. He clearly forgot to equip his Common Sense item.
“Retreat!” Yuel called out. “You can’t fight them right now. Run back. Me and John will take care of the bowmen.”
“Yeah,” John tuned in. “Don’t be stupid, Jim.”
“Bah, okay!” Jim turned around and dashed like his life depended on it.
The bowmen and bots chased him down, shooting his back. Meanwhile, Yuel and John shot down the bowmen. Yuel synchronized his attacks with John, to ensure they were focusing the same target every time. The faster they take out each individual enemy, the less damage Jim would eat overall.
A message popped up after the first bowman collapsed. Yuel hit Lv.2, which granted him 1 SP. This was his chance to clean up the mess he created!
He spent the SP to unlock his second spell: Pillar of Fire. It was another damaging spell, which should help them defeat the bowmen faster.
Without further ado, Yuel cast Pillar of Fire in the bowmen’s direction. Fire erupted from the ground, wrapping the bowmen in flames. However, they didn’t actually receive that much damage.
Pillar of Fire was a DOT (damage over time) ability, which dealt continuous damage in small doses. A circle of fire stayed on the ground where Yuel cast the spell, slowly burning the enemies inside.
But, this position... Yuel realized his aim was a little off. He created the fire around the bowmen’s current position, but that wasn’t optimal. The bowmen were busy chasing Jim, so they didn’t stay in one place for long.
The bowmen shortly escaped the circle of fire, after getting hit by only three ticks of damage. Yuel should have summoned the flames further along the bowmen’s route, but his usual clumsiness struck again. Even in a video game, his reaction and coordination were poop.
The extra damage from Pillar of Fire still helped defeating the bowmen a little faster, but not fast enough. Ultimately, Jim’s Warrior was shot down.
『An ally has been killed!』
“Pft, great job. 10/10.”
John and Jim laughed at the result. The whole incident was wrapped up as Jim’s blunder. And well, that’s really the case for the most part. Had Jim retreated right away, he would have survived.
But, much of the blame laid with Yuel too. It all started when he failed to hit the enemy bowmen with Flame Wave. As a result, the red minions received far less damage in total, which allowed them to outlast the blue minions. So, his poor Flame Wave was the beginning of the domino effect which led to Jim’s death.
“Heh. Haha.” Yuel didn’t feel bad in the slightest. In fact, he rejoiced. Yes, he was glad Jim died! That was the best outcome!
Just by casting his spells a little ineffectively, Yuel caused a teammate’s death and put the whole team at a disadvantage. That proved mistakes could be heavily punished in this game.
This time, Yuel got punished. Next time, he’ll punish his enemies twice as hard. He was really glad, because Classmancers turned out to be far from a braindead video game.
Even though the match barely started, Yuel could already tell: this game will suck him in. The complexity of the Pyromancer’s kit, the staggering variety of items, the punishable mistakes and the importance of coordinated teamwork - he wanted to learn them all! He wanted to master them all!
His heart raced in excitement from a match for the first time in ages. Maybe, just maybe, he finally found the team sport he had been looking for.