Unlike other kids his age, Yuel was interested in team sport strategies. For most 10-year-old boys, playing soccer was all about getting the ball, running with it and scoring a goal. They wanted to possess the ball as much as possible to feel relevant.
Yuel was different. He was fine with touching the ball only on rare occasions and for a brief time. But, whenever he got the ball, he wanted everything to be perfect. He wanted to be in the right place, in the right time and to pass the ball right through the enemy’s weak spot.
“John, go toward the center.” Yuel advised his teammate. “After I pass you the ball, pass it to the right side toward Robert.”
“Eh? Huh...” John raised an eyebrow. Yuel didn’t even have the ball, so why was he talking about passing? Heck, Alex was running with the ball on the other side of the court right now. John had nothing better to do anyway, so he jogged toward the center of the field.
It happened a few seconds later. Alex was surrounded by enemy defenders on the left side of the field. His only option was to pass the ball to somebody else, but even that was difficult. All the enemies around him planned to intercept said pass.
That’s when Yuel gave the signal. He positioned himself ahead of time in a unguarded spot, 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. We got this now. Yuel got the ball and immediately passed it toward the center of the field. The pass was a tad clumsy, but the ball rolled close enough to the center.
“Huh, it really came.” John was dumbstruck for a moment. As Yuel asked of him, he passed the ball toward the right side of the field.
The long pass went through without any trouble. The right side of the field was heavily unguarded by the enemy. The ball reached all the way to Robert and he easily scored a goal.
Yes! Yuel clenched his fists. He barely touched the ball and he wasn’t even the one who passed it to the shooter. Nonetheless, he rejoiced. His plan was executed just as he envisioned it.
From the moment he saw Alex trying to break through the left side of the field, Yuel already predicted what will follow. He knew that the enemy defenders would focus on blocking Alex and will neglect the right side of the field, leaving Robert unmarked. Before the enemy defenders even began intercepting Alex, Yuel had already visualized Robert’s goal in his head.
However, Yuel’s achievement remained in the shadow. Except for John, nobody knew that Yuel orchestrated this play. The whole team celebrated it as Robert’s accomplishment.
Even though Yuel understood soccer strategies better than anybody and knew how to take advantage of the enemy’s mistakes, his contribution always went by unnoticed. After all, he was a “weak player”. His passes were clumsy, his shots were weak and his blocking hardly posed a challenge to anybody.
When the kids formed teams for a match, Yuel was always among the last players to be picked. Nobody thought of him as a valuable player. At first, he had the freedom to play anywhere on the field, but eventually he was “demoted” to play as a defender or a goalkeeper. For the kids, who only cared about getting the ball and scoring goals, such passive positions were the least appealing. Nobody openly stated so, but everybody knew that the backline positions were reserved for the “useless players”.
Even though Yuel didn’t share the same opinion as them, being forced into the backline made him feel unnecessary. It also restricted his ability to influence the match, especially when he was the goalkeeper. Even when he predicted the enemy’s incoming attack, he rarely had the skill to block the shot.
The same pattern repeated itself in other team sports as well. In basketball, he wasn’t aggressive enough to steal balls, his throws barely reached the basket and running exhausted him. In volleyball, his spikes were weak, his receives rarely saved the ball and his knees hurt from all the jumping. No matter what team sport he tried, he was always a weak player. A useless player. An unneeded player.
Driven by the desire to excel at something competitive, Yuel ended up attending the chess club. There, he put his skills to a good use. He deconstructed his opponents’ strategies, predicted their moves and countered them. With enough experience, he learned how to crush most opponents his age.
He felt strong and fulfilled, but only at first. Classmates called him “smart” or “genius” for playing chess so well, but he shortly became desensitized to such praise. Everybody around him viewed chess as an “intellectual game” for “smart people”, but he disagreed.
Chess was a 1v1 match. There were many pieces on the board, but they were all puppets controlled by a single strategist. Yuel had only one enemy to analyze during a match. Either Yuel was stronger, or his opponent was stronger. That’s what a whole chess match boiled down to.
Strategy in a soccer match was a world apart from that. Each individual player had his own strengths, weaknesses, quirks and thoughts. Predicting the movements of many different players was way more interested than figuring out a single opponent.
Thus, Yuel was left unsatisfied. In every team sport at school he was a useless player, whereas in chess he wasn’t satisfied by the challenge. 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. Five 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 become an official team sport in many countries in recent years.
“Unlike other MOBA games out there, Classmancers is recognized as a real sport in many schools.” The teacher explained. “No matter which middle school you’re going to next year, it surely has a dedicated Classmancers team which represents the school in tournaments.”
A video game as a sport? Really? Yuel had his doubts, but it piqued his interest. All the popular video games among classmates were braindead, so he didn’t hold video games in high regard. Nonetheless, the idea of a video game team sport was a spark of hope. Video games generally demanded a certain degree of mechanical skill, but they weren’t nearly as physically taxing as the sports at school. A team sport without the barrier called “physical fitness” 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 in order to form a strong team, but we’ll cover that in more depth next time. For today, you can pick whichever class you like.”
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 had to play against bots on the easy difficulty. Yuel wanted to play against other people right away, but he understood the importance of practicing the basics. Still, the word “easy” annoyed him. He was in charge of configuring the match’s settings, so he sneakily set the difficulty to intermediate, without his teammates noticing.
Once they were all inside the match’s room, they proceeded to the “Class Selection” screen. Each team member had to pick which class they were going to play during the match. The same class couldn’t be picked by two team members.
John picked Archer and Jim picked Warrior, both of which were labeled as easy classes. The teacher recommend these beginner-friendly classes, since they were easy to pick up and learn. Of course, Yuel... didn’t follow that recommendation.
Let’s see what “Intermediate” has to offer. Yuel played around with the class filter. The list of basic RPG classes was replaced by a much more interesting roster, featuring non-straightforward classes like Pyromancer, Paladin and Sharpshooter.
Based on the tags, Warrior was a physical bruiser and Archer was a physical damage dealer. This meant their team lacked in the magical department. Yuel applied another filter to show only “mage” classes. He started reading each class’s information, but his overexcited teammates hurried him up. He ended up with Pyromancer, the first class on the list.
Before starting the match, Yuel disobeyed the teacher once more. An “Auto-Buy” checkbox was selected for him, but he turned it off. The teacher claimed there were tons of items to buy in Classmancers and a new player would be confused by the variety. However, Yuel didn’t like leaving such important decisions to an automatic system. Besides, he had a little experience with RPGs and strategy games. How hard could it be to buy items by himself?
After finishing preparation, he finally started the match. He and his teammates spawned inside the blue team’s base, beside a giant Colossus. Likewise, enemy bots started off in the red base, which was 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 unpopulated by allied forces.
The goal in Classmancers, and MOBAs in general, was to invade the enemy base and destroy the main objective. In Classmancers’ case, said objective was the Colossus inside the enemy base.
The spawn point doubled as an item shop for players. John and Jim kept the auto-buy feature on, so they dashed out of the base without even checking the shop. On the other hand, Yuel had to manually spend the 1,000 gold he started with. Thankfully, there was a 40 seconds countdown until the actual 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 what an item does, he nearly forgot everything about the previous item.
“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 between 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 from the list: Demonic Arm. It provided 20 magical power and 10% attack speed. Was that good? Heck if he knew!
He had 200 gold left, but there was no time to find something to 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 blue team. The way Yuel understood it, they were disposable goons whose main purpose in life was to feed players with exp and gold.
As soon as the minions came out of the gate, they charged straight toward the center of map, where the “main action” was expected to take place. Yuel hurried after them and found himself easily outrunning them. These guys sure were slowpokes.
The map they played on was very straightforward. It had one main road, which stretched all the way from blue base to red base. The teacher called this road a “lane”. In order to reach the enemy base, it was necessary to “push” forward along this lane and to force the enemy team to retreat deeper and deeper into their own territory.
There were also two additional paths on the sides of the lane. Based on the mini-map, these paths were wider and had all sort of obstacles in them, making them harder to maneuver in. The teacher only mentioned that these side paths were called “jungle” and said to stay away from them for today.
Yuel was still recovering from the trauma induced by the confusing item shop, so he decided to heed the teacher’s advice for once. He ignored the jungle and ran forward along the lane. Before long, he reached the center of the map. John and Jim, the Archer and Warrior, were already waiting there.
The enemy team gathered farther down the lane. It was also composed of three members: Warrior, Archer and Wizard. In a normal match, these would be player-controlled characters. But, in this practice match, they were mere bots. Yuel hoped that bots of intermediate difficulty would pose at least a little challenge.
“Yo! Let’s hit these guys!” Jim grinned and started running toward the enemy team.
“The teacher said it’s best to wait for the minions before attacking.” John objected.
“I agree.” Yuel said. “Let’s play it safe for the first wave and get used to our characters.”
“Boo.” Jim made a face and retreated.
The same way allied minions spawned from blue base, enemy minions spawned from the red base. The minion waves were identical to each other in every way, except that allied minions wore blue uniforms and enemy minions wore red.
The two minion waves bumped into each other in the center of the map. Each wave 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. Therefore, if left to their own devices, they’d wipe each other out and no minions would remain on the lane. In other words, neither blue team nor red team would gain any advantage on the lane. The same result would repeat for any subsequent waves as well, maintain a status quo.
Players had to actively interfere in order break this deadlock. As soon as the minion waves clashed, the enemy team advanced forward and started attacking the blue minions. Likewise, Yuel’s team began attacking the red minions.
The basic attack of Yuel’s Pyromancer consisted of shooting a fireball. It was a long ranged attack, which allowed him to shoot while keeping his distance from the fight. The same applied to John’s Archer as well. Only Jim’s Warrior had to get close to the enemies in order to slash them with his sword.
Each class in Classmancers had one passive ability, which was unlocked from the beginning of the match. For Pyromancer, it was the Warmup ability. In addition to having a health gauge and a mana gauge, the Pyromancer also had a heat gauge. Heat was raised 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. Yuel nodded to himself as he kept shooting fireballs. Thanks to the Demonic Arm item he purchased, the Pyromancer’s basic attacks were 10% faster than normal. Magical classes usually had weak basic attacks, so they didn’t benefit much from increasing their attack speed. Point in case: John’s Archer dealt way more damage with his basic attacks.
However, due to the Pyromancer’s Warmup passive, the Pyromancer had an unusual benefit from attack speed. Attacking faster will refill heat faster, allowing Yuel to unleash stronger spells more often. Since it took about 20 hits to max out the heat gauge, he felt it was pretty much mandatory to build some attack speed on Pyromancer.
Intermediate difficulty class, huh. N-No problem. Easiest thing I ever played. Yuel twitched. Despite being a mage, he also needed to focus on dishing out basic attacks. This meant his combat tactics and item build will have to be unconventional for a mage, even though he didn’t even know what was “conventional” for a mage in the first place in this game. And that was just the Pyromancer’s passive ability.
In addition to the passive, the 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. A player started the match with a Lv.1 character and gained 1 SP each time the character leveled up.
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, this was most likely the Pyromancer’s main damaging spell. It sounded like an AoE (Area of Effect) attack, so it should hit multiple minions at once.
However, Yuel didn’t use it right away. Activating a skill spent mana and put the skill on cooldown, making it unusable for a while. He couldn’t carelessly waste the only damaging spell at his disposal. To make the most out of Flame Wave, he first had to stack heat.
The more heat he had, the more damage Flame Wave would deal. In addition, when the heat bar reached over 80%, Flame Wave would also inflict an “ablaze” state to hit targets, making them lose even more HP over time. With all of that considered, he had no choice but to grind heat first. He spammed left clicks on his mouse in order to shoot basic attacks.
The enemy Wizard cast a wind spell, which struck all the blue minions. At this rate, it was only a matter of time before the blue minions are wiped out. Nonetheless, Yuel kept using basic attacks, without responding with an AoE spell of his own. Soon. Soon. 49%. 54%. 59%.
“Say, Yuel.” John called out. “You don’t have any skills you could use? They’re going to 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 was time! Yuel 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 all. The fire ran out before reaching the red bowmen.
Ugh. So, hitting the whole minion wave is only a privilege of an “easy” class, huh. I’m sure you’re very proud of yourself, Wizard. Yuel cursed. The bot controlling the Wizard was playing cheap. The Wizard’s wind spell had the right width and length for hitting a whole minion wave, even when the Wizard maintained his distance from the battle.
On the other hand, the Pyromancer’s Flame Wave only had a decent width. Its poor traveling distance prevented it from reaching all the way to the enemy’s backline. If Yuel wanted to hit a whole minion wave, he’d have to step into the frontline and cast Flame Wave from there. That’s an incredibly risky play for a squishy mage. Pyromancer was an intermediate class alright.
Due to Yuel’s miscalculation, the red minions won the clash. All the blue minions fell and only three red bowmen remained on the battlefield. With no blue minions to shoot at, the red bowmen started shooting the closest blue player.
“Yo! They’re shooting at me!” Jim was the only one with melee basic attacks, so he was the closest to the enemy forces. His Warrior was a frontline bruiser, so he had more HP and defense than the Pyromancer and Archer. Nonetheless, Jim’s Warrior was only Lv.2. Right now, he wasn’t strong enough to endure many hits from minions. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the enemy bots now also focused their attacks on Jim.
“I’mma show them! Yooo!” In this grim situation, Jim decided it was a brilliant idea to charge straight at the enemy. Common sense was clearly an alien concept to him.
“Retreat!” Yuel called out. “You can’t fight them right now. Run back. Me and John will take care of the bowmen while they focus you.”
“Yeah. Don’t be an idiot, Jim.” John agreed.
“Bah, okay!” Jim turned around and ran like his life depended on it. The bowmen and bots chased him down, bombarding his back with basic attacks. Meanwhile, Yuel and John were busy shooting the red bowmen. Yuel synchronized his attacks with John’s, to ensure they were focusing on the same target each time. The faster they took out each bowman, the less damage Jim would receive in the long run.
A message popped up after the first bowman fell. Defeating the bowman granted Yuel enough exp to reach Lv.2. This was his chance to clean up the mess he created! He spent the 1 SP in order to unlock his second skill: Pillar of Fire. It was another damaging spell, which should help defeating the bowmen faster.
Yuel cast the spell in the bowmen’s direction. Fire erupted from the ground, wrapping them in flames. However, they didn’t receive that much damage. Pillar of Fire was a damage-over-time ability, which dealt continuous damage in small doses. A circle of fire reamied at the target location, slowly burning the enemies inside it.
But, this position... Yuel realized his aim was a little off when he cast Pillar of Fire. He placed the fire around the bowmen, but that was a mistake. The bowmen were busy chasing after Jim, so they didn’t stand in one place. They quickly left the fire circle, after getting hit by only two ticks of damage. He should have placed that fire along the bowmen’s running path, but his usual clumsiness struck again.
The extra damage from Pillar of Fire helped defeating the bowmen a little faster, but not fast enough. Jim’s Warrior was shot down.
『An ally has been slain!』
“Pft, great job. 10/10.”
John and Jim laughed at the result. The whole incident ended up looking like Jim’s fault. Well, it was partially true. If Jim had retreated right away, there would have been a good chance he’d survive.
In truth, most of the fault laid with Yuel. 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. That 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 that Jim died! That was the best result!
Just by casting his spells a little ineffectively, Yuel caused a teammate’s death and put the whole team at a disadvantage. It proved that mistakes could be heavily punished in this game. This time Yuel got punished, but next time he may punish his enemies twice as hard. He was really glad. Classmancers was far from a braindead game.
Even though the match had 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 for the first time in ages. Maybe, just maybe, he finally found the team sport he had been searching for.