Classmancers - A MOBA Esport Story 98 Gilbert's Hesitation
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"Die!" Julia fired wind blasts.
"Tch," Gilbert got hit despite his attempt to dodge. Julia's attacks were fast and fierce, she has been playing like Gilbert has never seen before. From the moment she arrived, she has been relentlessly barraging Gilbert and he couldn't do anything about it.
Thankfully, Gregory's ult was mitigating some of the damage Gilbert was receiving. That kept Gilbert alive for now. Otherwise, he would have been dead meat by now.
[This fight is getting ugly.] Gilbert a.s.sessed the situation.
While Gilbert was busy dealing deal with Julia, Gregory has been trying to aggress on Lars with little success. As a melee fighter, Gregory had to get close in order to strike. Unfortunately, Lars constantly maneuvered around the area to get out of Gregory's range and fired from afar. As a result, the only thing Gregory achieved was keeping Lars away from Gilbert.
Per Howard's orders, everybody should prioritize killing Lars whenever there was a chance. Therefore, Gilbert should be following Gregory's offense and focus on taking Lars down.
Alas, Julia's presence ruined everything. She stuck to Gilbert like glue and shut down all his offensive options. Her earlier surprise Hurricane forced Gilbert to retreat away from Lars and that gave Julia enough time to step in between the two of them. So, to get to Lars, Gilbert first had to pa.s.s through Julia.
[You ain't getting through!] Julia fired without tiring. [You wanna kill Lars? Over my dead body!]
"Geh!" Gilbert flinched. Even though he used a dodge-roll, Julia immediately hit him during the recovery animation. How could she be so good? She was supposed to be nothing more than a scaredy-cat defensive player. This plain wrong.
[Go down already...!] Gilbert cast Pillar of FIre under Julia while she was busy shooting. [Alright, this should do the trick!]
Thanks to the Chains of Infinity in Gilbert's built, the ticks of damage from Pillar of Fire will slow down Julia's movements. That'll make her into a much easier target-
"Not gonna work, dumba.s.s!" Julia blinked away as soon as she saw the circle of fire forming under her feet. She completely dodged Pillar of Fire!
[Seriously?] Gilbert grimaced. What's with this reaction speed? It's almost as if Julia's reaction time was on par with the likes of Lars and Taison. How was that even possible!?
[d.a.m.n, each and every one of these rookies.] Gilbert gritted his teeth. These greenhorns were one year younger than Gilbert and they haven't been playing the game for nearly as long as him, and yet...! d.a.m.n. Gilbert had to put them in their places!
"Don't force the fight," Howard cut into Gilbert's thoughts. "You can't win every battle. I thought you learned that a long time ago."
"Ah, I..." Gilbert paused for a moment. "[You can't win every battle."] These words took Gilbert back all the way to the first time he came across Cla.s.smancers in grade school.
It was during fifth grade when he first heard cla.s.smates getting excited over some "RPG MOBA" thing, whatever that meant. Out of curiosity, Gilbert took a peek at their tablets and followed the match. On the surface, it didn't really look like anything special. The graphics weren't on par with AAA games and the map looked kinda small and basic. Nothing to be excited about, really.
However, one boy in the group caught Gilbert's attention; it was Howard.
"Ted," Howard called out. "Rotate to Mid, please."
[Why, though?] Gilbert c.o.c.ked his head at this request.
Howard was apparently asked his ally, Ted, to head to the middle lane of the map. But, why? As far as Gilbert could tell, Howard's team was already in the lead in the middle lane and another ally was already protecting that lane.
So, wasn't it better to make Ted push somewhere else? From how Gilbert understood the game, the objective was to push as much as possible in order to invade the enemy base, so...
A few seconds later, the reason revealed itself. Right as Ted reached the middle lane, an enemy wolfman jumped appeared the opposite jungle! If not for Ted getting there in time, the situation on the lane would have turned into a dangerous 1v2, which would have surely spelled disaster.
[Howard told Ted to go mid to counter that ambus.h.!.+?] Gilbert's jaw dropped. T-This was kinda... Amazing! He has never seen anything cool like that before!
As a result of this play, Ted and his ally on lane turned the tables on the enemy and killed the wolfman attacker. Then, hey pushed through the middle lane together and the entire team gained huge momentum. Many other things happened that game too, but this one brilliant play was burned into Gilbert's mind to this day.
Right afterward, Gilbert joined that group of boys and started playing Cla.s.smancers with them. He couldn't tell left from right at first, but everybody helped him get up to speed. Especially, Howard was extremely knowledgeable about the game and taught Gilbert many useful things. There was also Aron, a stern boy who was one year older than the rest and gave all his advice in a form of criticism.
It didn't take long for Gilbert to realize how deep and complex the game was, which made it that much more fun to learn. He believed that, with enough study and practice, he'll eventually get to Howard's level and will be able to pull off cool tactics too!
Thanks to everybody's help, Gilbert grasped the concepts of the game in no time and learned how to do his job in every role. However, he was painfully far from pulling off any of the "cool plays" he had in mind.
To win a match, the team had to push all the way into the enemy base. To do that, the team first had to get some kills and get the enemy defenders out of the way.
Therefore, scoring kills was crucial. Especially, when Gilbert played Mid, one of his main jobs was to burst down as many enemies as possible during team fights. Alas, that was easier said than done.
The first shocking event that was burned into his mind was back when he ran into Trever in the jungle. It was a fair 1v1 and they both had damage-dealing cla.s.ses, so it was supposed to be a close fight, right? Wrong.
"Tough luck, kid!" Trever decimated Gilbert without breaking a sweat. Even though it was a 1v1, to Gilbert this felt more like a 1v100.
[W-Well, he's a year older than me so, of course, he's stronger.] Gilbert tried to wave off the result based on the age difference. It wasn't even an excuse or anything, it was the truth. Trever and Aron have been playing the game for much longer than Gilbert, so that's why they defeated him so easily in 1v1.
... then, what about Ted? And Scott? And Billy? They were all fifth graders just like Gilbert, yet they've also been tearing him apart in 1v1.
"Hey look, it's Gil! I'll kill him real quick before I recall."
"Oh s.h.i.+t, a gank!? Oh, nevermind, it's just Gil. I can handle this."
If it was "just Gil", there was nothing to worry about. That was the general consensus formed in the group. Despite Gilbert's efforts to get kills on these guys, he rarely ever won a fight against any of them. They were all so wild, so fast and so strong. He simply couldn't keep up with them.
"Why? Why can't I kill them?!" Gilbert slammed his controller.
"Careful, you'll break it."
"E-Eh!?" Gilbert jumped. He should've been the only one left here, but Howard returned to the cla.s.sroom for some reason.
"I know the feel," Howard said. "Sucks when you get run over in 1v1, right? Trust me, I know. There's somebody who mops the floor with me every day in 1v1, haha."
"Mops? You?" Gilbert blinked. Within their group, Howard was actually quite skilled in 1v1 situations. So, who could possibly mop the floor with him like that? And, on a daily basis, too.
"Anyway," Howard continued. "You can't beat everybody. Sometimes, you gotta let go."
"But," Gilbert objected. "If I can't beat them, then we can't win."
"Nah, that's not true."
"I think you're just too hung up on the idea of 'winning'. You don't have to win every battle to win the war," Howard explained. "Think of it this way: as long as you haven't lost, the enemy hasn't won either."
"Huh? Well, that's true, I guess."
"Getting kills is important and all, but Mancers is a deeper game than that. If you can't beat somebody, don't push it. Avoid the fight and search for a better opportunity next time. There's nothing wrong with retreating when you can't handle something. Just defend against them until they mess up, then punish them. That's how you do smart defense."
"Smart defense..." Gilbert mumbled. Howard's words were simple, yet strangely captivating. There was some sort of wisdom in them that transcended the understanding of a mere grade-schooler.
"So," Gilbert started. "How exactly do I play this 'smart defense'?"
"I'll teach you all about it," Howard answered with a delighted smile. "It's my favorite strat."
That day, Gilbert learned a valuable lesson that has been guiding his playstyle ever since. Against mechanically skilled opponents, there was no need to rush into a 1v1. Even when Gilbert couldn't score a kill, it was fine as long as he didn't die himself.
Ever since he started applying this mindset, he noticed something interesting: the enemies he thought were unbeatable actually had very obvious flaws. As long as Gilbert was on the defense, the enemies chased him, unloaded their entire kits on him and overextended all over the place. They hungered for that one kill so much that they were willing to throw caution to the wind.
[A chance!] Gilbert turned around once the effect of Trever's "The Hunt is On" expired.
"Say what!?" Trever exclaimed. "Heh, you finally going to fight, kid?"
[I can win here.] Gilbert opened an attack. Trever exhausted all his tools against Gilbert's defense, so this was a chance to turn the tables around! Gilbert activated Eldritch Nightmare to cover the entire area in darkness and attacked with everything he had.
"Gah! I gotta get out!" Trever realized his mistake, but it was too late. He was way too deep into enemy territory to make an escape now. It was over.
『You have killed an enemy!』
That was the day Gilbert's playstyle was fleshed out. When he faced a weaker opponent, he immediately went with an offense and struck them down. On the other hand, when the opponent was too strong, Gilbert focused on defense and waited for the right time to strike back. As soon as the opponent showed any hint of weakness, Gilbert instantly switched to offense and struck them where it hurt.
That's exactly what he should be doing against Julia right now. This entire time, Gilbert has been trying to keep up with Julia's attacks and strike her down, but it was a mistake. As frustrating as it was to admit, Julia was apparently more skilled than Gilbert in a fight. Even though she was a rookie, he couldn't handle her wild attacks in a straight 1v1.
Therefore, he should simply stop trying. Trying to achieve the impossible won't help the team win.
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[Calm down.] First, Gilbert had to slow down and rea.s.sess the situation. Admitting that he was weaker than Julia in a fight was embarra.s.sing, but playing Mid wasn't just about scoring kills in 1v1s.
Not being able to beat Julia in a 1v1 didn't mean Gilbert couldn't be a better player than her. While Julia had her explosive offense, Gilbert had his balanced combination of offense and defense. Perhaps he couldn't defeat Julia upfront, but he could outwit her and turn the tides in his favor.
[Gregory is starting to run low.] Gilbert threw a glance at the ongoing fight between Gregory and Lars. About half the damage that piled on Gilbert was transferred to Gregory and that's on top of the damage Lars dealt to Gregory directly. As a result, despite Vanguard's tankiness, Gregory has been falling apart.
At this rate, this battle will be lost. What were Gilbert's options here? Getting a kill on Lars would be great, that was the goal of this gank in the first place. However, that possibility has been slipping farther and farther away by the moment.
If Gilbert could somehow get Julia out of the picture it'd be great, but he couldn't defeat her right now. Then, what else could he do here? Retreat? Gilbert may make it out alive if he starts running now, but Gregory was doomed for sure.
Not to mention, running away against Julia felt wrong. If he was truly the superior Mid Laner here, he should be able to find a way to both survive AND turn the tables around on Julia.
What was Julia's weakness? Where did her overwhelming offense slip up? How could he turn the situation against her? These were the questions he had to answer while deflecting her blows.
"You flipping dumba.s.s!" Julia cursed. "Stop dodging and get dead already!"
[Her defense isn't that good.] Gilbert dodged shots and observed Julia's movements. This explosive offense was indeed overwhelming, but it left Julia wide open to counter-attacks. If Gilbert can just find the right timing for striking her...!
"What are you doing?" Howard asked in a stern voice. "Retreat already. I didn't think I even had to say it."
"Ah." Gilbert paused. Retreat? Against Julia? Was this situation so lost that there was no other option? But...!
Unfortunately, the decision was made for him. Lars slipped past Gregory and darted toward Gilbert. Now, there were two damage dealers on Gilbert's tail. The effect of Vanguard's ult won't last much longer, so Gilbert had to get away while he still could.
[Alright, full defense.] Gilbert had to get out of here alive, even if it meant giving Julia another "win". It'll be a small price to pay compared to giving Julia an actual kill.
"You ain't getting away!" Julia moved to cut off Gilbert's escape route. She has been saving Squall for a moment like this, so it was time to put it to use. "Eat s.h.i.+t!"
[I knew that'll come.] Gilbert nodded to himself. Julia kept her slowdown tool for the moment Gilbert decides to flee. To counter that play he booted Burning Spirit, which gave him a boost to his movement speed. It allowed him to speed up ahead and dodge Julia's blast of wind.
"G.o.ddamit freaking aghhh!" Julia roared incomprehensibly as she continued chasing. There was only one nearby exit from the jungle and it was narrow. It'll be easy to hit Gilbert once he's forced into that pa.s.sage-
"Whoa! Watch out!" Lars called out.
"Wh Ah!?" Flames rained from the sky! Blaze of Inferno! The h.e.l.lfire covered the entire entrance to the narrow pa.s.sage and threatened to torch anybody who approached. "That stupid dumba.s.s idiot...!"
[Alright.] Gilbert should be safe now. It was unfortunate he had to spend his ult like that, but it created the strong line of defense he needed to slip away from his pursuers. It served as but a momentary slowdown against his pursuer, but that's all he needed to get away when his movement was boosted by Burning Spirit.
[I'm safe now,] Gilbert nodded to himself. [Though, Lars still got a chance to catch up if he has Six Wings + his ult. But, last I've seen he didn't have Six Wings, so I should be safe.]
"Oh man," Lars started slowing down. "He got away. I should've saved my Six Wings for this." He had Six Wings earlier, but he unleashed all the fast shots on Gregory to scare that tanky dude out of the picture. As a result, he didn't have access to his ult now, so he couldn't pursue Gilbert anymore.
"We can still catch up!" Julia cast Jet Stream, which created a trail of wind in front of the nearest jungle wall.
"You wanna keep chasing?" Lars asked. "I don't think we can outrun that dude."
Jet Stream buffed the movement speed of allies who pa.s.sed through it, but Gilbert also buffed his own movement speed. So, considering the current distance between them, they couldn't possibly catch up on foot with just a little boost of speed.
"No, idio- Ahem!" Julia cleared her throat. "You can cut him off with your leap!"
"Oh, you mean to jump across the wall? I can hop over this wall, but that ain't enough to get me to the lane from here." Lars was still too far away from Mid. He could diagonally leap over the wall in front of him, but that'll still keep inside the jungle.
"No, the wind!" Julia insisted. "Jump through the wind and it'll send you flying all the way to lane!"
"Huh? Oh, right! That stuff really worked that way!" Lars grinned. This was one heck of a rare play, but he saw this sick stuff before. Angelic Grace into Jet Stream gonna lead to some cool results!
As Lars approached the stream of wind, he activated Angelic Grace. Even though it was a "leap" ability, in practice it was more like an airplane going taking off. The Seraph ignited his jetpack, did a cool spin while jumping forward and only then took off toward the sky.
That horizontal jump at the beginning of the animation was the key to this entire play. While still taking off from the ground, Lars pa.s.sed through the jet stream and VROOOM! He was launched toward the sky like an arrow!
"Woohoo!" Lars cross over the first jungle wall and also went beyond the jungle wall behind it! He reached all the way to Mid with a single jump! Sick pro-level shortcuts, yo!
Angelic Grace kept him afloat for a while, so he could snipe anybody from this high ground. From this position, it was easy to see the entire lane and find his prey.
"Gotcha!" Lars fired without warning. Bam! Hit! And, another one! And another! Even without Six Wings, late game's Seraph's shots were preeeeeetty good!
[Wha!? Where!?] Gilbert jumped. One laser beam pierced his back, another struck his shoulder and a third landed on his head. How!? Did Lars have Six Wings after all!?
No, Seraph couldn't fire from the sky during Divine Messenger, so that had to be Angelic Grace. Did Lars blink through one wall and then leaped over the next wall? No, that sounded unlikely either... d.a.m.n! None of that mattered right now! Gilbert had to figure out how to dodge Lars's snipes- agh! A fourth hit! The attacks just kept coming!
[d.a.m.n, it's over...] Gilbert sighed. One more hit and he was done. He did everything he could, but that was the end of the line.
Once within Lars's firing range, n.o.body could get away. It required a superhuman reaction speed or an acute ability to read opponents' movements, but unfortunately, Gilbert didn't possess either of those skills. He lost enough matches back in grade school to know he couldn't overcome such a difference in skill.
Well, at least the one to kill him will be Lars and not Julia...
『You have been killed!』
Classmancers - A MOBA Esport Story 98 Gilbert's Hesitation
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