So I decided to give 1v1 a spin, finally, after being weirdly afraid of it for a while. It went fairly well. Some wins, some losses, one match where I went up against a Peacekeeper and then the network dropped us after the first round. All and all, things seemed hunky dory, with me rotating between Raider, Kensei, and Shugoki. Mostly Shugoki. I'm here to be big and use big weapons, son. My opponents were pretty much the classes you would expect to see most of the time.
Then, the titular Warlord appeared. Now, I'd never really fought a warlord before, but I figured I hadn't seriously 1v1'd several of the classes I'd fought previously, so how bad could it possibly be? Well, as soon as I saw this motherfucker, I knew I was in for a wild ride. Beautiful decorated golden shield, excellent equipment choices and color coordination. Considering my Shugoki's basic look-at-me-I-completed-story-mode-on-hard outfit, I felt like I was standing next to a golden god.
So, first match starts. I sprint in and go for the charging tackle. He dodges out of the way and attacks me from behind. Fair enough, I knew it was kind of a stupid thing to do, but you never knew who would fall for it. Clearly, this man wouldn't. I turned to face him, only to be overwhelmed with a blistering combination of unblockable tackles and guard breaks, and my fat ass goes down. "Well okay," I thought, "obviously I need to actually respect his guy and play patiently." I attempt to do so, facing him more honestly at the start of the next round. I throw out some attacks. He gets some hits in, killing my super armor, and then, once again, making my life hell with an unblockable onslaught. Having never faced this before, I was left having no clue what to do, and again my rotund avatar hits the dirt. The next round? You guessed it. I maybe manage to land a hit or two of my own, but basically the same thing happens. As he finishes his final killing blow, this stone wall of a man leaves me this message:
"Till Valhalla, brother."
Now, a lesser player might have gotten frustrated, and given up at this point, grumbling about guard break spamming or the like. But, I saw something here, an opportunity. My skills were dull, and here was my chance to sharpen them, even if I had no idea where to begin. So, I ready for the next match, and I pick Shugoki again, feeling that even changing class would be a backdown of sorts. I wanted to succeed with what I came in with, and not feel like I changed the odds with a different matchup.
Well, long story short, I didn't succeed. But I did LEARN. I was almost excited to have him attack me, as I began to experiment with different ways to respond to his most troublesome moves. Every time he did his unblockable special attack, I tried parries and dodges, and even my own attacks. Finally, in the second or third round, something worked: dodging backwards! This seemed rather counter-intuitive against a move that rushed directly towards me, but there it was, the first barrier broken down. Now, obviously, I was a little over excited with this. The next few times he did the special attack, I may have mashed back dodge too many times in a panic, causing my Shugoki to awkwardly tumble away in the most embarrassing display of gymnastics. But, now I had some response to his onslaught.
Next came the harder part: the guard breaks. Even before meeting this Warlord, I had been attempting to learn the proper timing for escaping guard breaks, and had been having quite a rough time of it. But nobody had truly forced me to face this inadequacy until this Warlord laid the tactic on so heavily. Unlike back-dodging his other attack, there was no epiphany here. Just good old trial-and-error until I got the timing down for real. I still wasn't perfect at it, but I could tell, I was beginning to get this Warlord to respect me. His onslaught lessened, and we found ourselves circling around each other at weapon's reach, shifting guards and considering options. Blows were traded more evenly, and I began to take rounds, as my freedom from his earlier lockdown allowed me to bring my own strengths and mind games to bear. Every round I took prompted a "Good Fight!" response from him, and it felt like very real praise from a wise teacher. Silly as it sounds, it brought me some real joy. However, I still couldn't quite surpass this master, and every match ended in a loss for me, and the words that became familiar:
"Till Valhalla, brother."
Finally, though I didn't know it when it started, we came to our final match. At this point, I was answering his offense with very real responses, teching guard breaks and calling out his actual attacks with well-timed attacks of my own. We traded blows. And then traded rounds. It came down to 2 to 2. At this point, I was quite satisfied with what I'd learned, and felt like no matter how this round went, I could walk away from these matches happy. But I wasn't about to just roll over, either. So our final (slow) dance began. The respect was mutual. He knew I could bring unstoppable devastating blows to bear and knew when to use them, and I was still quite wary of the trickier aspects of his offense. His special attack and guard breaks were still no joke even as I had responses to them. Knowledge is one thing, application is another. I honestly can't even remember exactly how it the round went, or how it ended. But end, it did, and this time with a victory to finally call my own. With excitement in my heart, I did a victory emote and left a "Good fight!" message. And, well… you know what he said to me. And with that, he left the lobby, and left me with valuable lessons learned.
So, to the Warlord I fought, and who's name I do not recall, I have this to say to you: Till Valhalla, brother.
tl;dr I'm new to dueling in this game and I stubbornly kept fighting a warlord who was kicking my ass until I finally learned what it took to beat him. And it felt good.