• Published 21st Mar 2018
  • 3,568 Views, 726 Comments

Duelists of the Friendship Cup - DrakeyC

Friendship Games is retold, but with less academics and athletics and more card games.

  • ...

Restructor Revolution

Duelists of the Friendship Cup

Restructor Revolution

Twilight stepped inside the principal’s office, hoping her smile masked her nervousness. “You wanted to speak to me, Principal Sombra?”

Sitting at a desk in the room, clad in a ruffled red silk shirt beneath a deep grey suit, the principal raised his eyes from his computer and smiled. “Yes, Twilight. Come in, sit.” He gestured a hand to the two chairs in front of his desk then went back to typing. Twilight gently shut the door behind her and sat down. Sombra continued to type for a moment, vibrant green eyes focused on his monitor.

Should I say something? Or just wait? Twilight fidgeted as she pondered what to do. Sombra had never been cruel to her, or anyone at Crystal Prep that she’d heard. In fact, most at the school, student and teacher alike, spoke of him as an effective and reasonable administrator. Still, every time Twilight saw him and heard him speak, something about him unnerved her.

Sombra moved his mouse and clicked a few times. He then reached to the side of his monitor and turned it so Twilight could see it – the video she had sent him of Sunset dueling. As the video played he sat back in his chair and clasped his hands. Twilight was unsure whether to pay attention to him or the video.

Sunset’s voice came from Sombra’s speakers. “I Pendulum Summon Harmony Guardian Magia and Harmony Guardian Compassio!” Twilight saw the two monsters appear on Sunset’s field in pillars of purple and red light. As they manifested, Sombra reached out to tap the spacebar on his keyboard, pausing the video.

Twilight waited while Sombra continued to stare at the paused recording. Finally, he turned to face her. Twilight felt her body seize up as her eyes locked with his. They almost glowed in the dim lighting of the office. It took her a moment to recognize he was speaking to her. “You realize that if Canterlot High knew you were recording their duels like this and showing them to me, it would reflect very poorly on the both of us and Crystal Prep itself,” he said cooly.

Sombra ended his sentence with a blink. Twilight regained her composure and swallowed heavily. “Yes, sir. But I considered it worth the risk to bring to light the possibility that their champion duelist is cheating.”

“Risk, you say?” Sombra turned his monitor back and clicked a couple times. “This file you sent me states it was recorded two months ago. You waited for some time before bringing this to my attention.”

Twilight felt her palms begin to sweat as Sombra looked her in the eye again, green boring into purple. “I-I just thought that I should confirm my theory before speaking to you.”

“Oh?” Sombra raised his head but didn’t break eye contact. “My apologies, thank you for explaining that. Otherwise I might have presumed that your interest in this duelist was out of selfish curiosity over her unknown cards, and that it was only recently with the Friendship Cup approaching that you thought perhaps you should let others know of such things since your attempts to unravel the mystery yourself have hit a dead end.”

“That…” Twilight paused as she took in his words. “That… may not be entirely false…” she trailed off into mumbles.

Sombra chuckled softly, still looking her in the eye. “Twilight, please, do not misunderstand. I am indeed very grateful to you for bringing this to my attention. But I do not approve of lies. We should always strive to be honest with others and especially with ourselves, don’t you think?”

Twilight just nodded.

“Good. Then, allow me to give you my honest thoughts on this matter.” Sombra sat up and leaned on his desk. “I think your suspicions are perfectly well-founded, and merit further investigation.”

Twilight brightened. “You do?”

“Indeed. As you say, there is no documentation of these cards or ‘Pendulum’ monsters existing, and if neither I nor you can discover their secrets with our network of information and contacts, then I’d dare say this is indeed something else.” Sombra looked away and thought for a moment. “You have not informed anyone else of your spying, I hope?”

“Of course not.”

“Excellent, please keep it that way.” Sombra nodded and brought his hands closer to his mouth, clasping his hands and tapping a finger. “I think the best course of action, for the moment, is to proceed with the Friendship Games.”

“What?” Twilight blurted. “But, you just said you agree with me, she’s cheating!”

“Indeed. Yet, what can I do with this knowledge? Tell Principal Celestia? She will demand evidence, and will ask how we procured it. Shall I send her your video?”

“Right…” Twilight frowned and thought. “Is there anything we can do at all?”

“Short of cancelling the tournament - which is out of the question - no. It is an unfortunate circumstance we find ourselves in.” Sombra sighed. “But, just because we cannot confront CHS with what we suspect, does not mean we cannot take action against them. Friday evening the rankings for the school’s duelists will lock, and the seven with the best win-loss ratio will proceed to the Friendship Cup with myself and Vice-Principal Hope on Saturday.” Sombra nodded in Twilight’s direction. “I would like you to be among those seven duelists.”

“Me?” Twilight shook her head. “I’m afraid I don’t duel.”

“You have a deck, yes?”

“I do, but I don’t use it.”

“I know. Your ranking in the database is 0-0.” Sombra tapped his fingers together and thought for a moment, staring at Twilight. “You have always been of interest to me, Twilight. You run a website and database on dueling that I know many other students here use and speak highly of. Your grades are among the best of the school. Your teachers tell me you have expressed an interest in becoming a card designer after graduation, a career path you certainly have the ability and ambition to succeed in. And yes…” He looked at Twilight evenly. “Tell me, Twilight: why abstain from dueling?”

“I don’t see the point.” Twilight scrunched her face. “Dueling is a game of skill, capable of being distilled down to basic mathematical probability formulae. Once the contents of one’s deck are sufficiently analyzed and weighed against the opponent’s, it is easy to determine who the superior player is. At that point actually dueling is a formality.”

“Chance and luck would protest that thesis.”

“Chance and luck are not deciding factors, only mitigating. A percentage can still be refined from analysis and will produce reliable results. If I stand an 80% chance of winning, is it really necessary to go through the trouble of playing that result out?”

“And should a duel fall into the last 20%?”

“A further cause as to why single-elimination duels are inadequate to properly demonstrate one’s skill at the game. There’s a reason professional tournaments run on a best-of-three system, after all. I would imagine it's the same reason we collectively use a best-of-seven system in the Friendship Cup. The more data you collect, the fewer outliers you have to deal with and the more reliable your result will be.”

Sombra laughed. Twilight noticed he kept an even eye on her even as his laugh reverberated in the room. It was a sincere laugh yet it felt restrained. “You’ve thought this through, I see.”

Twilight looked sheepish. “My brother has tried to get me to play. I’ve had to explain this before.”

Sombra’s laughter faded to a soft smile. Twilight thought it looked almost like a smirk. “Fair enough. You’re not wrong, Twilight, but not quite correct, either. There is more to dueling than what analysis and probability can tell you. You’d understand this if you played once in a while.”

“I’ve heard that, too. I find it unlikely.”

“And that is your opinion to which you are entitled. I, however, must act in the best mind of the entire student body.” Sombra’s humor faded back to professionalism. “As principal, I have the authority to disqualify duelists from entry into tournaments for various mitigating circumstances such as poor behavior, low grades, and so forth. Likewise, I can promote anyone to tournament entry for similar reasons.” He clicked on his computer and turned the monitor towards Twilight. “This is the current seventh ranked student on the campus. Despite her talent, she has a knack for causing trouble and often misses classes and fails exams.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Duel and defeat her, publically, today if that is suitable for you. I already have just cause to remove her from the tournament and put you in it on grounds of marks and standing and so forth. But, so as to avoid any accusations of bias or unfairness on my part, I would like it to be established that you are her superior. No one will question your placement once this is established.”

Twilight frowned. “I don’t know. This seems wrong.”

“Wrong?” Sombra smiled and held out a hand as if offering her something. “I merely wish to extend an invitation to a deserving student, to give her a chance to show her fellow pupils what she can do. What I know she can do, if only she would apply herself. And at the same time you would aid us all in removing a troublesome and unreliable rogue from the Friendship Cup, and I would rather not have such a duelist representing our academy.”


“If it would lay to rest your concerns, Twilight, know that I have already considered this course of action for her, just with other duelists in place of yourself. I truly do desire this duelist removed, and you have provided me fair reason why you deserve to take her place. I only want to ensure that your reputation does not suffer from this deed.”

Twilight took a breath. “Right… okay. I’ll duel her at lunch.”

“Excellent.” Sombra withdrew his hand. But do try to win, please. If you lost I’d have quite a problem on my hands.” He chuckled.

“I’ll win. I know her deck. Mine can beat it.”

“Good. As for the Friendship Cup, I have some other leads in it that I’d like to pursue in due time. For now, keep your spying between us and send me any more materials you have on this ‘Sunset Shimmer’, particularly videos.”

“I will.”

Sombra stood. “Then we both have our plans moving forward. I confess, I personally am looking forward to seeing what you can do. I’ve always suspected you have the potential to become one of the finest duelists in your year, perhaps one of the best this institution has ever seen, if only you would make the effort. I’d very much like for you to prove me right.”

Twilight blushed again as she stood up. “I’ll do my best, Principal Sombra.”

Sombra smiled and held out a hand again. Twilight reached out to take it, his smile growing. “I could ask for nothing more than that, Twilight.”

He looked into her eyes again as they shook hands. Twilight smiled back and held the gaze unflinching.

I guess he isn’t so scary once you get to know him.

Sunset grabbed an apple from the bowl of fruit at the end of the lunch line and turned. She headed to the group’s usual table and found their trays pushed aside with cards strewn between them. She sat down at the end and leaned over to survey the length. “Prep work?”

Rainbow Dash made a face as she examined a pair of cards. “I’m trying to find room in my deck for Tuner monsters, and they have to be the right ones in the right amount. At least I never used my Extra Deck before. I can have my pick of Synchros without worrying about anything besides their level.”

“I share your torment,” Rarity replied. She sniffed and held up a thin stack of cards. “These are all the Xyz monsters I have and the few I can use aren’t worth using anyway. I’ve been made to understand my Crystal Beasts lend themselves well to rank four Xyz decks, but what good is that if I have no Xyz cards to use with them?”

Fluttershy smiled. “I’ve been able to add Xyz Monsters to my deck just fine. My deck was already designed to summon multiple level two monsters at once, I just have more options for how to use them now.”

“Wait, I’m confused.” Sunset held up a hand. “What do levels have to do with being able to use those cards or not? Extra deck monsters don’t need tributes to be summoned. Or, do these ones?”

“Here.” Rainbow slid closer to her and set a card in front of her, a monster card with a silver-white background. “This is a Synchro monster, and this is a Tuner monster.” She set a normal monster card next to the Synchro card, and tapped her finger where the card’s type was listed; the word ‘Tuner’ was written next to its standard typing. “When you have a Tuner monster and a non-Tuner monster, you can perform a Synchro Summon to summon any Synchro monster with a level matching their combined levels. This Tuner is level two, and this Synchro monster is level eight, so this Tuner plus a level six monster lets me summon the Synchro. Or a level three Tuner plus a level five monster. You get the idea.”

Applejack snickered. “Ah guess that’s one good takeaway of this tournament – it’s makin’ Rainbow Dash learn math.”

Rainbow stuck her tongue out before going back to her explanation. “And then Synchros have summon restrictions like other cards, like the monsters have to be certain types or attributes. Otherwise it’s just like Fusions, the monsters get removed from the field, no reviving them if you didn’t summon them properly, and you keep them in the Extra deck until you need them. Tuners go in the main deck.”

Sunset nodded. “So you have to find a way to work these Tuner monsters into your U.A. deck?”

“Exactly, and it bites.” Rainbow groaned. “I had this baby fine-tuned to perfection, and now I have to change it all around!”

“On the bright side, you’ll have a lot of new options for playing,” Fluttershy said. “U.A. decks have a lot of high-level monsters, and they can easily replace each other in play. You’ll be able to summon a lot of different Synchro monsters by summoning a Tuner and swapping out your monsters for ones with the levels you need.”

“Yeah. Still bites.”

“Here, Sunset!” Pinkie tossed a few of her cards on the table. “I’ll show ya how Xyzs work!” Sunset looked down at the cards, one of them with a black background. “Xyzs are kinda like Synchros, except not. Get it?”

Sunset raised her head and gave Pinkie a bored stare.

“Allow me.” Rarity reached over to gesture to Pinkie’s cards. “Xyz monsters rely on having two or more monsters in play with the same level. Then you can overlay them on top of each other to Xyz Summon.” Rarity piled two cards on top of each other and then placed the Xyz card on top of them, their edges sticking out from the sides. “And as Rainbow said, there are sometimes restrictions like needing certain types and attributes, or more than two monsters.”

Sunset picked up the Xyz card to read its text. “Doesn’t seem too complicated, I guess. But why pile them under the card like that?” She set the card back down on top of the stack.

“Because the monsters used for the Xyz Summon don’t get discarded like Fusion and Synchro. They stay attached to the Xyz monster, as overlay units. Think of them like Equip cards that don’t take up a card zone. Xyz monsters often have to detach overlay units to use their effects, then those cards get discarded.”

“And check this out.” Applejack tapped the card, drawing Sunset’s eye to the upper-left corner. Four black circles with yellow stars ran from the left side of the card to the right. “Xyz monsters don’t have levels, they have ranks, whole different thing. So any card that uses levels for their effects don’t work on Xyzs one way or the other.”

“It also means you can’t use Xyzs for Synchro material, because they have no levels to work with,” Rainbow grumbled, shuffling through a pile of cards.

“Or other Xyz summons,” Fluttershy added.

“You can use Synchros for Xyzs though, right?” Pinkie asked. Rarity turned to answer her.

The conversation redirected, Sunset sat back and thought. These mechanics don’t seem too bad, I guess. But we’re only just learning them, we don’t really know how to play against them, and we don’t have a lot of options for using them ourselves. How are we supposed to beat Crystal Prep like this? She let out a small huff. Why did I give that stupid pep speech?

“You’re thinking mean thoughts!” The sound of Pinkie’s voice made Sunset jerk and look her way. Pinkie wagged her finger. “Stop it!”

“I was not!”

“Then what were you thinking?”

“I was thinking…” Sunset tried to think of an excuse. She failed and settled for slumping in her seat. “…that we’re totally gonna lose this weekend.”

The comment got everyone’s attention back on her. “You were the one who told us yesterday to go for it!” Rainbow said.

“And I didn’t realize what we were getting into,” Sunset groaned. “I don’t have any of these cards to use! And you guys have only a few.”

“Well, you do have your Pendulums, they’re in a league of their own,” Rarity said.

“Yeah, but I have no idea how they’ll stand up to Crystal Prep duelists using all these new cards. Besides, you can’t pin all your hopes on me. It’s seven-on-seven, we need four wins. Even if Flash and I win our duels, at least two of you have to win.” Her eyes bulged and she winced. “I mean, you know… sorry. That came out wrong.”

“You’re not wrong, dear.” Rarity reached out to pat Sunset’s hand on the table. “We have an uphill battle for sure.”

Sunset had a thought. “Have any of you girls beaten Crystal Prep duelists before?” Everyone shook their heads and Sunset sank back again. “Darn.”

“You sure you don’t have any Synchros or Xyzs you can lend us?” Applejack asked. “Ah gave Fluttershy some o’ mine, and Rainbow borrowed her Tuners from Rarity. We gotta pool our stash and help each other out.”

“Sorry.” Sunset shook her head. “I never needed new cards. I could always just magic up new cards from nothing when I needed them in the middle of a duel.”


Sunset sighed and let the conversation move on from her again. Listen to yourself. They’re all trying to help each other, and you’re just you and have cards no one else has or can use. She looked at her hand and flexed her fingers. Even if I could use my powers again, it wouldn’t be much use. They can’t use magic like mine to make new cards for themselves. She bit her lip. Everyone thinks I’m a sure win because I have these Pendulums and was a running champ. Don’t they get that the only reason I ever beat them was because I cheated? I never even used Fusion before and now I have to play against all these new cards.

“Hey.” Sunset raised her head to see Pinkie smiling at her. “You’ll be fine. We believe in you.”

Sunset forced herself to smile. “Thanks, Pinkie.”

“Did anyone want to practice with me after school?” Fluttershy asked. “I think my new deck will work pretty well.”

Applejack nodded. “Ah could. Mah new plants are Fusion focused so Ah know they’re good to go.”

Rarity shook her head. “I must decline, my attempts at integrating Xyz are falling short. I may need to consider alternatives.”

“I’m out,” Rainbow called. “Tomorrow I should have this down.”

“I could try it, I’ve got a dedicated Xyz starter deck.” Pinkie tapped her chin. “Haven’t used it much but it should be fine out of the box, right?”

“I could give it a shot,” Sunset said. “We’ll all have to duel each other to get lots of practice, anyway.”

The rest of the group nodded. “We got this, together!” Rainbow grinned and punched a fist into her palm.

Sunset smiled. “I remember when I was that confident.”

Twilight entered the cafeteria and looked around. She usually ate lunch in the computer lab while she worked on her research and the unfamiliar room seemed to shrink in on her. She shook her head. This will be fine. I’ve run the numbers. I stand a 74% chance of winning, that’s almost ¾. I just have to find her. She walked down the aisle scanning tables until she saw the purple hair with a teal streak she had seen in the duelist profile Sombra showed her. She approached it and stopped a few feet behind her.

“Starlight Glimmer?”

The table’s conversation talk ceased. The girl in question turned her head, purple and green hair falling over the jacket of her uniform hanging from the chair. She made a face when she saw who had spoken. “What?”

Twilight raised her duel disk. “I challenge you to a duel.”

It was as though a bubble of silence fifteen feet across suddenly dropped around them. Multiple heads turned to stare at the scene and utensils dropped to trays.

Starlight burst out laughing. “Twilight, please. If you wanted me to humiliate you, you should have just invited me to pants you. It would take a lot less time and be just as easy for me.” Her friends at the table laughed.

“I’m serious. And I’m not the one who’ll be humiliated,” Twilight replied. “Unless you’re too scared to accept a challenge and let your ranking slip?”

Starlight’s humor immediately turned into anger. She jumped to her feet and glared. “What was that?”

“You heard me.” At least I hope so. Trash talk isn’t my strong suit.

Starlight looked at the clock hanging on the wall. “Well, there’s still twenty minutes left in lunch. I’ll beat you and have fifteen minutes to spare.”


Twilight didn’t see who called it out but the response was immediate. The room filled with the squeak and groan of tables and chairs moving across the floor. Twilight watched as several tables of students quickly pulled out of the way, creating a rectangular open area across the main aisle. Starlight tossed her hair and walked away to the other end. She spun on her heel when she reached it and raised her arm, purple and green duel disk on her wrist.

“Let’s make this quick.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Twilight looked down at her duel disk, a rectangular device with her deck slotted above her wrist, the disk purple with pink linings along the sides and a matching stripe along the top. At least I remember how to use this. She pressed the single blue button next to the disk’s touchscreen.

“Duel disk OS-005.4 online.” The mechanical voice from the disk droned to life as the disk lit up. Twilight’s deck shuffled itself as the touchscreen projected holograms into the air, a ring of the cards in Twilight’s deck rotating in front of her. On the front end of the disk the holographic emitter slid open and projected a field of hard light energy around it, forming a curved card tray of purple light.

“Challenger detected. Processing…” The hologram of Twilight’s cards folded themselves up into one and it flipped over to show her profile image and record. Another card appeared next to it and flipped to show Starlight’s image. Twilight calmly looked at the record under her opponent’s image – 61-4. “Challenge details as follows: ranked match, Expert ruleset, one-versus-one, no time limits. Accept challenge?”

“Last chance to back out,” Starlight called.

“If you want to take it I won’t hold it against you,” Twilight replied. Without another word she reached out and pressed her finger to the touchscreen. The screen rippled and flashed at her touch.


Author's Note:

For your audio enjoyment, I picture Sombra as being voiced by Keith David