Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where we reflect on the history of marble sports teams that have competed in the tournaments of Jelle’s Marble Runs. This time, we’re going to study Team Plasma, a team that went on hiatus after not qualifying for the 2018 Marble League. Read on to see how this team has spooked their competition!
The marbles that made up Team Plasma never intended to be marble sports athletes. Before the team was established, Fearo, Ecto, Gloomo, Phanto, and Ghost spent their days working in a mine in Ionise, a small village on the outskirts of Fantum.
“We get up, go down into the mine, work hard, go home, repeat,” said Fearo. “It may not be the most glamorous of lives, but we love what we do. Spending lots of time underground in a small group binds a group of marbles together – we’re like family.”
When not down the mine, the five marbles spend their time doing their other passion: gardening.
“Our job keeps us underground for long periods, so when we’re not in the caverns we love to surround ourselves with the natural world. The peaceful beauty of a well-kept garden is just the contrast we need to the dark grime of the mine,” added Ecto.
“Every summer as a group we like to go on a trip to a different place of natural beauty. We’ve done lots of the major sites: the remote rainforests that surround Lewara, the more urban beauty of Team Primary’s garden, The Palette, and, of course, the beautiful hikes of Isle Hyu. Next on our bucket list is the unique flora of the Globular Archipelago – it can’t be found anywhere else on Marblearth!”
The Ionise mine is well-known in the local area for being haunted. When asked about the rumors, Gloomo said:
“I don’t believe in ghosts—apart from our very own Ghost. I think they might be partially to blame for the rumors. Ghost has always been quiet and more reserved than the rest of us, they like to keep themselves to themselves. This means that they can sneak around and we lose track of them. When we least expect it – Bam! Out Ghost pops, scaring the life out of us, as they go rolling off into the darkness, laughing down the tunnels.”
“Those tunnels do strange things to the sound” added Phanto. “The caverns can distort the sound as it echoes through the vast spaces. The friendly chatter of another mining team in a distant cavern can easily become a haunting groaning by the time it travels down the tunnels. I can’t imagine what Ghost’s cackling sounds like to them.”
“I blame our Marble of Music, Phanto. They like to practice their opera singing down in their underground chasm—now that is haunting.” Ghost retorted. You could see Phanto turn a slightly darker shade of red as Ghost rolled off into the morning mist, their chortles echoing around the mining complex.
“That was meant to be a secret,” muttered Phanto, wobbling slightly with embarrassment. “Anyway. Everyone around here goes along with the rumors mainly to keep tourists visiting. Although there was this one marble—I think they called themselves Blood Moon—they briefly used to work here. One day they rolled past me, and I heard them muttering to themselves about ghosts and marble-eating spiders, and I think they said something about a large dancing skeleton. They seemed to be a big believer in all things spooky. And then one day they just disappeared. That’s probably the weirdest thing that’s happened around here. I think our flower displays give the place a more festive feel.”
When down the mines, the members of Team Plasma would challenge each other to all kinds of feats of strength and skill such as racing each other through the tunnels, leaping over piles of rubble to see who could go the furthest, and sliding down natural water slides found in the caverns.
“It was all just a bit of fun really,” explained Fearo. “To be honest, before becoming a marble athlete I couldn’t have named many marble sports athletes myself. I knew Ghost Plasma as they are the local legend. I knew of the Savage Speeders, but I couldn’t name any of their members. We just weren’t that interested in marble sports and being down the mine all day means you can easily miss out on large sporting events. There was that one time, maybe back in 2016, when we were at a flower show and there was a sand marble race. One of Ghost’s classmates from when they were in school, Ouroboros, was competing and we stayed and watched that. That’s as close as we got to watching any form of marble sports.”
Leaping around the tunnels did have some consequences for the team members. Every so often they would collide with a wall and pick up a small scratch or chip. Gloomo excitedly told me about one of their more prominent dimples.
“This one I got when we were leaping into a natural pool of water. I went way too fast and overshot it, crashing into the wall. Each imperfection is a reminder of the good times we’ve had together and they make us each unique.”
The marbles had made a name for themselves in the local area for their gardening work, winning multiple awards through the years at the Fantum Flora Festival for their displays at the mine. They even managed to win Herbotamia in Bloom, the region’s largest gardening competition, in 2017 for their stunning piece detailing the history of Fantum in floral form.
In July of 2017, the Mayor of Fantum had organized for local Marble Rally athlete Ghost Plasma to visit the mine as part of the Herbotamia in Bloom celebrations during one of the breaks between races of Sand Marble Rally 2017. After their victory in Sand Marble Rally 2016, Ghost Plasma, at the advice of their team, had set their sights on expanding the Plasma franchise. They had heard that Jelle Bakker was interested in expanding the number of teams for Marble League 2018 and Ghost Plasma’s team had managed to get a promise from Jelle that if they could get together a marble sports team, they would be allowed to compete in the 2018 Marble League Qualifiers.
Ghost Plasma had not been expecting much from the mine trip. They were mainly there to get away from their poor start to Marble Rally 2017 and as a publicity opportunity for the Plasma brand. Fearo and the rest of the mining crew showed Ghost Plasma around the flower displays and then took them down the mine. While on the mine tour, Ghost Plasma noticed something about this group of marbles – they were physically strong from their job, they were competitive as seen by their racing through the tunnels, and their floral arrangements showed off their precision.
When Ghost Plasma got back to the surface, they excitedly rolled back to their manager – they had found the future Team Plasma.
After the prize-giving, Ghost Plasma called the miners to one side. They knew something big must have been happening as a lot of official marbles in Plasma branding were also present. Ghost Plasma explained to them that they had been looking for a group of marbles to form a Marble League team and that they were impressed by what they had seen that day and so was offering them the opportunity to become the official Team Plasma.
The five marbles huddled together. They loved their job in the mines and had never considered marble sports before. On the other hand, marble sports competitions would allow them to travel around Marblearth. Ghost seemed reluctant as they had never liked the spotlight, but ultimately were convinced to join as the reserve member. They rolled back to Ghost Plasma and told them they would do it. After the team signed a lot of paperwork, Ghost Plasma rolled back to the stage and declared:
“Marbles young and old, may I present to you the newest and best Marble League team: the Plasma Group’s very own Team Plasma!”
The next week the new members of Team Plasma arrived at the Plasma Franchise’s headquarters in the heart of Fantum, home to their state-of-the-art training facilities. Expecting to be met by Ghost Plasma and the board of directors of the Franchise, the team was surprised to see the main lobby fairly empty apart from a young, slightly nervous-looking marble named Cell.
“I had just finished a degree in statistics at the University of Fantum (Go Phantoms!) and managed to get a job with the Plasma Group” revealed Cell, who I managed to catch up with at Marble League 2018.
“I’d always dreamed of working in marble sports but was never much of an athlete. When I was in high school, one of my friends on the Collision team was rewatching old tapes of their matches when I noticed that certain formations led to better outcomes. I started to voraciously watch all matches from the past 25 years and came up with a statistical model for Collision formations which I gleefully presented to the coach. I successfully increased our team’s performance by 47% and won a scholarship to UoF for my work.
I got the job with the Plasma Group after a recommendation from my professor and was hired as more of a behind-the-scenes type person, analyzing the performances of Ghost Plasma and planning strategies for success in the Marble Rally. As I was settling into my desk on my first day, the managers of the franchise arrived at my desk—not something you want when you’ve just arrived!—and told me I was being put in charge of the new Team Plasma. This was unexpected, but I didn’t want to make a bad first impression so I accepted. What they failed to mention was there was no management team—it was just me! Plus they still expected me to work on the strategy for Ghost Plasma as well! I tried to give the fledgling team as much time as I could, but it was nowhere near what I would have liked.”
Despite the underwhelming arrival party, the new Team Plasma were astonished at the quality of the facility and had high hopes for the start of their training.
Unfortunately for them, the promised team of coaches never arrived with the Franchise more focused on trying to turn around Ghost Plasma’s Sand Marble Rally season than training the inexperienced team.
“We had these massive, modern training facilities to ourselves. It was amazing,” reminisced Ecto. “We were expecting someone there to help us train—we were miners, we had no idea how to prepare for a sporting competition—but most days we were left to ourselves. Cell did their best and we became good friends with them, but they were a statistician, not a coach. We made the most of it and had fun training for all sorts of events. I now understand why marbles land in the sand when jumping over objects rather than just crashing into the walls of a tunnel, it’s much softer!”
Over the next few months, the team tried their best to adequately prepare for the Qualifiers despite the lack of support from the Plasma Franchise.
“When we signed up, we didn’t realize it would be a Winter edition of the games, and everyone just assumed we knew! I guess we must have missed that announcement whilst in the mines. Three weeks before the Qualifiers, Cell managed to find a brief bit of time to visit us and asked us why we had not been training on the ice. The reality of the nature of the Qualifiers came crashing down on us at that moment. We tried our best to prepare for events on the ice in the few remaining weeks we had. It is warm down the mine so we hadn’t interacted much with ice. I didn’t even realize Curling was a sport! When Cell told me it was going to be in the Qualifiers, I assumed they were making up the sport as a joke!” Phanto exclaimed.
Despite their lack of formal training, Team Plasma arrived at the Arctic Circle as ready as they could be for the Qualifiers and the team was sorted into Group C.
The Qualifiers started as poorly as they could have for the new team. They were put against the Limers in the first match of Event 1, Curling. For the first half of the match, Team Plasma managed to match the Limers in points. Unfortunately for them, Gloomo failed to knock Slimelime out of the target. This was followed by Phanto overshooting the target, ending up behind it, and handing the match to the Limers. As they scored the fewest points out of the teams that lost their matches, Team Plasma finished the event in last place.
“We always knew Curling would be difficult as we had never experienced anything like it. It wasn’t the start we wanted, but we are a resilient team and we weren’t going to let one setback hold us back.”
The next event was the Snow Race. During Group A and B’s runs, the weather started to take a turn for the worse. By the time Fearo stepped out onto the starting line, it was somehow simultaneously snowing, raining, and hailing. An air of nervousness hung over even the most experienced competitors as visibility rapidly declined. Fearo somehow managed to stay near the front of the pack for the first part of the race, slipping and sliding their way into the lead. Then disaster struck.
“I was doing my best to get down the course, I’ve never been so cold in my life. Visibility was really poor due to the weather, but I kept pushing ahead. I was fairly certain I was in the lead as I think I passed Anarchy of the Balls of Chaos. And then next thing I know I had stopped, and I felt marbles collide into the back of me. I must have hit a hidden snowbank. Everyone seemed confused and slightly worried due to the worsening weather. Thankfully it didn’t take long for the officials to rescue us from the course and get us somewhere warm. After discussion among the officials, it was decided that they would not make us redo the race and points would be awarded based on the distance to the finish line meaning I had won. I felt slightly relieved – I’m not sure I could have held onto the lead if we’d kept going. Some of the other competitors grumbled a little, but all I wanted to do was get back to my team and get us focused for the next event, especially now we were in third overall.”
Despite Fearo’s optimism, Team Plasma would continue to do poorly. A seventh-place finish in the 5 Meter Ice Dash for Ecto and a further last-place finish for the team in the Halfpipe sealed their fate of finishing seventh overall in Group C. Team Plasma would watch Marble League 2018 from the stands.
“Of course, we were disappointed,” said Gloomo dejectedly. “We knew we were unlikely to qualify, but we still had hope. At least it allowed us to explore the pine forests of the taiga. They’re so different to the forests around Fantum.”
Team Plasma returned for the Consolation Race, a Sand Rally course for those who had failed to qualify for the Marble League which was held at the same time as the Sand Marble Rally 2018 Qualifiers, allowing them to spend some time with their patron, Ghost Plasma. Despite their recently qualified patron watching on from the stands, Ecto could only manage a ninth-place finish. A month later Fearo competed in the 100 Meter Water Race and finished 12th out of 27.
“I felt better about that performance. Unlike the Marble League Winter events, a water race was something we had experience in. I think I managed to make our small number of fans proud.”
Unknown to them at the time, the team’s final performance together came in the final off-season event, the Amazing Maze Marble Race. They were placed in the same group as the newly crowned Marble League champions, the Midnight Wisps. Despite their best efforts, Team Plasma was eliminated in their heat.
No one heard much from the Plasma Franchise for the rest of 2018. Ghost Plasma had another difficult season in the Sand Marble Rally. Rumors started to swirl throughout the fanbase that Team Plasma would be retiring, opening a space in the Marble League 2019 Qualifiers, giving hope to rookie teams across Marblearth that were desperate for a shot at glory.
On 01 January 2019, it was officially announced that Team Plasma had retired and the Green Ducks would be taking their place in the upcoming Marble League 2019 Qualifiers. Team Plasma was seen quietly leaving the training facility in Fantum and returning to Ionise.
“Why did we leave marble sports? There were multiple reasons” admitted Fearo. “Despite the promises and high profile of the Plasma Franchise, it was not run very well. I don’t blame Ghost Plasma or Cell, they supported us when they could and wanted us to do well; it was the management structure around them that was the problem. We came in after the massive success of Sand Marble Rally 2016. Unfortunately, Ghost Plasma struggled in 2017 and 18. The Franchise’s resources were channeled last minute into Marble Rally and we were bumped down near the bottom of the priority list. Our contact on the board of directors expected fans of marble sports to jump on board due to the success of Ghost Plasma’s previous season, putting little effort into any kind of publicity for us. I may be a sheltered miner, but even I know you need to do publicity if you want to get marbles on board with your vision. There were also a lot of behind-the-scenes disagreements about the direction of the team. Our contact on the board continued to push forward their vision, despite others who had been invested in the franchise for much longer raising serious and legitimate concerns, even when Ghost Plasma themself raised concerns. Our contact would deride and insult those most passionate about the team who were trying to give constructive feedback, categorizing them as toxic haters rather than those who were passionately dedicated to making our team the best it could be. They surrounded themselves with yes-marbles, ignoring the few dedicated fans we had in favor of a vocal minority online. We found training difficult without support, especially when all the work we put in was not acknowledged and quickly dismissed by certain individuals. Ultimately, I and the rest of the team lost morale and saw no way forward with management continuing to not address our concerns and so we unanimously decided to leave. We do wish Ghost Plasma all of the best, we are still in contact with them, but we couldn’t continue to work with them with management the way it was and change seeming less likely by the day.”
Team Plasma settled back into their jobs down the mine, feeling much more relaxed with the stress of the Plasma Franchise behind them, happy to be out of the spotlight again and ready to tend to the garden at the mine as it had fallen into neglect while they were gone.
“I read some comments around the marblebase about how Team Plasma will never return, that we are just poor quality gardening marbles that weren’t perfectly round, that had no place in marble sports,” said Ecto, sounding slightly hurt. “Well, we’re proud of who we are. We may not be the epitome of sphericalness, but each imperfection tells a story of camaraderie between our team. You’ll never be able to please everyone. We all know who we are and what we love to do and that’s good enough for us. We tried our best at something new and that’s all we could do.”
“Plus I hear we’ve gained a bit of a cult following in the marblebase,” added Phanto. “Some are calling for us to return. We’re happy to be out of the limelight for now. We did enjoy our time in marble sports, nearly as much as a nice topiary, but I would now officially list it as something I enjoy. We may return if we feel ready. Plus, Ghost Plasma defied management and kindly let us keep the Team Plasma name so if we did return we wouldn’t have to rebrand.”
After over a year out of the gaze of the public, Team Plasma eventually returned to the world of marble sports. The team had been invited to compete in the Herbotamia Tournament Reunion at the Minty Maniacs’ Pepper Field in Chlorotopia, alongside all of the original Hubelino Tournament teams as well as the Yarble Yellers and the Grape Nuts. Their invitation was in line with the original spirit of the Herbotamia Tournament as a local competition as Fantum is fairly close to Herbotamia. The Reunion was a closed event, with only family, friends, and select journalists in attendance, all of whom signed an NDA before entering the stadium, so the results are unknown to all but a select few marbles.
I asked Ghost how the tournament had gone.
“It went well,” they said. “I enjoyed competing for the team rather than watching from the sidelines.” Ghost then promptly rolled away into the Chlorotopian night.
The five members of Team Plasma returned to Ionise, content with their lives, happy to have the stability of their regular job while also able to compete in marble sports when the opportunity arose. Their next opportunity to compete came sooner than expected when an invitation arrived from the Midnight Wisps.
“We had just finished the plan for the annual Halloween ghost tour of the mine when Ghost appeared out of nowhere, as they often do, with a letter” revealed Fearo. “It was for a new competition called Midnight Melee, hosted by the Midnight Wisps. It would be in Helarve and would be broadcast around the world on CMM.”
“As with all decisions, the five of us gathered together to discuss our options,” Phanto added. “We were still slightly jaded by our experience with the Franchise, and I know I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a public appearance. We’d had such a great time at the Herbotamia Reunion and had only agreed to go as it was behind closed doors and away from the public. After about an hour of discussion of the pros and cons, we decided that to fully move on we couldn’t let the baggage of the past hold us back and that a public appearance as an independent Team Plasma would help us to fully realize our identities as marble sports athletes.”
“Plus all the events will be held at night, and we love being in the dark.” chipped in Ghost.
There was one hurdle they had to overcome before being allowed to compete in Midnight Melee: they needed to have a coach. There was only one marble they trusted for the role.
“When Fearo called me up asking if I would return as the coach of the team, I was initially skeptical,” admitted Cell. “I hadn’t been able to be there for the team when the Plasma Group unexpectedly thrust the role upon me, but I was flattered the team wanted me to return, especially after their not-so-stellar performance in the Marble League 2018 Qualifiers. I also quit the Group around the same time as Team Plasma, for the same reasons a lot of people quit—ongoing unresolved management issues. I initially felt bad about quitting as I had invested so much of myself into the franchise, but it only took me a week or so to realize how much better I felt away from the toxic environment. I immediately got a new job applying my statistics knowledge to the social platforms of an online streamer and have never felt better. To make up for the lack of marble sports in my life, I helped to create the largest online fan-made encyclopedia on marble sports which I hear even Jelle themself visits. But being a coach for my friends a couple of times a year scratched the sporting itch more than a website ever could so I accepted.”
The five marbles and Cell arrived in Helarve, nervous about their first public sporting appearance since 2018. Waves of nerves and excitement swept through the team as they rolled into the Clock Coliseum as seas of fans clad in red chanted their name.
“The rumors online were true—we had somehow attracted a large cult following despite being hidden away underground, and they came out in droves to support us” revealed Ecto after the tournament, welling up at the thought of the dedication of strangers to their more obscure team.
Team Plasma had a strong start to the competition, with Gloomo winning the team’s first-ever public medal, a bronze, in Funnel Endurance; and the team was still in third overall at the end of the first night of competition. The team didn’t manage to win any further medals throughout their time in Helarve but continued to put together strong top-half performances throughout a range of different events, many new to the team such as a long-distance race at the Midnight Bay Circuit. During the competition, Ghost Plasma appeared as the guest of honor to test-run the first event of the third night: the Nature Run. After that night’s events, the whole team got to spend the rest of the evening catching up with the Marble Rally champion, who revealed that they too felt much better now they were competing as an independent marble, disbanding the Plasma Group after finally realizing how corrupted their brand had become by others.
Despite the range of new events, Team Plasma performed strongly enough throughout the competition to finish second behind the Midnight Wisps and ahead of the Pumpkin Patch. As Team Plasma ascended the podium, tears streamed from their eyes.
“If you told me five years ago I would have been on the podium of a marble sports tournament that was broadcast around the world, I would have asked if you’d not been wearing your hardhat and smacked your head on a low-hanging stalactite,” said Gloomo. “Despite our nerves at a return to the public sphere, we gave it our all and succeeded, even in the dreaded Ice Hockey. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Fearo as terrified as they were seeing ice again. We’re still going to keep marble sports as a hobby, but who knows—maybe this is the start of a new sporting era for us.”
Once more Team Plasma returned to the known comfort of the mines and their garden, dreaming of their next chance to compete while also being grateful that they could do so on their terms. That opportunity came when a letter arrived at the Ionise Mine from the Minty Maniacs inviting them to return to the Herbotamia Tournament. Having enjoyed the previous year’s Reunion tournament so much, Team Plasma agreed to return for the 2021 Invitational edition, this time facing seven other teams: the Balls of Flame, the Black Jacks, the Gliding Glaciers, the Grape Nuts, the Solar Flares, the Valiant Violets, and the Yarble Yellers. This year the tournament opened back up to the public and had a mysterious hooded guest in attendance.
The first event was Balancing, an event the team knew they were good at thanks to their many times rolling across small ledges in caves. The unknown Solar Flares stunned everyone with an opening run of 423 cm. Team Plasma rolled their hardest, managing 380 cm, enough for second but well behind the Solar Flares.
“This is better than the ice events. We’re much more comfortable with events that don’t require frozen water. Bring on the funnels!” panted Gloomo as they rolled back from their Balancing run.
Gloomo swirled round and round as well as they could in the Funnels, finishing solidly in the middle of the pack, in fourth.
Fearo was chosen to compete for the team in the next event, the Sprint.
“I love sprinting. It’s much better than an Ice Dash. The lanes are like the tunnel walls and help me to focus on going in a straight line. I’ve beaten the others down the tunnels so many times, I know I can do well.”
Fearo easily cleared their heat, firing as straight as an arrow down their lane and into the final. They then lined up against the Solar Flares, the Gliding Glaciers, and the Yarble Yellers. As soon as the starting gun rang out across the stadium, Fearo was off. They zoomed past their competition, crossing the line in first and setting a new personal best, moving the team into third place overall.
“I’m starting to see why people love marble sports so much—it’s pure adrenaline. I feel much freer outside the constraints of the franchise when everything is on our terms.”
The team had high hopes for the fourth event, Collision. After all of their collisions with everything from rock faces to each other, they were sure they would do well. However, in the largest shock of the competition, Team Plasma lost to the Valiant Violets in the opening round, ending up in seventh place.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Ecto, sounding slightly dazed. “We crashed into them as hard as we could and the next thing I remember is smashing through a barrier onto the floor. Maybe the sport has moved on since Cell’s original model. I know we tried our best and that’s all we can do.”
The final event was a marathon-style event around Minty Mania. Phanto tried their best but didn’t have the stamina for long-distance racing. During the race they had a large collision with Salvia of the Valiant Violets, knocking them off the track as they went around the banked curve.
“I know I am fairly strong, but I did not expect them to go that far,” Phanto admitted rather sheepishly. “As soon as the race was over, I went to check in with them. They seemed a little bruised but were OK and happy to be competing at all.”
Phanto finished seventh in the race, putting Team Plasma in fourth overall. The five friends watched the Solar Flares, Gliding Glaciers, and Yarble Yellers ascend the podium when the mysterious disguised guest revealed themselves to be Jelle Bakker. Jelle offered a place in the Marble League 2021 Qualifiers to the gold and silver medalists, the Solar Flares, and the Gliding Glaciers. All of Team Plasma were rolling around in joy and yelling at the announcement.
“We were so happy for them,” yelled Fearo. “We know what an honor it is to be allowed to compete in a Marble League and you could see from their faces how much it meant to them. I know that we’ll all be cheering for them from underground.”
In RetRollSpective, Team Plasma was a short-lived experiment in franchising who never expected to be marble sports athletes. They gave it their all and were content with their effort, even though they lacked success. Despite their critics, they are confident in who they are and what they enjoy and are happy to keep moving forward, whether in marble sports or not. Best of luck to whatever they decide to do in the future, and keep on rolling.