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It makes plenty of sense for a unicorn whose quarry is an alicorn to come prepared to fight an alicorn. Would she have fared as well if she'd been fighting an alicorn prepared to fight a unicorn? We don't know. We don't know how much of an alicorn's magic can normally be used in a magic duel, or how much of it contributes to enhanced strength, speed, durability, size, longevity, awareness...sense of taste...You get the idea. We know that Twilight was able to get an advantage when she used physical strength and speed against Starlight. No one expects a wizard to lunge and grapple, let alone to have the physique to pull it off.
Especially with her having a backstory that her BFF was sent away to magic school for being too good. Well, where the did she go to learn all that magic?
The typical Equestrian library. It sounds crazy, but they don't seem to keep such knowledge locked away. Granted, "Twilight Time" seems to indicate that the Golden Oaks Library was treated entirely as a private residence after Twilight became a princess, if not when she first settled there. Considering how willing Twilight is to share her knowledge, I doubt she's an isolated case. A lot of instructors would be glad to teach an eager young unicorn a few things, especially if she was entirely focused on her lessons and not the opportunity to play.
Another important question to ask is: Why would Starlight be so determined to learn all that magic? The answer probably starts with her BFF's departure.
I still doubt this was the first time she crossed that line, but it's no more absurd than the lengths Twilight was prepared to travel to write a friendship report.
I keep seeing this claim, and I have to ask: Did you really need to see a montage of Starlight Glimmer sending out cards and letters day after day for years before you could accept that she'd given enough time to that one guy who apparently never tried to contact her either?
She thought she'd been discarded. Considering she never heard from him again, was she wrong? While it sounds like a good idea to have written him to make sure, it can also be considered a bad idea to chase after people who'd just walk out on you like that. Some would consider the pursuit a demonstration of the sunk cost fallacy.
Whether she did or didn't try to contact him was irrelevant to the story. The fact that matters is that he never contacted her. He moved on, as she put it, while she did everything to make sure that would never happen to her with anyone ever again, even if that meant giving up any chance to make friends for a very long time.
Since she was first introduced, Starlight Glimmer had the power to change the world. It makes the finale song's lyrics about what friends can do a little more curious.
I'm sure she has used her educational techniques before, but everyone seemed more concerned with hurting their friend's feelings. Even when her secret was revealed, ponies were still treating her as a friend who wasn't playing fair with them. It was hard to believe she was using them because...well, what was the advantage she was taking of a bunch of ponies who'd come here looking for a place in the world?
Having a place in the world. The major problem was that she'd built it on a lie and a false belief. Everything else spiraled out from that.
So what? If Starlight's interference had instead lead to a timeline in which all of the villains were able to join society as happy, contributing citizens, where Griffonstone returned to glory years earlier and all of our main characters went on to lead more fulfilling lives without their connection, would she deserve a medal? Of course not.
Changing the past is no worse than changing the present, not even when it comes to unpredictable consequences. All we know is the present we saw, not the futures that would result.
She built a community that continued even when her ideology was abandoned. People make a big deal about the reconditioning in a world with mind control spells--which she did not employ. Few of her villagers had experienced what was done to the main characters, as demonstrated by the public reassurance she had to give.
None of this makes what she did right. It does make her more qualified to adopt a life of heroics than Moondancer, and if that's why some like her better, fair enough. Me, I'm just amused because she witnessed suffering and sought to eliminate its perceived source, as did someone else with the same initials. Coincidence? You bet.