AoW 10 – Terrain
Welcome to the exploration into Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Yes, you and I are about to delve into passages of a new chapter each article of the 2500 year old military treatise on how to kick ass and take names with your
brain thumbs. I won’t be covering the entire chapter, but I strongly encourage you to go out and read the book for yourself. There is much, much more to be learned from every line.
CHAPTER 10: TERRAIN
I’m only covering the first half of the chapter. The second half covers some advice for leadership and other random tidbits. I am going to use an overarching scenario of playing a match of Rumble. I feel that Rumble provides the greatest variety in terrain usage as the mode plays because of how spread out engagements are. There are more sightlines, places for cover, and kills on the map that in other modes are not as frequently explored or used successfully/efficiently. Obviously, the concepts below can be translated into other modes, but they occur on much more established terms.
We may distinguish six types of terrain, to wit:
1. Accessible ground
2. Entangling ground
3. Temporizing ground
4. Narrow passes
5. Precipitous heights
6. Positions at a great distance from the enemy
Sun Tzu kicks off the chapter by presenting us with six classifications of terrain. Terrain can be defined as the ground in which we find ourselves engaging on and around. This includes objects, both natural and man-made.
Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is called accessible.
The best example of accessible ground is flat, open space. It’s the center lane in Widow’s Court or A to C outside Burning Shrine. You both start in the open, you have to travel though the open, and there’s little to no cover. The entire point of moving through open space is to move to a more advantageous position. If you find yourself in the open against an opponent, you need to either turn tail and run or hope you can outgun your opponent. Mutual accessible ground is the classic 50/50 situation. And if you’ve learned anything by now, it’s that you don’t want to let things be decided by a coin flip. Move to a position of power and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called entangling.
This is my personal favorite form of terrain. The best example I can think of for this is B point on Asylum. Once you lock down that position, and know how to control/anticipate the spawns, you’re nearly unstoppable. Almost every entrance is a choke point or places you in a vulnerable, exposed position. The problem with this area is if/when you die, it is a huge mountain to climb if anyone competent takes it over. Often times I will abandon the zone altogether if this happens, as there are plenty of other locations to score kills, just none as convenient. Sniper nests are similar locales.
An interesting point to note here is the use of the word “abandoned”. You can always run from a fire fight or leave your position if it gets compromised, whether that be from grenade spam, pressure, or just a sniper’s anticipation of your location. When sniping, especially in 3v3s, I always advise never remaining on the same line more than 3 kills in a row. This is because your opponent(s) become more and more aware of your location every time, making it increasingly risky. Again, our goal is to minimize risk and maximize return. Just know whether or not that location is entangled ground or not. If it is, get your 3 kills and move on. If not, be plan a counter attack to retake your position of power. Always have a plan.
When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, it is called temporizing ground.
Classic stalemate, which occurs much more often at long range. Another common location for temporizing ground is if both sides funnel into a choke point. The perfect example of this is the tunnels on Thieves’ Den. Why would you run down the tunnel when you can just snipe someone instead? These locations are especially problematic in Rumble since they negatively impact your kills per second. The key to Rumble is to first establish control of a zone and then to aggressively seek out opponents to finish the game quickly. Smart aggression is king here.
With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy.
Nine times out of ten, the first sniper to the line wins. (S)he’s already hardscoped on you giving them that much more advantage to hit that headshot. If you’re the loser of the race, you either need to get creative with your positioning (sliding, skating, blinking past the line) or simply abandon the attack and choose a new angle of approach. On the other side of the coin, if you win the race, you need to be patient. So many times I’ve actually died despite getting to the line first (Titan skating!) but giving up my scope because no one has showed up for longer than I anticipated. By the time I see them, I’ve given up the advantage and turn my 80/20 into a 40/60 since they’re ending up scoped before me.
With regard to precipitous heights, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him to come up. If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away.
Again, win the race and you win the engagement. As a shotgunner, if you put yourself atop a platform (hello Widow’s Court tower) before your enemy arrives, you have the high ground and all the benefits that come with that. Same thing goes for moving through a tunnel and breaching the halfway point. Wait for them to blip on radar and kneepads/blink to victory. Remember, it has not exactly been human nature to expect danger from above. Using blink to generate a vertical flank is, and will always be, incredibly effective.
Conversely, if your opponent has the high ground and you know they’re there, simply don’t show up. A position of power has no power if there’s no one to exert that power over. Rumble matches go quickly and spawns are fast and furious. If you can’t approach a location, simply don’t. Turn around, find another enemy, and engage on more favorable terms. Force the opponent to come to you and give up their high ground advantage. Pounce on their mistakes and take the position for yourself.
If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, it is not easy to provoke a battle, and fighting will be to your disadvantage.
This concept of terrain is much better suited for non-Rumble matches, since spawns are generally close to opponents. However, let’s take Widow’s Court for example. Snipers at A point are looking into heavy courtyard/cathedral. Snipers in cathedral are looking into courtyard/A stairs/apartments. Both of these positions are relatively safe. And the courtyard leading up to A stairs/apartments is a deathtrap. So neither team really wants to make the first move, and for good reason, you’re equally matched and there’s no real reason to stop hardscoping those lines. This is why you either flank through B side heavy or heavily grenade just past the wall/back of A.
Force the enemy to give up their position and move in for the kill. Knowing this, the key word in Sun Tzu’s statement is “equal”. Skill/weapon loadout is the great unequalizer and this is why you see more skilled teams push these positions but still be successful. At no point was the enemy on equal footing. Patience during distance only really applies for evenly matched teams. You see this a lot more during sweaty matches.
These are the six principles connected with Earth. The general who has attained a responsible post must be careful to study them.