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.


This is it, ladies and gents, the cornerstone chapter of The Art of War. This chapter is the equivalent of 3 or 4 other chapters combined, and for good reason: Sun Tzu basically states there are only nine major situations, or ground, warriors and commanders find themselves on. This chapter is a culmination of our learning thus far and because of its depth, I apologize in advance for not covering everything. If you own the book and only decide to read through one chapter, this is my recommendation. Without further ado, let’s get to it.


The art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground:

1) Dispersive

2) Facile

3) Contentious

4) Open

5) Ground of intersecting highways

6) Serious

7) Difficult

8) Hemmed-in

9) Desperate

Big list, let’s break them down.


When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is dispersive ground.

This is aptly named because of soldiers’ propensity to disperse and abandon ship because of their proximity to their friends, family, and home. This is mirrored in Destiny control matches by unorganized groups. I’ve observed that players are less apt to defend the captured points than to rush neutral points or aggressively push enemy ones.


When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no great distance, it is facile ground.

Facile ground is the concept that Fizzor preaches time and time again. It’s something I practice as well, and excellent control players use it to their advantage. Facile ground is the location where you can push into an enemy team without flipping the spawns. The most important thing to note about facile ground is that you can always retreat, and in most cases should, back to your own territory. Poke around, cause some havoc, then pull back to do it again.


Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to either side, is contentious ground.

Chokes, bridges, high ground, B point. These are all examples of positions of power on nearly every map. Control these zones and watch the points rack up. Lose them and prepare your butt to head to orbit with an L on your card.


Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open ground.

Open ground, while inherently fair, should only be used for the purposes of travel, not confrontation. Remember, our goal is still to give yourself the best chance to succeed.


Ground which forms the key to three contiguous states, so that he who occupies it first has most of the Empire at his command, is a ground of intersecting highways.

I believe that B point and the hotspots surrounding it are grounds of intersecting highways. These hotspots are definitely more pronounced in Rumble, as once you control one of those short hallways or high ground areas, you can command a large portion of the map. In Destiny, I believe this is the least likely ground to encounter during your stroll through the Crucible.


When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving a number of fortified cities in its rear, it is serious ground.

Serious ground is when you’ve pushed into the enemy spawn and subsequently swapped them. You’ve gone too far to turn back now and your best option now is to just take the point in front of you. In Control, and less frequently in Clash, spawn swapping can be a major pain in the rear. Especially if you’re the type of player, like myself, who fills a more support oriented, zone control role. Swapping spawns instantly destroys any sort of zone you’ve set up and forced you out of position. To combat this inevitable turn of events, and trust me it always happens when you play solo, you need to be extra vigilant about noting where your teammates are at all times and be willing to abandon ship when the time comes.


Mountain forests, rugged steeps, marshes and fens – all country that is hard to traverse: this is difficult ground.

Pretty much all of Memento comes to mind here. That map is a challenge to move through successfully. Most times I play it comes down to sniper battles down the mid lane and shotgun battles in the zone between heavies. I like the flow of the map, but it’s hard to get a handle on how it’s going to play out team to team.


Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and from which we can only retire by tortuous paths, so that a small number of the enemy would suffice to crush a large body of our men: this is hemmed-in ground.

Three guys trying to run through Burning Shrine windows only to get pinched from the front and the flank. Enough said.


Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate ground.

This is my personal favorite ground to find myself in. Gunfights where you’re outnumbered and surrounded. These are the situations that test your physical aptitude and mental fortitude. When I force myself into these spaces I fail. A lot. My K/D tanks, I get weary on multiple levels, and it can take a toll on me. However, when I do manage to make the clutch plays, it makes it a little easier every next time to keep my cool and come out on top. I love the feeling I get when I manage a stream of wrecking balls and can only imagine how demoralized Trials teams we face become knowing that they face a juggernaut.


On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy’s way. On ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies. On serious ground, gather in plunder. In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate ground, fight.

Just a couple observations. First, dispersive ground should be moved away from. Play passively in contested zones, not controlled zones. Don’t fight on open ground. Intersecting highways are places you should bring friends. Be tricky when assaulting or defending hemmed-in ground.


Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew how to drive a wedge between the enemy’s front and rear.

Divide and conquer is a classic tactic. One that has transcended generations and seen the rise and fall of entire empires. This is because it just works. Cut off the head from the body and you can watch both writhe and squirm in confusion. Remember our prior lesson on fronts and flanks? Divide and conquer is the result of such a tactic.

I think a large part of finding success as a shot caller or leader is having empathy for your enemy. You remember what it was like being completely picked apart by a particular strategy. When you attempt to utilize that yourself, always keep in mind how your enemy might be feeling. What lines can they take to escape? How can you thwart that? Proper command and critical thinking is multi-layered and nuanced. Do what your opponent thinks you won’t. Do what you know you shouldn’t only because your opponent expects you to counter their strategy. It’s a nested doll that just gets deeper and deeper the more mind games each contestant is willing to play.


Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.

If you haven’t noticed this already, with Sun Tzu, speed is everything. Speed shows mastery, speed shows control, speed shows dominance. Given enough time, anyone can get a sniper headshot. Few can quickscope an Arc Blade out of the sky. That’s impressive. Get in, get out, get it done in record time. This doesn’t just apply to your gameplay but also your growth as a player. When it comes down to want to improve, focus on the things you can get done quickly to get results. Ember caves runs for sniping are great initially: you get a feel for your weapon, the heaviness of a scope, the timing of a drag shot. Once you have the fundamentals, though, you need to take that knowledge into the Crucible and build upon them. It doesn’t matter if you’re terrible at first, keep at it and with good habits you will find some modicum of success.


The skillful tactician may be likened to the shuai-jan [Chinese snake]…Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.

Serpents are notoriously crafty, quick, and deadly. You need to be the same. Those players you come across that just seem to hit you from all angles and never go down themselves? Message them a GG, friend them after a match, and see if you can pick their brain, or at the very least play a couple games with them. I can’t speak for everyone, but if someone were to do this to me, I would be more than happy to gush about strategy and tactics to help get them on a higher level. I think other players in this community are in a similar place.


Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety. For it precisely when a force has fallen into harm’s way that is capable of striking a blow for victory.

All swords are made in the fire of the forge.


At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you.