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.


I am covering the final two chapters this article, as they are both incredibly short.


CHAPTER 12: ATTACK BY FIRE


I am going to frame Sun Tzu’s use of fire as a parallel to a Guardian’s use of grenades, supers, and heavy, as well as certain tactics you can perform to have similar results. My reasoning behind this is thus: the tactical use of fire is something that goes above and beyond the normal rules of engagement. It is a tool that can be used to create unique situations or solve otherwise difficult problems. The three items I listed serve a similar purpose.

 

There are five ways of attacking with fire. The first is to burn soldiers in their camp; the second is to burn stores; the third is to burn baggage trains; the fourth is to burn arsenals and magazines; the fifth is to hurl dropping fire amongst the enemy.

“Burn/Smoke them out” is a phrase that is commonplace among Hollywood interpretations of war as well as a legitimate, efficient strategy. If you find your opponents entrenched in a difficult to assault position, bombarding them with grenades, supers, or rockets is a fantastic way to annihilate rats in a nest. Even if these things do not immediately kill the enemy, they will most likely abandon the area to save their own skin, allowing you to set up shop in the same terrain.

Fire can also create virtual pinches or flanks given proper coordination. Burn them out of the location, then pick them off from multiple angles as they attempt to escape. The effectiveness of your usage of fire depends on the situation. Sometimes it will be a tool for destruction, others for deterrent. Popping your super for a damage reduction shield to prevent death is just as useful as becoming the fiery love child of Apollo and Hephaestus during the Iliad.

A tactic you can use in place of fire is the destruction of ammunition. This involves resource starvation through diligent control of as many special and heavy caches as you can. Even if you have maxed out clips of special and heavy, you should still be denying that from your enemy as often as possible. Holding on to your first super for heavy spawn, even if you get it long before your opponents build theirs’, can turn an entire match around.

 

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.

I think a big reason why I’ve enjoyed studying Sun Tzu is because it complements my style of flanking/map rotations. My interpretation of the text has opened my eyes to even more assertive play and nearly doubled my k/d in nearly every mode since I first loaded up the Crucible on my Titan.

It isn’t just about being patient. It’s about critically thinking about why you do what you do and giving you the vocabulary to be able to properly explain that to someone else. Also, it’s all about being able to both recognize your opponents’ mistakes and being able to properly capitalize on them. It really isn’t until you get to the highest levels of play can you no longer play off your opponents’ eventual imperfections. Let’s face it, not all of us are cut out to be at that level, so you might as well utilize every advantage you can.


CHAPTER 13: THE USE OF SPIES


This chapter doesn’t make many good connections to Destiny, if any at all, so I am not going to provide any quotes. It was an interesting read into Sun Tzu’s proposed importance of spies on the success of an army, although not without a decent helping of skepticism from a spy’s report given the proclivity of such a role.

I will, however, make a few observations concerning the importance of intelligence gathering to better formulate a plan, given the ability to check loadouts in orbit, as well as its role in the sweaty community.

First, every competitive community I’ve been involved in has put a large emphasis on hiding key information from opponents. Teams practice strategies in secret, pro players use certain picks or loadouts as a surprise in official competition, scrims are sometimes seen as opportunities for creativity and experimentation. This is no different among the sweaty community. While there is a hive mind of information generally accepted as “good”, aka the meta, I’m sure there are plenty of serious matches that take place in which a player pulls out a non-meta weapon and has a decent amount of success with it given the surprise factor. The upper echelons of competition tend to become inbred with strategies and counter strategies, and it almost always trickles down to the masses below for dissection and dissenting opinions. By the time the average Joe sees that the Messenger is overpowered, it may be that the higher tier players have already moved on to a counter weapon or strategy nullifying its advantage.

Given the ease of the ability to gather information and intelligence in today’s day and age, although the average player may be weeks behind in terms of development, it’s not as if that player doesn’t have the resources to keep up with the front lines of the meta.

Second, in Destiny specifically, you are able to check your opponents’ loadouts prior to the game even beginning. This creates an interesting mini-game before even beginning round one just based on how you can best formulate a plan to combat your opponents’ plan. Imagine if you were unable to check your opponents’ weapon loadout, class, etc. at any point. How would you have to adapt? How differently would the games play out if you didn’t know what was going on until the first grenade was thrown or the first shot fired? Would it be too late at that point to alter your own loadout? It is for those reasons that I love watching blind pick matches. The games you must play with your opponents come down to an intimate understanding of a team or individual’s tendency toward a strategy.

Third, let’s build further on the point of gaining an intimate understanding of your opponent. As we have read time and time again, Sun Tzu believed that knowing your opponent was the greatest avenue to securing victory. I am inclined to agree. If you already know the hand that the opponent was dealt, you have the intelligence to formulate a way to break that hand and turn it into something useless or even a detriment. Constantly scrimming against the same or similar teams in sweaties allows you to do this. If you know what your opponents’ tendencies or comfort levels/picks are, you can counter them. Occasionally you can take them away completely. The danger, however, lies in such tight knit communities becoming inbred with strategies.

Just because a high level team or individual finds success with a specific tactic or strategy, doesn’t mean it is ideal for the long term, or even the best option for you.

Yes, we’ve all seen the guys who absolutely melt people with Fusion Rifles. Hell, I’ve found myself doing the same thing lately. However, I recognize the strengths and weaknesses of such a loadout, and know that if I were to take that same strategy into Trials against certain teams, I would be the one getting melted nonstop.


TLW:

Thanks for reading the series, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The final AoW article is a wrap-up/debriefing and high level recap of The Art of War with a few of my major takeaway points.