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 3: ATTACK BY STRATAGEM


This week’s chapter is absolutely chock full of practical tactics to adopt in the Crucible. As such, this is going to be a little longer than usual, but no less thought-provoking. Take it slow.

 

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

You know how sometimes you enter into a match and realize you’ve already lost? That should be your ultimate goal for achieving victory in the Crucible, and more philosophically, in life. Win with little to no resistance. Obviously that statement is going to mean very different things to very different people. Without going down the rabbit hole of ethics and morality, while winning is our goal, it is the ease in how we win that we should strive for. That’s why you’re reading this article right now. That’s why you spent 150+ motes or 400 hours trying to  get the perfect sniper/shotgun roll. You want to win and you want it to be easier than turning on your console in the first place.

I’ve been in my fair share of Trials matches against streamers. I’ve had my teammates cower in fear in orbit while they gush about their accomplishments. And, sometimes, I’ve gone Super Saiyan and taken little Kakarot to school. You cannot let your enemies beat you into submission before you’ve even lifted a finger in resistance. You cannot let yourself be intimidated out of competition. This is not the spirit you need to possess to win. And if you find yourself in this position time in and time out, I highly suggest you either adjust your attitude or lower your level of competition. As in, yes, I’ll say it, quit.

But Koala, you might ask, no one likes a quitter! To which I say, if you are not giving yourself every opportunity to win, you’ve already quit. Stop wasting your time and go conquer something more worthwhile to you. There isn’t anything wrong with not being the best. Honestly, you should take pride if you have an honest assessment of yourself. But don’t Dunning-Kruger your way into an existence marred by anxiety, stress, and disappointment. It’s just not healthy.

If you’re still with me, then awesome. We need to cultivate that air of intimidation to the point that our opponents beat themselves. There are many ways to do this, so don’t get so laser focused on one method (or do, if that’s how you want to accomplish this).


Sun Tzu goes on to describe, in order, the best and worst ways to go about conquering your foe. They are:

…to balk the enemy’s plans…to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces…to attack the enemy’s army in the field…and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

To balk is similar to thwarting your enemy’s plans. The connotation of this word really evokes a complete thrashing and refusal to allow anything to continue. It still doesn’t give the point Sun Tzu is making justice. I think the way you should approach this is that you want to counter your opponent’s attack preemptively.

Sure, we’ve all heard that to win a fight, you should throw the first blow, and you should throw it hard. My argument is that that first blow should be so obliterating, that your opponent should know that what they were originally going to do was never going to work in the first place. That you were just that far ahead of them in terms of intelligence and execution. Remember chapter 1? To win, you need to THINK.

The rest ought to be common sense at this point: cut off reinforcements, win the head-to-heads, and DO NOT, FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, ATTACK AN ENTRENCHED ENEMY. THIS IS A COMMON THEME THAT I WILL BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA INTO YOUR FACE AND BRAINPARTS UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND OR DIE TRYING. /soapbox.


Sun Tzu carries on, laying out his five essentials to victory:

He will win when:

  • Who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  • Who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  • Whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
  • Who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
  • Who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

Again, all of these are pretty self-explanatory. Let’s ignore the last one for practicality’s sake (although it does bring about fun political discussion), and see that they all take practice. Or sheer raw luck and talent. Mostly practice. Winning doesn’t come over night.


TLW:

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.