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 4: TACTICAL DISPOSITIONS


The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy. Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.

A lengthy beginning to our investigation, but I couldn’t see myself breaking it into pieces beforehand. Sometimes you just need to see the whole before you can digest the pieces.

Sun Tzu starts by describing what was once considered a “good fighter”. I would argue that if you are on this sub and reading this article right now, you are also a “good fighter”. Putting one’s self beyond the possibility of defeat is a simple enough concept that we’ve covered many times: find what works for you and exploit that over and over again to the best of your ability. Good with Thorn/Blink Shotty? Do it. TLW/Sniper? Pulse/Fusion Rifle? NLB? Auto Rifle? Here’s a piece of advice that should resonate with you: the metagame is the metagame because it exists at the highest level and filters down to the masses. You are not handicapping yourself by playing off the meta and being successful. You are handicapping yourself by playing off-meta and expecting to reach the upper echelons. Playing high level League of Legends has taught me this one lesson over and over again. And that meta rotates as quickly as once every several weeks. You either exploit your strengths in your current bracket or accept the meta and master it before trying to counter it to move higher up.

When he goes on to say that the enemy provides their defeat, he means something that you’ve undoubtedly done day in and day out: exploit the mistakes of others. You might not be the best, but when someone blindly rounds a corner you’re covering with a shotgun/sniper, you take advantage of that. When someone misses 6 of their 8 TLW shots, you take advantage of that. When a Bladedancer decides it’s a good idea to run straight into you, a Supercharged Titan, YOU. TAKE. ADVANTAGE.

When you’re good, you have to keep in mind that it isn’t enough to be able to not lose, you need to be able to find a secure the win. It’s subtle, but a substantial change in mindset.

You’re good. You know it, your friends know it. But what you don’t know, most of the time, is why you’re good. You can win, but it’s intuitive, you’ve never examined the how.

 

Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.

Turtling/camping is a viable strategy. There. I said it. However, a defensive playstyle doesn’t win you games, it just helps you to not lose them. This is a concept that I learned very early on when I began learning how to play Limited in Magic the Gathering. It was a lesson that I not only took to heart, but worked my best to mentor other drafters-to-be at the shops I would frequent. Too often you see players (although not a ton in Destiny due to the nature of the Shotgun meta) sit in one place, hardscoping a single line, all game. It is where they are most comfortable and reasonably successful. This isn’t, however, because you’re good at it. On the contrary, if you find yourself winning in defensive positions, you are just taking advantage of your opponent’s stupidity and impatience. Play against any team worth their salt and you will just die to their assaults over and over again. Bluffs, feints, flanks: there are many tools in an offensively-minded player’s arsenal that can pick you apart.

 

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.

The WarBulletproofs. The AEGabriels. The Luminositys. The players who you see absolutely demolish players. Not just in a montage, but day in, day out, like it’s their job. Who runs the world? They do. They take the meta and highlight just how disgusting it can become, only to silently laugh at you when you look like a toddler running around with a pair of scissors as you try and copycat them. Don’t get it twisted, this isn’t about winning with style. It’s about finding the shortest distance between 0 to winning and perfecting that strategy. You call it cheap, no-skill, bullshit – whatever. I call you scrubs. And if you’re not playing to win, and adhering to some sort “moral code” of not using what is good, you are actively wasting your time and stunting your growth. In short, and this is blunt and I do not apologize for it, you are morons. You don’t chop down a tree with a rusty spoon. You aren’t a “better person” winning a game with your spoon when I am crushing you into dust with my chainsaw. Don’t be a novelty.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a game and I am still in it to have fun. However, when it comes to wanting to improve and be competitive, fun is winning. This isn’t for people hugging their Shadow Price and 77 Wizard to death. If you’re that good off-meta, I can only imagine how unstoppable you would be on it. And I’m glad you’re not so you continue to give me free Trials wins.

 

He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.

Unbroken. Bulletproof. These are the marks of the truly great. You didn’t just get lucky, you executed your opponent with impunity. You make mistakes every game. EVERY. GAME. You get one of these marks, and I guarantee you if you go back and look at the film, you can see at least 3 things you could’ve done better. And if you can’t see them? Send them to someone like me!


TLW:

Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has already been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.