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 7: MANEUVERING


 

After [establishing harmony], comes tactical maneuvering, than which there is nothing more difficult.

(Ignore the first part, it has to do with military management between the sovereign and the general.) Establishing a foothold through movement is hard. Knowing when to move is even harder. This knowledge is the primary difference between someone who could be classified as a camper and someone classified as a [zone] controller. Campers are the snipers in Shores of Time overlooking the tunnel between B and C point the entire game. They don’t move, they trade a few kills, they’re a source of minor frustration. You know if you lose control of that rock, they’ll be there the whole game.

A controller is a person in the same area. Except after getting one or two kills, they move across to sniping C. And then down to C point sniping through the waterfall into outer A/lower B/tunnel. And then back to sniping C. And then back to B/C tunnel. Back and forth, back and forth. This is the Guardian you fear. These are the games where you feel lost, confused, and desperate as each and every angle you attempt to take gets thwarted again and again. Maybe they aren’t sniping those areas. Maybe they’re covering them with a Scout and a Shotgun. Thorn and a Fusion. Whatever. Point being, that’s the lion’s den, and it’s invite only.

We all start as campers. Every one of us. Mobility has nothing to do with camping. You can run to the same spot to die over and over again and be a camper. Camping comes with inexperience and a basic level of comfort with the area and your success in it. Controlling is what you see the pros do. They instinctively know where to push, how hard, and when to pull back. They rack up kill after kill and make it look easy. Watch carefully enough and you can see they are “camping” too. But their camping is effective and a boon to their team. Camping is a boon to yourself. Controlling is a boon to your team. The only time camping is effective is in Rumble, because it’s an individual game type. It isn’t the best strategy, but it isn’t the worst by any stretch either.

 

The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into game.

Let’s be honest here, positioning is hard. In my humble opinion, positioning is simultaneously the most valuable and most difficult skill to teach, learn, and master. Why I am even attempting to teach proper positioning without visual aids is almost asinine, but I will soldier on anyway. Once you get good at the concept of positioning, it is something you can feel. It’s very similar to the way you just know when to fire a swipe snipe. Or how you can feel how large a hitbox is. It comes with time, it comes with experience, it comes with practice. An ocean’s worth of practice.

I can tell you that the best way to learn positioning is to actually watch your vids and other good streamers. In any game you have a decent understanding of, not just Destiny. A caution about streamers: while I am sure you are already aware of this, it doesn’t hurt to say, there is a difference between a streamer who is a personality and a streamer who is a competitor. An example: if you play League of Legends, Trick2g is a personality; Meteos is a competitor. You learn from competitors. You laugh at personalities. Don’t waste your time when you’re focusing on personal growth over entertainment.

 

We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country – its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.

Occasionally, late into the weekend I hop on /r/fireteams and join a random Trials team. Most of the times they’re the ones just looking for experience or a few wins for the armor piece. Often times I find myself in the shot caller position because of my experience. Almost every time these teams squeak out a handful of wins, much to the surprise of my newfound teammates.

Why? I know the maps. I know where people die, where inexperienced players tend to get caught, and where the worst spots for me to engage are. If it’s difficult for me to push a location, it’s probably going to be impossible for someone severely lacking confidence in their own Crucible skills. I can simplify our tactics to “you cover line A, you line C, I will cover B and hover between the two providing support” or “all three of us are going to run to this place, then run to this place, then run to this place.” Novice teams need structure. They need a plan. They need you to put on their diaper, tie their binkies around their necks, and hold their hands as you cross the street.

If you and your team find yourself always losing in the clutch 9th round, wandering around lost, or never even getting a W on that scorecard, I guarantee it’s because you don’t have a solid shot caller. Your leadership is poor and your performance reflects this. Trials is a team game. Teams need captains. Someone needs to step up and fill the role, whether it be one round or all.

 

In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed. Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained.

Fun fact: if moving won’t result in an advantage over your enemy, you don’t need to. Again, refer back to our earlier discussion on camping vs. controlling. If your position is a boon to your team, you’re an A+. If your position is a boon to yourself and possibly puts your team at a disadvantage, D+ at best. Don’t let false positive results (you clutched a 1v3 yourself and came out on top) create a poor mindset or develop overly risky behaviors as the status quo.

 

Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.

This is the entire reason why I started this series in the first place. Mechanical skill will only get you so far in the Crucible, and in gaming in general. Critical thinking is what will take you to the next level and keep you relevant in the long run. Sure, learning how to quickscope headshots will help you in the short term, but the knowledge of when that skill is valuable and how to put yourself in positions where it’s easy for you to do that will be tremendous for your gaming career.


TLW:

Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. …Do not press a desperate foe too hard. Such is the art of warfare.