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 8: VARIATION IN TACTICS


 

In desperate position, you must fight.

You’re playing a solo game of clash on Anomaly. Heavy is about to spawn on A point and you’re patiently waiting for the timer to tick down. Suddenly, an Arc Blade is quickly bearing down on you. There isn’t much room to run. What should you do? Stand your ground and fight. Best case is you dodge the melee, get a shotgun blast+melee off or a quickscope and come out unscathed. Maybe you just try to trade. Maybe you get them low enough for a teammate to finish them off. Worst case is you pat them on the back for a super well-played. This concept was easy for me to internalize from an early age because of my upbringing: if you’re going to go down, you better go down swinging. Too often we find ourselves pinched, surrounded, or in an otherwise unwinnable situation. When the status quo becomes death, you have nothing to lose. And in the best case, you come out on top of the 1v3. And let me tell you, it feels fantastic to win those. However, you have to put in the effort necessary to set yourself up for success. You can’t just give up when you spawn next to a Voidwalker mid-Nova Bomb animation. Do your best to turn it around. Trust me, you’ll surprise yourself.

 

So, the student of war who is unversed in the art of varying his plans, even though he be acquainted with the Five Advantages, will fail to make the best use of his men.

For reference, the Five Advantages are:

1. If a road is short, it must be followed.

2. If an army is isolated, it must be attacked.

3. If a town is in parlous condition, it must be besieged.

4. If a position can be stormed, it must be attempted.

5. If consistent with military operations, the ruler’s commands must be obeyed.

So, the moral of the Five Advantages is to exploit opportunities when they present themselves. However, if you are unwilling or inflexible in your execution of these advantages, you will fail to reach your maximum effectiveness. For example, if the road from point A to B is the shortest, but you also know it is covered on all angles by snipers, it would be apt for you to take the short route to destroying those snipers before attempting traffic between the points.

I feel like I’m preaching to the choir at this point, but a major key in your success, arguably in everything, is your ability to be flexible. During trials, I will head to the same sniper spot one or two rounds in a row. If I am successful, by the third time, I have communicated to my team that that location is no longer safe for me to snipe and I will be covering a different line instead. Before the round has begun. As a sniper, I know more of my kills come from anticipating where my opponent will show than making a reactionary counter shot. If your opponent knows where you’re going to be, it’s going to be a hail of shotguns, grenades, and backstabs in your near-distant future.

I think the most important of the Five Advantages is the fourth. I say this to my team time and time again. Yes, they have a lot of snipers, but we need to push into them. Put the onus on them to make the big play and get the snipe. If they miss, we’ve closed the gap and have a strong chance of closing out the round on top. This is effective on most maps, because most sniper nests have multiple locations of entry and not every single one can be covered at any given moment. If there was a situation in which that statement is not true, the position is entrenched, and as such, should not be pressed. I would say, with our current map selection, positions I would consider entrenched are in non-critical locations where one can play a different zone/objective and still find success.

 

Hence in the wise leader’s plans, considerations of advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together.

Some people are glass-half-full. Taking B point means better spawns, more point potential, better heavy control. Some people are glass-half-empty. Taking B means tougher sniper lines, too many entrances to cover, being over-exposed and running the risk of spawning too far from the front. Not to mention how easy it is to spawn swap. The wise person is glass-with-water-in-it. Taking B means all the good things, but keeps in mind the disadvantages as well. You want to be this person. By practicing empathy and putting yourself in the shoes of the “loser” you can better anticipate and understand how and why people react and move around the map in the ways that they do. A perfect example of this is controlling spawns in control with a Fireteam.

Of everything that the Art of War has covered thus far, I would say the concept of empathy is by far the most difficult to understand and internalize. For most, it is thought that empathy is something that one is born with, not something that can be learned. After all, it is much easier to never understand why doing your laundry in a couple huge loads once a month is incredibly frustrating to a wife or husband who does theirs in smaller loads once a week. You just shrug your shoulders and wonder why you’re suddenly exiled to that ugly, uncomfortable couch you bought them for Christmas.

Understanding both sides of the situation can better help you prepare for how to break someone and how to properly protect yourself from being broken. You’re sniping, so you know to counter your position, the enemy team is going to rush you with blink/shotguns. However, you understand this, so you proactively work against this strategy by backpedaling/skating/blinking as you see them charge, and hip firing with TLW or chucking a grenade or two. Excellent games have systems of push and pull set up within them to generate a series of checks and balances, and Destiny is no stranger to this concept.

 

There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general:

1. Recklessness, which leads to destruction;

2. Cowardice, which leads to capture;

3. A hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults;

4. A delicacy of honor which is sensitive by shame;

5. Over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.

These are all pretty much self-explanatory, but I would encourage you to think about which weakness(es) you suffer from and examine how they affect your play. My personal worst are numbers one and five. When I go on tilt, I almost always go full-on bullheaded aggression without much thought or care behind it. Also, I get invested in my teammates and often sacrifice my own play to attempt to teach or help them improve. Over the years I’ve been better about spending more time on my own personal growth, and have worked to utilize my involvement in team building more effectively.


TLW:

When an army is overthrown and its leader slain, the cause will surely be found among these 5 dangerous faults. Let them be a subject of meditation.