Sun Tzu was a successful Chinese General revered for his knowledge of military tactics. Throughout his life he documented these tactics, and eventually made them into the ultimate collection of military strategy and philosophy known as The Art of War. This knowledge has been used for centuries, and to great effect in many different areas of life. Today we are going to apply these same philosophies to Overwatch in order to expand our knowledge of strategy.
“If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight”
Understanding who has the upper hand at any given time is vital. The first step is being able to spot out when your team has the advantage, the second is acting upon it. Something as minuscule as a mistimed Mei wall can create a wide opening in your opponent’s defenses. You can make more use of these openings by keeping track of enemy positioning, ultimate status, and res timers. Failure to detect and seize these opportunities can be the downfall of a team.
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized”
Once you take a minor lead over the enemy team, many more opportunities present themselves. In Overwatch these multiplying opportunities are often referred to as “snowballing”. Picking off an out of position enemy often leads to a winning battle for your team. This winning battle leads to increased ultimate charge, allowing you to snowball even more until there is a sudden stop in momentum. This is why most professional teams avoid playing double capture point maps, it’s far too easy to cap the first point and brute force your way through the second.
“Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.”
There is never going to be one set strategy or hero pick that is completely dominant in every situation. This is why you need to learn to become fluid in both your hero pool and playstyle. Continuing to play Pharah after going 0-5 versus a McCree, or consistently getting picked by a better Widowmaker probably isn’t ideal; you need to know when to switch it up, and be able to do so effectively. Expanding your knowledge of different heroes and strategies will allow you to comfortably counter specific heroes, and keep the enemy team on their toes.
“But when the army is restless and distrustful, trouble is sure to come from feudal princes. This is simply bringing anarchy into the army, and flinging victory away”
While we don’t have to worry about “feudal princes” in Overwatch, the message is still applicable. This quote is essentially describing what we call “BM” (bad manners), in modern times. If your team simply isn’t performing you might begin to get annoyed with them, and possibly lash out against them. The only thing this will achieve is disruption throughout your team, and people will start getting tilted. Treating your team with respect even if they are underperforming will increase their confidence in your leadership, and they will be more likely to listen to your callouts. While it might not make them magically into a pro player, their attitude will improve, and hopefully their desire for victory will as well.
“Whether in an advantageous position or a disadvantageous one, the opposite state should be always present to your mind.”
When in a losing position, you tend to think through every decision, because mistakes seemingly have more consequences. While winning, it’s far too easy to get contempt and make careless choices, but you usually have a much better attitude. Taking the best parts of each situation and applying them to each other is a great way to improve your game. While losing, you need to have the same attitude and confidence as if you were winning. It’s much harder to come back if you’ve already given up, or lack confidence in the rest of your team. When winning, it’s important to not get overly comfortable even if you have a major lead. Treat every play as if it’s important, even if it seems insignificant at the time. Overwatch is more of a mental game than people realize, and this is a simple way to make sure you have a good mindset no matter the position you’re in.
“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak”
Targeting specific heroes or players is a simple way to gain an edge over the enemy team. Certain heroes either have extremely low defenses, or no mobility, and you need to abuse whatever weakness they possess to gain the upper hand. If you notice a player on the enemy team only plays one hero, counter it. If the enemy Mercy or Ana steps just a bit too far up, punish them for it. A small weakness in one individual leads to bigger ones for the rest of their team. There is never going to be a team with zero weaknesses, so your job is being able to identify and exploit them.
There’s an immense amount of ways you can interpret the knowledge contained within The Art of War. Sun Tzu was far ahead of his time, and the knowledge he has left us with is invaluable. His enlightened approach to strategy and leadership has been applied to many different fields, and hopefully today it’s helped you see the value of strategic thought in Overwatch. If you enjoyed this article, I highly suggest you read even more quotes from The Art of War.