Sun Tzu and The Art of Winning Before You Fight

So maybe it's not clear to everyone but I'm a little obsessed with EVE Online. I've played almost every day for 8 years now even if it was just to log in and check my mail.

As a result I've nerded out on Strategy and Tactics texts many times. Things like the obvious Sun Tzu, but also others like Clausewitz and even US Army Manuals.

In fact for Christmas one of my gifts was the book The 33 Strategies of War (Joost Elffers Books), which I can't wait to read.

The clear winner of them all is Sun Tzu due to the depth of his text. Many of the sections don't seem profound until you have become skilled enough to understand them. As such the text can be read over and over without being exhausted.

On a practical level, I like to read random sections for inspiration. I'll read something and instantly make a connection to something I'm doing in game. Recently I read this bit:

1. Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves
beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an
opportunity of defeating the enemy.
2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but
the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy

I read this after a nasty string of losses and it had a strong impact on my thinking. I was too desperate for a fight, I wanted a great fight, I needed a rush... As a result I did stupid things that in hind sight were doomed to fail from the beginning.

The parts that stood out to me were "good fighters put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy" which when paired with this next bit "the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself" is profoundly what I do every time I PVP.

I watch, I wait, and most of all I encourage the enemy to make mistakes and give me opportunities to defeat him.

Lesson: If your enemy won't give you good fights, why should you give him good fights?

Example: There are several groups in the game (I won't name them but they know who they are) that consistently fight in a dishonorable manner even when fighting against a solo pilot. They blob, use falcons, cyno, etc. One I can think of never fights unless they have two falcons on field and another won't fight you until they have you countered (Curse for Brutix) and even then blobs 20 to 1.

My solution... I don't give them content. If they won't offer good fights, I will go solo pvp somewhere else or should I decide to I will play dirty and get my Pilgrim then move in to their home system for a week to cause all kinds of havok. In fact, the best way to handle groups like this is with the Strategies and Tactics I teach in The Ninja Pilgrim Guide.

So if you find your self getting a long string of bad fights, stop and take a look at yourself.

Are you taking dumb risks? If so play more conservatively for a while and take easier fights to rebuild confidence.

Are you getting ECMed and Blobbed in every fight? Try PVPing in a new area and study new ways to isolate targets.

About the author

In 2010 Abbadon21 was the first person to create Narrated Instructional PVP videos for EVE Online. This started a new era of EVE Online and opened up high level "PRO" PVP to everyone. Abbadon21 is also the Founder of, which is EVE Online's oldest and most trusted source for high quality PRO Guides.