Exceedingly Efficient Enemy
They have a margin of error that's already accounted for.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-08-21 20:10:11 sponsor: KingZeal (last reply: 2014-08-17 19:49:43)

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"You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which despite my sincerest efforts I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control. [snip] You are here because Zion is about to be destroyed. Its every living inhabitant terminated, its entire existence eradicated. [snip again] Rest assured, this will be the sixth time we have destroyed it, and we have become exceedingly efficient at it."
The Architect, The Matrix Reloaded

These are the antagonists whose tactics and strategies are so reliable that figuring out The Plan is only the first step, because after you do, you realize that they've already accounted for that. Think of their plan as a mathematical flowchart or algorithm which isn't perfect, but accounts for a staggering amount of problems.

They won't make the same mistakes as the Clock King, who is so ludicrously precise that he can't fathom an error. And unlike a game of Xanatos Speed Chess, they aren't redesigning or changing their plans so much as switching minor attachments like a power tool. In some cases, if you flat out ask them about the plan, they will tell you everything, but not change a thing. Why? Because this is the Bigger Stick of Plans. They've studied, tested, and fine-tuned it to an art form. Setbacks and a few lost battles have little effect on it, or actually help it along. Even with that slight chance of failure, this plan still has the highest probability of success.

This trope is almost always used by Villains, because underdogs and longshots make cooler Heroes. Heroes are expected to use warm and fuzzy stuff like ingenuity, willpower, and hope to stick it to the bad guy. Thus, a hero who follows this trope, especially an interesting one, is a very rare thing, but is likely to be a By-the-Book Cop, Three-Laws Compliant Robot, or a Paragon.

Compare and contrast with The Chessmaster, whose plans work only because they manipulate other people into doing necessary work for them. A variant that overlaps with this trope would have a plan which automatically manipulates any pawns, without the antagonist lifting a finger to cause it. Also compare and contrast Batman Gambit and Xanatos Roulette, which insanely good examples of this trope can appear as.

Contrast the Clock King and Super OCD, for characters on the extreme end of precision planning. Contrast Indy Ploy and Xanatos Speed Chess for characters on the extreme end of improvisation. See also Order Versus Chaos, where these antagonists usually represent Order.

Often done by Dangerously Genre Savvy people (except perhaps the explaining part).

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • In One Piece, Crocodile captures the heroes in an indestructible cage, rigs the cage to be flooded, and throws away the key, which gets eaten by one of many giant crocodiles in the area. For bonus points, the key thrown away was a fake, and the real one was with Crocodile the entire time. He also anticipates every possible counter to his plans, including taking into account Heroic Sacrifices and such. (And no, he couldn't have just shot them.) The amazing thing is that this plan actually had no mistakes in it. The only reason the Straw Hats get out of this is because Crocodile didn't know that there was another pirate in Luffy's crew, Sanji, who would come and break them out of the cell. If Crocodile had known Sanji existed, they would have been doomed. Not only that, he has three layers of plans to kill Luffy. The only reason he fails is because of a massive amount of Plot Armor.

Film
  • The Matrix series is the Trope Namer, as seen in the page quote. The Architect explains that the existence of the Matrix, the One, and Zion fulfill a very efficient (but by no means perfect) cycle of control over the human population. They continue with this plan through the end, only being halted due to an Enemy Mine situation that forces their hand. Note that their plan is never defeated; they simply had a bigger problem than The Hero to worry about.
  • Pacific Rim has a rare example of a Regularly Scheduled Evil with a short interval. Kaiju attacks happen at ever-shortening intervals (starting at months-long, and expected to eventually shorten to minutes) which don't change, and the Kaiju themselves grow steadily stronger with each attack. The only adjustment that's even attempted is to have the kaiju to focus on specific targets or objectives.
  • Applying this to Real Life business, like managing a sports team, is the plot of Moneyball, in which a winning baseball team is made based on statistics and wise recruiting decisions.
  • The malicious aliens from Independence Day position their warships over every significant city on Earth, and use Earth's own satellites to coordinate a simultaneous strike with their Death Ray weapons. Protagonist David Levinson sees what's going on, and heads to Washington to alert the President. Even supposing that some of their opponents survive their first assault, the alien capital ships are also covered with forcefields. Even supposing that you get past that, their fighter ships have the exact same field. And even supposing you get past that, each ship is faster, more maneuverable, and packs more destructive power than human fighers, and each alien is both wearing Powered Armor which makes them extremely dangerous in hand-to-hand and possesses Psychic Powers. The good guys develop a way to turn off the force fields, but even then, it can only be done on the mothership itself.
    David: It's just like in chess. You position your pieces where they'll be most effective ...
    Julius: And then?
    David: Checkmate.

Videogames
  • In Mass Effect:
    • This epitomizes the turian race. They adhere strictly to protocol, superior firepower, and strategies honed over millennia of warfare. They are masters of war (in fact, supplementary materials indicate that they show a lot of interest in Sun Tzu). Their adherence to protocol and Crazy-Prepared nature means that their entire population is able to spring into action to fight the Reapers after they invade, dealing critical losses to the Reapers even though they're LOSING the war.]]
    • Samara claims Justicars to be this. When questioned on behaving strictly by Justicar Code, she replies that it has over 3000 sutras and instructions on every single possible situation one can encounter, written over many millennia by the wisest of asari. It even accounts for what a Justicar should do if the Code can't solve her current problem: kill herself.
    • The Reapers are a horrifying glimpse at this trope when applied to galaxy-wide genocide. The Reapers have an extremely long-term scheme (individual cycles take millennia, but they've been repeating it for far longer than life has existed on Earth) which effectively allows them to mold galactic civilizations to their liking and then destroy every last trace of it at their leisure. You're told at one point that once the plan is in full swing, they're not in any rush and barely even notice when efforts are made to resist, coolly taking centuries to be as thorough as possible and make sure every last living thing is dead.
    • Furthermore, their grand plan has several prepared steps:
      • The first plan is to seize control of the galactic capital and take hold of the Portal Network it controls.
      • If that fails, they have a sentry placed behind enemy lines to take the capital by force.
      • If that fails, they have a backup system to take control of said Portal Network.
      • If that fails, they have Slave Mooks to undermine the enemy and find ways to get the genocide process started early.
      • If that fails, they have other brainwashed mooks that unknowingly further their plans under the guise of trying to "control" the Reapers.
      • And if all of that fails (the Player Character being the first and only person to have achieved this), they're just fine with a Curbstomp Battle as well.
  • In Mega Man Zero 4, Weil anticipated the likelihood that Zero and the Resistance would attempt to derail Operation Ragnarok if they found out about it, so he deliberately kept the specific details extremely vague and had the Einherjar warriors distract both the Area Zero citizenry and the Resistance/Zero long enough for him to finish his true goal: space battle station Ragnarok, which would target Area Zero, restrict access so that he's the only one able to board it, and protect itself against cyberspace invasion. He also merges himself with the core of the space station so that Zero could not fight him without risking massive collateral damage.
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