Created By: KingZeal on August 21, 2013 Last Edited By: KingZeal on March 21, 2015

Exceedingly Efficient Enemy

They have a margin of error that\'s already accounted for.

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Trope
"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.
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • August 22, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Matrix series. The Architect tells Neo some bad news about the last human city.
      The Architect: You are here because Zion is about to be destroyed. Its every living inhabitant terminated, its entire existence eradicated. [snip] Rest assured, this will be the sixth time we have destroyed it, and we have become exceedingly efficient at it.
  • August 22, 2013
    arbiter099
  • August 22, 2013
    KingZeal
    That isn't this trope.
  • August 22, 2013
    arromdee
  • August 22, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    You Cant Thwart Stage One is when the plot goes out of its way to prevent The Hero from stopping an Evil Plan from starting (in a videogame this involves Cutscene Incompetence), and No Delays For The Wicked is when, well, there's no delays. Of any kind. The train will run on time for the villain, there will not be a Mobstacle Course on the station, the streets will be full of bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic except for the lane the villain is taking, the computer that holds the program which can trigger The End Of The World As We Know It is gonna go through its boot-up and login cycles in a nanosecond... and The Hero, of course, is gonna have to deal with all of the above, plus fighting the Big Bad, in order for the dramatic tension needed for the Big Damn Heroes arriving Just In Time to build up.

    This is when the villain has some Evil Plan which looks, at first blush, flawless. It's the Bigger Stick of Evil Plans. and it'll smash everybody flat unless there's either something that the villain really Didn't See Coming (like being forced into an Enemy Mine situation, like in The Matrix, or most Outside Context Villain scenarios), or The Hero pulls off a Million To One Chance that the Big Bad really had thought of, but well, it's a Million To One Chance (or maybe even a Billion To One Chance) and thus saw it as inconsequential.
  • August 22, 2013
    KingZeal
    Marco has it right. Bravo!
  • August 22, 2013
    DAN004
    Suggesting Flawless Plan for a shorter title?
  • August 22, 2013
    KingZeal
    I thought about something similar when I was writing it up, but decided it was too easy to misunderstand.

    The trope isn't about the plan being Flawless so much as it's mathemathically optimized and efficient. It has flaws, but they are either unlikely to come to pass, or the plan is resilient enough to leave them unchecked as even if the ultimate goal fails, plan was still the most sound option.
  • August 25, 2013
    DAN004
    Often done by Dangerously Genre Savvy people (except perhaps the explaining part).

    Some examples in DGS of careful plannings
    • 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 about this plan is it 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.
    • In Mega Man Zero 4, Weil anticipated the very likelihood that Zero and the Resistance would most likely attempt to derail Operation Ragnarok when they inevitably found out about it, so he deliberately kept the specific details of Operation Ragnarok extremely vague and had the Einherjar warriors commit their own attack patterns in order to distract both the Area Zero citizenry and the Resistance/Zero long enough for him to finish the actual thing behind Operation Ragnarok: the space battle station Ragnarok, which would target Area Zero. In addition, he also restricted access to Ragnarok to the extent that the only one to board Ragnarok is himself, and also put up various cyberspace protections in the event that someone had to infiltrate via that method. It's also implied that he also revived the Einherjar Eight to fight alongside him to delay Zero as he's trying to get at the core. He also merged with the core so that, in the event that Zero somehow managed to get to him, he'd be forced to fight and potentially damage the core, and thus have Zero risk being destroyed by the destruction of the Space Station.
      • Also counts as a Xanatos Gambit since theoretically, he managed to still "win" even when a spanner was thrown into one of the above schemes (specifically Craft hijacking the Ragnarok and then used it to shoot Weil directly).
  • August 25, 2013
    KingZeal
    I rewrote the Megaman example to be less wordy. See if it's still accurate, please.

    Also, can you explain the Xanatos Gambit part? How doe Weil still "win"?
  • August 25, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ ...Um, from what I get from the game, he doesn't "win" in the end, though that spanner really didn't hinder him.

    You may delete that part if you wish.
  • August 25, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    ^And there is one other thing which this Trope shows which, oddly enough, the One Piece example mentions: the only reason why the heroes are not completely killed outright by the plan and/or have a chance to succeed is because of Plot Armor. Anyone Can Die could be in use and thus the villain take some heroes out, but it would be boring for a full-on Rocks Fall Everybody Dies situation unless the writer is going for a Downer Ending.
  • August 26, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ So yeah, only narrative can save the heroes. :P

    Can lead to Only The Author Can Save Them Now or Deus Ex Machina if done poorly.
  • October 5, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    YKTTW Bump.
  • October 5, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • 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. David explains his thinking to his father Julius en route:
      David: It's just like in chess. You position your pieces where they'll be most effective ...
      Julius: And then?
      David: Checkmate.
  • July 14, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Bump.
  • July 17, 2014
    bitemytail
    The Laconic needs work. This isn't "The enemy has a flowchart", which is what the laconic seems to imply.
  • July 17, 2014
    henke37
    This makes me wonder if we have the implied base trope: Efficient,Not Perfect
  • July 17, 2014
    KingZeal
    ^^ The basic idea is that the plan is a series of If/Then scenarios which account for the most typical counterattack. They didn't think of everything (that's Xanatos Gambit), but they thought enough that only the remotest Million To One Chance could stop it, which is good enough.
  • July 17, 2014
    bitemytail
    ^ Right. From the original Laconic, I planned to come in with Black Mage's flowchart from Eight Bit Theater. It was "efficient" in the sense that it was very simple (if anyone is alive kill them. goto 1).

    This YKTTW is efficient in the sense of (like you said) being able to accommodate setbacks and such.

    PS - I like the new Laconic.
  • July 17, 2014
    marcoasalazarm

    Yeah, it's a good Laconic.
  • July 31, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Bump!
  • July 31, 2014
    DAN004
    Uh, please change the name to Flawless Plan. Cuz the trope refers to a plan, right?
  • August 17, 2014
    Mr.Movie
    So this is basically where the Evil Plan is pretty much foolproof?
  • August 17, 2014
    KingZeal
    Not exactly. It's distinct from Xanatos Gambit in that every outcome doesn't lead to their victory, but they do a really good job of weeding out the most undesirable scenarios.
  • August 17, 2014
    Mr.Movie
    ^ So, an EEE can have the most railroaded, inflexible plan ever, but they've really made sure it can never be off track?
  • August 17, 2014
    KingZeal
    Yes. That's the rarest, most pure example of the trope.
  • March 18, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump, maybe
  • March 19, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    The insectoid warriors of Klendaathu from Starship Troopers use the principle of Demonic Spiders to infest, overrun and eradicate all opposition. Their giant antlike grunt soldiers cannot feel pain, fear or mercy, and come in almost infinite assault waves. Klendaathu has also bred specialized bugs to counteract artillery and orbital bombardment, again using volume over quality. Paul Verhoeven directed the film as a Spritual Antithesis to the original Robert Heinlein novel, but kept the We Have Reserves invasion mechanic.
  • March 19, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    OK, this would have my hat, but someone removed that and I can't add it again for some reason.
  • March 20, 2015
    Arivne
    ^^ oneuglybunny: could you add the work name Starship Troopers to that example? Thanks.
  • March 21, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    ^ Oops, sure thing, Chief. Overfocused on Blue Links, not enough essentials. Mea culpa.
  • March 21, 2015
    Chabal2
    Warhammer 40 K: Depending On The Writer, the Space Marines are this compared to regular humans (and the not-quite-as-superhuman elites like the Sisters of Battle, Catachans and Kasrkin). Thanks to decades if not centuries of combat experience against the many, many enemies of the Imperium, genetic and surgical enhancements, Warrior Monk ethos and constant training, they are unbelievably strong, precise,and enduring. However, this is mostly seen through the perspective of said regular humans, and one in particular is prone to overblowing things in many aspects of his narration.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=jj9r508h97tg7m32n2ha3cg7