Created By: Jsor on July 26, 2011 Last Edited By: MysticKenji on August 1, 2011
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Elemental Ignorance

Despite obvious disadvantages, the characters frequently use the object, ability, or character least suited to the encounter.

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Yes, her element is ice, yes, that's a volcano behind her. And yes, she chose to fight here.

Let's say you, the average fire mage get into a bit of a scuffle and find yourself in a duel to the death. Don't worry, it's not your fault really, but you don't really have a choice here. Now you, being a fire mage, know that you happen to be very well versed in the art of using fire, you may even say it's your lifeblood, your modus operandi so to speak. You know the intricacies of fire in and out. Your opposing duelist allows you to select between several locations to have the duel. You can choose the fiery volcano, the dry, arid, hot desert, or the bottom of the ocean. Which do you pick? The ocean of course!

Wait... what? This trope is when, for whatever reason, the characters insist on using the most illogical matchup possible, like using the fire hose on the water mage, or the ice princess in the volcano field. Now sometimes this may be justified if, say, the person, despite having a disadvantage has some other good reason to fight them. This may include wanting revenge, having an intimate knowledge of the opponent, despite being weak to his element (say, two water mages fighting each other, despite them being resistant to each others attacks), or just because even though they're at a type disadvantage they outclass the opponent in sheer strength and experience.

For it to be this trope, there should also be some better alternative; if the mage decides to use water spells on the ice elemental, despite having fire spells at his disposal, it's this trope. On the other hand, if the mage who only has water spells is forced into fighting the ice elemental, and has no other options or items that would be better to use, it's a poor matchup; however, since they were forced, it didn't require any ignorance or poor planning (except maybe bad life planning finding himself in a situation with an ice elemental) and is therefore not this trope.

This also may provide an excuse for writers to allow the character to overcome adverse conditions and show growth when they win a very difficult battle from their sheer disadvantage, but often comes off as a cheapened experience, since more often than not the audience is left saying, "well, that's great! But why didn't they just pick the other guy?" Especially when their hard counter (or the fool they accidentally sent in) is someone with a definite theme any blind idiot could divine like Poor, Predictable Rock. If a team does this and during combat they realize their mistake, this may lead to an Opponent Switch.

Note that for Video Games, only list examples in the story, or notable exceptions, such as games where choosing to fight with the worst counter is secretly the best option. Otherwise every game with Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors will be on here, since with any game with type matchups, the player can deliberately make bad choices.

Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
  • In Märchen Awakens Romance, the characters have a habit of making fairly poor matchups in general. For instance, having the plant user fight the plant user in the final round of the War Games (to be fair, the others had their own grudge matches, and it worked out for revenge anyway). However, possibly the most blatant was picking Princess Snow to fight in the desert and volcano fields, while neglecting to use her either of the times they fought on the ice field.
  • The Pokémon anime (or at least Ash) has a habit of doing this, occasionally drifting into the need of a Deus ex Machina or plot powers to resolve the situation, despite the fact that, say, Pikachu is clearly not the Pokemon for a given situation. The first gym battle in Black and White even mentions this, saying that Pokemon isn't only about type matchups, but friendship and strategy and whatnot.
  • Inverted in Bastard!!!, where the protagonist fights a fire elemental with fire spells, who comments on the stupidity of it, and how he should try ice spells... and then he turns the fire spells Up To Eleven and out heats the elemental, forcing it to swear loyalty to him.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • In Dodgeball The Obi-Wan tells them to attack their opponent's strengths (rather than their weakness), because it's unexpected and the opponent will have planned defenses for his weakness but not for his strength.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • In Justice League, one of the not!Wonder Twins tries to drown Aquaman due to not thinking straight at the moment.
  • In the animated Teen Titans, when fighting Trigon, the team is forced to fight their Evil Counterparts. They each try and match them, to no avail, trying and failing for a good amount of time, until they finally reach a brilliant conclusion: switch who they're fighting so that they're, y'know, not fighting the one that can match their every move blow for blow.
  • In an episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, the heroes are trapped behind ice, but never think to use fire, despite elemental typing pretty much being their only means of problem solving as it is.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • The main character's older brother does this in A Hero Born, when the three brothers are competing in matches of their own choosing, by choosing the main character's strongest subject to challenge him in. It later turns out he was intentionally throwing the competition.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya always uses his left hand for combat, except for the fact he's secretly right handed.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • In Tales of Symphonia, characters in a battle will remark if you're using an element poorly suited to the situation, like if you're hitting a Water-elemental monster with the Aqua Edge spell. Star student Genis will even get a title if he does this enough times in a single battle.
[[/folder]

Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • July 26, 2011
    deuxhero
  • July 26, 2011
    Aielyn
    True, it sounds a bit better... but it's far too long for what it is. Also, the "You Fail X Forever" naming convention has been phased out - those that used to have that naming pattern now have "Artistic Licence - X" as their new naming structure. I'd suggest Artistic License - Type Matchups... or something similar, at least.
  • July 26, 2011
    Jsor
    It's not quite "artistic license" in the sense that the former(1) "You Fail X Forever" were. This is more of a "normal" trope, and should be titled like such.

    (1) Didn't know it was phased out, sorry
  • July 26, 2011
    deuxhero
    Poor Predictable Rock is related

    In Justice League, one of the not!Wonder Twins tries to drown Aquaman due to not thinking straight at the moment.
  • July 26, 2011
    Aielyn
    Well, the trope seems to be about the Elemental RPS, so how about Elemental Ignorance? Refers to the fact that a character doesn't think about (hence "ignorance") the elemental typings involving in their decisions.
  • July 26, 2011
    SithkingZero
    How about "You Fail Strategy Forever?"
  • July 26, 2011
    Jsor
    Like was mentioned above, "You Fail X Forever" has been phased out, and I'd prefer not to break the convention. Perhaps something more like "Critical Strategy Failure" or "Critical Matchup Failure" though that may imply that the person at a "disadvantage" usually loses, but I think it's close to a good title. Elemental Ignorance is also a pretty cool one, despite the fact that it's not necessarily elements, it gets the point across nicely.

    Edit: Changing it to Elemental Ignorance, at least until (or if) something better comes about.
  • July 26, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
  • July 27, 2011
    Jsor
    I don't know, doesn't sound, well, snazzy enough to really beat anything else. I'm thinking of maybe some sort of more specific, but still representative example like "Fighting Water With Fire."
  • July 27, 2011
    Bisected8
    • In The Dresden Files Harry is called out for fixating on fire spells for his offensive abilities. He solves this by adding ice based spells to his repotoir.
  • July 27, 2011
    Jsor
    Not really this trope. While that does have the concept of "elemental myopia" that this trope embodies, it also requires:

    A. A choice. B. A stupid, irrational decision to pick the worst possible choice. (Well, a decision that may appear irrational. I suppose if the character is a Magnificent Bastard they may have a convoluted reason for picking it, it'd still be this trope, it just has to appear to be the worst possible skill in their repretoire they could pick).

    This trope isn't just, "he only has fire spells, and gets called out on it." It's more of "you have lightning spells, you have ice spells, you have goddamn Nuclear Mega Fusion Destructicon Ultimate Meteor Blast and, on the goddamn water mage, you chose to use FIREBALL of all things." Now the trope would be an example if he, frequently, was learning new spells, and despite the fact that he frequently comes up against fire resistant enemies, or knows that he will definitely, very soon, come into a situation in which fire is useless, still chooses to not learn a new element of spell (until later), it would be this trope. Now if that's the case, it fits, but given what you wrote, it doesn't fit.

    (Sorry for the wall of text, not attacking you, just trying to clarify, that's what YKTTW is for and all)
  • July 27, 2011
    Earnest
    Inverted in Bastard!!!, where the protagonist fights a fire elemental with fire spells, who comments on the stupidity of it, and how he should try ice spells... and then he turnes the fire spells Up To Eleven and out heats the elemental, forcing it to swear loyalty to him.
  • July 27, 2011
    Jsor
    Do we have a trope for scenarios where people insist on fighting their own "dark counterparts" and only realize later to switch to fighting EACH OTHER's? If so, it may be related, for instance:

    • In the animated Teen Titans, when fighting Trigon, the team is forced to fight their Evil Counterpart. They each try and match them, to no avail, trying and failing for a good amount of time, until they finally reach a brilliant conclusion: switch who they're fighting so that they're, y'know, not fighting the one that can match their every move blow for blow.

    Anyway, I think I can sum up what I mean by this trope (and the Bastard!!! example is good): instead of When All You Have Is A Hammer... everything looks like a nail, it's You Have A Whole Toolbox... and you STILL used the hammer on the screw.
  • July 27, 2011
    Aielyn
    I feel I should point out that Elemental Rock Paper Scissors isn't necessarily about elements, either. The trope name uses "elemental", but it's actually more "magical" or "thematic". For instance, Pokemon has, in addition to classical elemental types like fire, water, and electric, such types as bug, ghost, and rock. Despite the fact that one could, for instance, consider Fighting/Rock/Flying to be a type triangle that is purely "non-magical", it is still treated as an elemental RPS triangle.

    So in the name Elemental Ignorance, it's really referring to being ignorant of thematic typing, rather than elemental types.
  • July 27, 2011
    BraveHoratio
    The main character's older brother does this in A Hero Born (literature), when the three brothers are competing in matches of their own choosing, by choosing the main character's strongest subject to challenge him in. It later turns out he was intentionally throwing the competition.

    Do things as simple as Inigo Montoya's decision to fight left-handed count as this trope?
  • July 27, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In Dodgeball The Obi Wan tells them to attack their opponent's strengths (rather than their weakness), because it's unexpected and the opponent will have planned defenses for his weakness but not for his strength.
  • July 27, 2011
    dalexterminate
    In an episode of Captain Planet And The Planeteers, the heroes are trapped behind ice, but never think to use fire...
  • July 27, 2011
    Jsor
    The Inigo Montoya example isn't perfect, since it's not really negligence of "countering," but it's definitely debatable enough (i.e. you can argue that the fact he's not using his strength means he's not countering ANYTHING) to include it. And yeah, I suppose that's true about the ERPS trope, so I guess Elemental Ignorance fits.

    Edit: Do folders not work on YKTTW, or am I coding them wrong?
  • July 27, 2011
    Earnest
    Don't forget to use the apostrophes to italicize the series name. Use two on both ends, so ''CaptainPlanetAndThePlaneteers'' becomes Captain Planet And The Planeteers.
  • July 27, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^Folders don't work in ykttw. But I think you're coding them wrong too - as I understand it you're not supposed to Wiki Word folder titles.
  • July 27, 2011
    Jsor
    Actually, I un-wiki worded most of them when I made the conversion to folders. I just forgot Western Animation. Thanks.
  • July 27, 2011
    KZN02
    @Jsor - That would be Opponent Switch
  • July 28, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    The attack the Strengths example was also referenced in Ready To Rumble as well. At least that's where I first heard it.
  • July 30, 2011
    Speedball
    In boss form, Tactical Suicide Boss is the trope for this, I think.
  • July 31, 2011
    Loyal2NES
    • In Tales Of Symphonia, characters in a battle will remark if you're using an element poorly suited to the situation, like if you're hitting a Water-elemental monster with the Aqua Edge spell. Star student Genis will even get a title if he does this enough times in a single battle.

    And no, Tactical Suicide Boss isn't related to this in any way.
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