There's also Shikamaru's shadow manipulation jutsu, which never changes its basic function throughout the series (ensnaring and controlling people with their shadows), yet Shikamaru uses it efficiently and in a variety of methods. Overall, he's definitely a boring fighter, but far more practical at getting the job done than many others.
Though for the first half of the series his technique is really more boring but useless. It requires him to be motionless to use. It requires shadows to move through (meaning both that his technique is dependent on the environment and that it's easy for an enemy to see it coming). He's stuck making the same motions his enemy does even if he catches the enemy, and even if all that fall into place perfectly, the enemy could potentially just flat out be strong enough to over power it. He compares how useless his ability is with how it took him several episodes of constant planning and tactics to still fail with the technique, while Temari won with a single move.
Bleach has Ichigo, who in a world where shikais and bankais give elemental abilities to weapons, turn them into entirely different weapons, summon giant poison baby familiars, win most fights by simply slashing and shooting blasts with varying levels of power.
Kenpachi Zaraki is a beast who relies on brute force but his ace in the hole is to hold his sword with two hands and swing normally.
Hanataro's zanpakuto is useless for fighting, but its ability to heal any wound it "slashes" makes it the perfect medical device. Course, this summarizes Hanataro's boring yet greatly underappreciated character; not a fighter in any form of the word, yet one of the best healers in the Gotei 13. For example, he was the one who brought Renji back to full form after the latter was beaten and nearly torn apart by Byakuya several times over.
Gin Ichimaru's bankai is this. His sword at basic can hit you from a distance. His bankai upgrades this to roughly 13 km, and extend/ contract at near hypersonic speeds, making it essentially a handheld railgun/sniper rifle combo. Lastly, he later reveals that it has a cell-destroying poison that WILL dissolve on verbal command. To top it off, given his tendency to outright lie or omit details about his powers, then he can win virtually any battle easily by nicking you once.
Most Holyland fights end after the second or third exchange and a character (Izawa) constantly reminds everyone else that basic movements are the best option, although the fact that he one-hit KO's most of his opponents can be considered Awesome yet Practical; he claims that he doesn't do it because it looks cool, but because it's the safest way to go. Also, there's a fight that Yuu wins by using only left straights because his opponent was bigger, stronger and had longer reach than him, so using anything but a left straight would be too dangerous. A character even complains about this because he was expecting more from the fight.
In the same vein, the various vulcan cannons in the Gundam metaseries. While they'll do jack to your opponent, you can easily save ammo on your precious beam rifle by shooting down aircraft or missiles with them.
Soul Eater: Black Star and Mifune deciding to finish their final fight on even ground as swordsmen (just ordinary katana, or as close as Tsubaki could make herself) makes for one of the best and worst moments in the series.
Gavrill: (to a gonky boy) You wanna be popular with the girls? Get plastic surgery and transfer to another school. Also, practice talking to people a lot. And if you need to, lie to women or buy them off with money.
Most of the main characters of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise use transforming weapons with built-in A.I. (of various levels of sophistication) called Intelligent Devices. However, most mages in the universe of the series instead use Storage Devices, which have no A.I. and are limited to only one active form and one inactive form, but apparently process magic faster.
Of the superhero world, the Flying Brick archetype, for simple reasons. They can get there fast, and they can hit hard, but unless they have an otherwise amazing gimmick, they won't be as popular as the Badass Normal or the guy with the Green Lantern Ring, but they're effective at what they do, and usually make great leaders.
The poster child of this in American comics would probably be Superman. Because he has many different abilities and tends to gain new ones when the plot demands it, it may be hard to make a real threat he can't handle. While it renders him somewhat boring to some, he's still one of the most effective heroes in his universe.
Cyclops of the X-Men is often made fun of for not having an interesting personality (Socially Inept and approaches everything from a soldier-like mentality), and his only power is that he can shoot beams from his eyes (and not heat beams but beams which are more like solid force. In other words, he shoots punches out of his eyes), which naturally doesn't rank him high on popularity charts. However, as his power comes from his eyes, it means that, no matter what, he will always hit his target if he can see them, and because of his personality, he's trained his body to be an expert martial artist (meaning that, without his powers, he's essentially Batman without a utility belt or any hangups about guns, which serves well when he's left without his powers), and he's one of the most talented field leaders and strategists in the Marvel Universe, making him perfect to lead any group of heroes when out in the field. He might not be enough to sell an ongoing comic strip without a great writer involved, but if you're about to face any villain, he's the guy you'd want on your team.
During the Marvel's Onslaught crossover, the villain spent a lot of resources to capture X-Man Nate Grey. As the villain is gloating, the hero calls him out for having such rubbish underlings. The villain acknowledges that everyone under him is either blindly obedient, on the run from everyone else, or a giant robot... but that his underlings succeeded in catching the hero, which was what he wanted all along.
Doc Sampson of The Incredible Hulk has noted that for a fraction of what General Ross and other have wasted trying to build robots/containment/powered armor to take down/control the Hulk, you could just get a satellite array going that would warn people in urban areas to evacuate when he starts getting too close. Naturally no one will consider this.
Xander brings a tool belt on a mission to a hell dimension in Stand Ins and Stunt Doubles. Why? Because he can use his tools to make weapons but the reverse is much trickier. Also, several tools (such as a short handled sledgehammer) make decent weapons themselves.
In The Stalking Zuko Series for a Continuity Nod and Call Back Zuko's firebending lessons to Aang. Aang finds Zuko's lesson extremely boring and all Zuko teaches is how to block and breathing exercises but Zuko points out how dangerous fire is so it's more important to know how to block before learning how to attack and the breathing exercises would be good for his control.
Saruman Of The Many Devices- this is Central's approach to introducing new weapons summarized - it's better to have a good weapon for all of your troops than an awesome one for a few of them.
In one story of the Facing The Future Series, Desiree is given noise-cancelling headphones to prevent her from hearing wishes that could be used against her.
Mystery Men. Early on, some of the heroes try to infiltrate a mansion with an array of gimmicky but mostly useless powers. When they come across a group of disco-themed villains guarding the mansion, they ridicule them for bringing pistols, junction pipes, switchblades, etc to the fight which have nothing to do with disco. A No-Holds-Barred Beatdown ensues.
Blue Raja: (incredulous) There's no theme at all here!
In the Star Wars universe, the YT-1300 Corelian Light Freighter when compared to an X-Wing or Star Destroyer is one of the most boring ships in the universe. It is, however, one of the most popular. Reliable, durable, easy to modify and repair in an emergency; the YT-1300 is a favorite of smugglers throughout the galaxy. The most famous example, of course, is the Millennium Falcon as it is the best example of what a resourceful spacer can do with the design.
The best feature of the YT-1300 is that it's sold as Boring, but Practical - that is, a capable light cargo that won't leave you helpless against the occasional pirate attack - but it can be upgraded to Awesome yet Practical levels by adding and swapping parts until it becomes capable of taking on Imperial fleets.
The X-Wing also falls into this in the Extended Universe, where, before the production of the XJ and Stealth X series, it was outmatched entirely by next generation fighters like its distant cousin the E-Wing and the Empire's pure hotrod of a starship, the TIE Defender. Yet even all the way to the Yuuzhan Vong War, the X-Wing remained perhaps the most effective fighter in the Rebel Alliance/New Republic/Galactic Alliance's arsenal, thanks to its near perfectly balanced performance and capabilities, as well as the ease at which pilots (namely Rogue Squadron) can use them. Sure, a few good pilots in TIE Defenders are a considerable threat, but an X-Wing with Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, Tycho Celchu or Corran Horn at the controls is guaranteed to be the superior force (no pun intended).
The Hunger Games has both the trainers and Haymitch stress that smart tributes learn wilderness survival and forgo getting glamorous weapons at the start before bolting for high ground and water to give themselves a good chance of survival.
The SHIELD agents all use conventional firearms. Even the RPG that Nick Fury uses at one point qualifies, since he used it for its intended purpose of destroying vehicles (disabling an F-35, in this case).
At one point Tony Stark wonders aloud how Fury can see the monitors on his left, since he's missing his left eye. He's told that Fury just turns his head.
Tony: Must be exhausting.
During the fight aboard the Helicarrier, Fury orders the helmsman to move the ship south. The helmsman tells him the nav systems are offline.
Fury: Is the sun coming up? Helmsman: Yes? Fury: Then put it on the left!
The Avengers want to find out what SHIELD is using the Tesseract for. Tony tries to hack into the Helicarrier's computer system, but Cap just breaks into the armory.
James Bond's gear in Skyfall: a small radio and a biometric pistol that only responds to his particular "grip." Both of these save his life. Most of the movie's "old vs. new" theme qualifies, too—the old-school DB-5 vs. company cars with tracking mechanisms; the 00 Agents vs. computer-based espionage; old-fashioned booby traps vs. more complex arrangements.
In World War Z, once the nations of the world decide to go on the offensive after the Zombie Apocalypse, they get rid of their flashy tanks, jet fighters, machine guns, body armor and indeed most modern tactics. Instead, the average infantryman carries a highly-accurate, semi-automatic rifle that is designed for pulling off headshots quickly and consistently, they form up in lines and open fire. These old-school tactics kill zombies better than anything. Do Notask how realistic this is.
Additionally, the melee weapon of choice in later chapters is the Lobotomizer, "Lobo" for short. It's described in-book as a cross between a shovel and a medieval battle axe. Dig a trench, bury a fallen comrade, decapitate a zombie.
The French novel Malevil features the eponymous castle. Built by the invading English during the Hundred Years War it was built solely for function and has little aesthetic value unlike its opposing neighbor, the French castle Les Rouzies.
Discworld uses this trope to lampshade the trope where MacGuffins which are swords are most often shiny and cool looking (as described: shiny that lights up with a ting!) At the end of the book in which Carrot joins the Watch, Vimes ponders, perhaps the sword of the last king of Ankh-Morpork isn't shiny and lights up with a ting!. Perhaps the sword of the king is a boring old sword that was simply very, very, very sharp. Carrot has such a sword.
In the same vein, Cohen and the Silver Hoard (a group of octogenarian barbarian heroes) carry notably notched and beat-up swords that are STILL sharp enough to cut a die in half in mid-air.
At one point, Cohen internally reflects that a simple, plain non-magical sword in the hands of a truly brave man will cut through a magical sword like suet. He's reflecting on this fact while looking at Carrot's sword, which has been previously described as one of the most non-magical objects on the Disc. If you think about it some more, you'll realize that a non-magical sword is, by definition, more "real" than most other objects on the Disc: the only other weapons of such description are wielded by Death, who is so "real" that everything else can be considered virtually insubstantial.
Discworld's elves (or rather, the elves that are kept away from Discworld) suffer pain and anguish from iron. They're repelled by smithies and armories.
In The Dresden Files the "Eebs" work like this. When trying to kill an extremely powerful wizard they shoot at him with a silenced pistol from inside a car. When it fails they just drive away. They hire a local killer to attack him. They chuck a firebomb into his building while he sleeps. All things that don't take a scrap of supernatural power to achieve. They are also the Red Court's two most successful assassins. The reasons being that while these individual attempts don't have a particularly high success rate, they also expose them to barely any risk and take little effort, and sooner or later they get lucky.
Parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe have "slugthrower" weaponry - these are firearms, guns that fire bullets. This is a 'verse where blasters are fairly easy to come by. But Luke Skywalker trained with slugthrowers as a kid on Tatooine, and a character in Shatterpoint has this to say about them.
"Slugthrowers. I hate 'em. But they're easy to maintain. Day or two in the jungle and your blaster'll never fire again. A good slug rifle, keep 'em wiped and oiled, they last forever. The guerrillas have pretty good luck with them, even though they take a lot of practice � slugs are ballistic, y'know? You have to plot the trajectory in your head."
That and they're the perfect Jedi-killing weapon: a blaster bolt can be easily deflected back with a lightsaber, but if a Jedi intercepts a slugthrower round it will only melt it without deflecting or slowing it, resulting in the defending Jedi getting hit with a less lethal but much more painful slug. And making him defenseless due the pain, if the bullet didn't kill him outright.
In-Universe, the main reason slugthrowers aren't used much in military applications is that common body armor works beautifully against them. The armor worn by stormtroopers is basically impervious to kinetic penetrators (though not blunt force, as the troops on Endor can attest). But since firearms are easier and cheaper to manufacture and maintain than blasters, insurgent forces have worked out ways of making them effective again. Like explosive bullets, for instance.
Also, they are favored by Republic Commandos and ARC Troopers in covert operations because they can be silenced and unlike a blaster bolt, you can't see a bullet. Higher end slugthrowers can also be modified to shoot just about any projectile imaginable.
There's a short story by Arthur C. Clarke called Superiority about a space empire that keeps inventing one incredible superweapon after another until they get overrun by their enemies who directed their resources towards making huge numbers of basic ships with 'generic' weapons while the other side was busy updating their ships, followed by taking advantage of the flaws and problems that the superweapons created for the smart empire.
Robert Sheckley's book "The Status Civilization" has the main character running an antidote shop on a lawless planet. He is amazed at how, despite all the scientific advancement, most poisoners prefer the plain old arsenic and strychnine. The main problem in his job, in fact, turned out to be convincing his clients that their wives would use something so primitive.
In the Belisarius Series, both the Romans and the Malwa have advisors from the future, but while the Malwa advisor Link tends to think in terms of flashy, futuristic weaponry, the Roman advisor Aide tends towards this trope. While Aide does help the Romans make gunpowder weapons, he also gives them boring but practical advances with things like stirrups: easy to make, simple to use, and instantly makes your cavalry far more effective.
The Known Space series has the ships produced by the Puppetteers: 4 models (3 available to civilians) which are customizable only in the paint job you want on them, but account for 95% of starship sales in Known Space because they are completely undestructible and impervious to radiation and weaponry. But not antimatter or tides, as several characters learn the hard way.
Expelliarmus, the Disarming Charm. Simple, plain, does no damage. Easy to cast. But since most wizards are useless in combat without their wands, very useful. It knocks whatever someone's holding out of their grip, too, not just wands. In Deathly Hallows, Lupin warns Harry not to make it his signature move, despite how useful it is. In practice, it turns out to be incredibly useful: Draco effectively defeats Dumbledore with it, and Harry uses it twice to counter Voldemort's Avada Kedavra, killing Voldemort the second time.
While we're at it, Stupefy. It is a spell that knocks someone out. That is all. But unless you want a person dead (and there are plenty of situations where you wouldn't, even if you have no qualms about killing), it's just as effective at putting an opponent out of a fight.
This is basically the Forsaken Mesaana's whole shtick in The Wheel of Time. She may not be as smart as Ishamael, as powerful as Lanfear, as great a warrior as Demandred, or as feared as Semirhage, but she's a solidly intelligent, methodical planner who is driven primarily by a pathological need to prove her own competence. She also lacks many of the extreme mental issues that her comrades exhibit, and is neither a Dirty Coward nor Hot-Blooded enough to throw herself into fights willy-nilly. Her careful, goal-oriented approach lets her through careful action paralyze the most powerful institution on the planet for most of the series, and she manages to survive all the way to the penultimate book. She is, however, fully aware that she falls under the boring side of things and has a chip on her shoulder about it (again, her Freudian Excuse is basically feeling that no one ever recognized or appreciated her true talents) so Egwene is able to exploit it to draw her into a direct confrontation and destroy her mind in a battle of wills.
Live Action TV
Believe it or not, Television in general has some great examples.
The CBS logo, introduced in 1951, was based on the designs seen on barn walls. It was a simple round shape with an eye-like depiction in the center. When William Golden began work on another logo about a year later, his boss Frank Stanton worked like crazy to have the logo plastered on anything and everything he could think of. Stanton's reasoning? "Just when you're beginning to be bored by what you've done is when it's beginning to be noticed by your audience." note Even if it was a Beam Me Up, Scotty!, it's the same wisdom. More than six decades later, it remains one of the media world's most recognizable symbols.
The core of the (American) ABC network logo has remained practically unchanged for five decades. Like the CBS eye, it is a highly recognized corporate symbol.
On the subject of TV idents/logos, when The BBC decided to spend something like a million pounds developing a new set of idents for BBC One, a reader wrote into a certain publication wondering why they didn't simply go back to a simple spinning globe, variations of which concept had served the channel from The Sixties to well into The Nineties.
Whenever Mulder or Scully used their guns in The X-Files, it was a very, very toned down affair that would usually take down the Monster of the Week in about a tenth of a second.
The most iconic version of this is with grenades rather than guns. Wiley old Bra'tac describes the long, difficult, dangerous journey they must make to get from where they are in the Mothership to reach the shield generators at the bottom of the shaft they are at so they can disable them, allowing the ship to be destroyed. Jack O'Neill pulls out two grenades, pulls the pins, and casually drops them down the shaft so they can blow up the generators. "Primitive explosive devices" are quite effective, if you know how to use them.
In Doctor Who, the Doctor and Jack Harkness have a bit of a conflict around their respective tools — Jack has the very flashy sonic blaster, which can cut holes into walls and do all sorts of cool things, against which the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, which Jack derides as able to "put up some shelves", looks a lot less impressive. Except that Jack's flashy sonic blaster has a very quickly drained battery which, since the factory that produced both blaster and batteries has now been blown up, renders it a flashy paperweight when the battery runs out, while the sonic screwdriver is frequently shown to be useful and reliable.
Subverted with Jack's vortex manipulator, which is the size of a wristwatch and can be used for time travel, sometimes to places where even the Doctor's TARDIS can't go. It also doubles as a teleporter, a chemical scanner, a remote control (that can hack most electronic objects), a hologram projector, a lifesign detector, and a communications transceiver. While an incredibly useful gadget in its own right, it still suffers in comparison to the TARDIS, which is far larger but unimaginably more powerful and capable in all respects.
Firefly had this in the form of the titular space-vehicle. Not very flashy, fast, or armed, but if you have a half-decent mechanic on board, it will operate perfectly until the heat-death of the universe.
Retro Game Master: Clearing levels in Dig Dug II by exploding each enemy instead of sinking them all spectacularly. Arino gets very annoyed at having to do it to save time.
Babylon 5 has Earthforce's boxy warships: they are ugly and primitive-looking, but are effective and quick to produce enough that in the Earth-Minbari War the ridiculously more advanced Minbari took two years to reach Earth, and were on the verge of military and economic collapse due their losses (much inferior to what Earthforce had taken, but too many for the Minbari industries to replace in short time).
The Expanded Universe has the Attarn, whose ships are equipped with Bil-Pro weapons... That is, advanced chemically-propelled firearms. Attarn ships are also known for their exaggerated firepower, and defeated two similar-sized empires with energy weapons before first meeting the galactic community.
In Jekyll they eventually realize that Hyde has an Instant Death Radius and get Hyde into a long empty hallway, then riddle him with machine gun fire until he falls over. He still gets a lot closer to them than they're comfortable with, and by the time he falls there's only one guy who hasn't fled.
Survivor has a stragegy known as "Pagonging" (named after the Pagong tribe, who fell victim to it way back in the first season). Partway through the game, the two teams merge and it becomes every man for himself - but the players hold on to the "us vs. them" mentality, and if all goes well the larger team will stay together and eliminate the smaller team one by one, only turning on each other when (1) they've run out of targets or (2) the last member of that other tribe has won immunity. It's very efficient for those members of the larger team, but predictable and not nearly as fun for the home audience to watch as a chaotic Gambit Pileup.
Then there's the strategy of being The Quiet One or Obfuscating Stupidity. Unless pretending to be stupid involves doing something that's funny, you won't get much screentime by staying out of harm's way. That being said, if you can convince the players in control that you're not a threat at all (Natalie White, anyone?), they'll take you to the end under the assumption that you're no trouble to beat.
In Hells Kitchen season 3, one of the top performers was Julia, a Waffle House line cook from Atlanta. The professionally-trained chefs (especially those on her own team) tended to treat her like crap and denigrate her skillsnote Or as one of the teamates noted, "She works in a fuckin' Waffle House, I mean ''come on'', but it turned out she had precisely the skill set Gordon Ramsay was looking for (including good teamwork, promptness with her cooking, and staying cool under pressure). So much so that when she was eliminated near the end, Gordon praised her potential and dedication and then paid for her to go to culinary school
One episode of Food Network's Celebrity Chef Cook-Off had as its Elimination Challenge... grilled cheese. Cheech Marin and Lou Diamond Philips made fancy sandwiches with unusual breads and extra bits thrown in, while Joey Fatone made a basic grilled cheese sandwich decorated only with a smiley face made of sliced tomatoes and a pickle. However, Cheech's sandwich was greasy and LDP didn't melt the cheese, while Joey (who said he makes grilled cheese all the time for his kids) ended up winning immunity because his no-frills sandwich was perfectly made.
Plenty of episodes in both the U.K and U.S versions of Kitchen Nightmares had chefs making extremely flashy food that was especially difficult or time consuming to cook, or had managers decorate their restaurants with flashy but gaudy styles and using tacky gimmicks to draw in customers. Gordon has them change to fit this trope. Some of the best examples of the former and the later respectively are Rococo's and The Curry Lounge.
Go onto almost any message board for America's Next Top Model. You'll probably find no shortage of support for Nigel Barker or Jay Manuel (Mister Jay) while It's All About Me Tyra hardly gets any. Part of that comes from their dry delivery, which is almost always in plain simple English rather than the Tyraspeak she is ever so fond of. Hell, even with his silly accent imitations, the flamboyant J. Alexander (Miss Jay, also a fan favorite) can get his point across with next to no mumbo-jumbo. There is a reason many fans did not like the news that Tyra fired them all.
In the American Big Brother, there's similar strategies to Survivor. However in this game, it's individual from the very start - so as a result, you want to make yourself appear to be much less of a threat that people won't target you. You want them directing their sights at someone else, not you. Thus, a fair amount of Obfuscating Stupidity is involved in making yourself appear much less of a threat than you actually are. Naturally this leads to a lot of sitting around and letting someone else strategize, so that they make themselves appear to be the threat, not you.
Maggie Ausburn won her season for this reason.
Certainly martial arts styles like Tae Kwon Do and Capoeira seem very visually appealing, with all the fancy flips, cartwheels and jump kicks, but even these flashier ones usually cut the crap in serious situations.
In most competitive martial arts sparring, 95% of the points are scored with the most basic moves.
In Mixed Martial Arts, basics have dominated, and coaches will often chastise their fighter if they try to go crazy. Exotic submissions and acrobatic striking moves rarely work, though some fighters have developed reputations for the efficacy of their flashier moves.
Grappling and wrestling overall are often regarded as this trope in MMA fights. Fighters often manage to simply control their opponents for the duration of the fight en route to a safe decision victory than take a chance with more exciting offensive moves for a stoppage.
The neutral zone trap in hockey. Essentially, it's a very heavy defensive strategy that prevents the attacking team from getting close to the net by pinning them in the neutral zone with no way to get around the defense. Critics complain it is extremely boring to watch (neither team really gets a lot of scoring chances as a result,) but if done effectively it is very difficult to beat.
In baseball, the majority of runs are scored as a result of "boring" things like walks and singles. Home runs are great when they happen, but even the most prolific home run hitters can hit a home run only about once every thirteen plate appearances on average. Plus watching a baseball team play as a team, emphasizing practical base hits and competent fielding and generally playing baseball rather than playing prima donna is a pleasure in itself.
Walking in itself could be considered this. For most of baseball's history, no one paid much attention to the ability to draw walks, and batting average, which did not take walks into account, was by far the most widely-used statistic to measure offensive output. With the rise of sabremetrics, or objective statistical analysis, in the twenty-first century, the value of the base on balls has since come to be recognized, to the point where it's no longer an undervalued skill.
Sabermetrics kind of twists this one around on its head. While on-base percentage is definitely one of the biggest predictors of a player's contribution to runs scored (and games won), OBP itself comes from playing "big inning" offense. The ability of a batter to make deep hits and home runs forces pitchers to try to pitch around the batter, giving up more walks. "Small ball" average hitters put the ball in play at a much higher rate, but don't intimidate pitchers and as such get on base much less.
A pitcher that rings up a lot of strikeouts is great to watch, but since strikeouts take at least three pitches a hard-throwing strikeout artist will tire quickly and be less effective over a game (or a season) than a pitcher who induces batters to hit groundouts and flyouts.
American Football: Big passes and fancy trick plays are crowd-pleasers. But teams can often get even more mileage out of quick passes to the center of the field. It's not difficult to get 5 or 6 yards minimum per pass this way, and if you have a good tight end or receiving tailback, or a wideout that runs a lot of short patterns to the middle, they can rack up yardage while the big-play players are given more coverage. A team who can get consistent gains on boring runs up the middle will quickly wear out the opposing defense, which will leave their opponent helpless to stop either their running or their passing attacks in the late stages of the game. This is why there were so many Super Bowl routs from the mid-'80s to '90s: the AFC teams, with their flashy passing attacks led by quarterbacks from the 1983 draft class and their light 3-4 defenses, were physically dominated by the power running games and smash-mouth defenses of NFC teams of the time.
Vince Lombardi built most of his career on a single play- the Power Sweep. While not the only play in his book of course, it was the most practiced, and John Madden once related a story where, visiting a seminar by Lombardi, the coach spent the entire 8 hour seminar talking about that one play.
On defense, the concept of the two-deep zone. While it does have some drawbacks, such as being vulnerable to the run, it is very effective at preventing long passing plays by an offense. It also has the advantage of being simpler to execute than other styles of defense.
In basketball, two of the most reliable sources of points are layups and free throws. Also, the shot clock was introduced largely to eliminate the viability of the "four corner offense", actually more of a defensive tactic which consisted mostly of passing the ball around without even trying to get a shot for as much as five minutes at a time.
In recent years, as the NBA has gotten into the same "moneyball" trends as the MLB, this has been turned around on its head. Middle-court jump shots are being deemphasized in favor of close-in-play (higher scoring percentage, and a high likelihood of being fouled), and three-pointers (the probability of an offensive rebound is better, and the chance of the extra point is statistically enough to make it worthwhile rather than pushing inside the line).
Played straight (and later subverted) in Association Football, which suffered from an overdose of Boring but Practical heavy defensive tactics during the early 2000's.
Johan Cruijff's quip: "Football is simple, but the hardest thing there is, is to play simple football."
The catenaccio or counter-attacking family of tactics falls under a similar category. The aim is for the team to defend with as many as 10 men, whilst only one or two players remain in attacking positions, hoping to get to a loose ball and create an opportunity from it. Due to the difficulty of attacking a team that is defending with many players (especially when done well, like Inter in the 50s/60s) added to the lack of attacks created by a team using this technique, many pundits now call this "anti-football". It is however extremely effective in levelling chances between teams of different level, so most teams that expect to lose a game will play in this fashion.
In football, heavy defense tactics are meant to frustrate the opponent team by preventing it from scoring in any way possible. This goads the opponents into attacking your goal more desparately, while you wait for a "lucky break" for a surprise attack on their weakened defenses. At this point, the heavy-defenders then usually go into an even heavier defensive to protect this advantage in score, making it even less likely to see more goals later in the game. The result, for everyone but the diehard fans of the defensive team, is that the majority of the game is itself extremely frustrating and usually promises a very small final score (1-0 and such). The period culminated in the 2002 World Cup, where the German team made extremely effective use of this technique for the majority of the tournament, winning the first three elimination rounds at exactly 1-0 each. However, this was subverted when they lost the final to the Brazilians, against whom defensive tactics don't usually work.
Boring but Practical came back with Greece's performance two years later, at the UEFA Euro 2004, winning the whole tournament in the process.
Fate/stay night, where generally massively destructive attacks rule supreme, and where the main heroine has a Sword Beam that can wipe out a city you have fake Assassin and (to a lesser degree) Lancer. Both their Noble Phantasms (read weapons and special attacks) do one thing: attack one, and only one person infront of them. Nothing else, not even environmental damage. Not very much compared to Saber's speed-of-light Wave Motion Sword, Archer's Field of Blades, Rider's 430kmph Pegasus, Caster's over-the-top Beam Spam, Berserker's stockpile of 12 lives, and immunity to all attacks below building-buster levels and Gilgamesh's Reality ripping,world-destroyingsword or his rain of legendary weaponry. HOWEVER, Lancer's Noble Phantasm uses so little mana that he can fire it off 7 times in quick succession without draining himself completely, as opposed to most of the other attacks mentioned above. And though his attack isn't flashy or earth shattering, it will probably kill you in one shot. And Assassin's attack doesn't even use mana at all. It's just a very good sword technique that's undodgeable and instakill if he manages to set it up. It's not flashy, nor is it No Kill Like Overkill, and it's not even really magical, but it damn well works.
In theory. Neither of them ever successfully kill anyone with their techniques in any version of the story.
Among the mage spells in Dungeons & Dragons, "Magic Missile" is one of the first and most basic ones you have access to. Although the damage is deals is sub-par, it always hits. It ignores both damage and elemental resistances, ignores incorporeality and does not allow a saving throw to reduce or negate its effect. The only things that can stop Magic Missile are spell resistance/immunity (not common at low-mid levels), a specific spell (Shield) or a specific consumable item (Brooch of Shielding). But Wait, There's More!! As you level up, it scales with your level and becomes able to target multiple foes at once. And as a 1st level spell, you'll always have plenty of spell slots available for it, and later it becomes prime material for metamagic feats. The utility of this spell is so high that Mr. Welch mentions this spell by name.
#69: There is more to wizardry than magic missile. Even if I can do 200 damage automatic with no save.
In 4th Edition, all classes have "at-will" powers (magic missile being one), which are all examples of this trope — they can be used as many times as desired, where the flashier, more powerful abilities can only be used occasionally. As such, boosting the power of these abilities is a boring but practical way to make your character stronger.
Also in 4th Ed, magic missile is one of the few wizard powers that count as a ranged basic attack, meaning it gets bonuses from a lot of equipment AND can be used for extra attacks granted by certain leader classes.
For a 3rd Edition wizard, many of the most powerful spells are not flashy direct-damage spells like fireball or lightning bolt, but spells that weaken the enemy, like ray of enfeeblement or web, which can turn a potentially deadly fight into a cakewalk.
And for all the melee classes, Power Attack is probably the feat of choice and is a core book feat can be taken right off the bat for most melee builds. Take a few advanced feats to go with it (Leap Attack, Shock Trooper) and throw in a good solid martial weapon and it can become a Game Breaker. Beam emitter is simply too powerful for the task.
Many consider melee classes this for DnD compared to the flashier spell casters. A Wizard may be able to shape the fabric of reality, but a Fighter can kill things dead quickly (More so with buffs)
The 3rd Edition cleric lacks the finesse of the rogue, the combat prowess of the fighter, or the impressive offensive magic light show of the wizard. Furthermore, it is expected to fill the thankless, inglorious task of healing and supporting the party.
Keeping your allies alive so they can finish the fight is the epitome of Boring, but Practical. The fighter may be thrilled when his Critical Hit downs the dragon, but if it weren't for the cleric healing him, the dragon would have mulched him by the second round. This has been the cleric's job since the class was first created, with 4th Edition changing it a bit.
With 3rd edition clerics, wizards, and druids, much of their usefulness stems from the variety of useful utilitarian spells, from endure elements, water breathing, and plane shift, to oddities like rope trick, which gives a party a safe place to rest.
This was the case in earlier editions as well. Many of the spells available to such classes were entirely practical, useful for dealing with quite mundane problems. Every spell mentioned above was in the Core Rulebook of earlier editions as well.
The most important magic items in 3.5 are the ones that increases your stats. They take precedence over anything else that uses the same slot. Also, items that does cool or unusual things are often priced too high to be useful by the time you can get them.
If you're buying magical items, which is certainly not the favoured method.
Rolemaster has the spell Shockbolt. It's not a very powerful attack spell, as attack spells go, but it has a few advantages over some others. Because it's a low level spell, it doesn't take much magic to use. It's available to two of the three groups of magic types on base spell lists, and to some others on special spell lists, so most spellcasters can cast it. The actual attack is a sort of electrically charged light, so it works better against a target with metal armor. In this system, you're as likely to kill something with a critical hit as by sheer damage, and shockbolt does criticals against metal-armored targets rather better than against targets protected with leather or cloth armor. The effect is so pronounced that metal armor is generally not much valued because this single spell makes metal armor a liability.
However, the above-mentioned speed-crazed alien brutes can take motorcycles as troops choices simply by taking a cheap special character.
For that matter, the average Guardsman's lasrifle, so weak that they're commonly nicknamed "flashlights" but extremely low maintenance and can be recharged anywhere. And a thousand of them can bring down an army of 'nids.
The bog-standard model of the Leman Russ Main Battle Tank, both in-'verse and on the tabletop. It lacks the flash of the more specialised models of the same chassis, and the sheer power of super-heavies like the Baneblade, but they're cheap, plentiful and can perform well (if not excel) in almost any role.
Missile launchers and autocannons are by far the most versatile Heavy Weapon available to human armies - hardly flashy, like Plasma Cannons or Lascannons, but they have good anti-infantry capability (frag missiles for the ML and a high fire-rate for the AC) and can kill anything up to Armor: 13.
A meta-example is the heavy stubber, which is the M2 heavy machine gun in all but name. When a weapon that uses gunpowder to throw solid projectiles doesn't need updating for 'forty thousand years, you know it's practical.
Indeed, for most armies in any of the Games Workshop big games (Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, and Lord of the Rings), it's generally a good idea to cross off the most expensive units in their force from attempts to build serious armies. The reason is fairly simple; any extremely powerful unit is going to take up a lot of the points an army gets, leaving the rest of the army weaker. It'll get blasted by canonballs, a hero killer, or tanks because it is such a big investment on your part, leaving your force crippled. Even if your opponent doesn't have a powerful answer to kill that behemoth, he maybe can tie it up so it doesn't damage anything important while the rest his army crushes your force. For example, one solution to facing a dragon in Lot R is to feed it a mook every turn; sure, the mook is doomed, but the dragon is likely impotent to do anything else and cost so many points the rest of your army can sweep the enemy with little trouble. Likewise, if a new player insists on a huge squad of assault terminators you can't kill, skating around them will mean that incredibly expensive unit does too little damage to justify its massive cost. Boring but practical wins cutthroat games.
By far the most efficient way for Imperial Guard players to defeat monstrous creatures, especially Tyranids, is to ring them with conscripts, shoot the rest of the army around them, then, once everything is well under control, maybe charge them with a command squad and try to get a force weapon and a couple of powerfists in contact with them.
The theoretical concept of "Mathhammer" is built on this, usually comparing several types of units within a certain points limit in the scenarios they were built for and seeing which one is more cost efficient. This usually means that most players would build their army not with the best units in the codex, but with the cheapest ones that can pack some sort of heavy firepower (such as the Meltavets, who dies faster than any other anti-tank squad, but can kill way more in the small time frame that they're alive, at least statistically).
Arkhan Land has discovered three vehicle designs which are currently in use by the Imperium. Two of them are the Land Raider and the Land Speeder, a tank and a recon unit, respectively. However, there is a third vehicle, one not as common in the tabletop, yet often considered much more important for the Imperium... the Land Crawler, a cheap utility vehicle used as a transport, a tractor, a vehicle to clear the field... and, if needed, you can use it tow artillery, or replace the engine and slap on a few stubbers to make an excellent recon vehicle.
In Warhammer the Dark Elf army has two major close combat core choices: Warriors which are just basic soldiers with spears and shields, or Corsairs which are kickass Dark Elf Pirates with two swords (or a sword and a crossbow pistol), wearing cloaks made of dragon skin. Unfortunately, Warriors are much cheaper and roughly equally effective, meaning that there's no logical reason to take Corsairs over them. It doesn't hurt that Dark Elf Warriors are among the most effective for their points basic infantry in the game.
Sadly, the cards linked above are also banned from most tournament formats, possibly for exactly that same reason.
In the beginning, Magic tournaments were often dominated by big, flashy spells, things like dragons, angels, and demons. Then one player got the idea of using small, crappy creatures that most players ignored for a fast beatdown, with the idea being that a big, flashy spell is no good if the other guy is too dead to cast it. A few nearly one-sided tournaments later, the "weenie" archetype that we (Magic players) all know and love was born.
Cards don't get much simpler than Lightning Bolt, yet it's so good that it wasn't printed in a tournament legal set for 14 years. It only returned due to Power Creep, Power Seep, which is remarkably small considering the game's enduring nature.
Blue Deck Eaters, especially those with lots of counterspells. No, you don't hit enemies with massive monsters or blast him with uber-powerful spells. All you basically say is "No, you don't cast that" when you counter his spells, and "No, you can't have those" when you force him to discard. It's not flashy, but once it starts working, it will defeat most any deck out there, except those specifically made to counter that mechanism.
Blue-White control decks takes this trope to it's most literal meaning. With a slew of cheap blue counterspells and white removal, you effectively render your opponent impotent throughout the entire match while either digging up your own combo or pinging him with consistent yet hard to remove damage. As expected, when your opponent has to face the likes of Render Silent and Silence every single turn, it gets hilariously annoying and boring for them, especially if you just wiped the field (so they don't have any existing stuff to use either).
Yu-Gi-Oh!'s metagame is faced with a similar situation. Finally summoned your almighty Dragon Master Knight? Or maybe Elemental Hero Divine Neos? Too bad, they're just as vulnerable to traps like Mirror Force as Kuriboh is. Unless you're summoning something that is immune or can shut down traps, it's usually much better to go with something simple, like Cyber Dragon, whose effect is simply: "Summon for free if you don't have any monsters out and your opponent does".
For example, the most effective tactics at one point of the game are to manage your card advantage, and abuse advantageous monsters like the Disc Commander, Monarch and LADD. A very boring yet highly effective strategy.
This has changed to a degree since the introduction of Synchro Monsters. Shooting Star Dragon for instance, is possible but difficult to summon, but amazing when you do. Same goes for Red Nova Dragon. Also, Synchros have higher ATK than the stars of previous metas, so managing to summon that Dragon Master Knight might actually do you a tiny scrap of good.
Nowadays, there's a notable amount of decks where the strategy revolves around summoning a big flashy monster every single turn effectively. The game has gone so far that something that seems Awesome But Practical before becomes Boring, but Practical.
In Exalted 2e, the most cost effective charms are the excellencies - they either add dice, add successes or allow you to re-roll. No flashy attack flurries, no golden beams of magic light.
Oh, it gets even better. Whereas the first few excellencies cost motes (Mana) on a per-use basis, several Exalt types have an excellency which allows them to commit motes and then use the earlier excellencies at reduced cost (or no cost at all) for the rest of the scene. End result? Basic multi-action attack flurries boosted by free excellencies are one of the most efficient means of dealing damage in the game.
And then even better: Solars have a Charm which allows Excellencies to not count as Charms. Considering you can only use one Charm per turn without a combo, this allows you to augment your defenses no matter what (even if it cannot be used alongside the cost-reducing Charm above).
Perfect Defenses. They're cheap, only serve to negate one attack, but they're needed to survive attacks being enhanced by other Boring, but Practical charms.
First, there's the medium laser — modest range and damage, but lightweight, compact, heat-efficient and can fire all day long without running out of ammo, which makes it a great weapon for light 'Mechs that can't carry much in the way of weapons tonnage anyway and a great backup weapon for the big guns on heavier designs. It's just perhaps the most ubiquitous 'Mech weapon out there, period.
And second, one of the most basic items of the 'modern' era: the double heat sink. It's perfectly boring — all it does is funnel heat (one of the main limiting factors on how many weapons you can safely use in one turn) out of your 'Mech or other eligible unit at twice the rate of the plain old single heat sink for the same one-ton weight. However, because using DHSs on a design also doubles the base heat dissipation capacity it gets for free with its fusion engine before explicitly installing extra sinks and because the game was not originally balanced with this in mind, this item arguably ends up edging right into Game Breaker territory; single heat sinks certainly have generally fallen out of favor as a consequence except on units that explicitly cannot use doubles, or for background flavor reasons.
In theory, what's supposed to keep double heat sinks in check is their increased bulk (two or three times the internal space of singles depending on model). What this means in practice is that at the absolute worst they take up a grand 50% more room for the same heat capacity — and further quirks of the construction rules actually leave them frequently the more compact solution after all. (This also applies only to 'Mechs; other units that can use double heat sinks just don't assign space to heat sinks in construction at all and so completely ignore this supposed drawback anyway.)
A lot of the stuff in Traveller is like this. Three thousand years in the future and they are stillfighting with rifles. Most commerce is carried, not on Cool Starships, but on great big hulking Megacorporate abominations that fly unadventurously on scheduled routes. The Imperium is ruled, not by a mysterious Ancient Conspiracy, but by a caste of the decendants of successful industrialists and soldiers. And so on.
In Trinity, Clairvoyants ('Clears') don't get to throw bolts of lightning, conjure fire with their minds or teleport an enemy into a dozen different directions at once. Their 'flashier' abilities (like precognition) are depressingly unreliable. They have one major edge, though: They can easily find out where exactly somebody or something is. Combine that with, for example, some knowledge of ballistics and a mortar and you have a very, very frightening combo.
In Mage: The Ascension, the core rulebook highlights how every single tradition has developed a simple "heal my injuries" technique. Some magi blast foes with arcane bolts, some call forth ancient spirits, some invent sapient computers, but everybody finds some way to close their wounds quickly.
In Sequential Art when the cast tried a tabletop wargame, Scarlet could do only The Loonie part, so Kat called her "sisters" to play with Mad ScientistHive Mind. Two strips later it occured to Pip that Think Tank accumulates mana, so he attacked before they can cast uber-spell wiping out his whole army. In the next strip, he lost. They simply disabled his leader, for just long enough to let their allies win the war.
The main reason this tactic worked was because Pip dedicated his entire attack force to stop the sister's plan, believing that whatever they had planned would be more dangerous than what the other two players were doing.
Magic Missile is mentioned in the Dungeons & Dragons entry above. In The Order of the Stick, Redcloak convinces Xykon to use it against the ghost of Soon Kim, because even though it's a mere 1st-level spell, it does Force damage which ignores the incorporeality of ghosts.
Darkwing Duck: Darkwarrior Duck, rather than use a flashy or dramatic way to defeat Megavolt and Quackerjack, just beats them with... a garden hose. No overkill missile launchers, no gas guns (he doesn't even use them anymore), just a garden hose.
Justice League: How Green Lantern John Stewart tends to use his powers in earlier episodes (somewhat justified by the fact that he's a military man). Katma Tui calls him out on it in Season 2, and from then on he gets a somewhat more creative with his constructs.
Gargoyles Xanatos was offered one wish from The Fair Folk or a lifetime of service from a normal human. He choose the human. While magic powers are great and all, good help is hard to find.
Also, taking a wish from a (literally) legendary trickster also could mean his wish could have been twisted around.
When Gwen is asked how she will use the 100,000$ cash prize of Total Drama Island, she says that she will use it to go traveling and then to a university to study art history.
Near the beginning of Avatar: The Last Airbender Zuko rages at Iroh over the latter's training focusing on basic firebending. Later, we see that Zuko's mastery of the most basic part of firebending, control of one's breathing, gives him a resilience to cold that other firebenders can't match, to the point that he is able to resist the effects of a specially designed anti-firebending prison cell.