A commercial in Geico's "rhetorical question" ad campaign tested the question of whether the pen is mightier than the sword. A skilled ninja shows off his sword skills, and his opponent uses a pen to sign for a package containing a taser, which he immediately uses on the ninja.
"Yes, by every means possible, we go for the win."
In Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue", the title character seeks revenge on his estranged father for his awful name. Sue's had to fight his whole life through to defend himself from mockery, and has become a tough combat pragmatist as a result. When Sue finds his dad, they get into an epic brawl, and Sue describes his father as kicking like a mule and biting like a crocodile. Both Sue and his dad are examples.
The Bible: Two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi ended up slaughtering all the men of an entire city because their prince had raped their sister. How did they achieve this? By telling the men they would let the prince marry their sister if all the men of the city agreed to be circumcised. That took all the fighting men out of commission, and their conquest of the city was incredibly easy. Their father Jacob, however, hated this and told them this only made more trouble than practicality for them for them in the long run, because now all the Canaanite tribes viewed them as enemies and would turn against them.
It has been argued that the story of David and Goliath is less about the triumph of faith over brawn, and more about taking a deadly ranged weapon like a sling to a knife fight. Also worth noting that David then beheaded Goliath with his own sword, just to be sure.
Destroy the Godmodder: A meta example: pionoplayer and aegis have both gotten into trouble for finding and abusing loopholes in the rules to gain advantage over other players.
Lukas the Trickster in Warhammer 40,000 is the dirtiest fighter in the Space Wolves Chapter, making him the dirtiest fighter in an army of dirty fighters, and thus easily the dirtiest fighter in the whole damn Imperium. He went so far as to have one of his hearts replaced with a bomb, just to make sure he takes the other guy out with him.
And said bomb is a stasis grenade that traps those caught in the blast in a stasis field, where they can only hear Lukas' laughter for the rest of eternity. The Magnificent Bastard.
He DOES play up the Space Wolves as berzerkers just so nobody realized what bloody brilliant tacticians they really are...
The real king of this trope for the Space Marines are the Raven Guard and their descendant chapters. Where as the Space Wolves simply cheat in battle by making you think they'd fight fair, the Raven Guard were organized under the ideals of guerrilla warfare and domestic terrorism.
Gabriel Seth, Chapter Master of the Flesh Tearers Chapter. In close combat, he isn't adverse to headbutting an opponent, kneeing them in the groin or biting their throats. This is represented by him getting a free attack every time an opponent in close combat rolls a one. This ability alone makes him able to go through fifty man conscript units with ease.
And, surprisingly, the Grey Knights have a beautiful Combat Pragmatist in the form of their amazingly heroic and powerful Brotherhood Champions, who can, when fatally wounded, pour all their power into one final attack that can kill anything. Such attacks are even more potent for their unexpected arrival. Not to mention that their captains have absolutely no problem calling down Nemesis Dreadknights when faced with Daemon Princes or Orbital Bombardments on their own location to spite enemies.
They have no qualms of using Daemonblades & Xenos-designed Psilencer guns, as they are so damn incorruptible.
Which isn't surprising when you remember there job is to stop chaos no matter what, even killing innocents and using their blood as paint if it gives them the edge.
The Orks generally avert this, being content with a brute-force strategy, but the Blood Axez clan will employ concepts like special forces, camouflage, and retreating if things go bad. Other tribes consider this Unorky, but the Blood Axes stick with what works.
The Dark Eldar are this big time. To make up for their lack of toughness or physical strength compared to the other races, they use all kinds of horrid hyper-advanced weapons that debilitate their foes and give them an edge in battles; knives and splinter rifle shards coated with virulent neurotoxins, grenades that emit hallucinogenic gas, functional Agony Beams which sap strength and will from their targets to cripple them, monofilament nets that shred their unfortunate victim as they struggle, you name it. Their tactics are developed along the same lines: raids, terror attacks and the like. Or, they'll just manipulate someone else (usually humans and Orks) into doing all the hard fighting for them.
Jes Goodwin: "They're Dark Eldar. They cheat. It's what they do."
The Craftworld Eldar, as well. They're masters of asymmetrical warfare. Most of their army dynamic is fast-moving, hard-hitting shooty troops, while their melee units, the Striking Scorpions and Howling Banshees, are more for stealth and hit-n-run tactics. And they can see into the future too, so many of their wars are won before they even start, thanks to, say, a Ranger getting a headshot on an Ork warboss or Imperial general.
The Tau never commit to pointless last stands and frontal human-wave tactics like the Imperium, and prefer ending their wars quickly through destroying enemy supply routes, performing swift and tactical precision strikes, and long-range combat. Since they are physically weaker and have slower reaction time than humans the Tau use the Kroots, a race of barbaric alien mercenaries who specialized in close-quarter combat, to fight any enemies close to the Fire Warriors.
You wouldn't think this trope could possibly be Deconstructed, but the Night Lords provide one. The Night Lords are a Chaos Space Marine warband who specialise in raids, terror tactics and guerilla warfare. Except that their reliance on this dirty style of fighting means that they actually can't really fight very well, or at least they lack the conviction and valour of other, more fanatical legions, and this means the Night Lords are largely a bunch of smug, cowardly bullies who prefer weak and defenceless foes and fare poorly when their enemies are powerful and not fazed by their terror tactics. Up against Imperial Guardsmen or defenceless civilians, they're very smug and confident. When they're up against loyalist Space Marines, Skitarii or the Craftworld Eldar, on the other hand...
During the Great Crusade, Horus' forces ran into an alien race who had codified the art of war by having armies meet in huge arenas to prevent the loss of life. When the time came for battle, the humans were bemused to see the slaughterhouses half-filled with warriors, all looking to the sky. Horus, in an instance of true tactical genius, quickly ordered a planetary bombardment from orbit.
Speaking of, the Imperial Guard can be this depending on the regiment, interestingly playing with the trope. While some regiments find it pragmatic to fight like guerrillas and hit and run (e.g. Gaunt's Ghosts or the Catachan), others find it more pragmatic to fight like it's the 19th century against their enemies (e.g. Praetorians and Mordian Iron Guard). For most, their pragmatism boils down to, "Bury them in waves of bodiesand artillery fire".
The Iron Warriors are siege specialists - and the guiding rule of siege warfare is "whatever works, works". While they'll usually bring the big guns to bear no matter what, they'll also happily use infiltration, cannon fodder (including captured enemy troops loaded into expendable vehicles manned by suicide cultists), spies, traitors, secret passages, and other, far less pleasant means to crack open the fortifications and kill everyone inside.
The Alpha Legion base their doctrine around the 'Strategy' part of Strategy Versus Tactics and only commit to open battle if they've lain down the ground game and stacked the deck to their advantage. They do not shy away from using spies, double agents, False Flag Operations and strategies which screw with their opponents' heads, train cultist cells (often years in advance) to soften up their targets and provide support before the Legion takes to the field, and can and will withdraw from a battlefield before a single shot is fired if the outcome is deemed strategically unsound. They'll even mimic their opponents' battle cries to get them to hesitate, with often fatal resultsnote Though with their ambiguous loyalties and Aloof Ally status to the Imperium, Alpha Legionnaires crying "For the Emperor!" might actually be genuine. While this means they tend to do poorly if they end up forced with their backs against the wall, the covert ops nature of their campaigns means they very rarely are. During the Horus Heresy a (possibly falsified) account claims the Alpha Legion decisively defeated the Ultramarines by goading them onto a battlefield of their choice and essentially caused defeat upon defeat on them until the Ultramarines Rage Quit the whole battle because their opponents were 'too dishonourable'note In this case "Rage Quit" means "bombard the planet from orbit". Still a strategic and ideological win for the Alphas though for forcing Gulliman on a wild goose chase away from the big battle on Terra and for forcing him to abandon his highly-orthodox tactics which he deemed superior to the Alpha Legion's covert methods..
The Skaven in the above-mentioned game's fantasy-themed sister Warhammer are this in a way you wouldn't believe, primarily motivated by their Dirty Cowardice. Very few Skaven will ever accept a direct challenge and even fewer will seek challenges themselves, preferring instead to shove an underling forward - in gameplay terms, while most armies have their leaders in the front of a unit and suffer penalties from declining a challenge, Skaven leaders can be placed in the back and decline without trouble. Skaven can also exclusively shoot into a melee against their own units, and employ Warplock Jezails to act as Cold Snipers.
Too many Dungeons & Dragons classes to name. The rogue's "Sneak Attack" ability is probably the best-known example; dealing extra damage by specifically striking vulnerable parts of the body. The Sandstorm expansion in 3.5 includes a feat for blinding opponents with sand. Stormwrack includes grappling mechanics for holding opponents underwater until they drown.
There's also an entire tree worth of feats devoted to this concept called "Dirty Trick." As opposed to more straightforward and formal examples of fighting styles in Dungeons & Dragons, such as Expertise or Weapon Finesse; Dirty Trick allows for any number of plausible, underhanded fighting techniques, such as gouging the eyes or striking the groin, in exchange for an apropos debuff to the opponent.
Paranoia: The main book includes a "Tips for Traitors" section with such advice as "Don't shoot at your buddy the first excuse you get. This gives him a chance to shoot back. Dumb. Wait till he's busy with something else (better yet, give him something else to keep him busy), then shoot at him."
Fiend Caste Infernals are pretty much obligated to cheat - the First Ebon Dragon Excellency flatly refuses to benefit honourable actions, while dishonourable ones are fair game. They also get combat Charms that encourage shooting the enemy from a long way away or backstabbing, and which have effects like shutting down various kinds of resource regeneration so the enemy runs out of motes and willpower before long, backed up by the ability to literally siphon away enemy luck. And then there's the option to use Black Mirror Shintai to just straightforwardly turn into a duplicate of the enemy and use their own tools against them.
In the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, Battlin' Boxer Rabbit Puncher gains its name from the rabbit punch; a blow to the neck or to the base of the skull which is illegal in professional boxing and other combat sports. This references how Alit was willing to cheat in his tag duel with Nistro against Yuma and Dextra.
Also from that duel is Battlin' Boxer Cheat Commissioner, who presumably doesn't enforce a clean fight.
Everybody does this in Starfleet Battles (or they lose and look stupid while doing so). Special mention goes to the WYN Cluster Defense Force, composed of a few captured ships, a few purchased pirate vessels, and mostly a load of modified freighters that pose no threat at all to a real warship...except that they only fight warships that are effectively crippled by coming through the radiation field surrounding the Cluster.
Strangely for a bunch of Proud Warrior Race Guys, Clan Star Adder in BattleTech is extremely pragmatic in all things, including combat. Unlike their fellow Clans, they are a prudent, careful, long-view people. This doesn't sound very pragmatic or combat-related, but bear in mind that Clan society is based around the notion that War Is Glorious, and Trial by Combat is the center of Clan culture. The Star Adders' peers are very much into Honor Before Reason and seeking the quick, flashy route to everlasting glory earned in battle. The Adders, on the other hand, aren't. They maintain an intelligence arm, which only a couple other Clans bother to do (notably, several destroyed or absorbed Clans flatly refused to employ intelligence services, thinking them dishonorable). They train master stategists in a society that prizes tacticians, and so tend to reliably claim victory in campaigns even if individual battles are lost, letting their enemies underestimate them because of those short-term losses. Finally, in a society where Klingon Scientists Get No Respect, they openly demonstrate that they value every single sector of their Clan fairly and justly. This leads to an incredibly low rate of defections and desertions in all castes and means that when the Scientist-led cabal strikes the Clans' Warrior castes seeking revenge, the Star Adders are among the least affected by the rebellion. In a more traditionally pragmatic-in-a-fight sense, Clan Star Adder does things such as obsessively studying enemies to discover weaknesses, openly suggesting an Enemy Mine scenario to a Clan they're conquering so that they can punish a mutual foe, using various combinations of terrain, bait, and misdirection to hit enemies from their blind spots, and turning their enemies' own tactics against them, such as adopting the Inner Sphere tactic of setting up ambushes—all things their more hidebound peers detest and refuse to do, which gives the Adders ample opportunity to trounce them in battle.
In addition to sneak attack and other elements from Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder introduces the Dirty Trick maneuver, which can give temporary penalties if successful. There's also a feat chain to improve both how well the player can perform a dirty trick as well as make the deleterious effects last longer (it also makes the player able to resist enemy dirty tricks, presumably because they see it coming). Samples that the game gives include a Groin Attack to give the sickened condition and A Handful for an Eye to temporarily blind a foe.
In Hunter: The Vigil, hunters are actively encouraged to use dirty tricks, called "tactics", to gain an edge over the monsters. Conspiracies are also given endowments, abilities and tools that give them an even-footing with (and sometimes an advantage over) the monsters being hunted.
Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution expects you to be this, to some extent. It stats damage from such things as bar stools, broken bottles, telekinetically thrown manhole covers, exploding cars, and being pistol whipped.
In X-Wing Miniatures, the Scum and Villainy faction as a whole is prone to this. Apart from a handful of Rebel ships with the correct upgrade, only the Scum can take Illicit upgrades. Sample illicit upgrades allow Scum pilots to take a hit of glitterstim for temporary super-focus, cloak on a ship that normally can't do that, make attacks against ships that would normally be out of their line of sight, explode when killed, hack stressed-out enemy ship systems to inflict damage, deploy debris in the path of enemy vessels, and fry their own systems for a desperate but unavoidable stab at a nearby ship.
Evgeny Shvarts has a play called The Dragon. When the titular dragon is challenged to combat by the protagonist, he wants to just incinerate him first, but is reminded that there is a document he signed preventing that (the dragon claims he wrote it when he was "a na´ve, sentimental, inexperienced youth", but the threat to reveal he is afraid to fight fair is enough for the battle to happen on more even terms).
In Dead End, "Baby-Face" Martin teaches Tommy that "fair and square" is no way to win a fight.
Invoked by Ben in Death of a Salesman. "Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You'll never get out of the jungle that way."