Sometimes, the most powerful fighter will not be equipped with such Stock Superpowers as super-strength, or Nigh-Invulnerability. Instead, they have the power to see into the future.
Why is this useful? Because it lets them know your next move, and plan accordingly.
Why this doesn't muddle up their ability to know what you're doing now can be chalked up to the Rule of Cool. Alternately, it can be Hand Waved by saying that they're not looking that far into the future, or by noting their brain can keep up with both.
Is often accompanied by Spider-Sense, which warns the user of vague danger instead of predicting specific attacks.
Compare Kung-Fu Clairvoyance where the hero seems to have this, but it's not canonically one of their abilities. Contrast with Super Reflexes.
Not to be confused for Calling Your Attacks, which is about calling out the names of your own attacks as you do them.
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Anime And Manga
Sven's seer's eye in Black Cat allows him to see a few seconds in the future, thus detecting danger before it happens.
In Code Geass, this is the Geass power given to the Knight Of One, Bismark. In the manga, Nunnally has it.
In Fullmetal Alchemist (manga and second anime), the homunculus Wrath has a super power called the Ultimate Eye, which enables him to predict every single outcome of every single situation in his field of vision. It makes him unbeatable in combat. He gets defeated when one of the heroes stabs him through the body of a fatally wounded ally, which provided cover and prevented the power from warning Wrath of the danger. That isn't enough to kill him, but another of the heroes uses the opportunity to put out his Ultimate Eye, and as a result of that and his wounds, Wrath is defeated and killed in his next battle.
The same power belongs to the homonculus Pride in the first anime, who is implied to use the power outside of combat as well in order to become the ruler of Amestris. Although he only fights a single open battle, he's completely unbeatable in it until Selim Bradley exposes him to the skull of his original body, paralysing him until Mustang can burn him to death enough times for it to stick.
In Claymore, it is explained that Teresa's extraordinary strength comes from her ability to read her opponent's flow of yōki so well that she can predict their movements based on where it is flowing to in their bodies, and Clare seems to have inherited this ability, being able dodge before the opponent strikes. However, this makes them weaker when faced with an opponent who can either completely suppress her yōki, or one who has so much yōki overflowing in them that she can't determine what's what, and there are also certain techniques that can't be read, such as Ophelia's "rippling" sword.
Takuma Fudou from Get Backers has this by way of precognition. He can look a few seconds into the future, and see what his opponents are going to do.
The Big Bad of S-CRY-ed eventually gains this ability through telepathy, reading his opponent's mind and predicting their attacks from that. Ridiculously, this somehow allowed him to perfectly dodge a man capable of fighting at the speed of sound, who at one point was spinning faster than the human eye can follow.
This is Diavolo's Stand ability in Part 5 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. He can also "erase" a 5 second section of time so that it never happened. As you might expect, this power is ridiculously broken.
In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Nodoka's artifact has the ability to read minds. While this doesn't quite fit the Clairvoyance part of the trope, the use we see most often is her reading her opponent's mind in combat and reacting to the opponent's plan.
Mirai Nikki, being a series about people who receive ways to predict the future and are then sent to kill each other, has this in spades.
In Naruto, upgrading to the three-tomoe state of the Sharingan gives this ability. If they're looking at someone in motion it will be like they can see exactly where and in what position that person's entire body will be in. However, there are some things, like the Animal Battle Aura of a tailed beast's host, whose movement it can't predict very well. The other shortcoming is that knowing exactly what your opponent is about to do doesn't necessarily mean you're strong enough or fast enough to stop him from doing it.
The Mantra (or 'mantora') ability of the Skypeian Priests works like this. The main character overcomes this by turning his brain off and moving at random. He overcomes another by working together with other fighters to leave the Mantra-powered foe with absolutely no options. A secondary character overcomes a Mantra-powered foe by performing an Interface Screw on him, making him lose control and sink headfirst into a quicksand-like mud. After all, what good is the ability to see into the future if you can't find a way out or if you don't have control over your own actions anymore?
It is revealed much later on that this skill is called Mantra by the Sky Islanders, but is one of three types of Haki, called the "Color of Observation" or "Kenbunshoku". And now Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji have it.
In Psyren we have Kabuto Kirisaki, whose psychic ability "Menace" acts as both Spider-Sense and Combat Clairvoyance. He can see incoming danger as a white aura a few seconds before it actually happens.
In Saint Seiya a silver saint has this ability and it proves hard to defeat
Jun of Saki has the ability to read the flow of a Mahjong game and uses this to her advantage by cutting off her opponent when they're about to win. Unfortunately for her, Mihoko also has the ability to perfectly analyze a field to see what's going on and has a presence that disrupts Jun's ability.
Parodied in Soul Eater. A mook shows up who has this ability. Sadly, he can't react that fast and ends up throwing himself at his opponent's fist at the first opportunity to save himself the bother — all he saw was different ways he'd get his ass kicked.
The Villain of the Week Nurse Okamoto/Hina in episode 5 of Star Driver has this, able to anticipate all of Takuto's moves... unfortunately, it also came with a fanservice mode. And since she couldn't stop checking out Takuto she lost.
Shiki in Tsukihime due to his ability to perceive death, knows when he's about to be hit by a lethal blow. Since his opponents are a lot more powerful than him, that's nearly every blow. That doesn't help him in numerous Bad Ends.
Brad Crawford of Weiß Kreuz has the ability to see bits of the future, making him a formidable fighter.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Ishizu Ishtar can see a minute or so into the future, see what will happen, and plan her own move accordingly. Pegasus' Millennium Eye is also a variation of this, able to see the mind of his opposing player and figure out what strategy they use.
The ZERO System from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing works like this, except that it's technological rather than a superpower. It's an advanced combat analysis complex that puts together massive amounts of battle data and tactical analysis and feeds it directly into the pilot's brain, including predictions of what the enemy's going to do. Combined with the mindlink the System creates, this allows the pilot to move and react as if the Humongous Mecha were part of his own body. The problem is that it tends to evaluate everything as a potential threat, and to assume all potential threats are imminent threats, meaning that often the ZERO System's recommended course of action is "destroy everything in sight". Combined with the sensory overload of all that data being dumped into the pilot's brain, it takes considerable willpower and emotional control to use the ZERO System without going insane. Heero, Zechs and Quatre all master it to the point that they can use it with no problem at all by the end of the series, and Dorothy is able to instantly use it without hindrance, perhaps on account of already being a bit crazy.
In the final battle, Quatre somehow seems to still be able to do this even after he disconnects the ZERO System from his Gundam. Despite Psychic Powers supposedly not existing in Gundam Wing.
An unusual case in Until Death Do Us Part, the sidekick girl can foresee the future and has, on several occasions, remotely-directed the heroes by predicting which moves will let them dodge the incoming attacks. Although this ability keeps them alive and able to fight, it doesn't always let them escape without injury.
YuYu Hakusho has a minor example in Murota, who gained precognition from the opening of the portal to the Makai. He used this ability to win street fights for money, but proves useless against Yusuke due to the vast difference between their speed. Elder Toguro later gains this ability by taking over the body of Gourmet (who ate Murota), though once again it proves useless against Kurama.
In Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Caerula Sanguis has this ability due to a combination of being able to read an opponent's neural impulses and 700 years of combat experience, allowing her to both perfectly predict and influence an opponent's moves.
In Doom Patrol Negative Man (nee Flash Forward) can see the immediate future but due to his relative wimpiness his only use in a fight is coordinating his teammates based on his visions. Eventually he loses control of it and can't stop seeing the distant future, before being given medication that suppresses his powers altogether.
Dream Girl in pre-any-reboots Legion of Super-Heroes could do this. Not only that, her ability to do it was taken from a much older LSH story.
Superman villain Massacre. Superman eventually figured out that Massacre's actual ability is being able to read his opponent's nerve impulses to predict their actions and knocks him off guard with a ricochet attack and presses the advantage to keep Massacre from regaining his bearings.
In a Teen Titans comic, Clock King is able to clobber Robin by virtue of being able to see a few seconds into the future and knowing what his next move in combat is going to be.
Ravager has a similar power. In the final issue of Terror Titans, she wipes the floor with Clock King by fighting dirty and not giving him time to react to his visions. It was retconned later that her power is based on Awesomeness by Analysis. Deathstroke, who shares the same powers as Ravager, explained this to her.
The short-lived Wolverine villain Mr. X (two-time winner of the Least Original Name prize) relied in combat on the fact that he could read people's minds and tell what they were about to do. Oh, and the fact that he was a kung fu master. But it was his ability to predict moves that gave him the edge he needed.
Nicolas Cage played a precognitive in the movie Next. Since he was always seeing two minutes ahead, he was actually LIVING two minutes ahead — but whenever he ran up against something he didn't want to happen, he would force himself to refocus back into "the present," and choose to do something different. In short, he was so tuned into his precog it worked almost more like the ability to jump backwards in time than to see the future.
The Big Bad of DOA: Dead or Alive has developed a pair of sunglasses that both give him the fighting prowess of those he gathered data from, as well as letting him predict their movements. This somehow also lets him take down three fighters in the prime working in unison, while he is twice their age.
Canonically, this is the explanation for the Jedi Knights' superior combat-skills and ability to block lasers with their lightsabers... they've got the ability to predict the future in a limited way. This is brought up in The Phantom Menace when Qui-Gon Jinn pegs Anakin as a potential Jedi due to his ability to participate in Podracing - a sport that human reflexes simply aren't fast enough to keep up with. Jedi can also look further into the future, but this generally requires a lot more effort and is less reliable.
Yoda: Always in motion is the future.
There's a fan fic, "The Sith Who Brought Life Day, where an officer trying to figure out the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star looks at some of Luke's records. He'd taken a hand-eye coordination test and caused the computer to crash.
At least according to the record, he'd been hitting the correct response buttons in the milliseconds after the trigger stimuli algorithm had been run, but before the actual images appeared onscreen, and the computer had not been able to handle near-simultaneous input and output. He'd crashed the thing three times before he'd evidently decided to slow down a little and let the program catch up.
General Buford makes a speech about what will happen at Gettysburg if he allows the Confederates to take the high ground before the Union infantry arrives. Though this is due to being Genre Savvy as a result of decades of experience as a professional soldier rather than any superpower, he does reference the trope.
Buford: It's like tomorrow's already happened and there's nothing you can do about it.
In Machete Kills, Voz can see the future, allowing him to predict his opponent's moves. Fortunately, while he can predict Machete a little, in the end, "Nobody knows Machete."
In the Dune series, the Kwisatz Haderach has the ability to (among other things) see into the future, which is used in combat. Mentats can also see the future by way of "projecting" the possible outcomes of a given choice, but their role was not usually that of a front line combatant. And yet when it came to combat, prescience proved useless because of too much happening too fast. During one fight, the most Paul could see was that possible futures include him winning and him being carried out as a corpse. note How unlike Frank Herbert, to introduce a super-cool idea and not quite follow through.
The main character from the Alex Verus series is one of the best examples of this. He's usually going up against opponents far more powerful than him, but survives through always being one step ahead.
Prince Po from Graceling has a variation of this as his Grace. While he can't see the future, he can sense people's intentions toward him. If someone's going to punch him, he'll know it before they so much as twitch. He's a very talented hand-to-hand fighter on his own merit, and his Grace amplifies it exponentially.
One spectacular aversion in the book Iapetus, in which after the normal protagonist has had his complete helplessness around espers repeatedly proven to him, he encounters a community leader of an esper colony; a physically brutal sociopath who enjoys killing "monkeys" and feels the protagonist has stolen his girl. And who is unconscious after one punch to the jaw that nobody sensed before it landed.
The metal atium grants Combat Clairvoyance to allomancers in Mistborn. In-universe, burning atium is believed to make the user completely unstoppable (allomancers can have a number of other powers as well) except by someone else also burning atium. When that happens, both are flooded by an incredible array of constantly shifting options, as one reacts to the other's future actions, the other reacts to that, etc. Atium also specifically enhances the allomancer's mind in order to deal with the new information. Despite the power atium grants, each book in the original trilogy has a scene where someone with atium fights someone without it, and loses. One is a case of sophistry: apparently atium shows an opponents' future actions, but not the action of starting to burn atium, leading to a moment of confusion that the opponent exploits. One hinges on the fact that this is still clairvoyance and subject to the usual pitfalls and loopholes, like being a second behind in a match of Scry vs. Scry. The last is a re-enactment of 300: atium-users can do tremendous damage, but at some point, the power will start to tell you "You'll drop that sword and collapse."
The main character Kellen in Mercedes Lackey's The Obsidian Trilogy. He is a Knight-Mage, and when he's fighting can see his opponent's next move just in time to get out of the way. Can also see open places before they are open.
This is also a use of the rare ForeSight ability for Heralds. Heralds with mind-reading powers have the option to do this in combat, or take it a step further and mess with their opponents' minds to make their attacks miss, though for most this is an unethical use of their power.
The mind-reading version occasionally happens to background characters in Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye series, though all of the major heroic characters either are telepaths themselves or unreadable.
Hope Adams of The Otherworld has the ability to sense chaotic emotions/events. In one book, this allows her to sense bad thoughts (such as thinking about pulling a gun on someone) before they occur and intercept them, thus giving her some form of Combat Clairvoyance.
Played with in Weber's Hell's Gate series. While most people's Precog deal with specific disasters like volcanoes or forest fires, he Calirath talent is 'People Precog', dealing with tragic or sweeping events with /people/. It works quite well when the Calirath is going to be risking death in a battle — the stronger Caliraths can even use it to fight with, and the visions grow stronger if the person has a good chance of dying. In the book itself, the Crown Prince uses the Calirath talent to arrange a battle that they will most definitely lose so it's a great victory — but because he saw his death and made sure to follow it to ensure his men the greatest chance at victory, he dies.
The Dunyain from Second Apocalypse can't technically see the future, but they can read their opponents' expressions and body language and predict their actions before they perform them.
Alice Cullen uses her clairvoyance against other vampires, both for fighting and playing chess - which leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny where she and Edward (who has Psychic Powers of his own) play a game of chess in their minds without even touching any of the pieces, whch ends with Alice placing her king on its side to signify her surrender.
Edward's telepathic power, while not this ability per se, is also specifically addressed as acting in this fashion throughout the series, as it allows him to counter his adversaries' moves before they carry them out.
Light And Dark The Awakening Of The Mageknight: Ghost-Sight. As the name implies, a ghostly foreimage warns the user what their opponent will do just before they do it and thus giving the user precious seconds to counter. If the user's opponent is too fast for them to predict, or too fast for the user to respond, then it's more or less useless.
In Evgeni Proshkin's Your Half of the World, people called Forwards can see several minutes into the future and are thus able to pick the most desirable outcome. Most intelligence agencies and Mega Corps seek to enlist Forwards, as each one is worth an entire analytical department. The main character is a Forward named Til Hagen who discovers that someone is eliminating other Forwards. The thing is, a Forward cannot be killed by anyone other than a more powerful Forward (i.e. someone who can see further in time). In order to survive, Til must be able to outsmart someone who may have already foreseen all his possible moves.
Live Action TV
In Charmed, Phoebe's power of premonition is utilized in this manner.
Implied in Firefly to be one of the (many) reasons River Tam is a One-Man Army. Her brain is very advanced - she could definitely handle processing both present and future events and act accordingly.
Dungeons & Dragons has a few spells that do this by giving their caster damage resistance.
Not just spells, but various feats, class/race abilities, skills and item properties work as boosts to Initiative rolls, keep you from being subject to surprise attacks, be able to use interrupting abilities, move out of the way, have someone else take the damage, or otherwise ticking off the GM.
This is also what numerical "insight" bonuses represent— knowing where an opponent's attack will land makes a character harder to hit, and knowing where an opponent's weak spots are going to be positioned makes a character better at hitting him.
Invoked Trope in Cyberscape, you get Offensive/Defensive Kata calculators/computers, chips implanted in the brain analyzing the current battle and comparing it to millions/trillions of battle sequences, calculating the most probable enemy attack, defensive weak spots, and giving advance warning to dodge attacks/exploit weak spots. The net result is an insight bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls (for the offensive calculator/computer), defense, reflex save, and listen/spot check to avoid being surprised (for the defensive calculator/computer).
In the RPGsGURPS and Champions the advantage Danger Sense covers this, though usually players don't spend enough points to make it monstrous. Spider-Man, is the inspiration.
In Warhammer 40,000 this is part of the reason that Eldar psykers are effective in close combat. The other reason is the rest of their repertoire of powers usually involve eldritch lightning or psychic flames.
On a more strategic level, Eldar commanders use this to guide their warhosts to victory. Often, warhost commanders tend to be senior seers or aided by senior seers, who skein the threads of fate to determine what the best course of action is, and then they telepathically send this information through to lesser seers and warlocks, who function as squad leaders. Because of this, Eldar warhosts move and react to enemy action with an almost uncanny and very confusing degree of alacrity.
Averted for the Oracle of Tzeentch - he is possibly the greatest seer of the universe but his powers are only useful in long-term Xanatos Roulettes; he is actually blind to the present (one head sees the future and the other the past) and so physically a pushover by greater demon standards.
In The Dresden Files' RPG, the custom power "A Few Seconds Ahead" that canon character Abby has allows her to see a few seconds into the future. The in-game effect of this is that it allows her to use her high Lore skill to dodge attacks rather than her lower physical skills.
In The World of Darkness Vampire: The Masquerade Eyes of Chaos, one of the powers of Dementation, the signature discipline of the Malkavian clan, makes the user impossible to suprise.
Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid does this by reacting to your controller input. He becomes a much easier opponent if you plug your controller into the P2 port so that he can't read you.
However, reassigning your PS3 controller in MSG4 doesn't work, so you'll have to use a different strategy to fight him.
The Vyrewatch in RuneScape have the ability to predict what move an opponent will make with a normal weapon. This allows them to dodge all attacks, making them immune to all weapons, except the one you make during the quest they're introduced in.
Lambda of Wild ARMs 4 has the Blue Destiny ability, which lets him calculate the future and allows him to completely avoid the attacks of anyone in his sight most of the time, even if the attack is normally unavoidable.
In Warcraft, this is part of why it's a bad idea to fight Nozdormu, Aspect of Time. The others are his colossal other temporal based powers, such as the fact that even if you did manage to kill him he could rewind time and try again, and the fact that he's a giant dragon.
Actually Nozdormu is destined to die, although where, when and how is unknown. He was gifted with the knowledge of his own death to keep him from misusing his powers over time. Unless you're the destined one, you can't kill him.
As shown in the World of Warcraft dungeon End Time, you still need the help of Nozdormu himself to pull it off.
This is one of the abilities the Monado in Xenoblade possesses - it's demonstrated in gameplay by a brief flash forward to show a particularly devastating attack on one of your teammates. Since the game runs in a manner similar to Final Fantasy XII, this is the means by which it warns you that you're about to get your ass kicked. You usually won't be without a way to prevent what you see, though. Performing actions that avert the vision (killing the offending enemy, using a skill to block or evade or delay the attack, healing the attack's target such that they don't die, drawing aggro to a different target) cause the bar recounting the future to change, or shatter outright, if your actions destroy the possibility for that future rather than simply delaying it.
One major example shows up in a fight late-game, where you see one Physical God cutting the other. The damage is listed as a mobiusstrip.
An example of Combat Clairvoyance as a key gameplay mechanic: the rewinds in the Prince of Persia games let him (and you) know what an opponent is going to do next, and react accordingly.
It amounted to the caster using her juice to see things happen a second or two ahead, so that she could aim where the enemy would be, and to move where the enemy's return blows and arrows would not land. Most importantly to this plan, a Predictamancer could know whether or not a shot or blow she was about to initiate would be a hit. If it wouldn't, then she simply did not take the shot.
Foreshadow in Global Guardians PBEM Universe is a crimefighter who occasionally partners with Battlecat, battling organized crime in New Orleans. He's an almost unbeatable hand-to-hand combatant due to his ability to see just far enough into the future to know what they will do. He's even used this power to dodge bullets. The Eye of God, an expert swordsman and member of the super-terrorist group known as "The Mujahedin", can do the same thing. One wonders what a fight between Foreshadow and the Eye of God would be like.
Jo Donner has this power in the Whateley Universe, and she's at Whateley Academy learning how to use it better.
In Worm, the tinker superhero Armsmaster has a heads-up display in his helmet that includes a combat style simulator which — when provided with sufficient video documentation of an opponents fighting style — grants him this.
Contessa, enforcer for Cauldron plays this a little straighter, by seeing "the path to victory" and following it to completion. Its effective enough she describes her power simply as "I win".
The Number Man's power is a variation: instead of knowing what's going to happen, he can predict the reigion where the next attack will come from. This means all he has to do is be not there. Every time.
Francis Grey, from The Batman, does this by way of rewinding time.
Though its subverted, when he tries to use it on Batman in a direct fight, only to fail 'three times' due to Batman feeling a sense of 'deja vu' which he now knows means time has been reset.
Demonstrated in Xiaolin Showdown as one use for a Shen-Gong-Wu that let the user see the future. Master Fung uses it to beat all the Monks except Raimundo, who promptly decides it's not worth trying ("I knew you would say that").