Scissors Cuts Rock

"Rogues are scissors."
"Warriors are rock."
"Hunters, paladins, priests, druids, mages, and shamans are paper."
"Warlocks are mushrooms."

"Paper beats rock."
"Scissors beat paper."
"Scissors also happen to beat rock..."

"Until rock hits sixty at which point rock becomes an unstoppable killing machine that also beats paper, and would beat scissors, but it can't find scissors, because scissors are invisible. So scissors beat paper and avoid rock, and that is called balance."

Unlike actual Rock-Paper-Scissors, type advantages are not the final say on who's going to win a given matchup in strategy games and RPGs — if a character (or unit) is strong enough, they can come out triumphant against somebody with even the most outlandish of inherent type advantages against them. This can be a potential Moment Of Awesome for the character to defeat an expected Curb-Stomp Battle.

While usually limited to games (or occasionally to other forms of media based off of them), it still has an advantage over its more widely-used cousin, the Worf Effect: You don't need to waste any time establishing the talents of your victim. If you've got a fire user you want to demonstrate the power of, you can set him loose against even a handful of water-based mooks you had show up five seconds ago, and the effect is still achieved.

Often the reason people sometimes have cases of Elemental Ignorance, if they can win consistently in spite of their supposed disadvantage. Alternatively, if someone is a Poor, Predictable Rock and knows it, they can train specially to fend against the element that's supposed to counter them, diversifying their skills while remaining true to their art - and often providing a nasty shock for opponents who think they'll have an easy fight simply on the grounds of having the counter element.

Related to Elemental Tiers, where some elements are stronger than others regardless of advantages or disadvantages; I Am Not Left-Handed, where a character who had been losing reveals to have to been playing under a handicap; and Cherry Tapping, where a character defeats another character with an intentionally weak or ill-suited weapon just to humiliate him.

See also Man of Kryptonite and No Sell.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • A non-advantage example: the scene in the Bastard anime where Dark Schneider, lacking appropriate Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors spells, takes out a fire elemental with a fire spell.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Natsu is able to withstand any of Totomaru's fire spells as he devours fire. Totomaru reacts by using a special fire that smells like garbage. During the same battle, Natsu manages to beat Totomaru's flame control out of sheer will.
    • Gray has occasionally fought enemies who will try to use fire against him, using the obvious logic that fire melts ice. However, Gray is Natsu's perennial rival and notes that the fires others use against him are never as strong as Natsu's, and so are barely worth noticing.
  • In One Piece, Luffy, being a rubber man, is immune to Enel's electricity-based powers. However, Enel finds ways to hurt Luffy anyway by applying electricity indirectly, culminating in his tossing Luffy overboard with a gigantic gold sphere attached to his wrist serving as an anchor. Luffy defeats Enel as soon as he gets out of the mess, but Enel did turn what should've been a Curb-Stomp Battle into one where he had the edge.
  • This happens a lot throughout the Pokémon anime; as it's a Long Runner chock full of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, this is perhaps unsurprising. It often involves a trainer being creative enough to not simply use a weaker move directly.
    • The early episode "School Of Hard Knocks" has Misty defeat a schoolboy's Grass-type Weepinbell with her Water-type Starmie because hers is several levels higher, meaning the type advantage is irrelevant, much to his shock.
      • Just to drive the point home, Misty's Starmie is subsequently beaten down by the resident Alpha Bitch's dual-type Rock/Ground Graveler. Ash then manages to uphold the Rule of Three by beating said Alpha Bitch's Ground-Type Cubone with his Pikachu.
    • Another early episode trainer, AJ, put his Sandshrew through Training from Hell to make it resist Water attacks despite being Ground-type.
    • Ash's Pikachu is able to affect Ground-types with its electricity due to sheer training, despite that this feat is virtually impossible to duplicate in the games.
      • "PIKACHU! THE HORN!" Apparently, an Electric attack can be used to take out a Ground-type Pokemon, completely immune to electricity, as long as it's correctly aimed. It passes the real-world logic test but blatantly contradicts the games.
      • Something similar happens in Pokemon Special, when Red's Pikachu is able to take out Brock's Onix with a well-placed Thundershocknote .
    • While not a type advantage, Ash used his Pikachu to defeat Lt. Surge's Raichu, its evolved form. In their first match Raichu wiped the floor with Pikachu, but in their rematch Pikachu won by focusing on outmaneuvering the slower Raichu rather than fighting it directly. The theme of that episode was that technique trumps power.
    • In Ash and Gary's showdown at the end of the Johto arc, their last Pokemon were Ash's Fire-type Charizard and Gary's Water-type Blastoise. Charizard managed to win by getting in melee range, since Blastoise's water cannons couldn't aim that close to itself.
    • Ash's Taillow/Swellow, who was able to take Electric-type attacks better than your average Flying-type. At the very least, it's treated In-Universe as an anomaly.
    • Ash's Oshawott handles this in a more practical and visually consistent manner: he uses a shell to deflect Electric and Grass attacks, which would otherwise be devastating to a Water-type like him.
    • Several of Ash's Pokémon know moves that allow them to counter some of their weaknesses. Notably, his Krookodile is weak against Fighting Pokémon but Ash taught it Aerial Ace specifically to work around this.
    • The XY series introduces Froakie, a water type starter pokemon, by having him interrupt Ash's battle against Team Rocket. Ash ordered Pikachu to use Electro Ball on Wobbuffet. Wobbuffet countered with Mirror Coat, which sends special attacks back at the other pokemon with doubled damage. Froakie decided to jump into the path of the Electro Ball in order to help the already weakened Pikachu. Electric attacks are Super Effective against water types, which means they take 2x damage. In the games, an electro ball would be strong enough to One-Hit Kill a water type, especially a lower level pokemon like Froakie. Froakie took 4 times normal damage and managed to keep standing (albeit just barely.) The only way for this to happen in the games is if Froakie was wearing an item that prevents a OHKO, or if the pokemon likes its trainer enough to shrug off such attacks.
  • In Ragnarok The Animation, The Dragon Zephyr performed a One-Hit Kill on Moonlight Flower using Lord of Vermillion, a wind-element spell which Moonlight normally employs No Sell on! Well, as part of Story And Gameplay Segregation, of course.
  • A Certain Scientific Railgun:
    • During the Sisters Arc, Frenda Seivelun made the mistake of underestimating Level 5 Electromaster Misaka Mikoto by using ceramic, the strongest insulator of electricity, against her. Unfortunately, however, ceramic doesn't take heat very well.
    • Similarly, in the finale of the Level Upper arc of Railgun, the AIM Burst uses an insular shield of some sort to prevent Mikoto from harming it. Mikoto just amps up the electricity to the point that the resulting heat cooks the thing alive.
    • Mikoto later faces Yasumi Usukinu, who emits a field that prevents electricity from flowing. Mikoto eventually generates enough electricity to overpower the field.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Colonel Mustang vs Lust. Lust breaks a water main and soaks Mustang, to prevent him from using his fire powers against her. Except that his elemental power is specifically to control oxygen and hydrogen. He rips the molecules of the water apart and creates a massive flamethrower with the help of one of his lieutenants and a cigarette lighter.
  • Early on, during the first fight between Recca and Tokiya in Flame of Recca, Tokiya's Ensui, which is a rapier made of water, easily extinguishes Recca's flame-based power. Later on however, Recca manages to quite literally increase the heat of his flame such that Tokiya's water blade boils and becomes steam, thereby defeating him.

    Comics 
  • The Green Lantern Corps have repeatedly defeated Sinestro and his organization, despite the Green Lanterns being weak to yellow and the Sinestro Corps' ability to generate yellow objects.
  • Ghost Rider: The Ghost Rider manages to defeat water-based powers with his fiery abilities.
    • Justified, as his flames are supernatural and aren't put out by water.

    Literature 
  • In The Zombie Knight, this can happen if a high-level servant gets into a fight with a servant that has a power that is particularly useful against theirs. For example, Harper had a lot more trouble with Conall and Tessa than expected because they used reflective barriers(Which his laser attacks couldn't penetrate) and destruction to keep him back. His response was to enter an absurdly powerful hyper-state, which let him kick everyone's butts, and move at lightspeed.
  • In Enders Game, when Dragon Army racks up an undefeated streak under Ender's command, the teachers start stacking the deck against Ender to see just how good he is, like letting his opponents in the battle room 10 minutes before him, or pitting him against 2 armies at once. He just keeps on winning.

    Live Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • During the first level of Der Langrisser, a horseman commander named Laird takes on an army of spearmen, which normally wouldn't end well at all, but Laird is the right-hand man of the elite imperial general Leon, so that spearman squad is pretty much doomed unless you can end the battle early.
  • In general Pokémon gameplay, you can override type advantages by simply being much stronger than all opponents. Even the Elite Four can be defeated by a single starter if it's at level 100.
    • An easy way is to have an ability or use a move that removes immunities. For instance, having a Pokémon with the ability Scrappy or the move Foresight means that Normal-type and Fighting-type moves can hit Ghost-types, which are normally unaffected. Another way is to have an ability or move that grants you an immunity to what would normally be a weakness. For example, several Pokémon that have Levitate, including the Koffing line, Solrock, Lunatone, and most famously the Tynamo line, are immune to Ground-type moves when their typings would normally make them weak against them.
    • Since Brock, the first Gym Leader of Generation 1, specializes in Rock types, it's a good move to choose Squirtle or Bulbasaur as the starter since the Pokémon you can catch beforehand are mostly Flying and Bug types. However, the remakes FireRed and LeafGreen make the unprecedented move of having Charmander naturally learn Metal Claw at level 13, with which it can easily take down Brock single-handedly as seen here.
      • Even without other types of moves, it is possible for a moderately powerful Fire-type to take down or at least cause considerable damage to a Rock-type with a strong Fire move, since most Rock-types, despite their natural resistance to Fire, have subpar Special Defense (when out of Sandstorm at least) and most popular Fire attacks (like Fire Blast and Flamethrower) are Special.
    • It's a very prevalent practice in the competitive base to equip a Pokémon with a move that specifically counters its most common counter. Players puzzled as to why their otherwise competent opponent switched to Houndoom against a Water-type quickly found out why: Houndoom probably has Sunny Day and Solar Beam. Sunny Day powers up Fire-Type Moves (With the added bonus of simultaneously weakening Water-Type moves that would devastate the Fire-Type Houndoom), and Solar Beam (super effective against Water Types) loses it's chargeup turn (the one thing keeping Solar Beam from being a total Game Breaker).
      • This is a very good thing too, since otherwise battles would pretty much wind down to a stalemate as each player alternately switched to a beneficial type matchup and neither player could ever kill anything.
    • This is also the intent of the ability Tinted Lens, which doubles the power of any attack that gets resisted, raising it to the power of a neutral attack. If the ability is possessed by a Pokémon with decent offensive power, or its opponent has weak defenses, a "not very effective" attack can do significant damage, or even a One-Hit KO.
    • Normally, Ice-type moves are less effective against Water-types. However, Freeze Dry, a move introduced in Pokémon X and Y is an Ice-type move that is Super-effective against Water-types, thus being able to do massive damage to Water/Dragon, Water/Flying, Water/Ground and Water/Grass types.
    • In an almost literal example of the trope, Rock-type Pokémon take double damage from Steel-type attacks.
    • Durant, which was specifically designed to absolutely suck against Heatmor, will more often than not outclass Heatmor due to its superior Speed, high Attack, and the ability to learn Dig, which would spell doom for the defensively-lacking Fire-type Heatmor.
    • Smogon's "Monotype" metagame is centered around this concept. Trainers can only use Pokémon of a common type. If you can't check your team's elemental weaknesses, you just locked yourself into Poor, Predictable Rock.
    • Then there's Inverse Battles, a mechanic introduced in Pokémon X and Y that takes this literally by turning weaknesses into resistances and resistances into weaknesses.
    • Primal Groudon in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. As it's now a Fire/Ground type, it would be 4x weak to water... except that its ability creates harsh sunlight that negates all Water-type moves in the battle, giving Groudon an immunity to what would otherwise deal massive damage to it.
    • Several of the gym leaders in the main story of the games, more and more as time goes on, incorporate this as part of their strategies, through the use of things like dual typings, certain moves, and abilities.
      • A great example is Viola of the Santalune Gym in XY. She uses Bug Pokémon, so many players think they can probably sweep her with a Fire-type. Then she opens the battle with Surskit. Not only is it part Water-type, making it neutral to Fire-type moves, it can use Water Sport to weaken Fire-type moves even further, as well as Bubble to hit Fire Pokémon for super-effective damage. It doesn't end there though, her other Pokemon Vivillon has a Bug-Type move called Powder which coats the opponent in a flammable powder that explodes and damages them when it uses a Fire-Type move, completely turning the tables on Fire-Types. Want to fry Vivillon with your Fennekin or Litleo? It can't if it kills itself in a suicidal explosion.
  • In End War, Helicopter beats Tanks, Tanks beats Transports, and Transports beat Helicopters. The first one can be defied by equipping your tanks with Anti-air missile. A well-timed special attack can also avert the usual result.
  • In Fire Emblem, winged units are weak to bows, but bow users can't attack at close range, and winged units have a Move advantage. This tends to end poorly for bow users, and it's part of why exclusive bow users are a Tier-Induced Scrappy.note 
    • There's also times where a Pegasus/Falcon Knight will have evade high enough that the archers won't be able to hit her, literally avoiding her weakness and then counter-attacking with javelins that will hit the archers. This is unlikely though, as, while Pegasus Knights are quite fast, Archers are the most accurate class in the entire game.
    • Also, in Sword of Seals lances are so bad and swords so good a match between users of both has a good chance of ending better for the sword user, despite losing the Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors. Lances got a much needed buff the next game and swords a slight nerf.
    • Axes and fire magic have a similar problem in Genealogy of the Holy War due to their extremely high weight, and swords can sometimes beat lances due to weighing about a quarter as much.
    • The trinity of Lances, Axes, and Swords in general could count; while the combatants get bonuses or penalties to their damage and accuracy depending on whether or not their weapon trumps the other, a powerful enough character (like, say, Frederick) can go up against a weapon they're weak against and still win without much trouble.
    • There are also the "reaver" type weapons, which are specifically designed for this trope, reversing what the wielder is usually strong or weak against (so a swordsman with a Lancereaver is strong against lances but weak against axes).
  • In Persona 3, after Chidori dies, Junpei gains a new persona and blasts Jin with a fire spell. Jin reflects fire everytime you have to fight him as a boss.
  • This can happen fairly often in Battle for Wesnoth, given how time-of-day, terrain, applications of mobility, and special abilities like charging or magical attacks can easily turn the tables as to what counters what. Simply selecting the correct unit types is not enough to ensure victory.
  • Spiral Knights often falls victim to this, as the strengths and weaknesses of most monsters are not modified by the environments that they spawn in or the elemental types that they appear to be. For example, a Silversap (an icy-looking Lumber) will still be susceptible to Freeze damage and Shock damage, or a Smoking Howlitzer can still be taken down with ease using an immolating weapon.
  • Yggdra Union has a weapon advantage triangle-inside another triangle, which can easily be rendered irrelevant with activation of various Cards (such as Oblivious Dawn, Revolution, Sanctuary, or Crusade). Knowledge of invoking this trope inside the game is practically necessary, since the Big Bad has a weapon that screws over the usual triangle.
  • In Age of Empires III, pikeman-type units are extra effective against melee cavalry units. However, war elephants and French curaissers are capable of crushing large numbers of pikemen due to having powerful splash-damage attacks (pikemen typically have little health) and absurd amounts of health.
    • A similar thing happens in Age of Empires II with Cataphracts, the Byzantine unique unit. Their extremely good armor combined with an attack bonus against Infantry means they actually have the advantage against Pikemen one-on-one, despite being cavalry. Paladins also beat unupgraded Pikemen one-one-one, though in this case it's a Pyrrhic Victory at best since the Paladin will still come out heavily weakened and they're much more valuable than Pikemen are.
  • Disgaea's elemental table can be totally ignored if your unit either has strong resistance, an ability that negates part of the elemental table, or you've just upgraded your unit to be such a Badass that elemental damage is otherwise unnecessary to worry about.
    • This also can be exploited with certain classes. The Mystic Beast, Warslug, and Dragon classes are immune to wind, water, and fire respectively. On a normal matchup with any other unit, a Fire Skull (for example) with +50% in his fire element will deal an additional 50% damage for what he deals in fire. If the target has a -50% fire, then it'll basically double the damage they'd receive... unless it was a dragon who could have an abysmal fire stat, but is ALWAYS immune to fire.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Vaarsuvius is able to almost defeat an enemy wizard who's tailored not just his spell preparation, but his entire build specifically to counter V's evoker blaster-caster tactics. V dominates an enemy archer and uses said archer's physical arrows to bring him down where direct application of magical firepower could not. A careless mistake at the end of the fight prevents V from truly winning.

    Real Life 
  • This is the entire idea behind Wild Weasel missions and the aircraft designed and armed to fly them. Seeing as Surface-to-Air Missile sites are deployed far behind the front lines, ground forces can't take them out effectively. So what's the air force to do? Fight back. And the easiest way to spot an Anti-Air battery? Get them to shoot at you first.
  • The whole design Philosophy of the B-17 and B-29 is "Bomber beats Fighter". They do this by attaching a hell of a lot of guns, it actually works too, German pilots are more afraid of a B-17 than an enemy fighter, and since B-17s usually come in massive numbers for large-scale stragetic bombing, there's usually more machine guns in a group of B-17s than there are in an usual Antiaircraft battery. Said guns are also usually closer to the fighters. There was even a brief experiment intended to exploit this with the YB-40, a modified B-17 which carried no actual bombs instead mounted even more machine guns. This proved to be a failure because the YB-40 wasn't fast enough to keep pace with B-17 formations, but the turrets designed for it were incorporated into the next model of standard B-17s. Of course, later advances in technology makes this strategy moot, but for a WWII era bomber, it is incredibly effective.
  • Tank armour compared to anti-tank weapons heavily depends on the strength of both the armour and the weapon in question. Anti-tank rifles in particular would be unable to penetrate the thinnest plating of a modern main battle tank.
  • The result of many interactions depend on the quality or quantity of the opposing forces. A breeze can blow out a candle but can spread a wildfire. Enough dirt will swallow water, enough water will wash away dirt.
  • In certain competitions, self imposed rules and exhibition games often give expert competitors disadvantages to see if they can still win, like winning with a low-tier character in a video game.
  • The "Off the Record" show (hosted by the GSL or Global StarCraft League) regularly pits top end pros against normal StarCraft players, but with absurd limitations (use only chopsticks to press the keyboard, peel 6 potatoes while playing, etc.). The pros still triumph most of the time...
  • Scissors can cut slate rock.
    • There are some rocks (notably obsidian) that can even cut paper!
    • And if you fold even common paper a certain number of times, then the resulting thick wad will be virtually impenetrable to anything that isn't as cutting as a laser, never mind to ordinary scissors.