"No, really! That was an awesome attack! I could have been killed."
"Well, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit. I could have at least gotten a bruise or maybe a small scratch..."So you have a setup for an epic action show, but you've raised the stakes so high that even one loss will be devastating. Maybe Evil Only Has to Win Once. You could try to fake it with an apparent loss in the middle of the episode, multi-part series or perhaps a bittersweet victory when a character has a Heroic Sacrifice, but otherwise you can't have a genuine loss. This would likely mean an Invincible Hero if any suspense was played up, so the show doesn't play up the suspense. The audience generally knows the hero will win regardless, but their interest is maintained in the how they will win as well as other elements, resulting in it still being entertaining. However, careless use of this could result in a God-Mode Sue. Contrast Failure Hero, compare Escapist Character, The Ace.
—Vegetto, Dragon Ball
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Anime and Manga
- Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, despite being a Real Robot Genre series, plays with the magically self-evolving AGE system, which always upgrade with new gimmicks regularly just to let the heroes become showy and overly powered. AGE-2 Double Bullet comes into mind here.
- Akagi fits. Due to the way it's narrated and the fact that it's a prequel to another story, Ten, where Akagi already is a legend, you are supposed to know that Akagi always wins. The story is about how he became a legend. And looking badass while doing it.
- Golgo 13 wouldn't have a career (and we wouldn't have a series) if he ever failed. The series has gone on for as long as it has on equal parts this trope and his steady recession from the spotlight (his stories are now largely about the people hiring him).
- Both subverted in the absolute cruelest and most heart-rending way possible and later played straight in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Kamina appears to be going this route in classic Super Robot fashion, but he's killed ruthlessly in episode 8 after letting his guard down. After the Time Skip (specifically in Part IV), however, Simon plays it straight, never getting so much as a scratch on him.
- This starts long before the timeskip; basically as soon as Simon gets over Kamina's death nobody save the Anti Spiral King and Lordgenome could touch him.
- It's also subverted in the finale; even after the crew combines into a mech the size of a galaxy, or in the compilation movie, an entire universe, the Anti-Spiral is able to match them strength for strength, because they're in a pocket universe that the Anti-Spiral controls. It's Simon himself that proves indestructible.
- Space Adventure Cobra: Cobra is a lot like this. You don't ever doubt he'll handily win and hand the bad guys their rear. The only question is : "how will he do it, and how cool will it look?"
- Mamoru Takamura of Hajime no Ippo is an example in all of his unimportant matches. He usually steamroll KO's his opponents in the first round, sometimes it's just shown in a stillstanding picture. In one of his matches (the one before his World Match), this trope is even used by Takamura on purpose, as he wanted to come off absolutely invincible to the audience, which is why he only used his weak hand to defeat his opponent. All of his serious matches don't fit this trope, however.
- Alucard of Hellsing is so ridiculously invincible that it's clear from the beginning no opponent is any real threat to him. Of course he has so much fun massacring the bad guys that it's hard to care. Alucard's invincibility is parodied in Hellsing Ultimate Abridged, where he's well aware of his invincibility and points it out as a reminder that he can do whatever the hell he wants to.
- Takuto of Star Driver, as of writing, has not lost a single fight, but that's okay, because he wins each one in a different way. A different awesome way. And the villains have even started incorporating his inevitable curbstomps into their plans… After getting his Mid-Season Upgrade, the battles become much more samey.
- Dante from the Devil May Cry anime is supposed to be this since he pretty much waltzes through every fight in the series. Somewhat justified as the series is supposed to focus on Dante's day-to-day jobs so he never goes up against any major threats. However, many people found it more to be an example of a Boring Invincible Hero. The supposed major threat he goes up against in the last episodes is quickly disposed of once he gets serious.
- Hareluya II Boy: You never wonder whether or not Hibino is going to succeed or not. You only wonder to what degree of funny and awesome his successes will be.
- Grenadier: Rushuna Tendo always wins, but damn if she doesn't look hot while doing so.
- Dragon Ball:
- Vegetto. He effortlessly dominates Buu even when turned into a piece of candy, and mocks him the entire time. It does help that Buu had been quite an Invincible Villain until that point, making someone beating him up even more satisfying. It's averted in Dragon Ball Super though, since he's facing an opponent actually worth his effort this time around, and he's aware he has a time limit of an hour at most.
- Gotenks is a subversion. He's similar in power to Vegetto, but spends so much time showing off that his Fusion Dance inevitably wears off before he can get serious. This flaw continues into Dragon Ball Super.
- Goku for most of the Red Ribbon Army Saga. Outside of a couple of close calls with General Blue and Mercenary Tao, Goku dominated almost every foe he came across. It wasn't a question if Goku was going to win, but how much humiliation he was going to heap upon his opponent before he kicked them to the curve.
- Dark Schneider from Bastard is this most of the time.
- Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children makes it clear that Tifa, Yuffie, and the rest are at the peak of human ability, but Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo are superhuman. Meanwhile, it takes all three of them working together to challenge Cloud. The three of them or one Sephiroth. Or Bahamut.
- The Prince of Tennis: Ryoma already starts the series as a skilled tennis player, but his evolution in strategies and Defeating the Undefeatable makes it worth watching.
- Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star is possibly the archetypical shonen example. There's never any question that he'll win, or even that his opponent will put up a fight; it's all about the catharsis.
- Sebastian from the anime version of Black Butler can do absolutely anything that Ciel orders him to but he tends to do considerably more than is actually necessary. When ordered to win an ice sculpting contest, he builds Noah's Ark and designs it so that the top will split open to reveal another statue inside of it that consists of dozens of animals. Then when ordered to retrieve a stolen diamond he defeats the thieves while winning an ice skating contest that wasn't even happening and ends it by sailing through the broken on the statue of Noah's ark he made earlier.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Judai Yuki almost always wins, but his variety of Fusion Monsters (and the few occasions where he works around it) make a rather entertaining show.
- GaoGaiGar, at least until the Primevals arrive.
- Jormungand: Koko's Badass Crew usually demolish their foes in clever ways, which only serves to make the two times they're genuinely challenged all the more stark.
- Kirby: Right Back at Ya!: Kirby often got into many sticky situations do to being a Super Gullible Kid Hero with an appetite he just can't control and he would often get knocked around at the start of most fights. However, once he inhaled and copied a foe's powers, his opponent was often as good as DEAD. Since this effectively made him a walking Deus ex Machina, you could pretty much say that the fun from his fights came not from seeing if he'd win or not, but what ability he'd use to kick butt. And since he used over 20 abilities in that show, things never got stale.
- Momonga and all of his strongest followers are a Villain Protagonist version in Overlord. They are overpowered enough compared to the setting that their victory comes as a foregone conclusion, but nevertheless it's always awesome. It helps that Momonga knows over 700 spells, so he handily averts a Boring Yet Practical Limited Move Arsenal.
- Teresa from Claymore, especially In the final fight against Priscilla
- Whenever Saitama of One-Punch Man takes the field, it's a given that his opponent will be dispatched with just one punch. The only thing at stake is just how many heroes are beaten by the enemy of the week before he arrives.
- Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren't They?: Sakamaki Izayoi. The only subversion happens when, after winning a fight against a invincible villain with powers similar to his own, he holds back an eldritch abomination alone until reinforcements arrive and he finally retreats to tend to his wounds.
- Superman, and the Alan Moore-created Tom Strong, count as this. There's no question they'll win, it's just how long it'll take to get them there—and what interesting moral questions the victory will raise.
- Many superhero comics run on this principle, but in different ways.
- In early DC Silver Age comics, there wasn't any doubt that the hero would survive an save the day, the question was what bit of clever logic (or Ass Pull, depending on the writer) they would use to overcome the villains (who themselves were often pretty showy). This basic idea would eventually evolve into the Super Dickery the The Silver Age of Comic Books is better known for.
- In modern times, superhero comics usually make the inevitability of the hero's victory interesting by shifting tension away from winning or losing, and focusing on other problems. DC heroes tend to get a lot of suspense and drama out of whether or not they will manage to save everyone in the villain's path (they often don't succeed, which leads to angst), while Marvel heroes often have personal beefs with their villains and the drama stems more from their relationship with the villain and the emotional issues that get brought up during the fight.
- The Astro City story "Old Times" references the former method, and uses the latter, to show how growing old has affected the hero.
- The Metabarons are all this, starting with Aghnar. They are able to win against impossible odds, especially when Aghora slaughters an entire universe in a mirror dimension. The dramatic tension of the series comes largely from the horrible tragedy that continuously befalls the Metabaron clan.
- The Spectre is a perfect example of this trope. Being one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe (he's essentially the God of Revenge) there's not really anything that can threaten him. Sometimes his comics have him pass judgment on morally ambiguous situations and draw suspense from the question of what his final decision will be, and there are other times when he gets de-powered so he can succumb to The Worf Effect. For the most part, though, The Spectre comics are all about watching the title character brutally dispatch horrible people.
- The main appeal of Stardust the Super Wizard, a Golden Age character with more powers than Superman, who spends most of his time taking down petty criminal organizations and terrorist factions, none of which can even visibly slow him down. The appeal of the comic (aside from Fletcher Hanks's bizarre artwork) is seeing the... creative ways that Stardust vanquishes his hopelessly-outgunned foes. In one famous example, a Mad Scientist tried to take over America with an oxygen-destroying ray. After destroying the ray and completely reversing its effects in the space of two panels, Stardust proceeded to grab the man, turn him into a disembodied head, fly into space, and throw him into the waiting arms of a giant 'headhunter' monster, which absorbs the scientist into its body as he begs for mercy.
- Inverted in The TSAB – Acturus War. The author has stated that the TSAB will win and the point of the story is the Villainous Valour of the DRA as it tries to make the Bureau bleed as badly as possible for that victory.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Smallville crossover Stakes and Fenceposts, even armed with magic, the Buffyverse villains are simply no match for Clark Kent, and he pretty much just destroys them all as a total badass.
- The Agents in Akatsuki Kitten: Phoenix Corporation Overhaul. They were designed with the idea of God Mode Sues in mind, and despite rarely shown fighting, are strong enough to knock all of Akatsuki off their feet. The fun parts come at times like an omake that involved an agent going to the Harry Potter dimension, and killing a few Death Eaters by making their blood explode, as well as the "Dancing Hitler" incident. Despite the author's expectations (and occasionally, it's hinted, her hopes) that the characters would be controversial and hated, the characters come across as individual and amusing enough that they're actually fairly popular among the readers.
- Though the fic does make efforts to avoid making him too invincible, Ben in Fate Stay Night: Ultimate Master has moments of this. The most famous example being when he literally quashes Berserker as Way Big, which turns into such a Crowning Moment of Funny and Awesome at the same time that it doesn't really bother you.
- The A Certain Magical Index fic To Ascend, where Touma Kamijou starts the original series at his maximum potential, allowing him to curb-stomp anyone and solve almost any problem without breaking a sweat. The fans love it.
- In Acceleration, Taylor Triggers with Accelerator's powers. As a result, she stands heads and shoulders above almost everyone; apart from a Power Nullifier character, a grand total of one opponent can beat her in a direct fight. The question isn't will she lose, but how does she pull off the win, and what the consequences will be for herself and those around her.
- The original version of the Worm Choose Your Own Adventure is meant to create these. The powers available are so powerful that unless a writer deliberately stacks the deck against himself or screws up critically, the question shouldn't be can he win, but how and what the consequences of that will be.
- All four to a point, but particularly John and Paul, in The Keys Stand Alone. Because they're Actual Pacifists, the point of the story isn't that they always overwhelm their opponents. In fact, they're trying not to fight and very much resent it when they have to engage in combat, so they do their best to make every battle a Curb-Stomp Battle (albeit a non-harmful one) in an effort to discourage people from attacking them. It doesn't work.
- James Bond, sometimes.
- Ip Man. Until the final fight nothing gives him trouble, and even the final villain isn't too big a problem. Not so much in the sequel, where one character fights him to a clear draw, and another manages to keep him on the ropes and even knock him down once. Even less so in the third film, where the fight against one foe isn't about actually winning so much as trying to stand his ground for 3 minutes.
- Cleric John Preston from Equilibrium.
- The Expendables. Not so much in the sequel either.
- Commando: John Matrix. He shoves cars, defeats an entire army, successfully brawls with dozens of police officers at the same time and blows lots of shit up. In a bid to give the movie a Worthy Opponent (and hang a lampshade), Bennett even says that either he or Matrix could single-handedly take out that army.
- The Bourne Series: Jason Bourne. The thrill of those movies isn't from whether or not he'll succeed, but how. Case in point, any action hero can fight off a surprise attacker, but only Jason Bourne can do it with a pencil.
- In Thor, the title character had to be Brought Down to Normal to be given a fair fight. While he has his powers, he pretty casually decimates an army of Frost Giants, shoves the Destroyer's energy blast back in its face without taking a hit, and while Loki does initially begin the fight by kicking him around, it's because Thor refuses to fight until Loki starts threatening Jane Foster. At which point, Thor tackles him through a wall and lays his hammer on his chest. The point of that first movie was to show a god discovering humanity.
- John Wick downplays the "invincible" part, but fully embraces the "showy". John is a One-Man Army, effortlessly dispatching waves of mooks with a stylized combination of Gun Fu (preferably headshots) and hand-to-hand combat. However, a select few people give him serious trouble throughout the movie. In particular, his first fight against Kirill in the Red Circle ends with Kirill throwing him off a balcony. After he gets stabbed in his final fight with Viggo, he's in bad enough shape that it's implied he's ready to die until Heroic Willpower kicks in and he drags himself to a vet to stitch himself up.
- Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM). Since the series is presented as his heavily-edited memoirs, there is no question as to whether or not he'll survive, but rather just how much more the universe can throw at him. Interestingly, he's an Invincible Hero from the perspective of everyone In-Universe, only the reader (and his lover/boss Inquisitor Vail) know just how scared he is.
- This is pretty much what makes Artemis Fowl so enjoyable. The main character should be, by any standard, a Marty Tzu, but it's so much fun to see him pull out his schemes that it won't bother you.
Live Action TV
- Super Sentai and its counterpart Power Rangers. It's never a question what will happen in battle, but how impressive the megazord will be and how big of an explosion will follow.
- Columbo: The title character is one. Once you know what the show is like, you know he's got the criminal anyway. The fun is watching him nail the bad guys bit by bit.
- Burn Notice: The same applies to Michael Westen. Oh, yeah. He's gonna get the guy. But the appeal is in watching him and his buddies pull it off.
- Monk may sometimes doubt his own ability to solve the case, but we never do. The interest lies in watching him solve the cleverest crimes on the basis of what seem to be the thinnest inspirations, and on anticipating the moment when he'll finally explain everything and catch the killer (who is almost always a horribly smug jackass) red-handed. note
- Psych is similar in the vein of Monk. We all know that Shawn Spencer will solve the case and save the day, but his and Gus' hijinks with the police, the often convoluted and strange circumstances of the cases, the personal relationships and growth Shawn and the cast go through was what made the show fun.
- The Avengers: John Steed and Emma Peel never lose. They're not even challenged very frequently by the diabolical masterminds who oppose them. But that doesn't matter — what matters is that they both look incredibly cool while they're doing...well, anything.
- This is most of the appeal of watching MacGyver. If the title character's in a strait jacket and handcuffs while poachers are about to release some kind of nerve gas into the air supply of a zoo, the question is never, "is he going to fail?" Rather, it's "How's he going to use a paper clip, his pants, four Tic-Tacs, a blender that doesn't work, a teaspoon's worth of peanut butter, a blender that does work, and a handful of wet dirt to jimmy himself loose, disable the pumps, and beat the bad guys before time runs out?"
- The original Mission: Impossible was a team of Showy Invincible Heroes. Sure, there might be a hiccup or two along the way, but you know the M.I. team will always achieve their goals. The real fun is in seeing how the simultaneous parallel plots ingeniously come together in the final act to deliver the bad guys' comeuppance.
- The Doctor rarely loses, and even when he does, odds are he'll repay the favor later.
- Of course, given the sort of things his enemies tend to get up to, the ripple effect, if not the plan itself, would probably change history such that the universe would end (or never have existed as of the Season 5 finale).
- While he rarely loses and his companions rarely die, some seasons do leave the survival of any and all people introduced in the current episode up for grabs. In other seasons, not so much. It's Depending on the Writer.
- Ken Hayakawa from Kaiketsu Zubat. He is '#1 in Japan' at everything, including the special skill of the villain he's presently fighting. It isn't a matter of how he'll when, it's all about how freaking awesome he's going to look doing it.
- This was pretty much the entire point of Goldberg's character, especially in his WCW run. He built up a win streak of almost 200 wins straight, and the entire appeal of that streak was in seeing who he could beat next, how quickly he could do it and what new moves he'd bust out to do so. And when the streak finally ended, it was due to arguably the most extreme cheating in the history of pro wrestling: Kevin Nash won by having Goldberg shot with a taser gun, making it clear that in an actual match Goldberg still would've been unbeatable.
- John Cena tends to float into this territory sometimes; often times it's just the Invincible Hero, but when he DOES start selling properly (usually in an I Quit or Last Man Standing match) and goes into full-on Determinator mode, it can be downright scary how much legitimate punishment he can absorb before finally getting the upper hand back and even the smarks start wanting to watch him get back up. Easy enough to say it's all part of the script, but then you remember he usually returns from a legitimate injury in between a third and a quarter of the time he logically should...
- Exalted is the king of this trope in tabletop gaming, where the heroes are expected to be very showy (up to and including getting bonus dice on their actions if they're showy enough when they do them), and largely invincible. The trope does not hold with respect to major antagonists. Many of them outclass player characters as much as the latter outclass common Mooks.
- The Smallville RPG takes this to an interesting place by making all PCs, and even most NPCs, impossible to kill (well, unless the Player chooses to have them die for dramatic reasons) so that all the drama is carried by character interactions, and the interest by how they go about building and destroying beliefs and relationships.
- It may be worth noting that if a game simply makes player characters hard or impossible to kill (whether intrinsically so through its rules or by providing explicit options to "cheat death"), that's actually not in and of itself this trope or its cousin already. It takes more than mere immortality to make a character actually invincible...simply because they can always easily stay alive, even in perfect health, and still lose in the end. (This actually does seem to be a concept that some gamers and even game designers have trouble wrapping their heads around — the "if you can't die, there's no challenge!" meme is an old and pretty entrenched one.)
- Many Tool-Assisted Speed Runs. If a player dies in one, it was certainly just to save time.
- The battles in Final Fantasy VII (and maybe other installments in the series as well) can be like this. Most of them are easy, but oh so flashy if you want that. The final battle against "Safer Sephiroth" is an inversion in that the villain is going to lose for sure, almost certainly on your first try, but he's so showy he still manages to come across as godlike. The more-final duel between Cloud and Sephiroth is also an example, as it is unloseable but you're probably going to win it with Omnislash, which you may not have even seen before that. And yes, it is showy.
- Dante of Devil May Cry is practically the personification of this... in the cutscenes anyways. Ingame, you can make the cutscenes look tame by comparison.
- Mario and Link are Nintendo's main examples of this trope.
- Their next biggest two examples, Samus and Kirby seem to invoke it even more than the main two. Both have build up a reputation that even though their victory is guaranteed, they're going to make it a spectacle for the player with the former usually blowing up an entire planet and the latter killing a god or Eldritch Abomination.
- Master Chief of Halo fame fits this trope quite well in the original trilogy, though less so starting from Halo 4. Inverted with the protagonist of Halo: Reach: the Fall of Reach is guaranteed; the fun is in seeing how awesomely you lose.
- Modern era Sonic the Hedgehog games like Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations turn Sonic into this, seeing as how much of the fun comes from running through the levels almost nonstop and looking awesome doing so. Sonic Lost World deconstructs a lot of this in the cutscenes as it shows what happens when Sonic pulls this trope without thinking.
- Asura from Asura's Wrath is very much this when it comes to most enemy mooks. Subverted in some fights with the 7 Deities, where at first he seems to lose, but as his anger builds, he eventually goes into this territory. A number of plot-mandated defeats occur at times, but are followed by, literally, climbing out of the afterlife and starting a new fight with the next Deity, reinforcing this trope.
- Kerrigan in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm already is a Magnificent Bitch leading a Horde of Alien Locusts, and becomes a full-blown Game Breaker and Physical Goddess who literally kills and consumes Eldritch Abominations for snack by the second half of the game. Very little missions have her in an actual position of inferiority, but it's so much fun to destroy entire armies with her that you most likely won't complain.
- At least canonically, the titular protagonist of Bayonetta seems to be this when not under the player's control, with only Father Balder and Aesir ever really worrying her. The game itself is Nintendo Hard, but a competent player will certainly feel like the invincible, unshakable dominatrix that Bayonetta is when they master it.
- Leo "the Legendary Man" Shishigami in Rose Guns Days. When he is around, the question is never "can he win?" but "what kind of ridiculously awesome stunt will he pull off to win?" This is almost taken to Comically Invincible Hero at some points. This is probably the reason he is Put on a Bus for more than half of the series. Even some of the toughest characters are less than enthused at the idea of having him as an enemy.
- Parodied, or something, by Andrew Smith of Gunnerkrigg Court, who has the power to "create order," essentially a ridiculously overpowered version of Winds of Destiny, Change. He can cause absurdly improbable Contrived Coincidences (if he throws a deck of cards in the air, they will land in one lined-up stack, in order), be Crazy-Prepared completely by accident, end a training simulation via a holodeck glitch that makes the desired MacGuffin inexplicably appear at his feet, stabilize otherwise uncontrollably random things like Parley's teleporting ability, and who knows what else. He could probably resolve the whole plot in one chapter with dozens of invoked Deus Ex Machinas, so his power is mostly Played for Laughs instead (Parley lampshades the fact that his power "makes everything boring"). And then when he tries to use it as a Medium, he gets mobbed by people out for their own personal Deus ex Machina and has to flee.
- Rai from Noblesse.
- The Salvation War trilogy is explicitly about Humanity (as in, the people of Earth starting from January 2008) versus both Heaven and Hell, and it becomes quite obvious before longnote who's winning... but the ride is full of awesome, win and even heroic tragedy in a setting that at times seems to laugh at the idea thereof... well, up until Book 3: Lords of War, at which point it's "the morning after." What, you thought Humanity becoming the masters of Heaven, Hell, and Earth would be consequence-free?
- Red vs. Blue has Tex devolving into this in the later seasons. She was always the best of the characters but her skills have been hyped to the level where there is not one single competent threat she can face. Combined with her Jerkass personality it's hard to see why the series creators want the audience to be rooting for her. Subverted in that she ultimately always loses and/or dies in the end. The memory she's based upon is of Alison losing and dying, so it's hardcoded into the original Tex A.I. and Epsilon Tex to always fail in the end.
- Bugs Bunny. Bar a few exceptions, he always outwits his foes, and it is always hilarious. Also the Road Runner. And Speedy Gonzales. And just about any other Looney Tunes hero you can think of. It's a staple of their style.
- The eponymous robot of Megas XLR and its pilot, Coop, in the grand tradition of the Super Robot Genre it lovingly parodies.
- Ben 10 likes doing this from time to time. He becomes one more and more as the franchise goes on. At the beginning of the show, he already had 10 alien forms, each one with its own powers. Currently, he has reach over 70 different forms, and literally as many different ways he can kick his enemies' asses.
- Phineas and Ferb. When you have to build your own super-intelligent AI and program it to trap you repeatedly in order to have a little fun, and then you defeat it effortlessly, well, it's difficult for us to ever feel afraid for you. However, the show isn't about them fighting villains, but about them creating incredible things; it just happens that they sometimes fight and defeat villains in the process.
- Also, Perry the Platypus. Even his Arch-Enemy Doofenshmirtz doesn't honestly think that there's any way Perry will lose anymore, but he wins in such hilariously awesome ways that the fans don't mind.
- Calling him a "hero" is questionable at best, but Dan of Dan Vs. is an example. He always gets his revenge on the episode's antagonist, but the way he does it is always hilarious and often surprisingly badass. It helps that he's also the Butt Monkey, so while he always wins in the end, he goes through a lot of misfortune to get there.
- The appeal of the Harlem Globetrotters. They win every time with Awesome, but Impractical moves. The only time they were even challenged was playing against an army of robots on Gilligan's Island (long story.) The Globetrotters went out and played some real games in their history, and a few times they lost to the Washington Generals or their other foils due to on-court screw-ups.