Man 2: [gasping] We can't outrun the bear forever!
Man 1: I don't have to. I just have to run faster than you!
Two sides will be fighting, with one side (usually the villain) holding the upper hand. The hero is left relying on his gradually weakening defenses and it appears that our hero is about to be destroyed. The villain says something like, "You can't hold out forever," and then...
Suddenly, the villain is promptly defeated. It may be because a group of reinforcements arrived to take him down. It may be because the hero had to take time to prepare the attack needed to take the villain down. Sometimes it's merely wearing the opponent down until they're tired while the hero still has a full tank. In any case, the hero reveals that he didn't need his defensive measures to cover him forever; he just needed to hold out long enough to set up what was needed to defeat the villain.
A subtrope of Tempting Fate. See also Defensive Feint Trap, Just Toying with Them, and contrast with Exactly What I Aimed At, where the hero has apparently missed but turns out to not to have needed to hit the villain.
- In Saint Seiya, the Perseus saint tells Shiryu he can't block his Medusa shield forever. Shiryu was unable to attack effectively at the moment, so he decides to blind himself.
- In the first game of Eyeshield 21, Hiruma reminds the team of mostly rookies that they only need to cover their ace running back for 0.5 seconds, which would give him enough time to get a significant amount of yardage.
- In Naruto, during an anime filler, Yamato dodges every attack from a Earth element user, because he was waiting for his preparations to complete for using an Earth technique.
- In Code Geass R2, the Black Knights fight a defensive battle against the corrupt eunuchs who rule the Chinese Federation. They get trapped in a mountain cave and hold out until Lelouch's Engineered Public Confession causes the oppressed masses to rise up, turning the tide of the battle.
- The basic concept behind the Hiryuu Shouten Ha technique in Ranma ˝: Get your opponent mad and let them keep attacking while you dodge and lead them around in a swirl without getting mad or attacking yourself, even if you take a few hits. This ends up "collecting" the expended "hot" chi energy of the opponent, and allows the user to mix "cold" chi in the mix, creating a tornado of energy upon its completion and tossing their opponent into the air.
- Himura Kenshin has defeated a few opponents this way, and buying time for a counterattack was how Aoshi's Elite Mooks made a Heroic Sacrifice.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Goku has tried everything else to no effect against Freeza, and has to resort to his trump card, the Spirit Bomb. The problem is, it'll take him several minutes to create a big enough Spirit Bomb, and he has to stand motionless and let Freeza pummel him while doing it. This means the much weaker Piccolo is forced to step in and fight a losing battle to keep Freeza distracted long enough. Subverted, as while the Spirit Bomb causes a lot of damage to Freeza, it fails to defeat him.
- Fairy Tail has a villainous example during the Tartaros arc. The eponymous Dark Guild finally succeeds in activating the Magic Weapon Face to revive Master END, but the weapon needs to finish a countdown before firing. In order to buy time, Mard Geer orders Kyouka to merge with the activation lacrima to speed up the process, despite the fact it will kill her. She does so anyways and engages Erza in battle, and while she does ultimately dies at the heroes' hands, it's too late to stop Face from firing.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Marik's Osiris-centered combo is set up so the dragon's attack increases with the amount of cards in his hand, which increases whenever one of his monsters dies. His slime monster perpetually ressurects and automatically Takes the Bullet for any other target, so the dragon's attack keeps increasing. Yugi counters it by mindcontrolling the slime. The dragon automatically attacks weak monsters, killing the slime and letting Marik draw a card... except the slime ressurects on Yugi's side, causing the dragon to attack and Marik to draw a card, up until Marik runs out of cards and loses by default, unable to stop the loop.
- Very common in Magic: The Gathering, particularly with combo decks facing creature aggro decks. They slow down their opponent with counterspells or creature removal long enough for the aggro deck to run out of gas, allowing them to set up a devastating move. The right card can often totally shift the course of a game.
- In Astérix and the Big Fight, Vitalstatistix must fight a rival chieftain who's sold out to the Romans and much larger than him, without magic potion as Getafix is amnesiac. So his strategy is to run away from him in the ring, dodging punches, until Asterix shows up to tell him the druid got better. This good news allows Vitalstatistix to Ring Out the rival in one punch.
- This gradually becomes the strategy of the entire British army in Waterloo. Hold off the French army just long enough for their Prussian allies to join them and then overwhelm the French. Despite the fact that the French look set to gradually wear out the English, it finally works. In the (probably apocryphal) words of the Duke of Wellington himself:
"Hard pounding this, Gentlemen! Let's see who pounds longest!"
- Star Trek: In any given film, The Enterprise's shields will inevitably fail and yet they will last long enough for the crew to find a way to come out on top; even if they have to make with a much shorter time frame than predicted.
- Galaxy Quest: During the final space battle, the Protector never fires a single shot at Saris's ship (in fact, the Protector only ever fires once in the film, at the very beginning). Instead, The Captain has the pilot navigate into the nearby mine field, while diverting all available power to the "Plasma Armor" in order to survive Saris's Macross Missile Massacre. By the time he turns his ship around to face Saris, the Protector's armor is completely gone, which means a single volley would finish it off. However, the ship is "dragging" magnetic mines straight towards Saris's ship. Cue explosions.
- In Real Steel, Atom can take a lot more damage than an average fighting bot thanks to him being built specifically for sparring, but even his endurance is taxed during his prize fight with Zeus, whose fights never last more than 1 round. When Zeus once again starts pounding Atom relentlessly, Charlie just does his best to keep Atom's vital areas covered from the worst of it without hitting back. Eventually, just as Atom's endurance is about to give out, Zeus drains most of his batteries, allowing Atom to take the initiative. Rope-a-dope, Rockem-Sockem-Robots style.
- Said almost word-for-word in the final space battle of Ender's Game.
Bean: "The shield won't hold forever!"Ender: "We don't need forever!"
- This is a recurring motif in The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Locke doesn't have to hold out forever, only until Jean gets to him...
- Arthur attempting to save his house in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Mr. Prosser: "You can't lie in front of the bulldozers indefinitely."Arthur Dent: "I'm game, we'll see who rusts first."
- In Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud, one of the titular heroes says almost that exact phrase to the others as they are overwhelmed in their final fight to the death against a nigh unstoppable enemy.
- In Miya Black, Pirate Princess IV: This Impossible World, This Impossible Girl, Miya utilises this tactic twice; she almost gets herself killed in the fight against Flynn before ending it with a single unspectacular move ("You show off. I watch."), then reveals that the fight was both a distraction and a delaying tactic.
- The Red Dwarf episode "Queeg" opens with Rimmer and a Skutter playing draughts (checkers). Lister points out that Rimmer has one move he can make, and then he's lost. (He has one man left, completely surrounded by kings.) Rimmer replies that all he needs to do is delay making that move until the Skutter has to go back on duty, at which point he wins by default.
Lister: You're a piece of dirty filthy cheating scum, aren't you?Rimmer: Absolument! And that is why I'll win.
- Rather unique defense arrangement of 2e Alchemical Exalted: my power shield fails eventually but perfectly blocks, my last HPs don't go out Terminator-like (the appropriate charm has both a development and fanon name Terminator Charm)... all the while I keep coming at you. The catch? Your defenses cost essence, and mine didn't, so if your pool is out before my layers, guess what happens?
- This is also a trait of Lunar Exalts. Their Charms are built to burn out quickly, but be very powerful while they last. They lack any type of ongoing defense because, as the 2E corebook puts it, 'by the time persistent defenses begin to pay off, the Lunar's enemy should be dead.'
- Fire Dragon-Blooded in the same edition also share this trait, and it's something that trips up a surprising number of players used to fighting other Celestial-tier Exalts. "Sure, my defenses might not be great, and my essence pool is smaller than yours, but if you mess up your timing once, I will slaughter you." The biggest timing mistake that can be made against them? Infinite Ability Mastery, which is standard operating procedure for most high-end Solar combatants.
- Earth Dragon-Blooded also have a variant. "My smaller essence pool and relative squishiness is irrelevant when I'm able to shred even your best essence efficiency tactics to nothing and then force the issue by pestering you with small but persistent attacks that you nonetheless can't afford to take without burning essence at a horrendously unsustainable rate." More terrifying pre-errata, as the former component didn't have a keyword immunity that could prevent it, and the latter component was (and still is) typically the most convoluted immunity to acquire. The fact that they're generally the sturdiest of the Dragon-Blooded helps with this tactic as well.
- Most defend or hold-the-line missions in RTS is this, seeing as the usual result is either a counterattack or a straight-up victory.
- Though, the mark of a true RTS pro (and of turn-based too) (at least in those not so rigidly confined by story as below) is annihilating the enemy's forces/capturing their HQ with your mediocre/underpopulated starting units/facilities before the reinforcements even get there! Sometimes this might even be a condition to trigger the release of special units, characters, or story branches, but often just for bragging rights. Occurs doubly hard if it's a game that utilises Fog of War and the computer isn't actually a cheating bastard and has to follow the same rules you do (such as Advance Wars, War Wind, or Dai Senryaku), or if it's a game that utilises supporting fire/bonus stats from adjacent units (such as Nectaris or Langrisser). The computer tends to be overly aggressive in these kinds of missions, and will gleefully stumble into every single ambush and mine you place in their way with little care for its losses.
- The final level of Warcraft III has the allied races desperately trying to hold off Archimonde so Malfurion can set a trap for him.
- Several timed missions in that series and in StarCraft involve stalling until help arrives or a devastating attack can be prepared.
- However, in one of the early missions, if you build up enough defenses, they really can protect you forever.
- In StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the final Protoss mission is designed to specifically test if you CAN do this. It only ends when you die.
- It should be noted that this is one of the few missions you play as the protoss instead of your usual terran army that excels on turtling.
- Several timed missions in that series and in StarCraft involve stalling until help arrives or a devastating attack can be prepared.
- Horde or wave defense modes in shooters or RPGs games often function like the RTS examples above.
- The multiplayer modes in Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda are essentially this. A few objective oriented waves aside, the point is basically to stay alive and kill advancing forces until your evac shuttle arrives to extricate you.
- Beseiged and Campaign fights in Final Fantasy XI also functioned like this to a point. While it was possible to win the fights by kicking enough ass, there was a time limit imposed on the advancing beastmen before they retreated. In Beseiged, if they couldn't kill the remaining allied Generals and capture the Astral Candesence in an hour, they'd automatically retreat. Against an Level 8 beastmen army, the best most servers could muster was to kill the mooks, and occupy the Notorious Monsters/Beastmen Generals until time was up. Likewise, in defensive Campaign fights, it was possibly to drive off the attackers, but simply guarding the fortifications that were under attack long enough that the beastmen retreated was considered as victory as well.
- Call of Duty zombies modes avert this. Except on very few "winnable" maps, your defenses do need to hold out forever. They don't.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the king's strategy at the battle of Ostagar is to use the Grey Wardens (an elite order dedicated to eliminating the attacking darkspawn) as bait in a holding action as his main force moves to flank and crush the darkspawn. The Wardens, though few in number, are elite forces and only need to hold until the main force moves. It doesn't work out as planned.
- A strategy sometimes used in RPGs, where certain powerful abilities need time to charge and others protect you for a limited period of time. By combining them, one can protect oneself from harm while charging the powerful attack that will defeat the enemy swiftly and surely. Alternately, the shield protects against a single attack, and then breaks. You can use it against a once-off instant death spell or similar lethal attack. A final method is to get hurt by a weak attack, then (ab)use the resulting Mercy Invincibility to walk through attacks or obstacles that would otherwise have killed you. Once passed, they have no chance to hurt you again.
- Many speedrunners save their protective measures for such occasions, where speed is more important than killing all the enemies.
- In Team Fortress 2, the Scout's secondary unlockable is the BONK! Atomic Punch energy drink. When you drink it, the Scout becomes invincible for 5 seconds but cannot attack. ...Except for the taunt kill with an incredibly long wind-up time. A relatively easy way of getting the Scout's taunt kill achievement is therefore to drink BONK!, then quickly approach an enemy from behind and start the taunt. Even though BONK! will wear off just before the swing finishes, your enemy will die instantly from the attack and thus you don't need the protection anymore. Unless the rest of the team is nearby, which they most likely will be.
- A minor variant in Final Fantasy VI, you select somewhat long charge-up attacks for everyone else BEFORE you select Cyan...because you can't use anyone else anyway until you have built up to the appropriate skill level with Cyan. By the time those other characters have a second turn coming up, Cyan should be around power level 6 or 7. This is due to Cyan's wind-up time being immense. Your other people are healing or attacking while you have no control over the flow of battle, to buy you time for waiting on Cyan.
- Tales of Vesperia has a villainous version of this with Alexei, who was somehow still entering commands into a blastia while fighting you.
- Most Tank-type characters in City of Heroes have a power that gives them a lot of bonuses and power, but only for a few minutes, after which you'll be drained of endurance and/or other abilities. The reasoning is this very trope: You need those extra defenses just for a minute or so, after that it won't matter.
- Also applies to the power Moment Of Glory from the Regeneration powerset, usable by Scrappers, Brutes, and Stalkers, all of which focus on offense. The defensive buff it gives makes the user pretty much impossible to kill, but it only lasts as long as the name suggests. With the damage they can dole out, a moment can be all those characters need.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has another villainous version where Ghirahim explicitly states that the hordes that he summons is meant to stall for the time he needs to sacrifice Zelda's soul, and Ghirahim himself goes One-Winged Angel and stalls for more time as he duels Link for the third time.
- In Pokémon, Stall Teams use this tactic. Hunker down and heal while weather and status effects take out your enemy. Of course, this runs the risk of letting your opponent set up a truly devastating attack.
- In any game with survival missions, this is often the easiest way to handle them. Just let them come and attack, while you stay in a position where their attacks effect you least. You might not be able to stay in situation forever, but it could be just long enough.
- This is especially the case with Fire Emblem games. Hold the Line missions in those games have a preset turn limit; as long as you can hold out for just that many turns, you'll win. These maps usually have chokepoints and other defensive positions, but also ways for the enemy to break through and get around them, so the last couple of turns see you overrun - but of course, if you can hold out those turns, the mission's yours.
- In Five Nights at Freddy's, you can't keep up your defenses forever, since all of them drain your Power Meter. Luckily for you, they only have to protect you until 6 AM.
- The Order of the Stick has V sum it up: "True, except that we have no need to continue this exercise indefinitely."
- Roy of Order of the Stick also fights such a battle.
- And again.
- V also was on the receiving end of this trope once.
"The laws of probability dictate that you will fail a Will save before I run out of Suggestion spells.""Clever. However, there's one number you've failed to include in your analysis. Your hit point total." *chomp*
- V (notice a pattern here?) invokes it here.
- Girl Genius:
"Ha! You can't hide forever!""She doesn't have to."
- This one is subverted, as it turns out that Agatha has to hide after all.
- A variation in Tales of the Questor: The only defense against being repossessed that Freeman Downs has is Quentyn going out and trying to find the artifacts, something he may well perish before doing so. If he dies in the attempt, Racconan law states that the debt ends with him.
- Freefall: Sam Starfall plays this trope perfectly straight with a robot that wants to kill him.
- Chakona Space: Played with in the hands of a stowaway:
Penelope Windsor: "I didn't have to stay hidden for the entire trip... Only for as long as it took for it to be too late to turn back."
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, in "The Day of Black Sun, Part 2" Azula stalls as the heroes fight her so that she can wait for her firebending to come back.
- The plot of an episode of Gargoyles. Hudson and Goliath are facing an Ax-Crazy, laser canon-wielding Demona, and big guy Goliath has been taken down. Hudson protects Goliath, and Demona doesn't catch up to them until dawn; at which point all three turn to stone, and Demona has to face a fresh Goliath when the sun goes down.
Demona: I'm smarter, stronger and I'm younger than you! Your pride will cost you your life!Hudson: But I know something you don't. Something that only comes with age. I know how to wait.
- In Justice League, Kalibak was fighting Batman and used this line, but Batman revealed that he was just stalling for Superman. When Supes arrived, he punched Kalibak across the block and said, "For what it's worth, I don't think you could have taken Batman either."
- Homer, being weak and out of shape, relied entirely on this during his brief boxing stint on The Simpsons thanks to an extra-thick layer of fluid protecting his brain. His matches basically amount to him standing there and taking blows, then pushing his opponent over when they tire. It ultimately backfires when he goes up against an Expy of Mike Tyson who can hit hard enough to injure Homer and isn't going to tire anytime soon.
- Happens to Cody Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) when he is taking on Darius Dun. Turtle-X, Cody's mini mecha, is taking a beating from Darius' combat armor. However, this is only a feint; after Dun's armor runs out of power, Cody gleefully mentions that his uncle is now defenseless, while Turtle-X still has plenty of offensive juice left.
- In the 80's G.I. Joe: The Movie, Falcon gets captured by Serpentor and is held down by his minions while Serpentor beats on him to get him to talk.
"Who is with you? You can not hold out forever!"
"I don't have to. All I need is five minutes." (He knew that Sergeant Slaughter had set up a bomb where he was captured.)
- "Though effective, appear to be ineffective." Sun Tzu
- Rope-a-Dope, in boxing.
- Also called the "rope-a-dope," a common Air Combat Maneuvering stratagem which involves flying in a straight climb; theoretically presenting a tempting target for the enemy but in actuality setting them up for a devastating counter-attack when their plane cannot keep climbing as long as yours can.
- Since wasting time isn't against football (soccer) rules, wasting time often pays off. No matter who uses it Barcelona◊ seems to be the perfect victim: they're known for keeping possession, and what better way to waste time than letting the other team play around with the ball while you park the bus in front of your goalpost and run the clock down?
- Likewise in football (American), managing the clock also plays an important role in games. A winning team will play to quicken the pace of the clock while avoiding actual play (running down the play clock, using run plays which mean the clock continues even between plays, etc) while a losing team will play otherwise. In close games, this can often be a significant factor in victory as each team tries to keep just enough time available to gain/retain/solidify the lead without also giving the other team a chance to retaliate.
- This occurs with some regularity in Test match cricket. If a team has to chase an impossible number of runs to win, or just don't want to risk losing the game, they may give up on winning altogether and "bat out" the remaining time in the game to secure a draw. Of course, this being Test cricket, teams attempting this may have to hold out for several days.
- Completely and utterly inverted by the Cincinnati Reds during the 1990 National League Championship Series versus the Pittsburgh Pirates with plays like this and this and especially the second one in this clip. Each of those plays erased potentially game-changing runs in a hard-fought, close series that Cincinnati eventually won, four games to two. All the more significant that, for those who follow baseball, defense usually gets the least attention out of the three phases of the game (hitting and pitching being the others).
- The ultimate military example was provided by the Second Punic War: Hannibal's army was practically undefeatable in battle, but, after the first defeats, the Romans realized it was too small to attack Rome directly or even come close to the city (as, no matter what route he choose he would have had to fight his way through the lands of one of Rome's closest and most loyal allies, the Latins, the Etruscans and the Umbrians, with the Etruscans being by far the largest people of Italy, the Umbrians living in easily defended mountains and the Latins being the second largest nation and controlling lands accessible only through either the Umbrians' lands or a small coastal plain) as long as most of their allies remained loyal (something Hannibal knew well, and in fact had based his strategy into shocking the Italian peoples into changing sides), so Roman strategy was to launch guerilla attacks on him while taking down any Italian population that dared defecting to Hannibal and what reinforcements Carthage tried to send him. It took them sixteen years and attacking Carthage directly (because Rome and their loyal allies had a much larger population from which to raise troops as necessary), but in the end Hannibal and what remained of his army after all those years left Italy.
- Another military example is the Battle of Britain. The RAF seemed to be on the verge of losing, but behind the scenes, it was continuously growing stronger while the German Luftwaffe was losing many of its finest pilots and aircraft it struggled to replace. Since the fighting took place over southern England and the Channel, almost all aviators who bailed out or survived crash landings were picked up by the British, to be returned to service (or in the case of Germans, to become prisoners). Eventually, the Germans were forced to concede an invasion of Britain was not going to be possible, and Britain, now with American forces beginning to arrive, went on the offensive.
- The US Civil War showed shades of this. Originally the Union was predicting a curb stomp of the Confederacy, but losses in early battles at Bull Run/Manassas (Union called it by the first name, Confederacy by the second) nixed those hopes, resulting in this type of victory after a long and bloody slog. The South had a decent army and several of the U.S.'s more competent generals, but the Union had a larger population and was more industrialized (much of the South's industry was based on commercial crops like cotton and indigo). As the war raged on, battle casualties, Lincoln's naval blockade of Southern ports, and Sherman destroying a large amount of what heavy industry and food production the South had pretty much hamstrung the Confederacy's ability to fight in the long term, while except for Gettysburg (which did not end well) the South was unable to effectively strike at the Union's capability to fight. Once the North finally found competent leadership for its forces, the war was basically already over.
- The 2016 U.S. presidential election was all about this. The main candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were two of the most unpopular nominees in recent American history so the campaign turned into a battle of who was the least disliked. Both sides threw some of the dirtiest mudslinging in years in hopes of driving up the public's hatred and charts of popularity during the final months show both sides got in some pretty good hits. The strategy actually worked for both sides with Clinton taking the popular vote, but Trump winning via the electoral college in states where Clinton was disliked.