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Useful Notes / The Thirty-Six Stratagems

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The Thirty-Six Stratagems are attributed to Sun Tzu of The Art of War fame. He probably never came up with such a list, especially since the names of several strategies reference events from long after his death, though most of them do have their roots in his book. Think of the two as companion pieces. Like Sun Tzu's own treatise, the Thirty-Six are used both in real warfare and by "corporate warriors" (and given that it gives ways to exploit the psychology of people in stressful circumstances, it has wider applicability than any kind of battlefield).

The origin of the list is murky, but the first mention of it (before it came into concrete existence) was as advice to a struggling general who lived somewhere in the Northern and Southern Dynasties period: "Of Lord Tan's thirty-six (i.e. various) schemes, a tactical retreat would be the wisest course of action; you, sir, should therefore do the same." Later generations would then fill in the other thirty five using famous battles from Real Life or Historical Fiction.

More than a few of these may be considered dirty fighting or even cowardice in some cultures. Sun Tzu himself would probably agree, but call it pragmatic. Honor, after all, matters very little if you fail in battle. The Chinese' adherence to the stratagems went a long way towards Western perception of them as treacherous and unpredictable.

The stratagems are traditionally divided into six groups, for the situations in which they are best used. This page uses the translated names for the groupings taken from Lure the Tiger Out of the Mountains: The Thirty-Six Stratagems of Ancient China, a compilation of the following in full-length book form written by Gao Yuan (and sadly now out of print). The names of the stratagems themselves have varied translations.

These stratagems are some of The Oldest Tricks in the Book.

The List:

Stratagems When Commanding Superiority

  1. 瞞天過海/瞒天过海 Deceive the heavens and cross the ocean: Mask your real goals with a fake goal until your aims are achieved; the enemy will be so annoyed with the constant false alarms that they will ignore you once you make your real move. (This rule is also used as a Chinese idiom for "to pull the wool over someone's eyes".)
  2. 圍魏救趙/围魏救赵 Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao: Avoid a head-on battle with a strong enemy, and instead strike at their weakness (for example, a weaker ally) elsewhere. The name came from Qi forcing Wei's army to retreat from laying siege to Zhao's capital by laying siege to Wei's capital in 354-353BC.
  3. 借刀殺人/借刀杀人 Kill With a Borrowed Knife: Cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed or causing an Enemy Civil War.
  4. 以逸待勞/以逸待劳 Substitute Leisure for Labor: Have your troops well-prepared for battle, in the same time that the enemy is rushing to fight against you, ideally resulting in their exhausted troops running into your fresh soldiers on the terms of your choosing.
  5. 趁火打劫 Loot a Burning House: The best time to attack an opponent is when they have their own problems to deal with. Be careful if you loot a burning house as you can become trapped inside.
  6. 聲東擊西/声东击西 Clamor in the East, Attack in the West: Get the enemy to focus their forces elsewhere, and then attack a position that would be weakly defended.

Stratagems for Confrontation

  1. 無中生有/无中生有 Create Something from Nothing: Make somebody believe there was something when there is in fact nothing, or vice versa (i.e. lie like a rug). The general idea is that having fallen for a trick once or twice, an enemy will be unwilling to fall for your trick a third time — so that's when you should actually attack.
  2. 明修棧道,暗渡陳倉/明修栈道,暗渡陈仓 Openly Repair the Walkway, but Sneak through the passage of Chencang: Deceive the enemy with an obvious approach that will take a very long time, while surprising them by taking a shortcut and sneaking up on them. Another interpretation is the Kansas City Shuffle — Distract the enemy with an "obvious" attempt at deception in order to conceal yet another ploy from their attention. The name originated from a real life example during the Chu-Han War around 200 B.C. At that time, Liu Bang is preparing to mobilize his army from modern-day Chengdu and the only way to access to the rest of the area is a Walkway they burned several years earlier to prevent any invasion. Xiang Yu send his forces to the other side of the passage so that they are ready to face them as soon as the construction is completed. However, the repairing is a ploy to lure Xiang Yu's attention and he took a difficult route to unguarded Chencang, thereby preventing a premature annihilation of his army.
  3. 隔岸觀火/隔岸观火 Observe the Fire from the Opposite Shore, or Sit on the Mountain and Watch the Tigers Fight: Delay entering the field of battle until all the other players have become exhausted fighting amongst themselves, then go in at full strength and pick up the pieces.
  4. 笑裡藏刀/笑里藏刀 Hide a Knife behind a Smile: Charm and endear yourself to your enemy in order to gain their trust, then move against them in secret. (This rule is also used as a Chinese idiom for someone who constantly betrays others.)
  5. 李代桃僵 Sacrifice the Plum Tree to Preserve the Peach Tree: Sacrifice short-term objectives in order to gain the long-term goal. (Peaches are associated with immortality; see eg. Journey to the West. An Australian idiom for the same thing is "to throw a sprat to catch a mackerel".)
  6. 順手牽羊/顺手牵羊 Take the Opportunity to Pilfer a Goat: While carrying out your plans, be flexible enough to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any profit, however slight. (This is also used as an idiom for Stealing from the Till or the Five-Finger Discount.)

Stratagems for Attack

  1. 打草驚蛇/打草惊蛇 Beat the Grass to Startle the Snake: Do something without aim, but make it so spectacular to provoke a response of the enemy, thereby giving away their plans or position, or just taunt them. Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy's suspicion and disrupt their thinking. However, an imprudent act will give away your position or intentions to the enemy.
  2. 借屍還魂/借尸还魂 Borrow a Corpse to Resurrect the Soul: Revive something from the past by giving it a new purpose, or reinterpret it to your advantage.
  3. 調虎離山/调虎离山 Lure the Tiger Down From the Mountain: Lure an opponent away from their field of advantage, thus depriving them their source of strength.
  4. 欲擒故縱/欲擒故纵 To Catch Something, First Set it Free: Cornered prey will often mount a final Desperation Attack. To prevent this, trick the enemy into believing that they still have a chance for freedom. May also take the form of a Trick-and-Follow Ploy, where letting an enemy go and observing their subsequent actions may give you more information about their capabilities and intentions.
  5. 拋磚引玉/抛砖引玉 Toss out a Brick to attract Jade: Give an unvaluable item while tricking someone into believing that it's a valuable item and obtain something valuable from them in return.
  6. 擒賊擒王/擒贼擒王 To Capture the Bandits, capture their Leader: If the enemy's army is strong but is allied to the commander only by money or threats, then take aim at the leader; the rest of the army will disperse or come over to your side. However, if they are allied to the leader through loyalty, then beware, the army can continue to fight on after the leader's death out of vengeance.

Stratagems for Confused Situations

  1. 釜底抽薪 Remove the Firewood from under the Pot: Take out the leading argument or asset of your target, denying your enemy the resources needed to oppose you.
  2. 渾水摸魚/浑水摸鱼 Stir up the Waters to catch a Fish: Create a confusion and use this confusion to further your own goals.
  3. 金蟬脫殼/金蝉脱壳 Slough off the Cicada's Golden Shell: Create an illusion to fit your goals and distract others (a secondary meaning for this rule would be Faking the Dead).
  4. 關門捉賊/关门捉贼 Shut the Door to catch the Thief: If you have the chance to completely capture the enemy then you should do so, thereby bringing the battle or war to a quick and lasting conclusion.
  5. 遠交近攻/远交近攻 Befriend a Distant State while attacking a Neighbour: When you are the strongest in one field, your greatest threat is from the second strongest in your field, not the strongest from another field, and thus the distant neighbor will make a good ally, however temporary.
  6. 假道伐虢 Obtain Safe Passage to conquer the state of Guo: Borrow the resources of an ally to attack a common enemy. Once the enemy is defeated, use those resources to turn on the ally that lent you them in the first place. This comes from Jin's conquest of the states of Guo and Yu by bribing Yu's ruler to obtain a safe passage for Jin forces to conquer Guo in 658BC. Without Guo's protection, Yu was in turn conquered by Jin in 655BC.(Machiavelli, however, would like everyone to note that this strategy will cost you dearly in the long run).

Stratagems for Gaining Ground

  1. 偷梁換柱/偷梁换柱 Replace the Beams with Rotten Timbers: Disrupt the enemy's formations, interfere with their methods of operations, change the rules which they are used to following, go contrary to their standard training.
  2. 指桑罵槐/指桑骂槐 Point at the Mulberry tree, but curse the Pagoda tree: To discipline, control, or warn others whose status or position excludes them from direct confrontation; use analogy and innuendo. Without directly naming names, those accused cannot retaliate without revealing their complicity.
  3. 假癡不癲/假痴不癫 Feign Madness but Keep your Balance: Hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a lunatic to create confusion about your intentions and motivations.
  4. 上屋抽梯 Lure them onto the Roof, then take away the Ladder: With baits and deceptions, lure your enemy into a treacherous terrain, then cut off their lines of communication and avenue of escape; the enemy must then fight both your own forces and the elements of nature.
  5. 樹上開花/树上开花 Deck the Tree with False Blossoms: Through the use of artifice and disguise, make something of no value appear valuable; of no threat appear dangerous; of no use appear useful.
  6. 反客為主/反客为主 Exchange the roles of Host and Guest: Usurp leadership in a situation where you are normally subordinate. Infiltrate your target. Initially, pretend to be a guest to be accepted, but develop from inside and become the owner later.

Stratagems for Desperate Straits

  1. 美人計/美人计 The Beauty Trap: Send your enemy attractive people (usually women) to cause discord within their camp. This strategy can work on three levels: First, the ruler becomes so enamored with the beauty that they neglect their duties and allows their vigilance to wane; second, other people at the enemy court (usually males) will begin to display aggressive behavior over the beauty that inflames minor differences hindering co-operation and destroying morale; third, those who are jealous over the beauty (usually females) will begin to plot intrigues, further exacerbating the situation.
  2. 空城計/空城计 The Empty Fort Strategy: When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretense of military preparedness and act calmly so that the enemy will think you have hidden reserves and want to trap them into the fort.
  3. 反間計/反间计 Let the Enemy's own spy sow discord in the Enemy camp: Undermine your enemy's intelligence-gathering abilities by using their own spies against them or planting your own agents among the enemy's.
  4. 苦肉計/苦肉计 Injure yourself to gain the Enemy's trust: Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing their guard since they no longer consider you to be an immediate threat. The second is a way of endearing yourself to your enemy by pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy.
  5. 連環計/连环计 Chain Stratagems: In important matters, one should use several stratagems applied simultaneously after another as in a chain of stratagems. Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme; however, in this manner if any one strategy fails, then the chain breaks and the whole scheme fails.
  6. 走為上計/走为上计 If all else fails, Retreat: The best battle is one fought with your side never having to mobilize, but if it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat or unnecessary losses, then don't stay and fight just out of pride, and instead retreat and regroup. Probably the most famous of all the stratagems, to the point that the phrase '36th Stratagem' in Chinese parlance is equivalent to 'get out of Dodge' in American colloquialism.


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  • Light Yagami of Death Note fame has used at least #3 and #24. He manipulated events so that Rem would kill Watari and L in order to protect Misa. Because of this, Rem died, too. The end result was that Light removed three obstacles from his way by using one of those obstacles' resources against itself. L and Near seemed fond of #26, too.
  • Several stratagems are employed in How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, mostly by Souma.
    • #3. After annexing Van, he treats the citizens so well that it ultimately incites a rebellion.
      • Roroa piggybacks off this to turn it into a nationwide insurrection.
    • #4. When Gaius and his forces try to return to Van, he has the navy soldiers corner them in Goldoa Valley and pick them off with arrows. By the time they arrive in Van, the Amidonian forces are exhausted and no match for the Elfrieden troops.
    • #6. He anticipates the Gaius' attempt to conquer Altomura by emplying stratagems #3, #5, #9 and #24. With the entire army waiting to attack, it leaves Van completely unprotected. By the time Gaius returns, the city has already fallen.
    • #11. This is actually the name of Episode 11 and refers to his delaying the arrest of Duke Carmine until Van, the capital of Amidonia, has been conquered.
    • #16. The name of Episode 12 is very similar to this and refers to him letting Julius escape as part of his long game to secure control over Van after wresting control of it away from him.
    • #18. He insists on taking Gaius' head to prevent another attack and undermine Amidonia's strength.
    • #19. Forcing Julius to pay war reparations to have Van returned to him not only deprives him of the military assets needed to make a counterattack, but also makes the civilians less inclined to support him.
    • #21. He deceives Gaius into thinking that Duchess Walter is in Lagoon city rather than Altomura and the airforce into thinking that he is on the battleship Albert rather than sneaking into Red Dragon City.
    • #26. The corrupt Elfrieden houses are exposed by being asked to judge Castor and Carla. Their blatant attempt to win favor with him seals their fate.
      • Duke Carmine also uses this strategy by sheltering corrupt nobles to expose them and trick them into using up all their dirty money.
    • #28. Again, Goldoa Valley is the perfect place to stage an ambush when the Amidonian troops try to return home.
    • #32. The role of Altomura during the Amidonian invasion is to stall the invading army by pretending to be full of loyal warriors who will fight to the last man.
  • Joseph Joestar from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency makes liberal use of quite a few of these, but the one he's most famous for is #36, or to quote the man himself, "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!"
  • #32 is used by the Earth Alliance in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED when they deceive ZAFT into attacking JOSH-A, a major military fort that has been mostly abandoned. They then activate a Self-Destruct Mechanism and destroy most of ZAFT's military power.
  • #14 becomes a key point in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, as Char Aznable uses the name, imagery and ideology of the Principality of Zeon, combined with his own immense fame, to gather radicalized and disaffected spacenoids into a Neo-Zeon organization.
  • Case Closed uses #32 in chapter 685 to lure a suspect into revealing himself. They even upped the illusion by having the various disguised policemen pretend to be things like scam artists and underwear thieves to convince the suspect that the police have left the area.
  • Shinichi Akiyama from Liar Game loves #21. He often tricks his opponent to being convinced they have already won, so they'll become careless to what he's really planning.
  • The premise of Ya Boy Kongming! is Zhuge Liang from Romance of the Three Kingdoms reincarnating in modern day Japan and using the Strategems to boost an indie idol singer's popularity by manipulating the crowd.


  • Sōsuke Aizen touched upon twenty seven.
    • 1 was ostensibly what Aizen was doing to Soul Society by kidnapping Orihime, claiming that her powers were "interesting" to him to bait them into attacking. Yamamoto didn't fall for it... but Aizen's REAL objective was to goad Ichigo and his True Companions into staging a rescue — and leaving his REAL objective, Karakura Town, undefended — and force Soul Society to divide its forces to help them. Made clearer when Ichigo is revealed to be the only one who can challenge Aizen directly because hasn't seen Aizen's shikai.
    • 2 is also kidnapping Orihime, the least defended of the True Companions, to get at Ichigo.
    • 3 is what he did to the rest of the Gotei during the Soul Society arc (focus the captains on the intruders to distract them and sow dissension).
    • 4 he uses a couple times. Aizen told the Espada to stay in their rooms when Ichigo and company invaded. It may not have been fully successful but it did slow the rescuers down as they had trouble finding Orihime.
      • Besides the top three Espada (and their Fraccion), Aizen also brought Wonderweiss and his pet Hooleer with him to Karakura Town, sending them out only once the Shinigami were exhausted from the fight with the Espada.
      • By the time Ichigo ends his battle with Ulqiorra and can go to Karakura to help against Aizen directly, he is definitely running low on batteries.
    • 5 is when he takes advantage of the captains — who have only just realized his treachery — all fighting one another to just walk up and yank the Hogyoku out of Rukia.
    • 6 was his strategy during the Soul Society arc, using the intruders to distract Soul Society from his machinations.
    • 7 is the entire basis of his Zanpakuto. Plain old lies and deceptions are also well within his repertoire.
    • 8 is his strategy of attacking Karakura Town before the Hogyoku fully awakens.
    • 9 is his entire strategy with the Arrancar. The only people he showed any concern for were himself, Gin and Tousen and not even those two since he murders both.
    • 10 is Aizen's lifeblood. Everyone loved him and was shocked to hear that he defected. Gin seems to subvert this, as he's always smiling, but he just creeps people out. Of course, this is later double-subverted when it turns out that Gin's knife was for Aizen the whole time.
    • 11 Aizen attempts with Momo. Interesting when you consider the name of her Zanpakutou (based on plum trees) and her given name (based on the peach)...
    • 12, When Ichigo and the other ryoka invade Soul Society, he uses the chaos to speed up his plans. When all Seireitei goes into high alert, he fakes his own death to make everyone even more on edge. Much later, when the Kototsu appears in the Dangai, he uses it to test his new powers. When he happens across Ichigo's Muggle friends, he takes the opportunity to try and kill them to further piss off and motivate Ichigo. When Gin tries to kill him unexpectedly, he just uses it to power up his One-Winged Angel form.
    • 13 was his verbal attack on the Visoreds after the Espada is eliminated, though Shinji warned everyone to stay calm, Hiyori fell for it by losing her temper and charging, and for her troubles got slashed into two by Gin from behind.
    • 14, Oh yeah! Did he EVER! Stealing an obscure MacGuffin from an exiled Shinigami, which was used to save people's lives by integrating them into complete Shinigami/Hollow hybrids when they were infected, lost for 100 years, and hidden in the most unlikely of places, to use to create an army of Arrancar and in his words, "take himself to a higher level".
    • 15 was tried when Aizen attempted to use Wonderweiss to separate Yamamoto from his Zanpakuto, seen as the major source of Yamamoto's strength. Failed because Aizen underestimated just how offensively strong Yamamoto was without his Zanpakuto. He was able to defeat Yamamoto but not to kill him as he'd intended.
    • 19 was done against Barragan when first recruiting an Arrancar army in Hueco Mundo. Aizen distracted Barragan with talk while bringing him under his shikai's sway, rendering Barragan oblivious to Gin and Tousen taking out his army. When Barragan (as Aizen expected) rejected Aizen and demanded his death, Aizen revealed that Barragan was now a ruler with no subjects, leaving him with no choice but to join Aizen's cause. Barragan never forgave Aizen for this.
    • 20 was the entire basis of the Soul Society arc.
    • 21! It even says in the description that it can mean Faking the Dead.
    • 22, Aizen shut and locked all the passages between Las Noches and the World of the Living, thereby trapping Ichigo, his friends, and four captains away from the main battle.
    • 23 is the basis of his alliance with the Arrancar.
    • 24 because he was mostly just PRETENDING to ally with them.
    • 25 was part of why Aizen could create so much chaos during the Soul Society arc. He secretly wiped out Central 46 and issued completely nonsensical orders in their name, such as giving rank-and-file Rukia a captain's execution for a non-capital offense. He even lampshaded this by taking aside one of the most rebellious vice-captains (Renji) and telling him this had to be a conspiracy and needed to be investigated, thus prompting a rebellion at the highest ranks. Chaos ensued.
    • 28 was attempted and failed. He thought that by fighting in Karakura Town where mortals might be injured he would force the shinigami to hold back. Yamamoto anticipated this, and replaced Karakura Town with a fake.
    • 29 is why he captured Orihime. If the gamble had not worked, she would've been far from useless in the war - she's a valuable resource for extreme healing and resurrection, but Ichigo also brought his entire set of true companions along to save her, which includes at least two people who are captain-class, one of whom is the last of his kind and hence a valuable scientific specimen, and one of whom is a noble, which in turn justified four captains joining the rescue effort, and made the gamble exponentially effective.
      • In the end, the Espada themselves were an example of Aizen's use of this rule. They were deemed such a huge threat that all ten captains were lured out from Soul Society and split between Karakura Town and Hueco Mundo... but Aizen viewed the Espada as fodder. He found their performance lacking and his only use for them had always been to lure out the captains, allowing Aizen himself to defeat them all and kill Yamamoto—although he didn't accomplish the last goal.
    • 34
      • In the Soul Society arc, Aizen faked his own death and framed his confederate, Gin, so that he could continue to work in the shadows.
      • In the Deicide arc, when Gin revealed his true colors, he managed to injure Aizen more than Aizen had planned, but the betrayal had been expected on Aizen's part. It contributed to his power upgrade and allowed him to get the drop on Gin, who had expected the wound to be fatal.
    • 35, never settle for one plan when a multitude will do. When Aizen finally gives up his reliance on his plans and strategies, believing himself to be beyond the need for them, that's when things finally began to unravel for him, leading to...
    • 36, when he was outed as a villain he buggered off to Hueco Mundo because he couldn't at the time risk staying in Soul Society, given his inferiority to Yamamoto. However, he later forgets this lesson in Karakura Town, a decision that ensures he ends up losing. He may have been able to escape Ichigo when he got too powerful, except that his earlier actions had ensured that half of the Gotei was there, including a scientist who used what he found to develop the technology to open Gargantas.
  • Shukuro Tsukishima seems to be a fan of these, as well.
    • 7, The entire basis of his power is to do this with peoples memories, creating bonds with himself that override the bonds that really exist.
    • 11, When Tsukishima realized how close Ichigo and Ginjou were getting, he changed his entire strategy from a long, slow, mysterious approach to a quick shock and awe style strike. Although this completely altered the pattern of his short-term aims, it proved to be incredibly effective for the long-term plan.
    • 29, Another side-effect of his power. Because anything he cuts can be brought under his power, it can be hard to know when something is a simple cut and when it's an activation of his power. He attempted to mess with Byakuya's head in precisely this fashion. By slicing a leaf and drawing attention to it as if it was a meaningful act, he threw off Byakuya's attention from his striking of the ground which was the genuinely important cut for activating his power on the very ground they were fighting on.
    • 33, An incredibly effective example. The agent he planted in the group turned out to be the actual mastermind of the plan, making Tsukishima the "planted agent" (in terms of being a fake exile when really he was never an exile at all).
  • Yhwach, The Emperor of the Vandenreich, showed a habit for these as well.
    • 4, used twice.
      • In the first attack, instead of allowing the Shinigami captains and lieutenants to hack their way up through the minion ranks, Yhwach sends in the heavy hitters first to pin down and incapacitate as many seated officers as possible. Once they're done, THEN he deploys his ordinary soldiers to mop up the unseated Shinigami.
      • In the second attack, Yhwach once again dispenses with the Sorting Algorithm. He designates Haschwalth (as his strongest and most loyal subordinate) to immediately engage with the priority target, newly-promoted Captain-Commander Shunsui Kyoraku.
    • 5, Yhwach used the moment at the end of the original Quincy war when the vast majority of the Shinigami were still in the World of the Living cleaning up to slip his surviving warriors into (poorly guarded) Seireitei and hide in the shadows undetected.
    • 6, using a duplicate to attract Yamamoto's attention, while he goes after his real goal, conversing with Aizen.
    • 8 was used twice.
      • First, announcing to the Shinigami that the invasion would be in 5 days' time, then commencing less than 24 hours later.
      • Second, getting around the limited time Yhwach can spend outside of the shadow realm by swapping Seireitei INTO the shadows.
    • 9, allowing Yamamoto to release his bankai against a decoy, then swooping in to steal it once he's already worn down from the fight.
    • 12, twice.
      • In the first assault, Yhwach wasn't expecting Ichigo to be able to get to Soul Society in time to help. Once Ichigo was already there and incapacitated, however, Yhwach wanted to take him prisoner and re-educate him into one of his soldiers.
      • Also, while Yhwach's initial plan involved Uryuu dying in The Purge like the rest of the Gemischt Quincies, when he turned out to have a special power that allowed him to survive Yhwach immediately set out to get that power on his side.
    • 13, through the sheer ferocity of his forces' attack. He betrays nothing about his underlying goals, instead simply taking advantage of Soul Society's panic and confusion.
    • 15, Yhwach denies the Shinigami turf advantage in the second assault by replacing the Seireitei with the Vandenreich and merging the Seireitei into his shadow realm. Kyouraku admits that while he assumed the next attack would come very soon and prepared accordingly, he wasn't expecting they'd also have to fight on an unfamiliar battlefield.
    • 16, with the same-day invasion. He let Soul Society think they had time to mobilize and then struck before they had the chance.
    • 17, was done magnificently. By leading his forces personally, he causes Yamamoto to instantly head straight for him, distracting him from helping out his own forces or directing conterattacks.
    • 18, defeating Yamamoto seriously demoralizes the rest of Soul Society.
    • 19, three times.
      • Using their medallions to steal as many Bankai as possible in the first attack, further limiting the number of Shinigami who can deal any real damage to the Sternritters.
      • In the first attack, one of the primary targets is the Shinigami research labs, which pose a threat to the Vandenreich because they have the comm-link to Ichigo and might be able to reverse-engineer secret techniques. This overlaps with #28 as well.
      • In the second attack, Yhwach knows that it's only a matter of time before the Shinigami work out a method to recover the stolen bankais. However, until that moment comes he orders the Sternritter to use those bankais instead of their own techniques.
    • 20, twice.
      • Massacring Hollows for weeks before declaring war has put the spiritual realms out of balance. When the war declaration comes, the shinigami are in the middle of scrambling to create a counterbalance and arguing about the massacre this will require their side to carry out.
      • Driscoll murders Chojirou as part of the war declaration, so Yamamoto is distracted by mourning his lieutenant and arranging the funeral as he also tries to get the Shinigami mobilized for war.
    • 22, attempted three times (third times the charm).
      • In the first assault, the Vandenreich did their level best to eliminate as many Shinigami as possible, but incapacitated at most 2/3 of the overall ranks and only a couple captains or lieutenants. However, their failure was mostly due to the narrow time limit on the battle, imposed by how long they could remain outside their shadow realm.
      • In the second assault, Haschwalth tells Kyoraku to his face that Yhwach has ordered a complete extermination. And this go-round the battle is taking place IN the shadow realm, so the previous time limit does not apply.
      • When Ichigo comes down from the Soul King Palace, Yhwach knows in advance that the Ouken clothing Ichigo wears will leave a hole in the Soul King Palace's defenses for 6000 seconds, and immediately takes the opportunity to assault the Soul King Palace with Haschwalth, Uryu and the Schuzstaffel to defeat Squad Zero and kill the Soul King. He succeeds.
      • Taking a looser interpretation of the trope, Yhwach has certainly demonstrated an intention to make the war as short and decisive as possible.
    • 23, attempted when Yhwach sought Aizen out in solitary confinement to offer him an alliance against Yamamoto. Aizen declined, but Yhwach didn't pass up the opportunity while he had it.
    • 24 seems to have been Yhwach's default strategy for centuries. Since birth, Yhwach has been able to grant special powers to others with a touch of his hand. However, those powers shorten the life expectency of the bearer, and return to Yhwach after the bearer's death. Every Quincy's death, whether on or off the battlefield, ultimately strengthens him and extends his lifespan. Hence why Yhwach does not hesitate to expend his troops in battle... or to murder practically all his living descendents.
    • 25, Yhwach does not believe in Honor Before Reason shonen battle tropes like Talking Is a Free Action, and most of the Sternritter have learned to adhere to this as well. Those that don't go down fast and messy.
    • 26, appointing Uryuu as his successor prevents him from conspiring against Yhwach by putting him in the spotlight. Even a hint of disloyalty will bring the other Sternritter down on him instantly.
    • 27, does this to his own side, by sudden, capricious, and ruthless decisions like murdering underlings for minor offences or replacing his most loyal lieutenant with a brand new recruit. It's harder to the Sternritter to plot against him if they have no idea what he's going to do next.
    • 28, Yhwach didn't send Opie into Hueco Mundo to massacre arrancar with the intended purpose of luring Ichigo out of Karakura. But since it happened to do so, Yhwach gave orders for Opie to keep Ichigo trapped in hostile territory for as long as possible.

    Comic Books 
  • These rules formed the basis of a Shi comic series.
  • Batwoman (Rebirth):
    • Kate Kane is shown studying the book during a flashback, and later attempts a variant of #27 against the main villains of the series by using her public persona while going undercover (it fails because they already know she's Batwoman).
    • Said villains also have a complex plan against Kate, which is a form of #35.

    Fan Works 
  • In Emperor, Harry is quite fond of using them, even making references to them.
    • Early in the story, he uses #31 to cause dissension among Dumbledore's people, get Draco Malfoy killed and recruit Neville Longbottom to his cause.
    • In Chapter 13 (fittingly called "The 36 Stratagems"), Harry uses #2, attracting the Chiefs' attention to the frontlines and knocking out their air force with a magical bomb while another army attacks London.
    • Chapter 40 mentions #1, #6 and #15, bringing the German's feared anti-mage unit to a certain point in the front by sending their elite unit to that point, then Harry going there to fight that unit and catching the attention of most of their army, only to then exploit the holes in the German defenses and finally break the stalemate.
  • In An ordinary life, the Strays' Defiance is peppered with references to them by the Strays themselves, who use them as a guide to defeat the Pros that have them outnumbered and outexperienced.
    • #25 comes up when the Strays, rather than using their macro-scale Quirks, strategize the means to deal with the Pros methodically, assigning priorities and plotting for precise strikes.
    • They apply #15 and #28 by combining Sami, Akira and Hayate's Quirks to turn the training grounds into a swampy forest they are best trained with, offsetting the Pros who were expecting an urban fight.
    • #17 and #21 are applied by Himai's Hit-and-Run Tactics, using his great agility to avoid the Pros' attacks while striking on his own.
    • Finally, #6 comes up as the Pros get distracted trying to deal with the multiple ambushes and traps they are finding, allowing the Strays to bring them down one by one.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • And Then There Were None written by Agatha Christie shows examples of various ones
    • #1 is used by the judge when he claims to be invited like everyone else when in reality he's the mass murderer that ends up killing everyone.
    • #3 is seen when the judge pretty much watches Vera, the tenth Indian, face off Lombard, the 9th one. Vera ends up shooting Lombard through the heart, believing Lombard to be the killer. This strategy is shown again when Vera kills herself in the end while the judge hid in the shadows watching her.
    • #7 The tension between Lombard and Vera stemmed from nothing. The judge was the one behind the scene.
    • #10 is used by the judge against Dr. Armstrong, who he worked with the fake his [the judge's] death. While Dr. A trusted the judge, the judge turned against Dr. A and pushed him off a cliff.
    • #15 can be seen every time the judge separated the next victim from the rest of the crowd.
    • #20 The confusion created from the trapped on isolated island with 7 other people made the victims suspect one another, lowering their ability to think straight.
    • #21 and 34 can be taken quite literally. The judge "died" to avoid further suspicion.
    • #30 although the judge is actually the host, he pretends to be a guest like the others in order to continue with his plans.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms is the Trope Namer for the (Chinese version) of several strategies:
    • #14 was used somewhat literally. The enemy had found out about Zhuge Liang's death and started to attack, but he had a life sized wooden statue made of himself to fool the enemy into thinking he was still alive, which causes them to hesitate enough to allow Shu to retreat and live to fight another day. In Dynasty Warriors, this is sometimes turned into a #21 (pretending to be dead in order to set up an ambush) and sometimes not.
    • #16 is named for Zhuge Liang's campaign against Meng Huo, in which Meng Huo was released after every capture until Meng Huo had a change of heart and totally capitulated.
    • #20 is basically how Cao Cao operates full-time. There's a reason he's called "a crafty fellow in a troubled land."
    • #24 was also after Chi Bi, Zhuge Liang used resources from Wu and the momentum following that battle to help Liu Bei take Jing and Yi prefecture, the former being quite a sore point in Wu. Sun Ce (one of the founding fathers of Wu) himself did this, using troops borrowed from Yuan Shu to carve out his own land, in exchange for the Imperial Seal which his father obtained in a use of rule #5.
    • #28 happened to Zhuge Liang literally - he was talked into visiting Liu Qi, one of Liu Bei's relatives on the pretext of reading some valuable ancient scrolls; Liu Qi had his underlings move away the ladder and refused to let Zhuge Liang down until he got the badly needed advice on how to deal with an Wicked Stepmother.
    • #31 is named for the Beauty Trap laid by Wang Yun and his adopted daughter Diao Chan, who seduced both Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu and played them against each other until Lu Bu murdered Dong Zhuo.
    • #32 is named for Zhuge Liang's successful gambit to scare away Wei troops during a general retreat. Specifically, in the novel the Wei troops see no Shu troops, just Zhuge Liang playing an instrument by himself to greet them. This freaks out the enemy commander Sima Yi (who was well aware of Zhuge's reputation) enough to go into full retreat, rather than take the city that had less than a tenth of his own troops defending it.
      • Of course, this worked only because Sima Yi had fought many times with Zhuge Liang and had become rather paranoid of the latter's intricate plots. Sima Zhao, Sima Yi's son, immediately saw through the ruse, but was overruled by his father.
    • #34 is named for the bluff Zhou Yu pulls on Cao Cao by pretending to rebuke, and then punish by a public flogging, one of the veteran generals of his own unit.
    • #35 is named for the chain of schemes that lead up to the death of Dong Zhuo; a different chain of schemes is used against Cao Cao at the Battle of the Red Bluffs.
  • In Atlas Shrugged, Francisco d'Anconia uses #7 with the San Sebastian copper mines. When the People's State of Mexico expropriates the mines from his company, they discover that there was no actual copper on the site, and all of the facilities were poorly made. This not only leaves Mexico twisting in the wind with nothing to gain, but also leaves the other companies that tried to jump aboard d'Anconia's bandwagon without thinking in dire straits. Exactly as planned.
    • Actually, there WAS copper there, quite a lot of it, in fact. However, the mine was operated by a man deliberately selected for his total incompetence at operating a mine, and so he had done everything wrong. The mine not only did not produce copper, it COULD NOT produce any, and wouldn't be able to for years. This was done because Francisco knew that the Mexican government was going to seize the mine, and wanted to ensure that it couldn't provide support to them once it did.
  • Done many times in A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tywin Lannister employs #3 and #5 these to bring about the demise of Robb Stark (with the "Borrowed Knives" being Robb's treacherous bannermen, Roose Bolton and Walder Frey).
    • Robb Stark himself manage to pull #6 on the Lannisters by attacking Tywin as a distraction, which allowed him to capture Jaime when the latter strayed from his troops. Robb later tries #15, using his troops as bait, but it doesn't work because Edmure Tully got impatient and decided to engage the enemy before Robb could spring his trap.
    • Lord Varys cozies up to Tyrion Lannister in an attempt to recruit Tyrion's help against his rival, Littlefinger (#23). Unfortunately, for Varys, Littlefinger is better at this sort of thing than he is, (see below).
    • Tyrion Lannister cripples Stannis's navy by luring it into sailing into the mouth of Blackwater Rush, only to cut off their escape with a giant chain and light the trapped ships on fire (#28).
    • And, of course, there's Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, who is the absolute master of this, employing at various times:
      • #3. Uses Olenna Tyrell to assassinate Joffrey Baratheon.
      • #5. His methods heavily rely on causing chaos and profiting from it by picking on those who are most vulnerable.
      • #7. Manages to convince Catelyn Stark to abduct and torture Tyrion Lannister by telling him that Tyrion was behind an attempt on the life of her son, Bran. Not only was he making this up whole cloth, Tyrion was actually one of the few people to display genuine kindness towards Bran. Latter, he convinces Eddard Stark that the Goldcloaks will side with him if he moves against the Lannisters. Eddard does, only to be betrayed and arreste by the Goldcloaks.
      • #9. His entire M.O. is based on provoking his enemies into fighting amongst themselves.
      • #10. He even tells people that they shouldn't trust him. But of course, he's such a likable, charismatic guy that everyone he meets promptly ignores this advice. (Not so much likable as non-threatening)
      • #12. The number of times he's altered his plans to take advantage of some new opportunity are too numerous to count.
      • #13. When Catelyn Stark asks him if he recognized the dagger used in an attempt on Bran's life, he says he lost it to Tyrion in a bet. The book implies that he had no idea who's dagger it was and had no specific plan in mind when making the accusation. He just wanted to stir up tensions between the Starks and Lannisters even further so he could later find a way to use the conflict to his advantage.
      • #14. He's been secretly harboring Sansa Stark so that he can use her claim to Winterfell as leverage to bring the hitherto neutral Vale into the war.
      • #20. He thrives off of chaos, and the confusion that it brings. The entire War of Five Kings is an example of this.
      • #23. Forms an alliance with House Tyrell as a part of his plot to bring down House Lannister a couple of notches.
      • #24. Probably what he has in mind for the Tyrells now that he's gotten the Lannisters out of his way.
      • #27. You know that spineless coward who you manipulated into betraying his ally? Turns out he was planning on doing that all along. And now you're his ally.
      • #30. Convinces everyone he meets that he's either their loyal subordinate (Eddard), or at least at the very least that his loyalty can be bought (Tywin). They're dead wrong.
  • Hilari Bell's Farsala Trilogy has examples of:
    • #3. Jiaan asks the swamp bandits and a Kadeshi warlord to help out.
    • #4. Jiaan does this to Patrius in the third book.
    • #9. Various groups plan to wait it out and pick up the pieces, but are drawn into the fight anyway.
    • #10. Kavi and Soraya, with varying degrees of success.
    • #14. The rebellion is rumored to be led by Sorahb, and the main characters use it to their advantage. The rumor becomes real enough that, in the third book, Garren challenges Sorahb to a duel. Fasal accepts the challenge.
    • #15. The Hrum don't fare so well in the swamps or desert.
    • #20. Used to great hilarity when Kavi gives the Hrum camp dysentery via poisoned beer, and uses the resulting pandemonium to steal barrels of Hrum supplies and drive them through the gates of Mazad.
    • #24. Jiaan gets topographical help from the Suud, but does not turn against them afterwards.
    • #28. The Suud and Jiann lure the Hrum into the desert and use false trails to keep them there. If you're not Suud, it's pretty hard to find your way out of the desert.
    • #33. Kavi.
  • #27. The Bible: King David, while on the run from Saul, pretended to be a madman so the Philistines wouldn't consider him a threat. (1 Samuel 21:13)
  • Harry Potter: Voldemort obviously studied these:
    • He used the Ministry of Magic to pull a huge #3, with a bit of #9 and #20 thrown in for good measure.
    • #17 is most of his gambit in OotP.
    • #18 is his goal all through HBP (by taking out Dumbledore)
    • Dumbledore, on the other hand, favored #27, but also used #33 with Snape.
  • An especially hilarious example of #13 shows up early in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan, where Rodrigo has Jehane start shouting a wide variety of rather crude and embarrassing things in order to distract Count Nino, prevent him from thinking clearly, and get him to run straight into an ambush.
    • Both the northern Jaddite kingdoms and the Muwardis make full use of #9, waiting until the kingdoms of Al-Rassan have fallen apart before invading.
    • The Muwardis also attempt #3 when they attempt to assassinate the Queen of Valledo to turn the Esperanian kings against each other, but it backfires spectacularly after she survives.
  • It's the policy of the Royal Manticoran Navy from David Weber's Honorverse that whenever possible they go into battle with full stomachs, an example of #4. Since the battles usually occur in space, they usually have time for this.
  • Zack State, the Anti-Hero of The Mental State, uses these stratagems as a basis for his prison-survival tactics and arguably holds the record. In fact, there are only two stratagems that he has not even touched on: #16 (which Saif uses instead) and #32 (on account of there being no 'fort' to use it with).
    • #1. He seldom (if ever) reveals his true intentions, even to his own accomplices, until everyone is committed to what is happening.
    • #2. He singles out the individuals spreading corruption and causing problems within the prison and attacks them instead.
    • #3. Getting the Crane brothers to cut Saif’s fingers off.
    • #4. Done twice against the rapists; first with the female prisoners and then the rest of his gang afterwards.
    • #5. Using the fight between the Irredeemables and the rest of the prison to provide the Crane’s with the opportunity to maim Saif.
    • #6. Using the fire alarm to make everyone gather in the yard so that he could infiltrate the camera room and coaxing Sgt. Haig out of his office with a scuffle so that he could plant drugs there.
    • #7. Pretending that he has a gang on the outside ready to attack Officer Reed if he blabs, threatening Big Billy with imaginary paedophile friends and convincing the mugger in the alleyway that he had an entire criminal network.
    • #8. Proclaiming that he will fight Saif for as long as it takes, while secretly placing a saboteur among the Irredeemables. His mental jousting with Saif might also count.
    • #9. Waiting until the rapists have been brutally beaten up by the female convicts before threatening them directly.
    • #10. How he infiltrates the drug ring and deals with Harry.
    • #11. Dismantling his phone so that Saif couldn’t use it to incriminate him, rigging his own computer to wipe itself to stop Saif from accessing it and then sacrificing his (seemingly important) watch to allow Jeremy to infiltrate the gang.
    • #12. Stealing Officer Reed’s mobile phone (and boy howdy does it pay off!) and befriending Charlie so that he can use his paedophilia as a threat.
    • #13. Goading Bones into arranging a meeting at a preferred time and tricking Big Billy into attacking him by threatening his daughter.
    • #14. Letting Jeff use him as a figurehead to improve his popularity and spread his message. Also, using the footage of himself to convince the mugger in the alleyway that he was a powerful, deranged cannibal.
    • #15. Luring the Irredeemables out of Saif’s room so that they can be attacked.
    • #17. Using the mobile phone as bait to lure Saif and his gang into the yard, where they could be framed for Zack’s crimes and then attacked by the combined forces of the prison guards and Zack’s gang.
    • #18. He reforms both the drug dealers and the black inmates by undermining the authority of Bones and Micky (well…his brother) respectively. Also, blackmailing Viceman into reforming the prison system.
    • #19. Cutting off Bones’ drug supply and exposing Micky’s extortion racket to the rest of the black prisoners. Also, crippling Big Billy, Little Micky’s muscle, giving the black inmates no incentive to stay with him. Removing Saif’s fingers also helped.
    • #20. Using a police raid to start a witch-hunt that eliminates Harry and then sabotaging the drug supply to point the finger at Bones.
    • #21. The watch is a meaningless trinket and Rose’s full name is ‘Rosemary’, not ‘Rosette’. He also has no friends on the outside.
    • #22. Completely dismantling Saif’s criminal organisation and incarcerating him in solitary confinement for life, so that he can no longer threaten him or Rose.
    • #23. Joining forces with the women’s side of the prison (bonus points if you entertain the possibility that he had already planned the election and would be on good terms with the female winner).
    • #24. Turning Danny’s gang against him so that he could torture him for what he did to Rose, before stabbing a different gang member and then killing another.
    • #25. Done benevolently; by forcing Viceman to adopt a more liberal approach to prisoners, they reform much quicker. Also, cutting off the inmates’ drug supply and making them quit cold-turkey greatly calms their violent tendencies and more barbaric practices.
    • #26. By letting him join the gang, he forces Officer Reed to go through a hellish ordeal and develop a drug problem of his own, which he can’t object to without compromising his operation. Also, putting Jeff in the spotlight so that he can’t do anything against him in secret.
    • #27. Scaring the life out of the mugger in the alleyway by pretending to be an insane lunatic with a taste for human flesh.
    • #28. By waiting until the rapists are already through the hole before the women attack, he guarantees that they will be brutally beaten up before they can scramble back through the hole.
    • #29. The watch is a meaningless trinket and is of no real value to him at all. He also makes himself appear to be more dangerous than he actually is by inventing a criminal network and ‘briefly’ adopting cannibalism.
    • #30. Usurping Bones several months after joining the gang. Done on a much greater scale by presenting himself to Viceman as an inmate from one of his prisons and then blackmailing him into obeying his every whim (From Nobody to Nightmare in less than a year).
    • #31. The female prisoners are the rapists’ motivation (but he has no intention of making good on that promise).
    • #33. The game of double agent Ping-Pong between Zack and Saif is a joy to behold. Jeremy and the Crane brothers also act as moles.
    • #34. Letting Saif destroy his watch not only enables him to place a spy among the Irredeemables, but also lets Saif think he has already won and allows him to make a rousing speech to motivate the other inmates long after he had been released.
    • #35. Nobody knows exactly how many plans he is juggling in his head at any one time.
    • #36. Outnumbered by the street gang, he injures them sufficiently so that they have to take their wounded to hospital and escapes with Rose.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor tricked the Daleks into believing a biscuit was a self-destruct button for the TARDIS (temporarily).
    • The Doctor is especially fond of #27; most of his enemies think he is a mad fool right up until their plans crumble underneath them. Most of his allies too, come to think of it. For his part, the Doctor maintains that he is a mad fool. He just happens to also be incredibly brilliant and dangerous.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Used extensively by both sides in the Dominion War.
    • The Founders used the Klingons for a #3, leading to a #5.
    • #6 was the reason Deep Space Nine was taken over, since the Federation was off destroying an undefended shipyard (this was also a bit of #11.)
    • The Romulans were trying to use #9 until Garak dragged them into the war via #7/ #21.
    • The Dominion did their best early on to pull a #10, which Sisko saw right through.
    • #12 - Sisko stealing the Jem'Hadar attack ship in "The Ship".
    • #19 - Destroying the Dominion's supply of Ketracel White.
  • The Closer loves the 27th and 28th stratagem to pieces. Once the guilty party is identified and she's satisfied that it will be only the pair of them, she goes to work on the perp. She continues her cheerful scatterbrained act for as long as it takes to induce the perp to slip up, at which point she promptly drops it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia includes a few of these in the "Tips for Traitors" section:
    • #5 - "...plug him when he is relatively unable to return your fire— when he has his hands full of some other kind of trouble, like attacking hostiles or a malfunctioning weapon or a berserk bot. At the least, his weapon should be still in its holster and his attention elsewhere. Ideally, he should never even know it is you attacking him."
    • #10 - "...licking the metaphorical boots of The Computer is the primary survival skill."
    • #17 - "Always present orders that entail certain death for subordinates in such a way as to suggest that you are graciously offering them an opportunity to distinguish themselves..."
    • #22 - "'I speak without fear of contradiction...' is the opening sentence of the ideal debriefing. You get dinged for being the only one to make it back alive, but this is a minor inconvenience compared to the alternative."
  • #18 is the whole point of Chess and the whole family of related games - Xiangqi, Shōgi, and so on. The ultimate and only goal is to take the enemy's leader.

    Video Games 
  • Touhou Project:
    • Marisa's diary mentions #36 in reference to Reimu's Fantasy Heaven attack.
    • In Touhou Labyrinth, Nitori uses #36, bringing up the strategems while she does so, on floor 7.
  • Many strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem have "Defeat the Boss" mission objectives, which could be seen as #18.
  • One of the ways you can play Master of Orion is to Beseige Wei to rescue Zhao. That is to concentrate as much as you can on destroying the computer's planets. The computer is programed to look after its own empire naturally enough but hasn't the flexibility to ignore attacks and finish your planets off so its fleets will turn back. Moreover the AI cannot handle more then about two attacks every few turns whereas a player can usually get off at least one per turn and if he has enough ships, as many as half-a-dozen.
  • #14: In Galactic Civilizations II, a random event from an Unknown Phenomenon involves "adapting" an ancient story to increase your faction's overall happiness/morale.
  • The Europa Universalis III AI is programmed to take full advantage of #5. When a major power, such as France, gets into a war with another major power or coalition, its enemies (those who the Great Power has trampled on its way to Great Power status, plus those who have ambitions of their own that involve trampling on that state) will declare war. Of course, these enemies will themselves look weak to their enemies, who will themselves employ this stratagem. A Gambit Pileup is certain to ensue. (This is Truth in Television; see the Thirty Years' War and World War One.)
    • A variation on #4 and #28: If you break an enemy army and have your own forces in the province the enemy is retreating to, they will rout almost immediately, resulting in #22.
    • #30 is used in alliance mechanics. If you answer a call to arms when you have superior power to the alliance leader, you can become the alliance leader.
  • #9 is nearly universal in 4X games, especially those with a Tech Tree. War leads to expenditure of resources, while peace allows you to build up more; often, the winning power in the endgame is that guy over in the corner who let everyone else fight it out while they climbed to preeminence.
    • #3, #5, #23, and #24 are also quite frequent, especially as a means of facilitating #9. Savvy players will often exploit diplomacy / alliance systems to ensure the other factions are all concentrating on each other, only intervening directly when there's a clear advantage to be gained from taking something from a weakened enemy.
    • #25, is almost just as universal, as most of these games have some means of researching up a Tech Tree or different Technology Levels which allows players to "change the rules" by unveiling either new weapons or more efficient ways to produce those weapons.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Teyrn Loghain uses #3 by leaving King Cailan to die at the hands of the darkspawn, which he believes is for the good of Ferelden. The ensuing civil war gives the Archdemon the perfect opportunity to take advantage of #5.
  • In the Mass Effect series, the Reapers are masters of the art of war and use several stratagems repeatedly:
    • Indoctrination in general is basically stratagem #3 in weapon form.
      • In the previous cycle, they used it against the Zha'Til to attack the Protheans, and then when that wasn't enough, they indoctrinate some of the Protheans to pursue the goal of controlling the Reapers which divides the enemy's forces and creates enough snitches to destroy the enemies from within.
      • In our cycle (but before humanity joined the council), they indoctrinate the Rachni to attack the Citadel Council races.
      • Later, they convince the Geth heretics to attack the Citadel Council races again. Though it's not clear whether the heretics were indoctrinated or joined willingly the virus in Legion's loyalty mission was definitely made with Reaper assistance, and would have converted all the Geth to follow the Reapers if Shepard didn't stop it.
      • Then they command the Collectors to attack Humanity.
      • Then, they attempt to indoctrinate The Hero and drag him/her over to their way of thinking.
      • Then they repeat what they did with the Protheans by indoctrinating The Illusive Man and his Dragon Kai Leng so that they pursue the goal of controlling the Reapers, dividing the anti-Reaper forces, and driving them into an Enemy Civil War.
    • #10: The Reapers promise their enemies salvation and a much better future by claiming to ascend them to perfection, a new level of existence while their enemies don't realize this would result in total destruction.
    • #13: The Hero gets taunted repeatedly by the Big Bad on several occassions. S/he is being told that s/he cannot win and will be spared if s/he'd give up fighting.
    • #15: In the finale of the second game, The Hero and their squad must go without army support to an unknown dangerous place to fight the enemy.
    • #22: In the third game, the Big Bad attacks his biggest threat - humanity - as early as possible and with all its might to enforce a quick and total conclusion.
    • #33: The Big Bad indoctrinates the top agent of the Citadel races and uses him for their own goals.
    • #34: A soldier who sells out the The Hero to the Big Bad shoots himself to appear unsuspicuous to The Hero and cover up his betrayal.
  • As with any strategy game, Crusader Kings and its sequel allow the player to be successful by employing many of the stratagems correctly, but a few seem to be particularly encouraged by the game mechanics (especially in the second game):
    • #3: Spymasters can be sent into enemy territory to damage relations between a lord and his vassal, which may end up causing the latter to revolt.
    • #5 and #9: There are two tiers of claims on another lord's titles: Strong claims and weak claims. Weak claims can only be pressed under certain circumstances, most notably if another party is already in a claim war with the title holder.
    • #14: Controlling the right holdings may allow the player to re-create lapsed higher-tier titles that give automatic claims to the rest of the holdings within that title's de jure territory.
    • #18: Capturing the leader of the opposing alliance during battle immediately maxes out your war score, allowing you to instantly force them to submit and grant you whatever it was you were fighting for.
    • #19: Certain types of conflicts (such as succession disputes and adventurer invasions) will automatically end if you kill the relevant leader or claim holder, meaning a discreet assassination can save years of warfare — especially if you'd otherwise lose the war by facing them on the battlefield.
    • #30: Sometimes, it's more prudent to swear fealty to a powerful lord than to confront them directly, as doing so allows you to join factions to subvert (and possibly replace) them while enjoying the benefit of the protection they provide from outside threats as part of their realm.
    • #36: If the tide of a war changes (eg. your enemy gains a new, powerful ally, or you are invaded by someone else), it may be more prudent to swallow your pride and use your initial gains to make a white peace now instead of suffering a defeat later.
  • Fate/Grand Order: During "The Synchronized Intellect Nation, SIN" chapter, you are made to face against Captain of the Guard (Li Shuwen). During the battle, Han Xin will support him by giving out a rotating set of buffs and debuffs named after different stratagem.
    • #18: Inflicts one of the party members with Taunt status for 3 turns while granting Li Shuwen buff that makes him ignore class disadvantages, making him focus purely on the target until the debuff is cleared.
    • #20: Inflicts Confusion for all party members for 3 turns, which has a chance of inflicting Skill Seal at the end of each turn.
    • #29: Gives Li Shuwen a stack of three Attack Up buffs for one turn.
    • #19: Inflicts one party member with NP Generation Rate Down for 3 turns.
    • #5: Gives Li Shuwen a buff that gives him Arts Performance buff at the end of each turn for 3 turns.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, Arkham's plan is a very precarious #9: ensure that the other three main characters make it to the control room (as each has a different element required to open the portal), but along the way, wear them down through fights with cannon fodder demons and each other. When they do arrive, they can be easily and personally dispatched all at once. It works flawlessly up to that point, but Arkham then underestimates them and they are able to rally and bring him down in the end.

  • Lord Shojo from The Order of the Stick is a master of #27, but also uses #21 ( creating a fake trial to distract the paladins), #23 (befriending the Order in order to act behind the back of the paladins), and #30 (acting at Eugene's behest until it no longer served him to do so).
    • In a sense, it can be said that the Order of the Stick themselves are masters of #36, often running away from threats they are clearly not equipped for. This was played straight in the siege of Azure City, but was often played for laughs in earlier strips.
    Haley: "Plan B. RUN!"
    Belkar: "Really? That always struck me as being our Plan A."
    • Tarquin probably has the whole list of 36 painted on the walls of his room.
  • An attempt at inverting #35 comes from 8-Bit Theater.
    Red Mage: "Most plans are critically flawed by their own logic. A failure at any step will ruin everything after it. That's just basic cause and effect. It's easy for a good plan to fall apart. Therefore, a plan that has no attachment to logic cannot be stopped. The success or failure of any given step will have no impact on the macro level."

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Iroh pulls off #27 when imprisoned by the Fire Nation, scrabbling around on all fours and eating like a dog when the guards are around, working out like a boss when they're not. The results are impressive, and he eventually escapes the prison when neither he nor the gaurds have access to their firebending powers, kicking their asses so thoroughly they call him a One-Man Army.

    Real Life 
  • Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, founder of Saudi Arabia once employed strategem #2. He dodged behind an Al-Rashid army and began attacking the herds of all the tribes loyal to the Rashids. Being Bedouin they quite sensibly didn't give a hoot about who was to be Sultan and cared quite a bit about their families and their camels. So the Al-Rashid army simply scattered and the close of the campaigning season left the Sauds the victors.
  • Stratagem #6 was employed during World War II, as Operation Mincemeat: Germany was fed false informationnote  that the Allied invasion of mainland Europe from across the Mediterranean would target Greece and the Southern Balkans, where the actual plan involved Sicily. German High Command diverted several army divisions from Italy to the Balkans, and even several weeks after the invasion of Sicily, Adolf Hitler was convinced it was a decoy.
    • The strategem was repeated during Operation Overlord - the Allies were able to convince Hitler that the Normandy landings were a diversion and that there would be an even bigger landing at the Pas de Calais, thus delaying the deployment of armored reserves and allowing the Allies to secure a beachhead in France. (Charles de Gaulle, being Charles de Gaulle, spilled the beans, but fortunately the Germans weren't listening).
    • The British in general were fond of Stratagem #33, what with the legendary Double-Cross System.
  • The Russians ended up using #28 to defeat both Napoléon Bonaparte and Nazi Germany. Although neither one was planned from the outset, in both cases the overwhelmed Russian forces retreated into their vast country, trading space for time, until they could call upon their greatest ally, General Winter, and then unleashed #4.
  • Napoleon himself used both #8 and #6 during the War of the 3rd Coalition in 1805 as he first convinced General Mack of Austria that he was going to attack from the West, meanwhile he circled his main force round the North, cutting Mack off from the rest of the Austrian and Russian armies. Then at The Battle of Austerlitz, he convinced Tsar Alexander that his right wing was a tempting target, the ensuing Austro-Russian attack left their centre exposed. Napoleon quickly took advantage of it and won both the battle and the war.
    • British strategy during that period of history was to employ #3 extensively to ensure that no one country had hegemony over Continental Europe. In particular, they partially funded the armies of the 6th and 7th Coalitions against France.
  • Operation Paul Bunyan is an excellent demonstration of #26 that just so happened to involve an actual tree. Rising tensions along the Korean DMZ in the aftermath of The Korean War (explained in some detail here) came to a head when a unit of North Korean soldiers assaulted a joint South Korean / American party tasked with trimming a poplar tree inside the DMZ,Explanation  resulting in the deaths of two Americans. Within three days, the Americans and South Koreans mounted another expedition to chop the tree down... and escorted it with enough firepower to fend off anything short of a full-scale North Korean invasionnote . It was carefully planned as a show of force to intimidate the North Koreans while also giving them the opportunity to back down with relative grace, which they did.
  • Pancho Villa made particular use of #16 and #27:
    • #27 was a consistent part of his strategy. Villa was actually a pretty smart guy, and while nobody would ever accuse him of being a bookworm, he is known to have read avidly in his downtime (particularly during his seven-month incarceration in 1912-13, during which he both absorbed agrarian socialist revolutionary theory and read all of Don Quixote). However, he maintained his "Aw, shucks, I'm just a semi-illiterate former bandido from the mountains of Chihuahua" schtick to disarm and confuse his enemies (and to attract actual semi-illiterate bandidos and others from the mountains of Chihuahua and elsewhere to the División del Norte).
    • He used # 16 in two of his most famous campaigns, in two different ways. In his first capture of Torreón, he deliberately blocked all the roads out of town except the one to Saltillo, hoping the Federales would just run instead of fighting; they did, exactly as he had planned. A few months later, in his successful assault on Zacatecas, he seemingly left the road to Aguascalientes open, and the Federal defenders again ran for it rather than trying to defend the city after their position became untenable. However, this time, he had set up a line of machine guns on the Aguascalientes road, which mowed down the escaping defenders of Zacatecas by the thousand.
  • #1 was used by the U.S. and its allies against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. Huge formations of aircraft flew about seemingly aimlessly in neighboring Saudia Arabia every night for weeks prior to the beginning of the invasion, so when air operations began on day 1, Iraqi forces didn't find anything suspicious about the tons and tons of aircraft taking off until they crossed the border and stuff started exploding.
  • The Japanese pulled #19 with their attack on Pearl Harbor. With the US battle fleet crippled in a single devastating blow, the Japanese were able to attack all over the Pacific without anybody to stop them. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary victory. The fact that the battleships were sunk in a harbor meant that most of them could be raised and repaired; the third Japanese attack wave that would have targeted the repair shops, drydocks, and fuel storage depots was cancelled as seemingly unnecessary; the US carriers (which turned out to be much more valuable than the battleships anyway) were away from the port and so missed the attack; most importantly, the Japanese expected the US to be so shocked by the sudden attack that they would be too fearful to respond. The US had different plans. Most importantly, the US had the industrial capacity to simply build more and better battleships.