At the start of this post's source video, FTL player DarkTwinge (DT) was in a very bad spot. Without fuel for his warp drive, he drifted until the pursuing rebel fleet overtook him, leading to hard combats and low rewards. With only difficult choices available, DT does his best to survive. In these clips we'll see ideas of marginal value, cooldown rotation management, threshold of effect, and luck favoring the prepared.
In the first fight (not shown here), DT won 4 fuel but took more hull damage. In these two clips from the second fight (vs another elite fighter), he's still in rebel space. Since DT now has a small buffer of extra fuel, and since elite rebels drop poor loot, his goal is to escape taking minimal damage rather than to destroy the enemy ship.DT activates cloaking to dodge just a moment before the first salvo reaches him, eking out every bit of marginal value. An earlier cloak would have been wasted while the shots were still harmlessly mid-flight, and would also expose his ship to danger earlier by moving up the decloak time. By activating at the last second, he forces the enemy to sit wastefully on recharged weapons for longer on the far end of the cloak's duration:
Once the cloak runs out, he fires the flak weapon, then unpowers it to make power available for the engines, speeding up his warp. As I've said before, contested games are won at the margins. The power management speeding the warp did matter, as DT's warp drive readies a bare moment before incoming flak could strike:
In the third fight, finally beyond the the main rebel fleet's reach, DT runs into a non-elite rebel ship. We pick up partway through, just as the enemy repairs damage to their weapons room and starts to charge their heavy laser. DT points out that this is a good thing, as his cloaking will be ready in time to dodge the shot, wasting the gun's charge time:
"We have all the hull we need, you only need one hull to win this game." This clip highlights an idea I call threshold of effect. That is, a dis/advantage only matters once it can be cashed in for a change in gamestate or available lines of play. In LoL, for example, a player does not benefit from a gold advantage until they actually have a chance to buy items. Similarly, a same-level lane opponent being ahead in xp only matters when they are imminently threatening to level up first. The Magic: the Gathering community likes to point out that "one is not zero," much like DT's line. Here, DT's ship being at 1 hp only matters if something is able to hit him:
DT makes it to the end of the sector. He is given a choice between progressing to a Rock Controlled Sector or a Pirate Controlled Sector. He knows that Rock sectors always have 2 stores, while the Pirate sector could have 1 or 2. With only 1 hull point left, he desperately needs a store and cannot afford to take any more damage seeking one out. Nothing but store-access matters. With this knowledge, the choice of destination is easy. Navigator, plot a course to the Rock sector:
Luckily enough, he spawns in adjacent to a store! As DarkTwinge puts it, "One of the most important things in FTL is to never give up...because you might be able to recover from what seems like certain doom." Luck favors the prepared gamer. By playing to your outs, and grasping every iota of marginal value, you create opportunities for a little luck to be enough: