M*ta: It’s Not a Dirty Word
Hello all and welcome back to another one of my articles. Today is going to be less aimed at X-Wing itself but more about something that you will see in any form of competitive game. The competitive environment or ‘Meta-game’.
Not only that, I am pairing up Power Rangers style with Phil GC of X-Wing and Firespray fame! (You should totally check out his blog) It is rumoured that if you combine us we do in fact make a large fighty dinosaur robot monster, that can spend hours discussing the merits or pitfalls of using a Flight Instructor.
After my last article outlining why some people enjoy flying a little against the META I’ve spent a couple of days reading the comments. As any blog writer (or person that spend time on the internet) will tell you, this can be a dangerous enterprise.
Here be monsters…
I have noticed over the last few months, in various groups and forums, a growing discontent focused primarily towards the bogeymen of the moment; be that Jumpmasters, Miranda, or (going back far enough) Soontir Fel himself. The term applied by many to these harbingers of doom and gloom is ”The Meta”.
What is the Meta?
The competitive environment in which we play encourages some ships over others. Certain lists and build have proven themselves to be effective in certain circumstances. Whether good at killing certain things, or avoiding being killed by them.
Using these ships and lists does not create some magical win button but have proven themselves very able to win games. Out of all the cards and options available in X-wing some are just better than others. The Meta is simply when you see a lot of people wanting to use the same stuff that is good in the game….
One important thing to bear in mind: Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) are not responsible for the state of the meta-game; the players are. FFG have gone to great lengths to encourage more variation and diversity through FAQ and Errata, putting in check certain elements that may have out-grown their intended purpose.
It’s also important to remember that the meta-game is a fluid thing, which consistently adjusts and adapts as certain ships gain or lose favour amongst players.
Is it all that bad?
Now hold onto your hats kiddies. It may come as a shock to you that I don’t view Meta-gaming as such a bad thing. While this may result in coming up against similar lists again and again I actually quite enjoy it!
Before you fall off your chair I will explain.
There are many who enjoy playing thematic games, remaking the battle of Hoth on FFG’s lovely new mat, or playing the Heroes of the Aturi Cluster campaign. I understand how frustrating it must seem coming up against the same list game in and game out when all you want to do is have a bit of pew pew with plastic space ships.
But I’m a competitor at heart. I like to win and do well in the tournaments that I enter. In this game that we play based partially on randomness and dice, any consistency you get can be used to your advantage.
If I know that I’m going to be playing 75% of my games at a tournament against the same lists, I can practice for it. I can work out just how to counter those lists, I can change my own list improve my chances against them and I can make sure that I know every little tip and trick about how to beat them.
A light at the end of the tunnel
“That’s all well and good for YOU”, I hear you cry, “but what about my favourite ship? The one I can’t fly because there are all of these dirty Meta squads around?”
Well what can you do about it? It’s key to remember that the Meta isn’t just a single squad. As I said before it’s the competitive environment and the whole range of squads you see in that bubble. So the Meta is actually you , and your friends, and the other people at the store. Even that guy who flies the list you hate. The best way to get back to flying the ships you love is to change what the Meta is.
- Dash Rendar and ruining your TIE Swarm’s hopes and dreams? Try taking Soontir Fel and a black squadron mini swarm for an outing. See how Mr Rendar likes it when he has a sneaky interceptor sitting in his ‘nope bubble’.
- Darth Vader chilling in a Decimator and force choking your A-wings to death? See how he likes being introduced to the pointy end of three B-wings while Tycho Celchu laughs at a safe distance.
- Or just pick up a brace of Firesprays and have a go at anything your opponent puts in front of you!
Is this a perfect scenario where you can fly the exact squad you’ve always wanted to? No, unfortunately not. But it does allow you to fly the ships you love while keeping a competitive edge.
So how does this fit with that other dirty word… “Netlist”?
To some Netlist is the filthiest word in the game, and it’s been discussed time and time again. The idea of taking a list that has won a large tournament and using it yourself is not a new one.
Successful lists end up getting flown, we live in a digital world where an event gets won in one country then a few hours later that list is being used on the other side of the globe. Why? Because people want to win games.
Netlists take time to learn how to use, you don’t see the hours of practise and development that have gone into making it effective. Think on that next time you judge someone for it.
The most famous net/Meta list in recent X-Wing history is Paratanni. An efficient killing machine that battered its way to top tables around the world. At Yavin in 2016 many people took Paratanni with the intent to win, and in their nine games were lucky enough to play against it five times! Choose to play the Meta and you may well end up playing against the Meta over and over.
The factors you can do nothing about
The one thing you cannot factor in when you sit down to play your opponent is how they will approach the game. The same list in the hands of one player may be used defensively while another might go for all out attack.
Knowing the list helps, but if you think the guy on the other side of the table is going to play it the same way your mate from game nights at the shop does… you could be in real trouble.
But if you seriously want to fly with your beloved jank against people who insist running the new hotness, here is what you can do:
- know your list backwards
- know your list forwards
Chances are, if you’ve practiced your jank against the current competitive meta-game, you’re in a much better position than your opponents who have likely never played against it before.
The element of surprise is a powerful thing and if you are not following the Meta, use it to your advantage!
There’s more than one way to skin a mynock…
As a parting thought, remember that there IS more than one way to play. Tournament play isn’t the only format in X-Wing and it can definitely get tiresome after a while.
My store recently undertook a wave 1–3 league where the only legal ships were ones released in that time frame. I have never been so scared of Wedge equipped with Veteran Instincts and it was great fun!
A Meta is inevitable.
If there are events to play in and win, there will be people who chose to Meta-game. So don’t hate on the meta, try and beat it! Or join it, whatever floats your boat.
Better yet, come up with something really cool that everyone wants to fly then you could well create a whole new Meta… With Wave 11 landing in stores you can guarantee things will be changing.
Fly casual all
Oli & Phil