Saturday, 12 January 2019

Meta shift in 40k and its impact on you!

We gamers love a technical term don’t we, especially ones that we can use to confuse or befuddle our contemporaries or those not involved in the hobby. Makes us sound clever and makes up for the fact we’re bad at sports!

Today I wanted to turn my attention to the biggest of these terms – Meta.

Often I think the way this is used it should be accompanied by some kind of fanfare or at the very least ushered into the room by a pair of shambling goblins in skimpy leotards.

Now my brain isn’t advanced enough to truly understand how meta is defined by your average dictionary, but in gaming terms, it’s used as a term to indicate the likely composition of opposing armies or which units you are most likely to face. For example, space marine scouts and chaos cultists are seen as the most ‘competitive’ choice for troops within their respective codices and therefore when facing those armies the odds are high that for someone trying to maximise their army’s efficiency you’ll find those units included.

Now here’s where it gets weird. Many gamers who don’t understand the concept properly whisper in hushed tones about ‘The Meta’ and how to beat it, but here’s a tip.

There is no one, single ‘Meta’, only the perception of one created by the availability of information on tournaments, winners and competitive gaming. Every group that plays has its own ‘meta’. For example, my club is made up of probably a dozen regular players. We have a higher than average proportion of Chaos and Ork players, and therefore our ‘meta’ is skewed in favour of those armies, and my own armies are designed with that in mind, so I tend to lean towards buying units that will compete well against those targets because they are more than likely going to help me to win more often. By contrast, I can’t remember the last time I played a T’au list at club, or an Eldar army (I know there is one, plus my own fledgling collection), things that ‘the meta’ would tell you are the builds I need to deal with.

That being said, a meta is a constantly shifting thing, and so staying still with your own army will result (assuming your opponents are actively buying and developing their collections) in your opponents adapting their armies to beat yours. Even through 8th I’ve seen this trait, as one of my regular opponents, who I have a good winning record against, adapted his list in one of our games, brought some new units and as I tinkered with different things I got trounced. It’s therefore important to realise that every single release from GW has the potential to shift the meta, and just because your army has been successful in the past doesn’t mean that taking the same units will remain so.

To use a recent example, just before Christmas I played my buddy Tom and his Thousand Sons. It’s fair to say I’ve beaten Tom more often than the reverse, but he brought a list that tore me to shreds. Over the Christmas break we had another game planned, doubles this time, but I had a secret weapon. Vigilus Defiant (and a few more Primaris units). This allowed me to shift the game in my favour through the use of just a single thing – the Indomitus Crusaders detachment. I gave my Primaris Librarian (who had been involved in our previous game) the Reliquary of Gathalamor, a relic available to that detachment, and in a single turn it caused a couple failed psychic power manifestations, and the following turn resulted in the death of his partner’s Chaos Sorceror (a failed psychic test meant 2 wounds from perils of the warp, plus another 3 from the relic and one very dead sorcerer for no effort on my part). No doubt when we next play Tom will have adapted his own approach/list and will have shifted things once again, but the example is still relevant.

The important thing to remember is that as a meta shifts to favour something new or different, that in turn shifts the relevance and competitive strengths of existing units, relics etc. When the meta shifts towards hordes, flamestorm aggressors become more effective, whereas should the meta change and move towards elite infantry (hey, I can dream) then flamers become less relevant and weapons like plasma and melta are more effective and valuable.

So I guess in conclusion, what I mean is, keep re-reading your codex. Things you thought were rubbish or not worth taking may be sitting there as the next big thing for your army, but understanding your local meta (or the wider ‘tournament meta’ if that’s where you want to play) is the first building block towards winning more games.

Till next time

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