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  1. #1
    Senior Member MistahBoweh's Avatar
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    Post The Meta: What Is It? (A DnDFreaK Article)

    This article is available in audio form! To listen instead of read, use the player below (run time 11 mins 16 secs). Note that there's not much, but a little extra explanation in the audio version. If something in the article confuses you or sounds odd, I suggest playing the audio version before taking a dump on the thread.



    A lot of players talk about this mythical beast called the metagame without truly grasping what it means, what it is, how it changes, or how to properly attack it. And quite frankly, I'm sick of repeating myself, so I thought it's high time to start writing again.

    What is a Meta?

    Professional level poker uses what's called 'levels of thinking'. Less serious gamers will think of it more like rock-paper-scissors. "If I go rock, he'll go paper, but he knows that I know this so he expects me to use scissors to cut paper so he'll go rock instead, thus if I go paper I'll be able to next-level him". It's that kind of thought process that defines a meta, thinking on multiple levels.

    For example, say shadow era, in it's entirety, only had three pre-constructed decks: Ter Adun, Gwenneth, and Eladwen weenie rush.

    Ter Adun's ability is a heavy counter to Gwen.

    Gwenneth's SS provides a heavy counter to eladwen's aggro.

    Eladwen is too fast for the slow, easily overtaken Ter Adun.

    So we have a simple rock paper scissors: Ter beats Gwen beats Elad beats Ter.

    At this stage of the game, there's a perpetual meta shift. First one deck is seen slightly more often. Then players shift to the respective counter for that deck, and then shift to the counter for the counter, and so on. This happens generally every time there's a large event.

    Say there's a new Crown every two weeks.

    Crown (1): Ter wins.

    Suddenly, players have the urge to beat Ter, what they think is the 'best deck'. The meta shifts so Eladwen is the popular choice, Ter is in the mid, and gwen is almost never seen. People shy away from her since she loses to ter most of the time.

    Crown (2): Eladwen wins.

    At this point, people give up on Ter because he keeps losing to the new 'best deck'. In exchange, Gwen picks up in popularity due to the ability to beat elad.

    Crown (3): Gwen wins.

    This is how a meta works in general. However, this is only assuming one thing is changed. When the only decision available to you is hero choice, yes, the game is very akin to rock-paper-scissors. However, you get to make 40 choices, not 1.

    The Smart Meta

    For competitive play, a metagame is much more than decks and their counters. It's actually about the specific cards and their counters. There's also plenty of next level thinking going on, where players will pick the unpopular choice simply because it's unexpected.

    For example, say Zhannax wins that first crown, and say it wins in the finals against Eladwen. Now, in the first example, this would mean that Elad goes out of style and is replaced by decks with a natural advantage to Zhannax. However, the smart meta is about cards and levels of thinking, not all about heroes. Instead of Elad going out of style, it starts packing LLN, PQ, cards that help it deal with Zhannax's wealth of equipment. In addition, decks with natural destroy advantages like Rogues and Warriors move up to the top. Meanwhile, Zhannax players are compensating at the same time, making tweaks to reduce their dependence on gear or even take it all out entirely.

    Players from the outside looking in trying to decide on a deck choice will see plenty of item destruction and few decks that are actually hurt by it. These players will choose decks to play that have targets, but not necessarily key cards. Take DoU for example. You play and get immediate value from it. If the opponent destroys it it's like you get a free turn, but if they don't then you get a lot of free turns. Thus, Lance and Eladwen become the popular choice. Elad because it placed second in the crown and Lance because his ability naturally counters TW, not to mention he also has DoU access and Stop, Thief as well.

    Then in come the next levelers. They look at the format and say there's so much item destruction, players expect me to play a mage or rogue. both mage and rogue builds rely on DoU, instant-speed control of the board and grinding out card advantage. So what if I build a deck that doesn't assert board control, is fine with the opponent having DoU, has a capable long game, and is happy if the opponent wastes their turn on a destroy?

    Suddenly, Zaladar stripper decks are popular. Bazaars and rippers benefit both players so destroying them is awkward, their plan to last a long time doesn't work when they definitely can't last as long as Zal, all their board control cards are pretty much useless, and DoU is just awkward when Zal is just playing DMTs for allies. Zal can also use Acid Jet and Shriek, as well as using the opponent's support destruction against them.

    Moonstalker also sees a popularity boost due to a lack of item reliance and a resilience to DoU, however Zal and mages still counter them soundly whereas rogues at least have assassinate to make MS cry itself to sleep.

    Within a two week span, the game went from heavy equip zhanna to no equip reliance, eladwen from heavy board control to more balanced with item destruction, DoU becomes prolly the most heavily played card in the game, and Zaladar stripper becomes actually viable. Moonstalker also picks up some steam whereas in a meta where DoU was rare MS didn't do much special.

    That's a Meta. It's a living, breathing thing. It shifts constantly, and even if the heroes themselves aren't changing, the cards they play with are.

    So how do you attack a meta? What's the best way to assess it?

    The fact is that there is no 'best way'. Everyone does it differently, and every approach can work.

    Most players tend to just play what's established itself as the 'best deck'. There's the least risk involved there, and a slight amount of next leveling in that the deck will be hated out so much, people will expect you to have at least gone a different route with tle list even if the hero choice is the same.

    Another option is to use a different strategy but the same hero, like the conversion from Zhannax into a more typical priest deck. This has the advantage of often the opponent making bad sac choices in the early turns of game 1, and this can lead to some free wins. A good example of this is playing Darkclaw as your hero but with a large ally base instead of Hidden Machine.

    Next is assessing the 'best deck'. What it has, what it does to win, and picking the deck that naturally has the best win/loss ratio against it. This approach doesn't really use any next level thinking, but is still effective, especially when there's not enough time for a large meta shift between events.

    For players that like to think ahead and try to out-think their opponents, the approach is to figure out what beats the best deck and choose a deck that isn't bothered by it at all. In the above example, item destruction can screw up zhannax bad, so a deck with little to no item reliance is great. Bonus points if your deck choice both has the answer to the best deck and doesn't care if said answer is used against it. This is generally where the new 'best deck' is found, if there is one.

    Of course, even these are only a few examples. There's plenty of ways to prepare for events and nigh to impossible to list them all.

    A Word On RoShamBo

    Many have the idea that a rock-paper-scissors meta is bad for the game, and want to change this. However, it's literally impossible to avoid. Either some decks are naturally good against others, or every deck is the exact same 40 cards. There's no other options.

    Shadow Era is a strategy game. That strategy starts at deck construction, way before the game itself. You have 40 choices, and the meta is a puzzle. Your job is to pick 40 answers that, when combined, have the highest possible wlr. In turn, your answers to the puzzle become a new part of the puzzle that others are trying to solve. This is the strategy, this is what makes the game always evolving and expanding, and this is the same for every game ever made since chess. Whether you're playing League of Legends, Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft, Warhammer, Team Fortress 2, Starcraft, Chinese Checkers, whatever it may be, there are build choices, opening maneuvers, and an ever expanding metagame. That's called balance.

    Balance is NOT when everything has the same win percentage against everything else. Balance is when everything has a counter, when everything has an OVERALL wlr in similar amounts.

    P.S. - Quick matches are a very inaccurate meta assessment, simply because once a deck establishes itself at the top of the ratings board, any counter to it has to first beat all the decks layered below it. If you want to figure out what the top deck is, look at recent event finishes, not QM ratings.

    MistahBoweh - Paragon of Paragons
    Warrior of the Blue Phoenix
    Greatness, Reborn

    My Strategy Site: The Boweh
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  2. #2
    DP Visionary Padawan Pete's Avatar
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    Is this your voice?
    Grand Watchman of the Ancient Blue Citadel
    Warriors of the Blue Phoenix
    Greatness, Reborn.

    Don't just witness the greatness;
    Stride with us.


    To join the demonstrably greatest guild in the history of Shadow Era - click here

  3. #3
    Senior Member MistahBoweh's Avatar
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    No, it's microsoft sam

    Yes, I recorded this myself.
    MistahBoweh - Paragon of Paragons
    Warrior of the Blue Phoenix
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    My Strategy Site: The Boweh
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  4. #4
    Devoted Fan Gondorian's Avatar
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    Good to hear your voice finally, Jim! It's quite a lot like what I heard in my head when I read your posts.

  5. #5
    DP Visionary Padawan Pete's Avatar
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    Yeah.
    Grand Watchman of the Ancient Blue Citadel
    Warriors of the Blue Phoenix
    Greatness, Reborn.

    Don't just witness the greatness;
    Stride with us.


    To join the demonstrably greatest guild in the history of Shadow Era - click here

  6. #6
    Senior Member MistahBoweh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GondorianDotCom View Post
    Good to hear your voice finally, Jim! It's quite a lot like what I heard in my head when I read your posts.
    Now why do I feel like that's a bad thing... :P
    MistahBoweh - Paragon of Paragons
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  7. #7
    Devoted Fan Gondorian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dndfreak View Post
    Now why do I feel like that's a bad thing... :P
    It's not a bad thing. You speak with authority!

  8. #8
    Member p1p3p0k3r's Avatar
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    nice article dndfreak...

    ill suggest into inputting the full card names, so new people knows what are you refering to in the examples.
    p1p3p0k3r - Gatekeeper of paradise
    Warriors of the Blue Phoenix Member - Greatness, Reborn.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Mrbigguy's Avatar
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    I'm a fan, this adds a new media format to the forums. this would be a nice addition to the descriptions of decks and in-depth strategy. As most people tend to speak better then transmit into text format. sometimes its harder to convey your thought into text.

    OH and I enjoyed the wright up/ voice up lol not sure how word it

    As always, good luck, good gaming, and good relationships.

    MBG
    Proud member of ETC: Embrace. The. Competition.

    I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, & you are not here to live up to mine. You are you, & I am I

    I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.

    Embrace Tribulations to Culminate

  10. #10
    Senior Member MistahBoweh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GondorianDotCom View Post
    It's not a bad thing. You speak with authority!
    Well alright then

    My goal in the end is to continue branching out to alternate mediums if all goes well. Appreciating the reception so far.
    MistahBoweh - Paragon of Paragons
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