Is the Meta a self fulfilling prophecy?
The Meta, you can’t play for long in many gaming circles without coming up against this most mystical of beings but what the heck is this bogey man of the inter web?
……A quick search on the interweb will tell you that the actual word is as complicated as any game system it’s applied to (brace yourselves):
Meta (from the Greek preposition and prefix meta- (μετά-) meaning “after”, or “beyond”) is a prefix used in English to indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, used to complete or add to the latter.
In epistemology (meaning Knowledge, understanding) the prefix meta- is used to mean about (its own category). For example, metadata are data about data (who has produced them, when, what format the data are in and so on).
With me so far? OK me neither, so back to our little slice of reality:
In X-Wing, much like the hedonistic days of 40K, Meta has come to mean the current trend. In internet jargon it has become synonymous with net lists and the latest unbeatable “power list”… (cough cough.. codex creep….cough cough) But unlike other games systems that shan’t be named (again) on these pages I don’t think X-Wing has a set of models that are an auto take. Sure you can look on the web to see what people like to use and there’s no denying that some combo’s are meant to go together like Peanut butter and jelly (Or strawberries and cream depending which side of the pond you are). The Decimator was a natural choice to take alongside an elite fast moving ship like a named Phantom or Soontir. Space cow Shuttle has been painted white and renamed the Palpmobile and runs tag team with a pair of aces. BroBots are still one of the more defacto Scum lists to take. For the rebels, Poe in his new shiny T70 and the TLT Y-Wings are currently headline grabbing following Paul Heavers success at worlds. But this isn’t to say you must take one of these in order to win. And here I feel lies the problem I have with digging too deep into the game mechanics in order to seek victory… you end up looking at Stats and stats can be misleading.
Stats, and their counterpart Probability have also started to feature in X-Wing, but I’ve yet to choose my list based on the raw statistical probability that my ship is worth it’s points cost (never tell me the odds). It can be interesting to see how your favourite ride compares to the next ship but it really shouldn’t dictate your choices, after all Stats and Probability can’t take into account the ships Dial and therefore the tactical play that comes with it, and I think that goes hand in hand with the issues surrounding the perceived Meta. You’ve got to pick something that you fly well and suits your own character. I can fly a pack of Tie fighters and an unpopular Firespray bounty hunter around to my hearts content but give me a decimator and phantom and I’ll be complaining about asteroid fields and loosing hull points faster then Porkins can demolish a bucket of chicken wings.
Throughout 2015 we saw a variety of lists perform well at a range of tournaments and whilst the latest releases always featured and often did well, I never felt that it was guaranteed as to what the opposition was likely to bring and what was going to claim victory.
Locally my own tournament experience saw no set formula or combo dominating the top spot. Although I still curse every time I see a Phantom..
Of the two Zombie Squadron events this year, One of the tournaments was won by a pair of robots, nothing unsual you may say, but in second place was a T65 X wing list flown very well and extremely by the seats of it’s pants. When asked why he took the T65’s and not one of the new more popular lists the players reply was simply “I like the T65”. In coming second he managed to eviscerate several of the UK’s best players and a number of popular lists.
The second Tournament of 30 players was won by a seasoned player running Miranda and Dash. Dancing rings around imperial aces and TLT’s it dominated and remained unbeaten.
Out of all gaming systems I’ve played I feel that X wing is still the most diverse and balanced, sure you can take a popular combo, and that’s not a bad thing as long as that’s what you want to take. But the major point, and the thing that makes it such a great game is that you can simply out fly your opponent. Sure some match ups are easier then others but ultimately tactical play (and hot dice) rules the roost.
There is a temptation to make sweeping assumptions, I’m doing so right now, that what is strong in your area is going to be strong the world over, but this only works if everyone makes the same assumption. If we all believe that we have to take the latest net list then the results will show exactly that.
And that I suppose is the point of this article: Don’t get trapped in to believing that you have to take a Meta list in order to do well. Maybe your idea is the next hot thing.