This is something I’ve toyed with writing for almost the best part of a year. I’ve felt for a long time that there is often too much emphasis on the overly bad and good of a new wave on the majority of podcasts and social media which have an effect on the wider tournament meta.
Is the meta a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Wave 11 and meta discussions have been the rage of late. With hash tag what meta, (hashtag what is a hashtag), and a rise of double IGS winning a few store championships there are encouraging signs that a few players are looking at builds they like from old and adapting them rather than jumping on the latest meta bandwagon.
If we look at the Thelma and Louise combination of Biggs and Lowhhrick we are getting the message that the sky is falling due to this combination. I’m not down playing the card combinations and math behind it but if the game starts to be played this way, it opens up other possibilities.
“We get mired in the here and now, and so fail to see the onward trajectory of our lives… (Or in this case meta).”
Optimus Prime, Transformers Regeneration One, book one.
Thelma and Louise are still very vulnerable to ordnance and bombs which this wave brings in spades. They are also in my opinion vulnerable to an outflanking old school ace or a swarm of some description that can attack on two fronts. The strength of Thelma and Louise will depend on the third ship in the mix, (I’ve never watched the film so I’ll pick a Blackadder style name, Bob).
A lot depends on who Bob is and how well they are flown. They probably need to be flown by someone qualified in flying like a professor of cunning flying from one of the great British Universities such as Oxford, Cambridge or Hull. The offence on the build is not great, which is being over looked, so Bob needs to do the heavy lifting. Take Bob out of the equation or circumvent Biggs and the strength of the build is gone. The fear of triple deadeye Scurrgs is also being mooted, but the one green die protecting those ten health will limit its effectiveness compared to the old triple deadeye scouts.
I recently wrote that a great way to keep abreast of the meta if playing time is limited is listening to podcasts and reading blogs. I still advise that but to take it all with a pinch of salt as Nuero Linguistic Programming can effect our thoughts.
Nuero what now?
A quick life lesson to give you some peace of mind when inviting a salesman into your house to sell double glazing, kitchens, bespoke furniture or blinds and curtains. The point of which they repeat a phrase seven or more times during their pitch, is them trying to drop that phrase into your sub conscious.
“When you purchase your empty cardboard box, would you be interested in some peace of mind that what you are purchasing is what it is? Would you like the peace of mind that this cardboard box is made of 80% recycled materials responsibly harvested and have the peace of mind that it will be delivered to you when I say it will? Would you like the peace of mind that the money you pay will be protected under the 1974, (may have been 1972, I forget now) consumer credit act? The 1974 consumer credit act gives you the peace of mind that if my card board box company closes down your purchase will be protected and the peace of mind that everything I say to you has to be the truth.”
“Does that peace of mind interest you? Groovy sign here for a massive finance loan to get me and my company bonus commission.”
In sales the theory for nuero linguistic programming is that if you repeat a key short phrase or word seven or more times in relative quick succession you implant that seed of thought inside the customer’s mind. Having learned about it and implemented it while having a short spell at one company, I then had it done to me at another company during a team meeting. The regional manager was trying to be clever, (but ultimately failing for many other reasons) to achieve a higher sales conversion rate for the region by repeatedly saying “70% conversion.” I walked out to the bar afterwards with only “70% conversion,” running through my head and none of the more useful techniques or turn of phrases that were mentioned.
NLP as used in the business world is a bastardisation of what Richard Bandler and John Grinder founded, which has its roots not only in their work but also aspects of Freud, Jung and Chomsky. I’m quoting Derren Brown at this point and whilst owning books by Freud and Jung , Chomsky sounds to me like a chocolate bar or nineties rapper. It’s an interesting subject in its own right but I’m more focusing on the planting of seeds.
Why play at X number of points?
One of the curious things about Warhammer 40k back in the day was that 1500 points was the defacto points limit for a pick up game or in fact a game of any sort. Unlike X-wing where 100 point dogfight is written in the rule book, the 1500 point limit during 2nd to 5th edition was not written down anywhere other than tournament rule packs in the UK. This points level filtered down to clubs and GW stores through word of mouth and in the GW magazine White Dwarf.
You would have a vast majority of players playing 1500 points even though they never set foot on the competitive scene. The 1500 point level filtered down in the UK just as 1850 point level did likewise in the USA.
A study a while back showed both linguistically and mathematically that hit records or Muzak tracks quite often have repeated beats and words. Two good examples are “there’s no limit,” and something more my cup of tea, Kyle Minogue’s “Can’t get you out of my head.”
So what does all this talk of peace of mind and Kylie spinning around in our heads have to do with the X-Wing meta?
My belief is that the meta in part is formed from what we believe the meta will be by the information we receive from various sources which these days comes in more than just firsthand experience of our local surroundings. We even have to deal with the phenomena of ‘fake news,’ which has been of late that Imperials as a faction are dead or at least a distant third. The Store championship results have proved otherwise but it is still hard to shake the belief that Imperials are no good even though results are showing otherwise.
Child of the Internet
X-Wing was birthed with the internet, social media, podcasts and blogs in full swing. It may have taken till waves 4-6 to get the self-styled hacks, food critics and DJs in full swing but we now have an abundance of opinion which generally tows the same line. A notable exception was the 186th squadron podcast discussing the oncoming mindlink meta in May 2016 before it exploded across the scene. For the most part mindlink had been derided until worlds 2016. The theoretical use of mindlink had for the most part been panned and put in the appropriate pigeon hole by most sources. Only when some started to think outside the box and put it on the table did it change pigeon boxes.
We are apparently living in a high stress meta again but from what I’ve seen either first hand or on live streams of various tournaments it’s not the case. Stress is about, but no more or less than in the stress meta heyday of wave seven. Having stress causing mechanics would be strong at the moment, but they have always been strong.
My belief is that fundamentally we get the seeds of ‘what the meta is,’ subliminally implanted and react accordingly. For example at the moment steering clear of builds that can be more stress vulnerable like Push the Limit aces even though they were popular and effective in the actual high stress meta of wave seven. There are additional reasons that we don’t see much of Soontir Fel any more due to bombs and high spike damage but I feel that is more down to the implanted belief that bombs, stress and high spike damage are bad for Soontir’s health. Don’t get me wrong, those sorts of things are bad for the health of a three health ace but I wonder if popular theory has more to do with it rather than actual flying.
The Big Squeeze
The juggling of the global tournament season has exacerbated some recent meta stagnation with regionals, series opens, worlds and Euros in such close proximity and with a FAQ in the middle of it all. The net result being the majority of players falling on tried and tested net lists due to a lack of practice time and reliable information heading up to these events.
Imperials seemed to get the short end of the stick in terms of numbers and placings but most of this lies more so in the fact that the old style of Imperials are having to change and lack of practice time in the run up to big events to explore options. Store championships have seen an Imperial resurgence.
Hash Tag What Meta?
Now I’m not saying that flying anything in terms of competitiveness is fine. Fel’s Wrath has and always will be a steaming pile of cow dung unless there is a major rewrite of its rules. The Hashtagwhatmeta? movement, if it can be called such, is not saying just fly anything as Fel’s Wrath, Kir Kanos and Lt Lorrir were never the three Imperial interceptors to fill the void of deep space with dread, but there are so many more upgrade cards to explore with older builds and ships. The holy grail of list building is finding a build that counters both the ‘meta’ builds and the counters to it. A lot of lists have sat under our noses for a long time like Dengaroo, attanni mindlink and the Scum Kath and Bobba combo.
The Prophecy of the Meta
The seeds of what the meta will be gets implanted and reacted to even before ships hit the table. And this percolates down. We still suffer to an extent of the High Pilot skill meta of early waves with the belief that some ships must have Veteran instincts stapled to them for example.
The belief of what the meta will turn into gets preached to the masses and then spread either directly or indirectly. One of the favorite phrases of a sales ‘teacher’ running a particular course I went on is that “people are like sheep.” If we stop to consider how many people believe that the moon landings are fake, the UK is run by Lizard people, (of which the royal family are part of), and that the Earth is flat not round and that Darwinian Evolution did not occur, these are all spread by repeated seeds of information. Say something enough times with a tangible piece of information, (true or otherwise) and people will believe it. This is how we get the phenomena of Fake News, deny or say something is fake news enough times and enough people will buy into it.
The X-Wing meta is no different. The tournament meta percolates down which is brewed in part by podcasts and other social media. Their take on the meta is flavoured by personal opinion and experiences from their localised metas. When enough people sing from the same hym sheet these subconscious seeds of the meta are planted and grow into the meta. The Meta which they are either embracing or denouncing becomes self-prophesising.
We get painted a picture of what new ships and upgrades will do and it could be a skewed version of the reality. It enters our thinking for list selection, even if just selecting a net list as you have to weigh up how it will perform against the ‘new meta.’ This in turn helps fore fill the prediction of the new meta as we prepare for its arrival, (whether is is a right or wrong call of what the meta will be) and cement its coming, even with a direct counter to the ‘new meta.’
I would point out I’m not saying to ditch any and all information from Podcasts, blogs and so forth, but to take it with a pinch of salt. I’m also not suggesting net listing over innovating or the other way around. My point is that we should not so readily accept that “this how things are going to be,” or over react to particular mechanics. Predictions on the meta are just as fallible as weather forecasting, (or weather forecasting in the UK at least).
We get a picture of the meta built into our heads which may not be totally accurate or possibly biased in some way, which in turn on a subconscious level we prepare and accommodate this picture of the meta. As a result the meta becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the constant theorising and interpretation of information at hand perpetuates the theory into reality.