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The Meta Exists for a Reason

Editorial - The Meta Matters

Editor’s Note: This is not saying “Never pick outside of the Meta ever”. What I am saying, is that greedy, self-serving picks just to feed your own ego/curiosity are a not necessarily a smart move. Out-of-meta picks work, but you know what really works? Flexiblity, Teamwork, and Communication. 

When I was younger, and all I had were single-player games and Dungeons and Dragons, metagaming was when someone took out of character (OOC) information and used it in character (IC). They knew what the adventure had in store, and would try to use it to their advantage. Most Dungeon Masters (DMs, GMs) were smart enough to catch this, and either ask them kindly to cut it out, or to punish them for trying to cheat. Yes, in tabletop RPGs, Metagaming is bad. So, time passed. Nowadays, Metagaming is not only accepted in online gaming, it’s a way of life. In offline games it still has a pretty sound use, such as watching what your opponent (or potential opponent) in a tournament does, to find patterns and abuse them when it’s your turn. But, from Wikipedia, Metagaming for Online Games is defined on Wikipedia as:

Recently the term metagame has come to be used by PC Gaming shoutcasters to describe an emergent methodology that is a subset of the basic strategy necessary to play the game at a high level. The definitions of this term are varied but can include “pre-game” theory, behavior prediction, or “ad hoc strategy” depending on the game being played. An example of this would be in StarCraft where a player’s previous matches with the same opponent have given them insight into that player’s playstyle and may cause them to make certain decisions which would otherwise seem inferior.

The Meta Doesn't Matter

My face when 'The meta doesn't matter.'

So that offline definition is still very much alive for games like StarCraft, which is fine. The counter for this can be Sandbagging. Sandbagging is when you purposely play poorly, or seemingly without a strategy. You let your opponent get away with really aggressive or poor choices, so they don’t think you are as skilled as you actually are. Or you use it to find their patterns and abuse them. It can also be seen as metagaming, but it can also be used against people who want to use your own meta against you. Wow, who knew online gaming was so complicated, eh? So, let’s talk about the Meta. Why did this come up though? I was playing a game of Paladins the other day, in competitive mode (I’m Silver V, almost IV presently). When we as a team suggested either 2 tanks 1 healer, or 2 healers 1 tank, someone goes, and I quote, “LMAO **** THE META” and locked in a damage dealer. We already had a damage. We needed a healer and a flank. The present Meta for Paladins is 2 Tanks, 1 healer, 1 flank, 1 damage. Sometimes it’s flipped and reversed if you have 1 tank and 2 healers. Not a big deal. This person then trolled the whole game and mocked me for needing a healer as our lone tank. Suffice it to say … we lost and lost badly.

The Meta Doesn't Matter

You may not like them, but they make the Meta.

The Meta exists because of pro players. That’s what a Meta is, in layman’s terms. It’s the most accepted way to play the game at a high level, or for best results. The meta exists because of the pro scene, and casual players/competitive players agree that this is the best way to play the game for a chance at success.  Please bear in mind, this is primarily what is seen in tournaments/competitive play, and not what you see on a pro players personal livestream. What’s the difference? Those personal livestreams are for their own entertainment or to add some extra monetary income to their lives. So they do silly stuff, like support Darius in League of Legends, jungle Aphrodite in SMITE, they run all damage squads on Heroes of the Storm or all tanks/damage. They run two or three flanks in Paladins and try for the “hold them off until match point comp”. It’s real.  The Meta isn’t bad! The Meta is the optimal way to play a game online and win.

The Meta Doesn't Matter

The forecast for people who are greedy? An avalanche of Bronze.

Do you not like the Meta, do you think it should be something else? You aren’t alone. But you need to play at that elite, professional level if you ever want a hope of changing the Meta. What’s that mean? You need to learn the meta first! I’m not a pro, though. I’m not trying to change the world. I analyze matches, match-ups, and the Metagame because I think it’s interesting. I want others to win. More than that, I want to win. I will play whatever it takes to do so, even if it’s a role I’m not comfortable with. But I want others to win, too! My goal in this to hopefully show players that the Meta is 1: Not so bad, and 2: A necessity for these style of games. However, in casuals/normals? That’s a different story. Isn’t it?  In Paladins, I often get told “casuals have no meta” or “who cares? It’s just a normal.” but is it really irrelevant? Winning is winning, after all. Even if not for points, I like winning. In League of Legends, people do more crazy things in normals and it’s … less toxic than normal? Sort of? Well, let’s talk a few games meta content.

The Meta Doesn't Matter

Freya = Insta-Ban.

SMITE: The current Meta, as I see it, is all about Snowball/early clear. If you can’t clear the first wave insanely fast, you aren’t useful in this Meta. As the game has changed this Season, I’ve come to enjoy it. I don’t like feeling like ~80% of games are decided in the first few minutes, though. If you can rotate around the jungle and mid, and secure some early kills, it really puts you ahead, and then the Snowballing starts. Snowballing in MOBAS is when you get so out-of-control strong that you simply cannot be stopped, even by groups (ideally). There are so many objectives on the map, and ideally, if your jungler can clear fast, and get to the enemy jungle? It just gets more insane. Between that and Gold Fury, getting that early gold lead via them, and kills, it’s a sort of frustrating meta, or can feel like it. As far as team composition, it’s as follows: Hunter (Caster or Hunter)/Support (Guardian, Healer, Warrior) Duo Lane, Jungler (Heavy Wave Clear/Assassin), Mid-Lane (Mage, Hunter), Solo (Warrior, Guardian, Mage). Guardian rotates mid post level-6 to help secure kills. Most of these matches are decided by about the ten minute (or less) mark, but comebacks do happen. People get greedy, are caught out without wards. Bans that you’ll see in almost every game: Freya, Ao Kuang. Popular Bans: Sylvanus, Izanami,  Thoth. Of course, in pro player, SMITE teams tend to ban strong Gods, and counter-ban for the opposing team because they know who they’ll be facing, and can do some manner of homework.

The Meta Doesn't Matter

It's a tank meta, friends. And it's fabulous.

League of Legends: Boy, League has had some really stupid Metas. The Assassin Meta, the Black Cleaver Meta. What’s tricky about League of Legends, is that the Meta changes so much. It changes depending on what Division you’re in if you’re in Solo-queue, and the regular Ranked Meta seems to be different from the Pro Scene. But the general consensus I’ve come to, is that the current Meta is the “Tanky Jungler” Meta, at least around Platinum/Diamond. The lower you get, the more of a reliance on “assassins” and “hypercarries” exists. In the Gold and below, you’ll see more Master Yi, Kayn, Elise, but will still also see the popular Gragas, Warwick, Sejuani, Jax, and JIV. We’re still pretty deep into the Tank Meta, and while you won’t always see a tank in top lane (especially with the Urgot rework), you’re more liable to see tanks in Top, Jungle, and in the Support Role. The standard “control Dragon/Baron around a minute before they spawn” is still solid, with wards and counter-warding. Who is especially strong in this Meta? Cho’gath, Maokai, Sejuani, Janna, Soraka, Tristana, Gangplank, Lulu, Zed, Draven. Runner-ups being Shyvana, Riven (when is she not good?), Vayne, Talon, Sona, JIV. Popular Bans? Vayne, Blitz, Thresh, Anyone New, Yasuo, Kayn, Janna.  That Janna ban blows my mind.

The Meta Doesn't Matter

You can be a tank and still hurt people, friends. I promise.

Paladins: Though Paladins is a class-based shooter and not a MOBA, it has its own fun Meta that I feel needs to be addressed. That game is what inspired this piece, after all. The current, standard Meta is: Tank, Tank, Healer, Flank, Damage. Optional is Tank, Healer, Healer, Flank, Damage. I’ve seen some really interesting off-meta comps though, like the “Hold til match point” Team. What’s this? It’s a team that lets the other side get the point and push (but not successfully) three times, then swoop in and takes the point at the last second for the win. It’s generally a motley assortment of characters, generally, they are lacking tanks or healers, mostly damage/flanks. It’s horrid, it’s annoying, but it can work. You know who you should never focus on as a main right now in Paladins? Bans: Drogoz and Willo. In every single ranked game I’ve played, with a few minor exceptions, they are 100% banned. Ashe is also an acceptable ban. The strategy used by a lot of players is to gamble. You ban the one you can’t play and hope the other side doesn’t ban the one of these you want. So you can’t play Willo? Ban her, hope they don’t ban Drogoz. Or you ban a tank like Ashe or Torvald, force them to ban Willo/Drogoz, and then you auto-lock the other and give it to someone on your team. Another popular way to play (which I hate) is tanks flanking. Tanks need to be on the point, getting the objective.  This is my own humble opinion, but it’s an objective based game.

The Meta Doesn't Matter

Nazeebo didn't make the list, but he is the Face of Horror.

Heroes of the Storm: The accepted meta is: 2 Warriors (ETC, Diablo, Artanis, Anub’arak, Dehaka), 1 Support (Rehgar, Auriel, Malfurion, Uther), 2 Ranged (Valla, Tychus, Zul’jin, Nova, Raynor, Sylvanus) or 1 Ranged, 1 Melee (Ragnaros, Thrall, Greymane). You ideally want 2 to 3 characters as melee. At least one Auto Attack DPS and a mage is solid. The thing that I find fascinating about Heroes of the Storm is what you pick/don’t pick can also depend on what map you’re going to be on. Sylvanus might be really strong on most maps, but not all of them. You have to consider what heroes synergize with whom, which maps they’re strong/not strong on, and what counters your team/their team. It’s probably more important than any other MOBA I’ve played to know a nice wide pool of champions. Popular Bans: Genji, Sylvanus, Kael’thas, Dehaka, Auriel, Malthael, Artanis.

What Am I Trying To Say? The Meta exists, because it’s the most popular way to play. In no way am I saying wanting to play a caster or AD toplane/solo is bad. What I am saying is that it’s ideal to have a flexible pool of Gods/Heroes/Champions to play in a variety of places, as to what your team needs and what the meta is asking for. If your team is fine with you playing top-lane Vayne or solo-lane Aphrodite, then by all means! But if it’s going to cause problems, and it’s something that, let’s be honest with ourselves, isn’t going to work, then consider something else. How many professional players do you know that can only play one character? Not many, I bet. But you know what really wins games? Knowing the meta even if you don’t adhere to it, teamwork, communication. Vision. You don’t have to always obey the meta, but you should understand how it works, what you’re going to expect, and how people are going to react to your picks.

I’d like to keep doing analysis pieces like this! Do you have ideas for them? Hit me up here in the comments, on Twitter, wherever you might see me online! From “One-Trick-Ponies”, to “Stream Sniping”, whatever people want to see, I’m down to write about!

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  • just-INK

    “The Meta isn’t bad! The Meta is the optimal way to play a game online and win.”
    “The Meta exists, because it’s the most popular way to play.”

    What is the point of this article?

    • Vulkary

      Read as: “Stop picking troll or unlikely picks in solo queues, especially Ranked.” Essentially.

      Which is fair. There’s a difference between picking a champion top lane in League that may not be the best but can still produce results, and picking a champion top lane that has no chance up there and everyone knows it. Especially in competitive modes.

    • just-INK

      Meta is something important to pro players with pro teams. Where most players are already at the peak of their mechanics, the only way left to improve is through the metagame and teamwork. You are playing in silver and complaining about troll picks. Players who worry about the meta before their actual performance are the ones who need to get their priorities straight.

      • Vulkary

        The teamwork aspect is really what should be a central point. I’ve seen people just stomp on others and then blame their teams for losing 4v5s while they stay farming a lane. On the other hand, I’ve also seen people get destroyed with “troll picks” but turn out to just wreck others when put with the rest of the team.

        I play some “off-meta” picks myself in League, for example. They can be fun, but I feel as long as you stand together as a team you can overcome it. Hell, I’ve lost games against 5 healers.

        But if nothing else, teamwork is crucial even if you do have that “weird pick.”

        Tl;dr, I agree with you, I just tend to ramble. lol