The Goal I'm here today to discuss a topic that seems to (at least partially) elude many PoxNora players, for good or bad: the metagame. Although many arguments point to what "top players" do or don't do, many people still seem not to grasp why certain developments happen in the game. Often if a certain bg or theme isn't being played by a high-profile player, the playerbase will assume that that bg is underpowered. Conversely, if a bg is picked up by a top 10 player, traction to nerf that bg becomes much easier to come by. While sometimes these arguments hold merit, at other times they are based largely in misinterpretations or faulty assumptions about why players make the choices that they do. For this post, I just want to help clear up what the metagame is, how it operates, and why it's important to keep in mind moving forward as we continue to discuss the development of this game. First thing's first, what is the metagame? Simply put, the metagame is the set of assumptions of a certain set of players towards the decisions that are being made in a game at a certain point in time. The "competitive metagame," then, is the full set of assumptions made by players who are playing to win about the other players playing to win, usually at the present moment (unless otherwise stated). A couple things to keep in mind here: The metagame is constantly changing. As new strategies develop, players refine their bg's and playstyles, causing other players to make changes to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Thus, the metagame can cause changes in the perceived power of runes without any changes to those runes by the developers. There are many metagames. Different types of players use different strategies and build different decks based on a variety of different factors. There are a number of different assumptions about what the game does, what an opponent will try to do, and who one will play against that influence how players approach the game. Thus, a player who wants to try new decks and play unranked will be likely to face different players than those who want to win games and climb the ladder. Certain runes work better in certain play formats than others (a good example of this is the predominant strategies of 2v2 games as they compare to the strategies of 1v1). Often misunderstandings arise because two players will be considering different sets of potential opponents because they are familiar with two different metagames. The metagame is not the metagame. Strictly speaking, the meta is NEVER stable. Your assumptions going into a game are always simply guesses as to what you'll be playing against. There is always room for surprise and unexpected runes or strategies. When these surprises are successful in achieving the goal of the player, we call that phenomenon innovation. Innovation in the competitive metagame, then, refers to the introduction and use of previously unknown or underutilized runes or strategies to win a large number of games (or win important games, such as tournaments in traditional card games). The metagame is affected by everything. One major defense of old Unholy Tomb was that it hadn't been changed in a long time, therefore it couldn't have become OP. This argument is based on the assumption that the power of a rune can only change when its mechanics are formally changed by the developers. In reality, runes shift in power based on how other runes are being used and what options are available to them. Dark Rising and Sac Altar became very common on the previous patch--not because of a change to those runes specifically, but because the across-the-board nerfs to champion costs led to more power being consolidated in single champs. Thus the need for single-target removal like Sac Altar. Now that that's out of the way, what does the metagame look like? Already I can hear a hypothetical voice saying, "Well, that's great and all, but what do all of these abstractions really mean? What does the metagame really do?" To answer these questions, let's go ahead and take a look at a typical experience of the metagame in action: It's a normal Tuesday afternoon. I come home after a long day of getting A's in my university courses and dating 10/10 hot blondes and need to unwind, so I sit down at my computer and boot up the PoxNora client. I check the global chat, maybe make a few sarcastic comments, then I navigate over to the Battlegrounds tab and click on the queue for Ranked play. At this point, I'm confronted with a couple major decisions. What should I play? Well, I think, I have 10 bg's here already built. Which one should I choose? Every player is faced with that little drop-down menu, and which option you click on will inevitably change how you approach the game you get into. For me, I quickly run through what types of matches I've played recently and what the results of those matches were. I've seen a lot of KF archers and magic amp, IS terrain, IS meta, and FW meta recently, so I consider if I have any decks to counter the ones I've just seen. I had recently been playing Salamans, but since FW works well against cheap champs and Salaman lack spot cleanse to options to deal with the DoTs that archers hand out or the Disease/debuffs of FW, I am hesitant to play them. I end up choosing Leoss instead, because their early-game stats help me win font battles against ranged units and their ST/IS support spellset allows me counterplay through Righteous Deflection (for ranged) and Refute/Snow Blind (for single-target spells). What should my strategy look like? As the game starts, I reveal my first few runes, check out my opponent and the map, and then I have to choose what champ to play. Depending on what I have available, I may want to choose a faster champ to grab fonts quickly, a flying champ to move over obstacles, or a couple cheap champs to split my resources along multiple fronts. If my opponent has moved first, I may also want to choose a champ that can best survive against his, especially if I forsee them both ending up going to the middle font. What do I do if I lose? It seems that I've been matched up with a decent player, and for a number of reasons he is able to edge me out and grab a victory. Once the match ends, I will want to analyse why I lost. Was it simply a draw-win? Was it an unfavorable matchup? Was there a rune I could have included but didn't that would have improved my chances at victory? Post-match reflection can often help form a better idea of not only what you did wrong, but what you can do right given a second chance. This is one of the best opportunities you can give yourself for improvement. "Okay, but why does any of this matter? Give me one good reason why I shouldn't regret the time I spent reading this longass post." Of course, this post isn't at all comprehensive, and it's only giving you a glimpse into what people may be considering when they discuss what's "meta" now, but I still think that for anyone trying to improve their play, this is a great place to start. It also helps us understand why arguments like "Boghoppers aren't a top 50 bg!" doesn't necessitate changes to Boghoppers. Decks can move in and out of competition based on their place relative to other decks. Similarly, single runes can be viewed as overpowered in one context but completely balanced in another. Before you ask for changes, perhaps consider whether your loss was based on a metagame-level concern or a design-level concern. Also consider that if your rune were buffed, would its synergy with other runes make it too powerful? Are there mechanics in place in the game to counter your theme/deck/rune? And perhaps most importantly, why do you want this specific buff?