Point-Counterpoint: Chasing the Meta

Good Afternoon Everyone.

As the dust from the LVO continues to settle over the meta I am sure many of you are trying to anticipate what the next trend will be. For those of you with the forethought to save your pocket money from the holidays, I am sure you are wondering whether it is worth chasing the meta with your next purchase or pursuing a different route. A few writers and I have teamed up to bring you a short debate on this subject, so before you buy that Leviathan Pattern Siege Dreadnought take a quick gander at our discussion: 

Proposed: It is a good idea to prioritize purchasing models that are currently viable in the competitive meta. 

Tactical Terrain Eric: For

Evolve or die. It is a motto that applies not only to creatures of the wild, but also modern business, and our humble hobby of Warhammer 40,000. Back in what some call the “Golden Years of Competitive play” (also known as 5th edition) the scourge of the Grey Knights ruled the tables. Back then I subscribed to the common rational that you don’t need to chase that meta, that a balanced list to deal with MEQ’s would win over the long haul.

Times have changed, and for the better. I laughed when I read the latest Psychic Awakening release, as my anti-meta list has come back around in style much like my wardrobe from 5th edition. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. So, it is time to evolve or die. As a player the biggest change is not the rules or a codex, it is Games Workshop.

The might of Nottingham did evolve, become much more reactive with frequent updates and fast paced new releases in the form of either a codex, campaign, or even a White Dwarf article. This means the reign of the top net list is always looking over their shoulder. The subtle change of one faction can change any boring soup list into a fiery chowder of power.

You may disagree with me. That’s okay. Let me ask you this: why did a third of the ITC 25 change to Space Marines when the new codex dropped?


Kicker: Against

I come from a hobbyist background, but for the past year I have put most of my energy and “40K time,” into the competitive side of Warhammer. You can totally chase the meta and have a damn good time doing so, but diversifying your army is the way to go if you ask me. I am in this hobby for the long haul and don’t want to suffer burnout or go bankrupt.

By focusing on collecting staple units for your army, you will be set to deal with the shifting trends and always have a list that is at least able to hold its own at the end of the day. Metas are always changing, but many units are key building blocks that will forever be valuable. Troop units to earn you those CP, highly mobile units for objective grabbing, and a durable squad or two that can take a punch, will usually have a useful slot to fill in any army and in any meta.

The hobby-fanatic or artiest inside of you, will thank you for taking time to field units you are actually proud of. If you choose to ignore the meta and buy stuff you not only are willing to paint, but want to paint, then the time spent at your hobby desk will be enjoyable and not feel like a chore. This will result in a far better looking army. We play a visual game where a fully painted army enhances the entire experience regardless of if you are playing matched, open, or narrative games. (Note: you can always just get professional painters to do this for you though www.flgpaintstudio.com).

By opting out of meta chasing, you suddenly get to buy models you genuinely love. This could be for the model’s athletics, their unique rules, or even their fluffy lore. Even if the model sucks in competitive play currently, one day their time to shine will come as things are constantly shifting thanks to the steady release of new books, FAQs and Chapter Approved. Mortars had their moment. Knights kicked ass for a while. Now new, things like Centurions are what all the cool kids bring to the Majors. Maybe. Just maybe. Kroot will be worthwhile in the future!

Maybe the real meta was the friends we make along the way

Lord Paddington: For

I believe it is helpful to start this discussion by considering the reasons people buy models. Some are looking for a unit that looks cool, others are after something that will be fun to build and paint, and others want a unit with a unique ability or trait that makes them effective on the tabletop. An important thing to note is that a model can fill several of these roles. Someone could buy a sentinel because they think it looks neat and want more mobile heavy weapons for their army. In fact if we didn’t accept this premise we must assume every Iron Hands player to be “chasing the meta” regardless of the reasons for their purchases. 

Given this premise, I think it is as unfair to criticize someone for purchasing a unit merely because of its effectiveness as it would be to criticize them for buying a unit that is merely fun to paint. There are certainly units that have enjoyed only brief moments of usefulness (*gazes wistfully at shelf full of hydra flak tanks*) but others have proven remarkably durable in the face of meta changes. For example if you went back in time it would be hard to think of a better model to invest in then a XV104 Riptide Battlesuit which has seen competitive use through three editions. While past success is not proof of future usefulness it is also not a given that a model once nerfed will never again be viable. So feel free to chase the meta but be aware that you may end up with more hydras then riptides on your shelf.


Dolch: Against

Hey, Dolch here.

So you’ve got a couple hundred dollars of gift money burning a hole in your pocket. Congrats!

Now, the question is should you buy a new army or flesh out the stalwart defenders already lining your gaming shelves. I have some advice, but first I have a question: Is your name Jim Vesal, Richard Siegler, or Nic Rose? Because if you are, or any of the other players on the ITC top 100 then you don’t need any advice from me. However, if you are in the following 99.8% of ITC players, then don’t chase the meta. That way leads madness!

Not that you shouldn’t play in tournaments (or however else you get your games in)… it’s just that whatever passes for the meta will be in constant flux for the foreseeable future. Besides, it isn’t the army, but the general that takes tournaments. Without dedicated practice, the best you can hope for with a meta army is mid tables. Wouldn’t you rather be at the mid tables with an army that you love and play well?

Instead of buying an army because it is good, buy what will give you joy! Buy that thing that will give you joy to paint as well as play. Buy that which will give you joy of ownership.

Besides… aren’t we really here because we love the game?

Thank you all for your time. I hope you enjoyed our discussion and that it proved helpful. Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!


9 Responses to “Point-Counterpoint: Chasing the Meta”

  1. Garret Acord February 7, 2020 10:25 am #

    I take up the approach of builiding up every army i own with everything i feel is reasonable, so i can always change my army around or build it differently from before.
    We had a guy in our team chase the meta so hard, he bought this insane list just for LVO 2019 and lost all but 1 game because he isnt this insanely good player. now he is waiting for the meta to settle to buy a new army.

  2. rvd1ofakind February 7, 2020 11:50 am #

    I get 1 of each unit for the army and then go into 3s if the unit is good enough.

  3. SirLANsalo February 7, 2020 7:32 pm #

    There are more then enough “tools in the shed” in 40k, and in any army, to be competitive. While list building is important, it is not the end-all-be-all, knowing HOW to apply your advantages, and cover for your dis-advantages is where you will win in the end*. Marines are popular right now, and they are the most diverse of factions having many sub sections to them. As such you will be more likely to see marines, or at least a 3+ save, in games and tournaments. Knowing this you can tailor your list and your army toward this end, taking AP 1 and 2 weapons to force bad saves. Taking damage 2 or higher guns so as to outright kill a Primaris when a failed save happens. Currently Imperial Guard and Tyranids are both armies that are able to easily withstand any meta shifts as both have a ton of options. IG can spam the living daylights out of Autocannons, which will kill primaris. Nids have venom cannons that do the same/similar damage output, and are also quite proficient in CC to boot (everything being Assault weapons does make for an effectively fast army). Both of those armies are non-meta yet can easily counter the current meta. When the meta shifts (like it is now) to a very shooty, Tau will always creep up as they are the kings of shooting, besides IG. Play to your army’s strength’s and craft the list to be able to take on all comers.

    *Dice will be dice, and while you can craft and the prefect list, have the most perfect strategy, in the end, it all comes down to that die roll. Having been in 40k since the early days of 4th, I have seen this truly happen, not only to myself, but to my opponent as well. Where they bring a super meta list and have practiced with it too, and just watch as some noobie kid just wins the game because every dice roll went his way.

  4. Rob Butcher February 8, 2020 12:12 am #

    There is no one META – but different armies are needed for each of the current “big” tournaments. That’s why no one army is winning everything. Look at what’s won the NOVA, GWGT Heats/Finals and now LVO. Differences in missions, scoring, painting scores, sportsmanship scores and even the points the army costs are all bigger factors.

    Now that the GWGT is becoming three heats leading to a final of the best five from each plus last years winner things are getting interesting. There is something to play for. And a chess clock free zone with rigid rules about what models can be used.

  5. DaveSoundwave February 9, 2020 4:18 am #

    Personally I’m against, not that there’s anything wrong with either personal preference, but to me it strikes me that the meta shifts often enough that buying models just because of their performance over models you might otherwise like means that sooner or later you’ll be sat on top of a load of models that aren’t as useful in the meta anymore and that you weren’t as keen on in the first place.
    I think a healthier approach is to buy the models you like and then try to work out how to make them function in a competitive environment (if that’s your jam). A balance between the two is ideal but I do think step 1 should be buy a unit you like, then step 2 should be invest in something that’ll compliment or support it.

  6. abusepuppy February 9, 2020 8:59 am #

    As others have said, I don’t believe there is any single answer to the question of whether you should chase the meta. It depends on a large number of personal factors.

    Firstly, how much time/money are you willing to invest in the game? Buying, building, and painting units is a high-investment process, and if you can only spare a handful of hours per week, it may not be an option. You can buy pre-built units or get stuff comission-painted, but these have problems (and costs) of their own.

    Secondly, how concerned are you with performance at tournaments? For those content to simply achieve reasonable success (such as a winning record), it’s certainly possible to simply adapt your one list over the years, but if you’re striving for the top tables- whether you’re good enough to get there or not- giving yourself the best tools available is often important.

    And last but not least, are you in the game for the long haul? Unit power levels fluctuate a lot, but given enough time nearly everything comes around- it took fifteen years for Shining Spears to get good, but they eventually did. For players that are sticking with the game, chasing the meta may not be more feasibly simply due to the ability to continuously grow a collection, and when those units become good again you can simply pull them off of their shelf and swap the magnetized weapons to whatever loadout is the new hotness.

    Of course, there are a lot of caveats to be applied to all of these questions- for example, chasing to the point of buying an entirely new army every 2-3 months is probably beyond the reach of most players and has a lot of problems with learning curve, but on the other hand many of the best players in the game own multiple armies- often to the point of having half a dozen or more. What one values in the game and where one draws the line is something that is really up to the individual player and what they want out of things. There are good and bad ways to go about it, but choosing to chase (or not to chase) isn’t a question that anyone else can answer for you.

  7. steven pampreen February 10, 2020 5:46 am #

    Personally, I think the biggest cause for argument in this arena is a non standard definition of “competitive”.

    For myself, when I say “competitive” I mean that it can go 6-0 or 9-0 which means it must have no “unwinnable” match ups and the poor match ups have to be rare in the meta. So every time someone says “oh, well that army did win a major though” that can be true AND it can not fit my definition of competitive. A go first and win army can just….go first 6 times. It’s why there were generally not that many top players trying imperial fists.

    Imperial fists are not competitive IMO because they have unwinnable match ups and poor match ups, the irony being the unwinnable match up is themselves! Their poor match ups are basically any shooting list that goes first.

    With that being said, there are few armies as hard to beat as imperial fists going first. So right now, no I will almost certainly not play imperial fists. If they got some rule or ability to make them always go first then yes, they’re all of a sudden competitive despite very little changing aside from their likelihood to go first.

    So, maybe it’s on me to use more specific language and have a level of “competitive” and “contender” armies. Competitive means if you play better than all your opponents you will go at least 3-3 while “contender” fits closer to my description above.

    • abusepuppy February 10, 2020 8:57 am #

      Yeah, goals are a big part of it- players who typically go 3-3 at events are going to see what is “competitive” very differently from players who go 5-1 (or 1-5).

      • Kicker February 12, 2020 4:54 am #

        I agree 100% with “goals are a big part of it- players who typically go 3-3 at events are going to see what is “competitive” very differently from players who go 5-1 (or 1-5).”

        I my main goal is to simply never get tabled like I was at my first Major (Dallas Open, 2019).Yea, I would love to go 4-2 and that would make me damn proud. But for now, my goals are less lofty than that, and my”competitive” list that I bring to GTs and Majors is far from what many others would consider a legitimately competitive build.

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