Wizards loves to have variety and has made sure that for the last few seasons everything was viable. Except of course for when it was dominated by Jund, Fairies, Solar Flare, Affinity, Tog, Goblins, Rebels, Memory Jar, or Academy.
The game outside the game. The Metagame, a concept that exists for all competitive games, can't be easily defined in one sentence. Put simply, the Metagame is the collection of strategies in common use; how everyone else is playing. Using psychology-effort against your opponent while foiling their psychology-effort.
For example, you've been watching your buddy play Street Fighter II in the arcade. You notice he uses the same moves and Combos over and over. Therefore, when you later decide to play against him yourself, you use a character and moves that you know can beat him. Instead of going in blind, your foreknowledge of his favorite strategies gives you an advantage.
Knowing the metagame is vital for gamers who are much into Tournament Play. Many a tournament has been won by a player who cannily predicted which way the pendulum would swing, and many, many players have scrubbed out as a result of a miscalculation of the Metagame. As in the example above, it can also apply in casual play, though in a less reliable manner.
A common Metagame term is the Mirror Match, where you play against someone using the same thing as you are; the same video game character, or card deck, or whatever. A Mirror Match often requires special strategies, metagaming the metagame.
The metagame usually evolves in this manner:
Phase 1: Where the players will test out the game, mostly using the game's genre's basic conventions and methods from other similar games (including previous games in the series).
Phase 2: Where the game's obvious resources and strategies are well known and the players will start to get creative, usually leading to something that was not intended by the developers, including bugs (both good and bad).
Phase 3: Where the metagame evolved so much that the Tournament level playing of the game is more or less completely different from what the developers had in mind. After this the metagame evolves through the patches, expansions or the lucky discovery of some unusual application of the existing tools or bugs, after which the cycle starts anew.
Chess has a metagame, evolved over eons of play. One might say that the metagame is the game.
If you have ever played in any organizationally-sanctioned tournament, held anywhere at all, at some point in your life, it is guaranteed that every move you made was dutifully logged via algebraic notation, and then almost certainly dissected down to numbingly exhaustive detail, so as to understand every available nuance of both how you played then, and potentially will now.
Gary Kasparovs' famous rematch versus Deep Blue in 1997 involved a curious metagame factor. In the first game, Deep Blue made a puzzling play that was really just a hole in its heuristics - it is only as good as its program. This threw Kasparov for a loop. In the second game, Deep Blue made a second error, which Kasparov did not see and cost him the game. Some of the reports basically amounted to Gary being unable to believe the machine could screw up so badly. He attributed the moves to deep insight and thought himself out of a draw, turning it to a loss.
Go, having existed for thousands of years with one of the simplest rulesets in the board-game world, is even more purely metagame. The rules of Go can be described in full in a few sentences: one player places black stones and one player places white stones on a board. When a group of stones is surrounded, it disappears. The player who surrounds the largest amount of board area at the end wins. Naively, one might assume that Go play consists of mostly of surrounding stones, but in fact this almost never happens. Because it is possible to arrange stones in a "living" shape, one that cannot be captured, advanced players tend not to waste their time actually surrounding each other's shapes. So do Go players spend the game trying to build living shapes? Not exactly. Because both players know how to build living shapes, advanced players don't waste precious time expanding shapes that they know are potentially alive... Go strategy becomes so complex and high-level that the basic mechanics of the game are unrecognizable. Professional games without time-limits are known to go on for months (playing about 6 hours a day, once per week) before their completion.
Professional RPS actually moves out of the Metagame realm and into the pure skill of trying to remain random (which is hard for humans to do). The first player to suffer a psychological breakdown after hours of RPS play and become predictable loses.
There have been rumors of discovery of a board game with simple rules under the countless metagame layers of Diplomacy, but it might just be the French trying to double-cross us again.
Diplomacy has a biannual zine. which discusses the new strategies and ideas, amazingly still developing after 56 years. As often as not, an article or two in each issue is about ways to counter a strategy described in the previous issue.
Anyone who's played Ticket To Ride knows how important the little two-train and three-train routes into Las Vegas can become, and experienced players will often fight over who nabs those routes on turns two and three.
Kingsburg, being a game about building up a small village using different tiered tech trees, has spawned a number of favoured meta-strategies. A favourite is ignoring military gains in favour of economy, then purchasing high point value religious and cultural holdings in the end game knowing that the highest-tiered one will inevitably be destroyed.
A combination of psychology and statistics go into the metagame behind Poker, especially in the popular variation of Texas Hold 'Em. The film Casino Royale shows a lot of the strategy of reading your opponents and playing statistics, and playing your opponent based on your knowledge that they too known the psychology and statistics. There are hundreds of books on the market available that are all about the metagame behind poker.
Interestingly, when fiction shows a bad poker player the common portrayal is someone who focuses too much on the Meta Game, ignoring the actual game.
The same goes, only far more so, for Bridge, one of the most complex of standard-deck strategy games.
Old-school poker was all about to the metagame. In some variations, such as Texas Hold 'Em, the cards can never be changed and the only influence the player has is in betting, which is dominated by the metagame. Some observers have noted that metagame-focused players are being confounded by modern players who ignore the metagame and place their emphasis on statistical analysis.
Statistical analysis, also known as "pot odds" in poker circles, has in fact become a significant part of the poker metagame, and doesn't really differ all that much from the traditional metagame (since authors such as Doyle Brunson effectively gave the same advice under the cloak of experience rather than providing numbers). An ever-increasing number of succesfull players are becoming aware of this, too, and will try to identify players who play by analysis only to scare them out of pots.
Metagame is why poker theorists will often divide the game of Texas Hold'em into "limit" and "no-limit", despite the only rule change being the size of bets. Since limit games have a fixed betting structure, the game is much more mechanical; players with a hand can't be scared out of pots by the threat of going all-in. The majority of hands in limit Hold'em go to a showdown, only a few hands do in no-limit. Very few players can succeed at both.
The entire point of Spades is the ability to accurately predict the number of books and bags each person at the table will take. You can win every single hand and still lose if your prediction was off. And winning any single trick is gonna be costly if you bid null — which happens because null, if made, is worth more than a positive number.
The Metagame is critically important in the card game Magic: The Gathering. Just walking in with a good deck won't do it; you need a deck that can handle the decks you expect other players to have. Dave Price famously won Pro Tour: Los Angeles based largely on a smart Metagame call — in a field where the overpowered Sligh deck ran rampant, Price included the obscure (and in most metagames, very bad) card Giant Strength in his Sligh deck, which gave him an advantage both in the mirror match and against life-gaining decks which were the bane of the traditional, untuned Sligh deck.
This column explains the basics of the M:TG metagame; the overall ideas apply for most metagames.
Despite being criticized as simplistic by more "experienced" CCG players, the Yu Gi Oh card game has a metagame as well; taken too far, it leads to the "Toolbox" deck, a deck with no central theme but with every metagame-abusing card off the current Banned/Limited list. As with other card games, its metagame is susceptible to cookie-cutters and netdecking (a form of deck creation that pretty much mooches whatever the top decks in the last tournament were in an attempt to garner an easy win, the typical mindset that "if I use what the pros use, I'll play like the pros"). Also like the other games, it can be grossly mishandled by Executive Meddling or a lack of beta testing before releasing new cards (as with the notorious Invasion of Chaos Envoy monsters).
In fact, the Banned/Restricted list exists solely because of this. Changes to the list not only focus on banning overpowered cards, but also reflecting/changing the metagame. Key example is Jinzo, which used to be limited to 1 per deck due to it's decent power, ease of summoning, and effect that negates all traps. Eventually, stronger monsters and effects came out making Jinzo less and less powerful, which is reflected as Jinzo was eventually limited to 2, and is now currently unlimited (You can use 3).
Though some would argue that un-banning Jinzo was simply a cheap ploy to market a then-new group of cards which were based entirely around supporting/being created from Jinzo.
Upper deck entertainment has a reputation for this among players. They deliberately reorganize the metagame every so often, so that players invest heavily in the newest overpowered card (which usually requires buying about 3 boxes to find), before it gets replaced.
They also love to make a card readily available soon after banning it. The week Crush Card Virus was bannned, Turbo Pack 2 came out, where it was a normal rare.
A female player in one of the very first Illuminati: New World Order tournaments took third place using in part a strategy of distracting the other (mostly adolescent male) players with her slinky black dress. Reportedly, the game's creator congratulated her on a creative yet thematically correct strategy.
The card game 1000 Blank White Cards relies on metagames. Due to the nature of the game, the metagame changes indefinitely and there is a different metagame for every deck. The tendency to play with the same people and therefore familiar cards also produces the interesting effect that no strategy will (well, if your fellows are on the ball) be effective more than once, even if there are no cards in the current deck that shut down that strategy. Blanks are delicious.
The game of Fluxx is based on repeatedly changing the winning strategy; the best metagame strategy is to play your objective after you've finished setting it up.
Winning a game of Munchkin in any other than completely inexperienced company requires a lot of meta-gaming. The rules of the game themselves encourage backstabbing fellow players, making deals with them, deceiving them to swindle them out of valuable/dangerous cards, and cheating as much as you can without getting caught.
Counting cards at blackjack — that is, counting cards without getting caught — is two levels of metagame for the price of one. *
Some people don't quite understand the concept of card counting. Essentially, it's a basic form of statistical analysis that allows the player to keep track of the number of high cards (10s and face cards) left in the deck or shoe and place bets accordingly. The casinos have long since gotten wise to the practice and will throw you out if they figure out you're doing it, primarily because it's a major hole in the casino business model. Effective card-counting teams can and occasionally will wipe out a casino for the night.
Even something as simple as Apples To Apples has a metagame. It's vital to know your opponents, what kind of sense of humor they have, and what kind of matches that they like in order to win.
Tanto Cuore seems to be designed with a constantly-shifting metagame in mind. It's functionally a very simple game about managing card draw, resources, and deckbuilding strategies to gain victory points. But even the basic set has sixteen general maids, and you choose ten from that pool to play with. Potentially, you can play with seven different arms races involving various maids, even before adding in cards from the expansion.
This has spawned some meta-game fanfic based on card interactions. Play the game enough, and you'll understand why Colette and Kagari are best friends, or why Nena hates Claire, or why the Twilight sisters always seem to be terminally ill, or....
Go Fish (or in the UK, with a special pack, Happy Families) has a metagame. The basic game is that you're supposed to be asking for the cards you want. The metagame comes in when you start working out what cards your opponents want, and trying to stall them by taking them yourself. This gets analysed by the character Solomon in the Terry Pratchett novel Dodger who concludes that Happy Families teaches kids the skills of deceit and bluff that could lead to them growing up to be professional gamblers or worse yet, politicians.
Live Action TV
In one episode of Have I Got News for You, Reginald D. Hunter was not only metagaming, but meta-metagaming, saying he should get points for fostering disharmony in the opposing team.
In the first episode of Sleuth 101 — an Australian comedy wherein a comedian enters a scripted whodunnit, and must improvise the role of detective and solve the mystery — guest detective Dave O'Neil utterly failed to piece together any of the clues presented in the story. Instead he broke completely out of character and began weighing the relative fame of the actors involved, finally choosing a culprit on the principal of Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize. He turned out to be correct.
Never actually shown in the series, but Captain Kirk of Star Trek beat the unwinnable Kobayashi Maru test by stepping outside of the scenario and adjusting the parameters (hacking) of the game. Many criticised him for cheating, but the Academy considered it "original thinking". He was then ordered never to tell anyone about it.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, an alien who is a master of a strategy game challenges Data to a game. Data makes every move with the best change of winning, but still loses. In his second attempt, he makes every move with the goal of keeping the game at a stalemate. His opponent gets so frustrated by the endless game that he quits, effectively conceding defeat. Data considers the match a draw, but his friends assure him that he won.
The Metagame on The Amazing Race has evolved over time. Traces of it developing can be seen in Seasons 1-7, though the full metagame does not come into effect until Season 10. It had two major effects on the game, first, shifting it from a game dominated by young, fit teams (especially "alpha male" teams) and those with extensive travel experience, to a game dominated by intelligent teams. Second, it gave teams who would have had no shot on early seasons (like Ronald & Christina, who were weak at physical tasks) a legitimate chance to win.
The courses themselves have evolved with the metagame, with the course designers lessening the occurrence of “place holder” tasks that no longer caused teams problems (like physical thrill tasks) and those that relied on luck (like the ever popular Needle in a Haystack tasks), and increased the number of tricks, and deceptive and vague clues that they threw at the racers. On Season 19, it became very apparent that the producers were well aware of the metagame, as they included several twists that were specifically designed to take advantage of the current metagame.
The Mole has a pretty strong metagame, to go along with the challenges the team competes in (and the Mole tries to sabotage). Naturally, part of the metagame is to sabotage a little yourself, to make everyone else suspicious of you. But also important is tracking everyone else's suspects so that if someone gets booted, you can figure that whoever he/she was suspecting is probably innocent. Finally, gathering as much information as you can on the other players - even the ones you don't originally think is the Mole - will help you in case you do need to move to a new suspect.
Survivor is all about this, as being able to continue playing and eventually win depends on how others vote, so a contestant's gameplay has to be tailored for the people he's playing with. Richard Hatch all but defined the metagame in the first season when he convinced his tribemates to coordinate their votes to target the opposing tribe; and alliances have been the top strategy ever since.
Another common strategy is to keep a weaker player around as your sidekick; he's easy to win against in the finals. Recent seasons seem to take this to a larger scale, in that there seems to be an unspoken agreement not to vote out the Jerk Ass that nobody likes. True to metagaming principles, some players have made themselves look weak in order to get other players to simply not target them, and then try to pull a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. (Brett, Fabio, Ashley) Others even knew they weren't going to be good at challenges or would just get overshadowed by awesome, so they tried to up their weakness so they would assume they're nothing.
First few weeks, nobody has any clear targets, but showing that you can win competitions or are obnoxious often gets you targeted. Hiding behind groups and not talking to anyone typically puts you at the bottom of the totem pole. Don't massively shift stuff or the whole house will come after you.
Most recently, it's trying to become America's Favourite, especially if it's a showmance, because people who the viewers like seem to get lucky twists thrown their way.
A common instance of the meta game in sport is knowing the current standings in the competition. At best this influences how many risks are taken trying to win a game; at worst, as in the Badminton at the 2012 Olympics, players may deliberately lose matches to try to avoid strong opponents in later rounds.
A critical element to baseball is Pitcher/Batter psychology, as well as the game of chicken base runners play with the pitcher and catcher.
The "offside trap" in Association Football, often seen at set pieces.
On the subject of offsides, the most succesful formations before its introductions were 1-1-8, 8-1-1 and in a nutshell variations of X-1-(9 minus X). Midfield play was non-existant before its introduction.
On a wider level, the metagame can make entire formations lose effectiveness for long periods of time. The once-popular 3-5-2 formation, despite being effective against many standard formations such as a classic 4-4-2, is currently virtually non-existent in several of the most popular leagues; This is due to the modern metagame's preference for formations such as the 4-3-3, which would exploit the weaknesses of the 3-5-2 system.
American football has this as well. The 2008 Miami Dolphins implemented an uncommon offensive formation: the "Wildcat" formation, in which the ball is directly snapped to the running back. This surprised most of their opponents, who had no idea how to defend against it, and as a result the Dolphins went from a league-worst 1-15 record to 11-5 and the AFC East title. Since then, however, opposing teams have devised effective countermeasures to the Wildcat offense - specifically by lining up the defensive tackles on the same side that the offense has put their extra blockers - and the Wildcat has since faded in popularity.
The difference in meta-game between College and NFL football is one of the reasons why certain star college players flounder once they go pro: they are overwhelmed by the difference in both skill and strategy and get injured or make bad decisions.
Same goes for coaches, too. After he retired from coaching for the University of Florida, Steve Spurrier tried to use his "Fun and Gun" offense (one that revolves around long passing plays) in the NFL and found out that most professional defensive linemen can out-think and out-run all but the best quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Signal stealing — reading opponent's hand signals and such from coaches to players on the field and using their plans against them. Signal stealing became particularly controversial in the National Football League in 2007, when the New England Patriots lost a draft pick for stealing signals by video tape in the 2006.
The LBW rule in cricket was introduced to stop a batsman defending his wicket with his leg, rather than his bat. Modern bowlers, particularly spin bowlers, often exploit the rule to get a batsman out LBW without him ever intending to get his leg in the way, and batting practice has responded similarly.
In fact, many deliveries are not even pitched to hit the stumps in the modern game- the batsman gets out when he plays the ball badly, and if he leaves the ball he'll be safe. Compare to baseball, where a pitcher can and does intentionally deliver some balls outside of the strike zone.
Most fighters have strengths depending on where the fight takes place, such as striking, in the clinch, takedowns and submission grappling. Their strategies and behavior will vary based on their opponents' strengths. A common example would be a powerful wrestler who is facing a pure striker will be aggressive and threaten with takedowns while on the feet. The striker will not commit as much to his strikes because he's always wary of a takedown. In this fashion, a wrestler can outstrike a striker without ever even using his wrestling.
Since the ultimate goal of a professional fighter is to make money, many fighters will use crowd-pleasing styles to earn recognition, fan followings and post-fight bonuses even if that style will make them less likely to win a fight. Of particular note is the general fan preference for striking over grappling, causing fighters like Chris Lytle and Jorge Gurgel almost completely abandon their considerable grappling skills in favor or slugging it out with their opponents, win or lose.
Metagaming in Tabletop RPGs is frowned upon in most cames, such as not "inventing" gunpowder when playing a fantasy game or not simply killing the Grand Vizier even when you know the GM always makes the King's adviser turn traitor. On the other hand, sometimes it is expected or, at least, accepted. For instance, when playing a D&D wizard with a high score in the knowledge skills for magic and nature, you are probably allowed to look up the stats of a monster in the Monster Manual, while claiming that your character is remembering all those details from his studies.
More acceptable metagaming is keeping the enjoyment of the other players, the GM, and common courtesy at the forefront. A player who forgoes an optimized choice in favor of flavor and not overshadowing the other players is to be encouraged.
Paranoia is a rather different game due to how much of it is metagame. There is usually a goal for your team of troubleshooters, as well as personal goals, affiliations, and mutations you as a player need to keep secret. Not to mention that, because the rulebook for the game is not something a character would have access to, it advises the GM not to let the players see inside it either. As a result rather than play the game and fullfill the group goal, backstabbing and playing the metagame to get your own win (or at least, make the other players lose faster) by manipulating the other players is important. This is all done for Black Comedy and Played for Laughs.
Although it does often acknowledge that players cheat, resulting in the use of summary executions to keep metagaming down.
In Paranoia, the players might know (though their characters should not) that EVERY SINGLE PC is in fact a mutant and a traitor and therefore can and should be summarily executed. Metagaming is kept under control by the fact that The Computer (played by the GM) does NOT know this, and will insist on proof. Killing another troubleshooter without sufficient evidence of treason is treason and grounds for summary execution.
Reading this entry, in case you were wondering, gives you knowledge of the rules of Paranoia and thus is treason, you Commie Mutant Traitor. Zap!
The first rule for a Paranoia GM is to not let the players know the rules. The first rule for a Paranoia player is to read the rules and lie about it. This is because the second rule for a Paranoia GM is "Kill the bastards".
A particularly disliked variant in Dungeons & Dragons is the use of metagaming to identify the number of hitpoints an enemy has, or complaining that the encounter has the wrong challenge rating for the party. This can be really hard to suppress for a DM who's now controlling a PC.
It's hardly the most extreme example. Elite Tweaks, Dungeon Bypass, and using villain tropes to kill the main villain five minutes into the adventure are less acceptable.
Further (and more actually fitting with the trope), many games (especially the newest edition of Dungeons and Dragons) have an extensive number of builds and strategies for constructing player characters that are easily recognized by the community and often referred to by name when describing the character (example from 4e D&D: "I'm playing a frostcheese rogue")
The Warhammer 40000 meta-game generally revolves around what the most powerful codex is against the Space Marines. Since Space Marine armies comprise of the majority of tournament armies regardless of its current power (especially since they are pretty strong anyway), it revolves around either making the strongest possible Space Marine army, making the strongest possible anti-Space Marine army, or Taking The Third Option and building the strongest army against whatever is the major anti-Space Marine army, and hoping you get more of the anti-Space Marine armies, giving you the advantage because you are built to fight them, and they are built to fight Space Marines.
Depends on your localisation, really. The tourmament scene in Poland has some tentency of people having "ALWAYS WANTED TO PLAY" the Army thats currently on top (you know, because they like the background).
In reality there is a more stabilised metagame in 5th edition, prior to Matt Ward's controversial rewrite of Grey Knights; Dark Eldar beats Space Wolves, Space Wolves beats Imperial Guard, Imperial Guard beats Dark Eldar. These 3 armies were the top tier in terms of effectiveness, sure Space Marines are good, but are easily countered by any of the three and would make up the bulk of the mid-section of the competitive scene. Post-Grey Knights this rock-paper-scissors scenario has remained but with the GK looming over the triad as it has access to almost all of the Space Wolves tricks and some of the IG's elements along with their own.
And now Necrons are wading in, with their armies relying entirely on Gimmicks, which tend to screw over Grey Knights.
As of early 2013, the Grey Knights still seem to be winning and the gimmicks are turning out to be a bit, well, gimmicky. The amount of AV 13 they can put on the table however does hurt the Grey Knights though. However, both Warhammer games are notorious for having a metagame that can change with the release of a single book or FAQ.
Metagaming is actually an option for player characters in Grimm. The Gaming trait covers knowledge of such things as fairy tales, fantasy novels and films, fantasy card and board games, narrative video games, and the game Traps and Trolls. Since it covers not only knowledge of fairy tales, but things that are either directly or indirectly inspired by them, you can use this trait to cast or identify spells, recognize fairy tale settings or characters, and determine the weakness of fairy tale characters.
Virtually any wargame - particularly miniatures game - where a) each players' force is chosen using "points" and b)the effectiveness of various weapons varies based on the targets' characteristics (and c) where the effectiveness of troops varies by terrain and the map layout is not known until after the forces are selected) the troop selection itself can be more important than the strategy and tactics used in the game itself.
The game mechanics might have an element of RPS to them such that for the same number of point, powered infantry beats regular infantry, tanks beat powere infantry, and regular infantry beats tanks.
To give an example, one common Terran strategy vs Protoss was to put down two factories and produce lots of units to make an attack. Then the Terran metagame evolved to incorporate acting like you're putting down two factories and making a little attack to put the opponent on the defensive but you're actually only making one factory and saving for an expansion to gain an economic advantage - the fake double. This became so popular that it is normal and Protoss players anticipate it, so now Terrans can now also try to give the appearance that they are doing the fake double but meanwhile they actually really are putting down two factories to make a serious attack. Which is known as the fake fake double. Mindbending.
Not the end of the story. If they're going for a fake double, they often show that they are mining their Vespene Gas at maximum effeciency in exchange for mineral mining. This is a sign that they are going for a double. In fact, many players mine gas at maximum effeciency until their opponent's scout is gone, then stop, to make the opponent think they are going double. Most Protoss players have figured this out though, and now usually know it's an early expansion. In fact, the Terrans adapted to the Protoss, and actually DO go for the double. Yes, the Protoss adapted again, and play safer, but then the Terrans just go for the expansion. Continuous Metagame development.
This becomes much more prevalent in Starcraft II where Scouts are crucial in knowing what you are dealing with. For Zerg it is fairly straightforward, early expansion or just go for the safer spawning pool? Do you produce a slew of zerglings to prep yourself for tier 2 or go for roaches to buff up your defenses? Did your oppoenent research burrow? Or did he go for the ventral sacs? the questions are never answered unless you know what your opponent is doing. Because of how fast the games get (due to the bases getting mined out earlier) it makes it all the more important to scout because everything moves quickly.
Ironically it also makes the Terran much more difficult to predict because of the ease to build and swap attachments. Since buildings can swap, it means that when you thought he was going for Marauders when he built that Barracks for the tech lab, he can just fake you out and swap it for a factory to build siege tanks and thors.
In Company of Heroes, the online meta-game is constantly shifting. Certain moves are considered "correct", with little variation. When you encounter high level players, building an Observation Post early in the game will elicit cries of "NOOOOOB!!!!". One recent tactic developed for the American faction involves pumping out 4 of the pathetically weak "engineer" units and building an early game OP or two. It is shockingly effective, and it is completely hilarious to have the guy who just spent 2 minutes shouting about how noobish you are get brought to his knees by a combined arms symphony he has never seen before.
This is a common theme among every single online game with a strong metagame: Most players who know about the latest metagame will assume you are a complete idiot if you're not following it, even if what you're doing is so effective that everyone else will jump on board by next week.
Dawn of War 2's multiplayer is a game that has a decent amount of shifting with subsequent patches and lots of the game's inner workings not being stated inside it, requiring players to go to forums and ask more experienced players to better understand how to play the multiplayer.
Extensive knowledge of the metagame is essential in World of Warcraft and many other MMOs. Particularly in "raids" where large groups of players must work together to defeat a boss or complete a task, the group leader must know exactly how many players of each class to have, what equipment they should be wearing, and where and what they should be doing at each stage of the battle. This is less necessary in games where the classes are more flexible, such as City of Heroes.
This has become less true for World of WarcraftPvE, as in Wrath of the Lich King, classes' abilities have a good deal more overlap, but in PvP, the metagame still changes with every patch.
And then there's the forum metagaming, where classes and specs underplay their effectiveness to ridiculous levels in order to obtain buffs in the next patch. Whether or not this is actually effective is a topic for much debate.
While champion balance changes all the time, the essential basics of the LoL metagame have been static ever since the start of Season 2 (it's now into Season 3)- a ranged AD carry goes bottom lane with a 0 CS (no farm) support, middle and top lane are played by strong solo laners and the last guy goes into the jungle to control buffs, roam and gank. This replaced the old strategy of putting the AD carry in the mid lane (considered the safest solo lane) and just putting whoever in bottom lane once the playerbase realised that a support COULD be played with no gold, allowing the carry to farm a solo lane while being more protected than if they'd actually been solo. Sometimes teams will "lane swap" and put their ADC and support lane in top and thgeir solo laner in bottom to try and pressure the enemy solo laner down for an early turret, but they always eventually come back to bottom lane for Dragon control. Not even the most radical and experimental pro teams have been able to successfully break this meta yet.
Only if you actually want to play a meta-game. What becomes more and more obvious for old-timers is that not playing a metagame is the best way to win and utterly crush your enemy. The reason is plain simple - metaplayers will expect anyone else use one of few meta tactics. If you won't use any of them, then their own strategy is in ruins, because they are expecting everyone mindlessly following meta, not an original tactics or crazy, but well-executed stunts. Leads directly to the point when you crush your enemy with little trouble and he call you a noob for not playing meta.
SivHD is a player well-known for playing the game in entirely INSANE way from the point of view of metagaming... yet he beats crap out of anyone, anytime.
In the original Guild Wars campaign, the player had to fight his own twin in a 'mirror match'. What made this battle especially difficult was that the 'mirror' was a true 'mirror', including possessing whatever skills the player had equipped at time. One novel Meta Game strategy was to load the character down with health-sacrifcing and 'damage reflection'-type skills, and make a 'suicide run' on the mirror boss. Since the mirror-double could only use the player's currently-equipped skills, it would literally 'attack itself to death' within seconds of the battle commencing.
Or, if you were a ranger, make a beastmaster build completely loaded with pet skills - none of which your doppelganger can use because it doesn't get a pet.
PvP in Guild Wars is heavily metagamed, since each player can only bring eight skills into the match, and players are almost always on the same level in terms of overall power. Over the years, this has seen the rise and fall of many solo and team-based strategies, as new ideas blaze ahead, then die off as everybody else tries to counter it.
EVE Online, from the PVP to the economy, has a metagame that would make a hardcore Starcraft gamer weep. Considering that what's on the line is often worth thousands of real-world dollars, and epicheists and scams are not only allowed, but one of the main selling points, this is to be expected. How serious is it? The developers have hired a real-world economist to study the in-game economy, and there is at least one recorded instance of players causing a blackout in order to knock a rival player offline at a critical moment. While Blizzard and the various tournament sponsors attempt to keep the Starcraft metagame confined to game mechanics, CCP practically encourages social engineering between players.
Backstabbing a friend in Eve can and has ended years long friendships... of course, some people have made said friends just so they can backstab them in Eve months or years later. Eve has kind of a scary metagame at times.
A particularly good writeup about EVE's metagaming in practice detailing how HYDRA/Outbreak won the 2011 Alliance Tournament, including spying on the other odds-on favourites (especially the winner of the last three tournaments, Pandemic Legion) and successfully feeding intelligence to other teams in order to knock out Pandemic Legion's second team in the pre-qualifying round.
Even more amusingly, the entire complex metagame has basically been thrown out the door and replaced by a new one, as the coming new expansion pack caused players to fight over certain resources. This triggered *total war*, with the entire game transforming into a binary conflict between two factions, all others either allied or destroyed. More news as it arrives.
The war for Tribute was won (on the military side) by Goonswarm's superior ability to leverage the time zones in which battles took place. Fighting on European time, Goonswarm and their allies (the Clusterfuck Coalition) were pre-eminent, and they later regained that advantage in US time (after they got their asses kicked to hell and back a few times), but NCDot fleets were unassailable in Australia's peak hours...so Goonswarm avoided fighting on AU time and fought on EU and US time. Incidentally, the whole war is rumored to have startedbecause the CEO of NCDot US was sleeping with an enemy of the CFC, and ended in part because the EU CEO hadn't been particularly interested in joining a messy and unprofitable war with the CFC in the first place, leading to the collapse of the alliance.
One of the issues that "higher-level" Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars players in clans have with "pub" players, those that wander into spontaneous Battle.Net sessions, is that, while each player may have a certain theoretical knowledge of the strategies meant for each Hero, in practice these players rarely will coordinate to choose a lineup of Heroes that synergise well, lowering the effectiveness of the team. In addition, a certain amount of psychology and "mindgaming" is a tool that enables some players to outfight their enemies even when the odds are against them.
Urban Dead has a very extensive metagame, with the game's Wiki serving as its central hub. User-created barricade plans determine which buildings can be used as entry points and where dead survivors can be revived (among other things). Add in coordinated activities (such as raids) and intergroup diplomacy, and you have a level of depth that can keep you occupied for much longer than playing the actual game.
Its cousin Nexus War is this cranked Up to Eleven. Raids on enemy factions are approximately 95% coordinating with your factionmates on IRC and 5% raiding.
And there was politics. Honest to god politics. The meta game was very very complicated, which was a big part of its decline and eventual demise.
There's an amusing lampshade hung on this one by the indie game World Of Goo. The signs that pop up in every level with cryptic sayings also pop up in the free-play Corporation mode, where the player uses all of their collected goo-balls to build a massive tower. The game looks online and picks out other player's Corporation towers and floats the statistics of said tower on your screen as a small cloud. The sign's rather amusing message contains the phrase, "Everyone's building up. What's up there anyway? Some kind of metagame?"
Street Fighter II and almost all 2D fighting games have only two things going in the screen at higher levels: Meta Game and Combos. Combos are a "safe" way to inflict decent damage, but decent players don't let themselves open for them, so most matches consist on both players trying to find an opening and dealing damage while not giving themselves away and losing, and this is where most of the metagame is found. For example, in mid-to-high-level matches, when the two characters are looking for openings at a very close range it's called "footsies", and it's not weird to see someone lose because he threw a crouching medium kick at the wrong range and got punished in the few frames of recovery it has by a well timed crouching roundhouse. There are glossaries full of words used every day in the fighting game community when discussing the metagame, and they all describe essential concepts. Most of the times, the basic strategy in 2D and 3D fighting games involves putting your opponent in a state of disadvantage (knockdown, frame disadvantage, plain fear of your pokes, etc) and use a "mixup", which your opponent will have to block/avoid correctly to avoid the damage and/or disadvantage it could inflict, but for example projectile characters can also take another approach and play a "keep-away" game, "chipping" their opponents to death while punishing their attempts to attack. There are thousands of different strategies (sometimes even more than one for each match-up), and thousands of counter-strategies, and all of them use metagame concepts like "zoning", "mindgames" and "pressure" to their fullest.
Ever go to a martial arts tournament? Let's just say that Street Fighter meta is suspiciously similar.
Super Smash Bros. has developed a fairly extensive metagame, with standard techniques known for the most-played characters. Former champion Ken is generally considered to have invented the majority of the Marth metagame. As a result, every knowledgeable Marth player these days is in some way inspired by Ken.
The Metagame for Melee has risen to a ridiculous level that is still evolving nine years after the game came out. Every character has unique special moves with unique cancels which add a high element of unpredictability. For example, a Falco may approach an opponent using short-hopped lasers to quickly deliver stun and set up for an attack. However, many professionals are capable of frame-perfect shielding, which has led to use of the running powershield technique, which reflects the stun laser back at Falco and perfectly sets up an attack if performed correctly. A good Falco will play differently when confronted with a player capable of the running powershield.
Jigglypuff was medium-low tier in 2002. Now, it's top tier.
Meta Knight in Brawl is considered so broken that choosing not to play as him is pretty much choosing not to win.
Which is why he was banned from competitive play
Actually, MK vs. Pikachu officially is considered even, and several of the other high tiers are considered only slightly disadvantaged. (See this.) Videlicet, other characters can (and do) win. And even then, the Unity Ruleset Committeenote a Smashboards/AllIsBrawl project to create a unified ruleset for all "official" Brawl tournaments has been disbanded, so banning MK is left completely to individual tournament organizers, who now commonly run simultaneous MK-legal and MK-banned events.
Pokemon, being a multiplayer battling game, has also developed an extensive metagame, becoming more popular as connectivity expanded. Tournaments are heavily influenced by the metagame, to the point where certain creatures with great stats or moves are considered nigh-unplayable because of the environment of the time.
People started to find out and manipulate the game's hidden numbers for a Pokemon's stats, such as Natures and Individual Values permanently input to a Pokemon, and Effort Values, which depend on which enemy Pokemon you train your Pokemon with.
And as an in-game example, The Rival always chooses his starting Pokémon after you do, and systematically chooses the one whose type is strong against yours.
The card game even more so. Pokemon have weakness and resistance in this game as well, so even if you have a powerful deck, you can still be blown out by a deck whose Pokemon had a type advantage against you. There was at least one period where more than half of tournament decks were the same thing, making it a viable strategy to build a deck entirely to beat that (and for the most part, lose to anything else).
The Platinum sets had "the SP deck", filled with Supporter and Trainer cards that required the usage of SP Pokemon in your deck. They were always better than non-SP versions of the same card (example: Bebe's Search and SP Radar, Poketurn and SP Turn). It's supreme card quality made many SP decks incredibly powerful and popular, but it had one weakness: all of the SP Pokemon were Basic Pokemon. Thus, it's counter was born, the Machamp Take-Out deck. And since Machamp's weakness is Psychic type Pokemon, there was Gardellade that was good against it. And so on.
There is actually an incredibly advanced online Pokemon Metagame where people use an online simulator instead of using the actual game for a more regulated environment. Usage statistics are tracked for everything, and analyzed often. There is also an established Character Tiers system with about five different developed metagames.
The metagame of Pokemon is also the source of many cases of Kick the Dog, where certain Pokemon are put down for stats, abilities, or other properties that make them "useless", and can be upsetting to those who don't care about stats and believe that any Pokemon, given the right level, moves, and training can be useful.
Note that Smogon doesn't discourage people using their favorite Pokemon (provided that the tier of said Pokemon doesn't compete below its placing, i.e. Arceus shouldn't be used in anything below Uber competition). In fact, the tier system pretty much allows virtually all Pokemon to be played in a form of tournament.
The free browser-based strategy game Cybernations' gameplay consists of pressing a few buttons everyday. Most of the actual "gameplay" comes from people making alliances and engaging in diplomacy.
The Gamerscore on XBox 360 could count as a metagame, especially considering all the satellite websites and communities that have sprung up around it.
If you play World in Conflict long enough, you learn to anticipate just where and when exactly the next tank buster strike will come, considering that your tanks stood in a certain position in plain view for a few seconds. Of course, a player who knows that will place another tank buster to where you will have moved your units just in time for it to hit you. Nicer players will also warn their support about incoming strikes. You will also learn the good spots to hide your snipers that will never be found by anyone who doesn't know where to find snipers that can't be found. And where to drop your nukes on do_Spaceneedle to kill dozens of enemies and neutralize two enemy positions at once. And you'll know what the cluster bombs/airdrop combo is and exactly why you shouldn't use it unless in dire situation.
Ragnarok Online has a great many builds and metagame strategies, not just for PvP, but for the War of Emperium. Skilled players can interpret opponent's strategies, builds, and items, with only a minimum of contact on the battlefield. This also changes, sometimes drastically, on different custom servers.
The meta game for Guitar Hero and Rock Band mostly consists of the physical aspects of actually playing an instrument. This includes fingering and tapping (using both hands on fret buttons) for guitar and bass parts, and sticking for drums. Using Star Power/Overdrive appropriately is also a big factor in maximizing scores, and a lot of research goes into determining the best path for deploying it.
The research that goes into it has led to people making programs that, given the chart data in the game, can determine the best "path" for using Star Power/Overdrive. One person, in attempt to determine the best path for a full band performance of a song, made a program that could essentially brute-force its way through a full band path, which requires such a large amount of computational power and time that it costs about $2 to path each song.
Not to mention squeezing, which is essentially playing slightly ahead or behind rhythm for one note or more to maximize the notes you get under Star Power/Overdrive. Playing off-rhythm. In a rhythm game. Somehow, it all works. To screw with your mind even more, on some drum songs you can get better scores by overhitting.
During the early days of Team Fortress 2, Spies (a class that can nearly perfectly mimic an enemy class) seemed way too powerful, to the point where teams basically relied on Spies to do anything useful. This lasted until people realized that Pyros could just use their flamethrowers on any person on their team; the ones who catch fire are Spies. Plus, the Spy will have just caught fire, which will hasten their demise. This practice, now known as Spychecking, is now widely used by most Pyro players, bringing the game back into relative class balance.
The Spy also relies on the metagame to perform effectively. He has to know how certain classes behave, recognize certain tactics, know various routes and blind spots on a map and generally play with the opponent's mind, much like a true spy.
This trope is also a major factor in the Unpleasable Fanbase. Every time an update ships, somebody's bound to complain that the new items upset the existing meta-game, claiming that it gives one or more classes an unfair advantage/disadvantage. Sometimes they're right. (This very wiki had to devote an entire subpage to the new and interesting ways you can now make certain classes nigh unbeatable in skilled hands.
The online card game War Metal Tyrant has a fairly complex, and well-defined metagame, though similar to Yu-Gi-Oh, players consider the metagame to be moving towards a cookie-cutter layout where the aim is to pack as many of the strongest cards available into a deck. The usual decks used to be Tiatlapreds, Wall-stalls, Reaperspam, II rush, Pummeller/Bloodpool, and Xeno slowroll, all of which interacted with each other in complex ways, however most of these decks are considered moot and have been outstripped by cards with Summon and Refresh, two very unbalancing skills. At the time of writing, Righteous Slowroll is most dominant, with Raider Rally and Xeno Summon being very prominent.
The Order of the Stick is an RPG Mechanics Verse rather than an actual game, but the characters are well aware of this fact. We have seen characters blatantly take advantage of things like there only being one Random Encounter per trip regardless of length (more would take up too much time), become the rivals of other characters so they can level up without doing any work (you will be the same level as your rival, so a fight between you is suitably dramatic), and acknowledge that being a human is best because somehow you will learn just as much magic in decades as an elf will in centuries (and if you start as another class and then multiclass into a wizard, you skip years of training because it is retroactively assumed you have been practicing all along).
NationStates is an elaborate, multifaceted metagame that may or may not require you to have anything to do with the actual game it's attached to.
Savvy military commanders sometimes metagame during wargames and similar exercises. They usually get a lot of flak from their superiors afterwards due to the prevailing belief that real engagements wouldn't have fixed enough rules to be exploited, and that it may invalidate data they are trying to gather. However, public opinion will not be kind to simulations that outlaw meta-gamey tactics for what seem spurious reason: Millenium Challenge 2002 is the best known of these, wherein opposing general Paul Van Riper of the "Red Team" used motorcycle messengers to deliver orders to troops and World War II era light signals to launch planes without radio communication, knowing that the United States' "Blue Team" would be using sophisticated electronic surveillance, then launching a massive attack as soon as Blue demanded a surrender, crippling Blue's forces. At this point, the games were stopped, and were restarted along more scripted lines. Realizing that his team was being instructed not to follow his orders, Van Riper resigned from the game, and publicly characterized the game as a set-up to validate strategies that had not actually faced testing.
To be fair he also cheated heavily and his tactics wouldn't have worked in real life either. When he attacked the Blue Team's fleet he did so by claiming that a fleet of fishing trawlers fired anti-ship missiles even though they couldn't possibly hold them. In addition he used suicide vessels and tried to ignore the countermeasures that would be used against them in reality, primarily naval helicopters. Also, his motorcycles somehow could travel at the speed of light.
Arguably, the Office of Naval Research could be said to be taking advantage of this with their online game platform MMOWGLI (Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet) to combat Somali pirates. It puts teams of players in the roles of the Navy and pirates in which they will have the expected resources of each side and have to pursue their respective goals against each other. A control team ensures no one does anything phenomenally stupid or unrealistic.