• The Meta, Evolved

    Dice Anon broke down the card frequency on top Worlds teams just as we had done after Nationals, so it's time to step forward and discuss what it all means for a bit. This will happen a lot - in fact, the next episode of The Attack Zone will be all about this. But it's all fresh for us right now. Where is the game headed?

    Before we begin, big thanks to Matt for letting us borrow the table. You're a mensch.


    Commonalities

    The table (click on it for a bigger version) clearly shows that there were some preferred characters, and yet a plethora of edge characters that, like in Nationals, were usually vital to the teams that they were on. Widow remains popular - though neither of the top two brought her. Basic actions certainly saw a lot of Polymorph and Resurrection. And why not? Resurrection is a good use of shields. Polymorph isn't just for getting your big guy out, it's also being used defensively as a means of removal.

    Someone asked in a comment if one could make a team of just the top eight cards and have something competitive. The answer is... maybe. One or two teams did have cards that were mostly in the top ten, and certainly they are both smart and intelligent players. In fact, good on them for recognizing where the power was right now before the games were actually played. Not an easy task - Kudos, Mike and Nick.

    And yet...


    Differences

    Seven of the people in the field had at least two one-ofs, and many dipped into the two-ofs as well. For some, these were huge, primary driving forces, like Michael with his dragons. For others, they made up the tech for the deck, like in the case of the World Champion himself. The chart lays this out very nicely.

    The basic actions saw a lot of similarities as we noted above, but also many differences too. Two were absurdly common, but eight more were on three or fewer teams - again, the champ being the only one with two one-ofs.


    Meaning?

    Ok, I said we were going to explore where the meta is going. Is it about these common cards at the top of the list? Is it about the varied cards at the bottom of the list? The answer is pretty wishy-washy: Yes and no.

    The current meta seems to be centered on doing what your team does in a streamlined way while having the tools to fight whatever would take you away from that plan. If you examine Dean's team, the win condition was Gobby and Human Torch - that part, not so new. But what he surrounded the core with is what made it special: Deadpool, Grundy, and Storm, along with those two basic actions.

    That doesn't mean that only the standbys are viable win conditions. Michael of the Dragonswarm team could Transfer Power in his dragons (only slightly different than Polymorph), use Breath Weapon to clear the board, and swing for tons of damage. Sounds a little like Polymorphing in a Hulk, wiping the side, and hitting with a Patch/Avengers combo. Actually, it's a lot like that - but not in any way that you would immediately recognize.

    These differences and edge cases sometimes make it difficult to know what to expect next and can make the unaware opponent perform reactively instead of proactively, in other words, make them lose their plan.

    So what's the read?

    First, win conditions need to trim the fat. Teams that need a couple of characters to come at the same time and roll exactly right to win can steal a game or two, yes, but if that's all that they do, no dice for the long term. And no pun intended. They're just not consistent enough for true success. A solid win needs to come from dice that you're OK if they come up asynchronously. Consider that Gobby and Johnny Storm work well together, but don't need to roll at the same time on the same turn to win. Take that versus a Widow/Patch T3K team where you must get a specific roll to pull it out, else you're off to plan B.


    It all comes back to having a plan.

    You also can't plan to subvert everything and make that your game. We explored Lord of D/Ring extensively getting ready for this and ended up not using it. It often needs the same two-faces-in-one-turn rolls that we just decried above, and it doesn't give you a win condition. You simply can't have an answer for everything. Rather, identify the threats that will take you away from your plan and make your support cards something that will bring you back to it or nullify the thing that's taking you away from it.

    The only thing you might want to consider including disruption for is something that is expected on a high percentage of decks. If you know everyone in your local is playing Green Goliath, then you know that you need something to halt what he does to you.

    Regardless, this is where SWOT analysis comes in, as discussed in The Attack Zone just a few weeks ago. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal to the deck - what does it do well and what does it not do well. Opportunities and Threats are external, examining what you do and don't want to see your opponent doing. When examining the threats, you really need to take yourself outside of the mentality that you're the one playing your deck and imagine you're playing against it. What do you want to use against that core win condition? Then, turn it back around and ask yourself what can mitigate that counter as simply and effectively as possible.

    We'll be expanding on this later this week.

    This is good - it means that deck building is evolving. You're still going to see familiar things, but you're also going to see completely strange things. Start to look for the patterns and see how those unfamiliar things can win. Chances are, it can be morphed into something that you've actually seen before.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Steele's Avatar
      Steele -
      In general I like the variety of teams and I do think we’re making our way to a game where anything can go. I’m still a little concerned about the staples however. Lets take the top 5 cards:
      Constantine - Cheap, amazing utility ability, good numbers
      Tsarina - Cheap, Consistent DD or Reduce damage
      PXG (3 r.y.m. + 5 trainer = 8 PXG) - Best Ramp you can get
      Jinzo - Answer to so many types of teams
      Mallenium Puzzle - Another answer to many types of teams

      One of the things they all have in common is that they are not, by themselves, win conditions. They are almost all control (with the exception of PXG). And they are all the best at what they do. In fact, of the top 16, all but 1 team included at least 2 of these and most included 3+. But being control it means they fit well into just about any team. And that’s why we keep seeing them over and over.

      However…the shining beacon of hope: The one team that only had one of these cards was the winning team.

      So what does this mean for the meta? I hope it means it’s breaking down. Dice Master still feels like a pretty small community right now and the same people tend to play each other and adjust for that small group’s play style. A comment I heard at worlds, “We are top of the heap for our meta, then we came here and got blown away.” I think this is going to be true as the game grows. There are 600+ cards right now with another 250+ coming in the next couple months. We’ve reached a point where the potential combos are huge. And as new players get into the game there will be new strategies that the current players don’t see yet. Worlds has shown us that anything can happen...

      Hal Jordan with Anger Issues FTW!!
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      See, what Dean did was figure out how to do stuff that we were already doing but with different cards. Solomon Grundy with BEG is just a millennium puzzle - but with a body that can hit. It's using things creatively.
    1. Ramlatus's Avatar
      Ramlatus -
      Is there a list of the actual teams that were played?
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ramlatus View Post
      Is there a list of the actual teams that were played?

      The columns are the teams.