The meta is not the be all and end all of Warhammer 40,000.
We, both here on BoLS and players in general, tend to talk a lot about the Meta of 40K. It’s an important topic to discuss for several reasons. If you are looking at playing competitively, or semi-competitively it can be very useful to understand what the meta is and how you can react to it. More than that however it gives us a common ground to talk about. While we can’t always discuss how your local playgroup build lists, we can all use the competitive meta as a starting point for discussion. Lately, it is also a useful way to look at what changes might be coming to the game. In particular, FAQs can try to shake up the meta. However, despite its usefulness many people, myself included, can focus on the meta too much with adverse effects. Let’s talk about why it’s important to look beyond the meta.
The Fun Factor
40K is a game. Too often I think we forget that the goal of 40K, both the tabletop game and the hobby, is to have fun and enjoy yourself. Winning, losing, heck even playing the game, are secondary goals to having fun. The more we take the hobby, be it winning or the lore, overly seriously the more it can impact who we have fun. That’s not to say that winning can’t be fun and that discussing the minutia of lore can’t be fun, but it shouldn’t become a goal in and of itself. This thinking extends to thinking about the meta as well.
All too often we look at units, armies, and rules only about how they operate or how effective they are in the current meta. It’s common to judge a unit not on if its fun to use but if it’s good at winning events. I think it’s essential to take a step back and sometimes look at whether a unit is fun to play with as much as if its good in the meta. Sometimes these things line up, Knights are hot in the meta and are a pretty fun unit to use (not so much to face). Other units, like Deathstrike Missiles, Land Raiders or Grey Knights might not be any good in the current meta, but can still be a lot of fun to play with. Let’s take a step back now and then and just acknowledge that and that they have a place due to that alone.
The Meta Is Boring
Me after thinking about the current meta too much
Focusing a lot on the meta tends to mean focusing on a relatively small number of units and archetypes. It’s also a meta, at least for the North American ITC, that hasn’t changed a whole ton in a while. Knights and Ynarri, with the occasional Chaos, have dominated for a long time at significant events. Talking about the same kind of lists all the time… it just can get boring. It’s also boring for players too. It can undoubtedly suck to play against the same kind of lists over and over again. Even the players who are winning can get bored; it’s not unheard of to see the meta shift just because players stop playing their winning lists after a while. Once you start to look beyond the meta, there is a whole ton of new things to talk about.
Buck The Meta
If you are a competitive player sometimes the very best thing you can do is to try to buck the meta. Sadly we live in the age of net-listing, where top preforming lists are copied again and again by players. Often this doesn’t work out for players, copying the best list doesn’t make you a great player, and if you don’t know how the list works, you can still lose. Still, top players are often using lists they aren’t invested in and might not even have come up with.
This isn’t a super new trend – Adam did an article about famous net-lists of the past, but it is a persistent one. You have to look no further than the 2018 LVO in which two almost identical armies vied for first place, and the winning list had the following disclaimer:
This was ultimately a list the player had gotten from someone else, and others had gotten the same list also. This isn’t to say that kind of thing is 100% bad, but it is a sign of people focusing too much on the meta and winning, and not on trying to have fun or bring anything new to the game. As a player, the best thing you can do, in my eyes, is to try to be original. Innovate! Bring something new and different, don’t follow the meta, buck it, change it, define it in your way. If more players did this, we’d have a much more dynamic and fun meta. The players I respect most are those that can come up with an original list and do well.
Final Thoughts: Leave Room For Fun
Look the meta is important, no doubt about it, and we will continue to talk about it. At the end of the day however there is more to 40K, and to playing, than the meta. Having fun with the game is the most important thing, and it’s important to leave room for it. Some players will talk about how you can refine your lists, taking out things you want and keeping things you need. But man, this is a game. Take what you want. Always leave some room for a fun unit or combo. Look beyond the meta and try new things. Don’t get so bogged down in whats good or meta relevant that you forget to enjoy yourself.
The next time you build a list, take that one thing that YOU love regardless of what the meta thinks about it. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Let us know what “bad” unit you think is the most fun, down in the comments!