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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.

Note that a person who's well-versed in the metagame may ironically be unskilled against people with no knowledge of the game at all. For example, in a game where both players use motion techniques on a joystick and buttons, a player which just mashes the stick randomly and presses buttons every once in a while against an expert player could cause the expert player to lose an abnormally high number of matches to a complete beginner (and become extremely frustrated, asking the other player to "play properly"). A poker player who always go "all-in" without looking at his hole cards would be an extremely dangerous opponent to even the most adept professional poker player due to the inability to have a good read on the opponent's behavior. In Games where you can tailor your cards/assets (such as wargaming and trading card games) a newbie could very well bring units for every situation, whereas professionals would bring hard counters against specific threats in the metagame, unwittingly handicapping himself when his assets eliminate the small portion of cards/units in the newbie's possession that they're good against, and faced with the reality that there is simply nothing else he can do afterwards.

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.

It should probably be noted that the term "metagame" is also used pejoratively when it comes to Tabletop Games and other roleplaying games that expect players not to jump In and Out of Character. Here, using The Metagame is often considered somewhat akin to cheating, since it's information that the player's character couldn't possibly know (since the character doesn't know he's in a game), and shouldn't be making use of.

The Stop Having Fun Guy attempts to enforce his own metagame on the other players.

This can also get very annoying to people who're new, coming across as a Guide Dang It.

Not to be confused with the novel of the same name. See also Talking Through Technique, when the Metagame is used to communicate without words. Compare Metaplot. Usually results in Gameplay Derailment. AI Breaker is a subtrope.

Examples of Metagame include:


Board Games

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Rock Paper Scissors, most people throw Rock, unless they expect that you expect them to throw Rock. Also, players tend to throw the same move repeatedly.
    • 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.
  • The Metagame of tic-tac-toe means that it is virtually unplayable for any two people with even casual experience of it (or, to put it another way, the only winning move is not to play).


Card Games

  • 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 Metagame, 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).
  • 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. [1]
  • 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.


Live Action TV

  • 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.
  • 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.


Reality TV

  • 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 Jerkass 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.
  • History's Top Shot is starting to develop one, notably in Season 2 it came out that four contestants decided at the beginning of the season who would win AND WERE RIGHT. While remaining totally within the rules.
    • Oh, and Jake in Season three tries to DQ a teammate he considers a long-term threat by trying to provoke him into a fight, thus instantly DQing him.
  • Big Brother US:
    • 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.


Sports

  • 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 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.
  • Mixed Martial Arts has this trope in spades. 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.
    • Adding to the metagame is the issue of marketability. Fighters are very conscious about the fact that casual fans enjoy brawls and knockouts much more easily than a methodical match won by careful grappling. It's why Chuck Liddell transformed himself into a knockout artist despite being a wrestler primarily (his excellent wrestling being part of the metagame in that it allowed him to commit fully to strikes with minimal worry about a takedown), and why fighters like brazilian jujitsu black belt Jorge Gurgel will choose to "stand and bang" rather than playing to their strengths.


Tabletop Games

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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!
  • A particularly disliked variant in Dungeons and 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.
    • One thing to note, however, is that the metagame is more static in WH40K because of the extreme cost of building a new army to handle the current flavor of the month. As Space Marines are always, forever, going to be top-tier even if they're not the very top, it's usually cheaper to make a solid Marine army than to have figures for every possible codex and change them up depending on the metagame.
      • 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 wating in, with their armies relying entirely on Gimmicks, which tend to screw over Grey Knights.
  • 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.


Video Games

  • The Starcraft Metagame is about as evolved as Metagame gets. The Metagame has gotten so intricate that good players can tell exactly where the other player's base is simply by how long it takes for an enemy scouting unit to find them. The presence or absence of gas production buildings at certain points in the game can reveal volumes about a player's strategy. And of course, feigning one tactic and going for another can have devastating Metagame consequences.
    • 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.
  • 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 WoW PvE, 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.
  • League of Legends. It changes all the time from new patches and characters being released. If you have never played the game before (or in a long while), you will need to ask for help from other players to figure it out.
  • 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 Metagame 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 epic heists and scams are not only allowed, but one of the main selling points, this is to be expected. How Serious Business 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.
  • One of the issues that "higher-level" Defense of the Ancients 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.
  • The free MMORPG 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: Metagame 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.
  • 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
  • Pokémon, 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.
      • Indeed, Pokemon's primary competitive play site has extensive writeups on every fully-evolved 'mon and then some, including the ones that are not useful at all.
      • 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.
        • This troper, has been a victim of that. On the other hand, it doesn't mean those who are termed "Karenfags" (a reference to a quote by Karen of the Elite Four that powerful and weak are bad concepts in Pokemon battling) like myself can't metagame right back at them. Remember, just because pokemon has a Broken Base doesn't mean you should belittle someone with a different viewpoint, they can and WILL bite back.
  • 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, balanced, and well-defined metagame (not that you'd know it from player opinion). The usual decks used are Tiatlapreds, Wall-stalls, Reaperspam, II rush, Pummeller/Bloodpool, and Xeno slowroll, all of which interact with each other in complex ways.


Webcomics

  • The idea of the metagame is sent up in this webcomic.
  • And this Irregular Webcomic strip, in which the Nigerian Finance Minister confuses metagaming with Just Plain Cheating.
  • Full Frontal Nerdity often revolves around the three Munchkin players metagaming all the DM's adventures into oblivion, like this!
  • Julie tends to metagame sometimes in the D&D webcomic Our Little Adventure. The comic itself has handwaved this as one of Julie's bardic powers, but Rocky has warned her about it a couple of times.
  • 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).


Web Original

  • Nation States 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.


Real Life

  • 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, though public opinion tends to be divided when word gets out.
  • Participants in group simulations can metagame but as with the military example doing so may annoy the organizers as it may invalidate any data they are trying to gather.

Notes

  1. 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.
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