In contrast to my last post (which was a hybrid monstrosity of critiquing Privateer Press, reviewing Durant2 and redesigning Durant2), this post is going to be largely positive. Its also about Una2 (and meta-benders in general), so bear with me.
What is a “meta-bender”? Put simply, a meta-bender is a release that causes established meta to shift. A “meta” (actually M.E.T.A.) is “most effective tactic available”. Its slang that has grown to describe the common game environment in which we theory-machine/compete in.
Humans are extremely efficient problem solvers (read: lazy). Once we find a solution to a problem, we’re unlikely to change that solution unless something else changes. One of the desired results of playing and participating in a game is to win and because humans are lazy, we’ll gravitate to the path of least resistance. For a tabletop wargame, this results in the development of the “meta gamestate”. While a meta is not an inherently bad thing to have in a game, it is quite easy for a meta to become toxic and stale.
After the initial release frenzy had died down, mkIII Warmachine settled into a fairly stale meta with surprising speed. Competitive players brought two archetypes of lists to tournaments, gunlines and armor spam (there were a few outliers here, but the majority were gunlines or armor spam). The online communities, the groups of people looking for their meta solution to Warmachine (i.e. a win with the least possibility of loss), latched onto the competitive meta. In factions where the models no longer supported the meta, morale plummeted and positivity vanished (hi Cryx players!). It turns out that thinking is hard and complaining is easy (6 months in people are starting to discover that Cryx has some pretty potent game, but I digress). What was most shocking to me is exactly how quickly the meta crystallized. Any discussion with players basically got the same answers and nobody wanted to try new things. Partially this is on PP, as I’ve mentioned previously the first two waves of Warcasters were incredibly bland, timid in scope and uninspired (I understand their timidity and I’m not advocating that it was unreasonable, I’m just saying that the first 6 months of mkIII didn’t live up to the hype). Basically, by not releasing powerful, dynamic casters that force people to think about the meta, PP doomed the meta to its state of rapid stagnation.
Now we have Una the Skyhunter. A Circle warlock that does a fairly specific thing very well (which is running light warbeasts into an army and murdering everything dead) that is completely outside the scope of the current meta (gunlines and armor spam), she forces the meta to change (to gunlines, armor spam and Una2 counters). As players adjust their two list pairs, it causes new thoughts and ideas to occur. Because of these new thoughts and ideas, lists change even more and new strategies form. The meta warps irrevocably and we have a completely new environment to play in!
This is why I like Una2 and meta-benders in general. They represent new problems on the table, new puzzles to solve and new tactics to emerge. All of these things are signs of a healthy game (and it makes things far more interesting than any of the battle box casters or junior 2s have). So good on PP for releasing Una2, I look forward to more meta-benders and more puzzles in the future!
Afternote: I’m aware that Una2 is the last caster in the junior release cycle, she’s just so starkly different from the rest of them that she might as well be her own release cycle.