One of the most beautiful things, (in my eyes, at least), is the intricate dance the strategies and build orders take around the current Metagame. The Metagame is a very misunderstood concept. The term itself is one of the most misused in the entire game.
What is the Metagame?
The Metagame is the concept of shifting strategies based upon whats popular at the time. For instance:
Somewhat recently, hidden Marine move outs became very popular in early game TvP. With Protoss often times controlling watch towers with their single Stalker, and making Sentries at home to begin collecting energy, the Marines would dodge areas Protoss could easily see them, and attack into the Natural base, taking down Probes and Sentries alike. This was a metagame move. In response, some Protoss players started making 2 Stalkers right away, and added in new scout patterns to cover the previously unscouted areas which these Marines frequented. This, too, is a metagame move. Neither are necessarily “optimal”, but in the current states of play in which they were introduced, they were very intelligent and useful. As the Marine move outs have been working less and less due to the double Stalker scouting, the move outs have become less common already.
SO. That is a reasonable example of what the Metagame is. There are a lot more, and they aren’t always exactly like that. Some are even more specific, some are very broad and open.
The Metagame is continuous, and varied.
The Metagame is not the same everywhere. Each and every region has its own Metagame. Korea, China, NA, and Europe, for certain, each have their own Metagame. Sometimes these Metagames can line up with each other. They most often line up after a huge tournament (normally in Korea). If a player in one of the absolute top leagues displays something totally awesome, it can immediately effect all the servers at once. During drier periods where nothing super ground breaking is occurring, the Metagames diverge again. Sometimes an “inferior” Metagame can work very well against a super thought out (normally, Korea), Metagame. In theory, the Korean Metagame is the “smartest”, as they play the most games, have the most skilled players, and the best mechanics. This doesn’t always matter though. Heavy metagaming can bring into play the “Tactical Wheel”, where being too far ahead of the curve hurts you, just as being a little bit behind can hurt you. You may have seen an angry progamer say something to the effect of “you only beat me because you’re bad.” Quite often the true meaning of a statement like this is that the winning player didn’t know or understand (or even ignored) the current trends on what is smart/good/etc, and the losing player, who kept up and did his or her homework, was too far ahead, and thus unprepared for something which was “stupid”.
I also said the Metagame is continuous. The further back, and more you know, can greatly help your understanding of what’s going on in a world where everyone’s on top of things. An example as to what I mean here:
I personally rip a huge amount of professional build orders off of VODs, right after they are played. Within about 3 days, I assume that the build is slightly dated, and there are better versions out, to combat the counters people are coming up with for the specific style or build which I’m using.
The beautiful moments.
There are some awesome moments of pure brilliance that having a current and up-to-date understanding of the metagame can help you to experience. Of course, now that I’ve chosen to finally sit down and write this article, specific examples are hard to come by in my brain. Ah, ok, here’s one. Not the absolute best, but here it goes:
Rain vs MVP, game 5 of the GSL round of 4, on Cloud Kingdom. Earlier in the tournament, Rain used a super fast and efficient 1 Gateway DT expand build (vs TaeJa, iirc). Pure beauty, that game. But that’s a story for another time. Anyways, currently in PvT, there are a handful of standard openings after your expansion:
3 Gates + 1 Robo
Twilight + Forge
Triple Nexus into 8 Gates
6 Gateway rush
Of course, 3 Gates + 1 Robo is by far the most popular and stable. It’s also the one that Rain uses the most, by far. Another thing to mention is that Rain almost every game gets at least 2 Stalkers out early (for scouting denial, as well as safety vs early pressure). So, Rain took all of this information, which he knows MVP knows, and devises a new strategy. With multiple Stalkers, he stops all possible intel MVP can get with SCVs. He likes his DT build, but knows that MVP has studied his recent games, and will know that build if he does it again. So he goes for a modified build, making 3 Gateways and a Robotics with it. The DTs are slower, and the Gateways/Robotics are not used optimally. Rain purposefully did an inefficient build, based upon him knowing that MVP is really smart, saw his build, and will want to know if he’s doing that. When MVP scanned, he saw the 3 Gateways and the Robo. Amazingly done, an awesome moment this season.
"Hey Artosis, I have infinity free time, and don’t ever, EVER get bored of StarCraft. How can I play catchup and have a deeper understanding of the current Metagame?"
Wow! I’m glad you asked! Sometimes I’m on the road for more than a week at a time. When I’m on the road that long, I lose track of the Metagame somewhat, and have to play catch-up when I get back to keep up to date enough both to play and to commentate at the level I feel appropriate. So then I sit down and watch every game (in the order they were played — that part is super super important!) ((oh, and don’t forget to only take the games from one region! don’t mix Europe and Korea, or USA and China. Choose one!)), and take notes. Instead of explain exactly what I look for, I’ve uploaded a couple of pages out of my notebook which followed my most recent extended trip abroad. I like to watch them in pretty rapid succession, so any games I find really interesting that I want to watch again or rip builds from, I put a star next to.
The end for now.
There is so much more I could write about metagame stuff. Its even more than I made it out to be, but really impossible to explain fully for me at the moment. Its a really interesting topic, and I hope I’ve been clear enough for you to enjoy!
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