What even is the "Meta" game? For those of you who are new to Eve Online, or perhaps even some older veterans, whenever you hear someone say the words "meta game" your eyes may gloss over. What are they even talking about? Let me help clear this up rather easily for you - the meta game is essentially anything that happens outside of the actual game. Rixx banging on drums for a decade about a WCS ban, only to finally get them dealt with the same week he announces his run for CSM? Meta game. Talking to your enemy at an event? Meta game. Posting on r/eve? Possibly meta game, depends on how terrible your posting is. Cutting the internet of an enemy player who flies a Titan? Now, that is criminal. And also very meta.
Now because we only have so many words in the English language to describe things, when it comes to the AT there is actually two meanings on the word meta. There is the meaning above, spying on teams practicing on SiSi or TD, watching practice videos, listening in on conversations on Discord, and generally keeping your eyes open and listening. Perhaps even throwing a public match during the Opens, so people will underestimate your team during the real tournament? Perhaps. (Who could be that devious!?!) But there is also a second meaning, and one that has even more implications as the tournament starts and moves on thru the matches.
In this case "meta" refers to the overarching themes in the types of compositions that teams are bringing. A careful study of the AT as it progresses will reveal common themes in ship choices, fittings, tactics, and strategies - this theme is what we mean when we say the meta is changing. Keeping up with this ever evolving and rapidly changing meta is one of the biggest challenges that face your team as you move forward in the tournament. Getting behind can result in horrific loss. Staying ahead, even slightly, can give you that edge you might need to move forward another match.
Predicting the meta ahead of time is difficult and all teams are rushing to decode the mystery. We do this by carefully studying the rules and points assigned to certain ships, certain types of bans, especially new ones, and the ever changing general rule set that Eve operates on. Ships don't remain the same year over year and neither do the rules regarding the AT. Putting those pieces together is one of the sure keys to victory and something I don't believe good teams get enough credit for. Believe me, those of us who take this annual brain bashing event seriously, appreciate the moments when someone gets it right. I know I do.
And while you are watching the tournament there is one aspect to the meta game that you can actually see before each match.
Before each match you will see a list of ships that have been banned from the match you are watching. These bans are given before a match with the help of a GM who contacts each team and they are given one at a time between the two teams. This is a very critical moment and a huge part of the meta game each team has to play. This is psychological warfare, pure and simple.
In the simplest terms bans are intended to give each team an opportunity to eliminate a certain number of ships from contention. You generally have an idea of which composition you want to fly, or several choices, and you want to eliminate ships that you wouldn't want that composition to face. Cap sensitive ships? Maybe you ban the Geddon. Using Marauders? Maybe ban the Blackbird. But that is just the simple way of looking at ship bans. Remember, you are taking turns here. So if the enemy team sees that you've banned the Geddon, they are probably going to guess your comp is cap sensitive. Ban certain types of logi, and they may just guess your comp is going to be shields. And lean heavily into missile guidance disruption. If you aren't careful you can tip your hand and actually give the enemy intel on your decision making process.
And this mini-game doesn't end there. In fact, many people consider throwing bans as an art form. Often to the point that it should all be made up, in order to give nothing away. If you look at the bans and wonder why someone would waste a ban on the Bantam, now you have your answer. It is all an eloquent ruse to mess the enemy team up. To give them nothing upon which to make assumptions.
So much of each match is already decided before the teams even land in the arena. In part three I'll take a look at what happens inside that arena during the match and why the commenters talk the way they do during each match.