Adjusting to a New Meta

Whether you are preparing for an upcoming tournament or just your locals, it can be tough to adjust to a new meta. New cards bring about change at every level, and it can often be difficult to extract useful data out of the sea of information. You will hear some players say a card is a new staple, while others think it isn’t playable at all. Old combos that weren’t strong enough can suddenly become relevant, and some people will struggle to make things they’ve been doing for months continue to work. In this article we are going to take a look at what exactly changes with a new meta, some basic analytics you can do to gather useful data, and how to convert that knowledge into success.

The Big Questions

Gathering information is the first step of any informed decision. How are you going to build a winning deck if you don’t know which cards to use? In a general sense, most players can tell if a card has potential or will end up being proxy fodder. When faced with a sea of new cards, the best way to know what you should be looking at more closely is to ask yourself a series of questions that put the new cards into perspective. Some of these questions are:

  • Are there new obvious powerful forwards in this set?
  • Are there new characters that activate old Special Abilities?
  • Are there new Special Abilities activated by old characters?
  • Are there new ways to generate card advantage?
  • Are there new cards for old archetypes? (Knights, Chocobos, Title decks, etc.)
  • Are there new mechanics we haven’t seen before?
  • Are there new ways to search for cards?
  • Are there new ways to reset or “wipe” the board?
  • Are there new cheap removal cards?

Some questions can be aimed more at what a deck is trying to do and less at specific cards. How fast can aggro decks go in the new meta? Are there powerful new control effects that didn’t exist before? If this all sounds familiar, it’s because players have been using similar questions for years in other TCG’s to help them filter a massive amount of information in a small amount of time as efficiently as possible.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Of course, the real difficulty comes from comparing new playable cards and ideas to old ones. Sometimes a card that you’ve been using to your advantage for a long time is simply outclassed by something else. Players who were opting to play Seven (3-057R) specifically to use her special ability to cancel a powerful auto ability can now find a simpler, more consistent answer in the new legend card Y’shtola (5-068L). However even that example isn’t black-and-white. In a type-0 deck, Seven still fulfills an important role. Being one of the few cards in the game with the capability of cancelling an auto ability, some players might find Y'shtola so powerful they splash wind just to access her.

Sometimes something new is so powerful that it revives an entire style of deck, or breathes new life into an old combo. Ramza (5-118L) is powerful in mono lightning or Job [Knight] themed decks. Phoenix (5-019L) opens the door for dozens of combos.

Legends aren't the only cards that change things up, commons and uncommons can make a big splash too. Take Chocobo Knight (5-061C) for example, which can create an insane amount of value if left on the board (and give Chocobos some much-needed support!) Monsters like Buccaboo (5-046R) and Bunkerbeast (5-110C) have already found homes in mono-type lists. Powerful summons like Mateus (5-044C) help elements cover their weaknesses by giving them access to new kinds of removal.

Four more cards you are sure to see people building around are the four new job [Warrior of Light] Final Fantasy 3 forwards. Each card gives forwards in its respective element +1000 power, as well as having a powerful action ability that requires other characters of the same element. While these cards seem obvious in mono earth, fire, water and wind decks, they also have the ability to buff each other making a rainbow Warrior of Light deck much more viable. Cards from older sets with the job [Warrior of Light] benefit immensely from these new cards. This isn't the only example of new cards that make old cards more powerful, but sometimes new cards can have the exact opposite effect.

The Tough Decisions

I recently cut Tidus (1-163L) from my mono water list. As i was thinking about taking him out, my mind was filled with the countless times I'd used Blitz Ace to win a game, come back from behind, or threaten a huge response. Tidus used to be one of the biggest forwards on my side of the field, with +1000 power for each forward on my side of the board. However, especially since Opus 5 has come out I feel like there are a lot more ways for my opponents to easily increase their power in a deck. With cards like Wol (5-075L) and the aforementioned elemental boosting forwards, decks are starting to push their forwards over 9 and 10k regularly. At 4 cost, my Tidus feels severely outmatched unless I have 4+ forwards on my side of the field, and at that point Blitz Ace feels like a "win-more" move.

As bad as cutting Tidus felt at first though, I was able to add powerful new cards like Porom (5-135L) and Cloud of Darkness (5-126L). These cards have already won me games, and feel more impactful in my list than Tidus did. At first the change was difficult to make, and seemed like a bad decision based on my past experiences; yet the more games I play with the new list the less I miss my Blitz Ace plays. This isn't to say Tidus is obsolete, he is still incredibly powerful in the right deck. He just is no longer the best fit for the style of my mono-water deck in Opus 5. There may be cards that have brought you success time and time again that are keeping your deck in the past. Get with the times!

When in doubt, there is no substitute for practice. When you make a big change, always play a few games with it and see how it feels before deciding to make another. Don't be afraid to edit old decks, build something completely new, or be inspired by an idea you see someone else trying. Remember that it often takes many weeks and multiple tournaments before players stumble onto the most dominant decks of any given format. Shortly after a new set is released, it is often better to play something close to what you're already familiar with rather than add an entire deck's worth of new variables. As it gets easier to assign value to new cards and combinations, your mind will naturally wander towards powerful interactions you haven't tried yet. Keep brewing up those spicy decklists, and use your analysis of the new meta to level up your game!

by John Schreiner

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