Turning the corner from the unending hellscape that was 2020 we have entered 2021, a fresh unending hellscape with new nightmares waiting for us. But hey, at least we have TTS League Season 4?
Joking aside, I’ve been waiting for roster submission for Season 4 for what feels like months at this point. Hired Muscle hysteria has been sweeping the meta and we’ve had limited options to formally put it to the test. Admittedly, from the single day events reported it seems that players generally opt to “gentleman’s agreement” out of playing the Hired Muscle game unless both players are on board so thankfully newer players should be insulated from the worst case scenario. Still, the Season 4 roster submission is a new opportunity to take another snapshot of the meta to try and glean some “hot vs not” in the current state of the game. If you want a comprehensive breakdown I highly recommend Xavier Protocols Jacob’s breakdown article here:
This is going to be going a bit less into the numbers and more talk about some particular pieces of data from a high level to glean the implications. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
5. Aussies Are Fucking Weirdos
Not to go ham on my upside-down bretheren, but they continue to have a VERY different take from Europe/NA. Wakanda, Avengers, both double the representation anywhere else, Asgard 50% more representation proportionally than any other region. Climbing Gear is virtually nonexistent as well. A lot of characters/tactics taken reflect these differences, being wildly higher or lower than other regions.
The meta that has developed somewhat divergently in Oceania fascinates me. It shows strong representation of tools in the game that bypass dice – Dashgard tries to win without throwing a punch, Wakanda cares more about the guaranteed push triggers than doing damage often, and Avengers have a lot of power budget in Avengers Assemble and Cap’s Leadership, both of which reliably happen without variance. The main outlier to this thesis in my eyes is the large under-representation of Criminal Syndicate – Kingpin’s leadership allows for consistent scenario pressure and can often feel Wakanda-esque in its scenario focus. On top of that I’ve found that Shadow Organization is an absolute hard counter to Shuri and WW in general, locking them out of fighting for the middle round 2 and ideally by round 3 Syndicate should be enough ahead on attrition that they just walk it down from there.
That said, just because a meta is different in no way means its “wrong”. As someone who has been playing tabletop games for almost 20 years now (god I feel old saying that, I’m not even 30!), local metas tend to have high variance in representation. Hell, depending on the size of your meta, you might not even physically have the players to have a dedicated player for each affiliation. The most competitive players will pick something that feels right to them, and then the rest of the local meta tends to fall into line with whatever responds well to what the “Taste Makers” have gone with. And in the context of local play its 100% correct to optimize against the local top dogs. OCE meta favored son Morgan Reid had MASSIVE success throughout season 3 with Black Order, an affiliation everyone had written off due to difficulty to pilot, and in the end he went down to Wakanda in the finals in an absolute barn burner of a game. And according to the overall numbers, Wakanda is barely in the top half of affiliations by representation, Black Order is the third least popular. So to everyone I say take a lesson from our Australian brethren and let your freak flag fly!
4. West is the Only Bracket to Shrink
This isn’t a surprise but its something I wanted to address. Season 3 West Bracket had ~36 players, now its down to 24. Realistically this has a few contributing factors. First and foremost, the secession of Oceania hit West hard. For previous seasons Aussies played in West, Central, East based on which fit their schedule best and a lot of them decided West fit best. So, naturally when they finally get a dedicated bracket it would hurt West’s numbers. Additionally, I know a LOT of MST situated players who found the CST time zone fit better to their schedule than PST. But still, this is something I’m going to be focusing on personally in the coming months in preparation for season 5. As a proud Californian I want the West bracket to be big and healthy, not only to flex on the other time zones that I see as inferior but also so there is a healthy tabletop scene for traveling to events after this apocalypse. I played a LOT of Warmachine at conventions all over the US but traveling over the Rockies is such a massive pain in the ass that its definitely in my interests to try and bump numbers up and down the coast.
To that end I’m super happy Fingerguns has taken over for me as West Bracket admin starting with this season. Try as I might with promotion and gladhanding I was struggling to onboard players into the TTS League, and as a strong fixture of the SoCal MCP scene for a while now I am confident he will be able to build participation in ways I could not.
I also want to put some extra effort into putting a spotlight on less well known local metas in my content – people knowing there’s a regular playgroup in say, Santa Clara might encourage them to reach out and participate, and that’s good for everyone. If you’re from a small local meta trying to get it going and have a fun roster to talk about, hit me up about coming on Roster Doctor either through email (email@example.com) or Discord/Facebook as you see me.
3. I am the Only One Running Psychic Shielding Device, and that is Wrong
I expected Psychic Shielding Device to be an undervalued gem in this league but I didn’t expect to be THE ONLY PLAYER OUT OF ALL 168 PARTICIPANTS TO TAKE IT.
For those of you who haven’t read Psychic Shielding Device Before, here you go:
The bonus dice versus mystic is whatever, but the real important bit is the clause that says you can’t be advanced or pushed by enemy superpowers. You know what INCREDIBLY common team right now is virtually always taking two superpowers to move enemies? Asgard. And on top of that a lot of M.O.D.O.K. teams built in the style of earlier seasons have Enchantress for the second bow effect (she’s almost straight up a miniature M.O.D.O.K. if you go down her kit). Hell, I literally played a M.O.D.O.K. mirror match last night where both sides had Enchantress too.
Admittedly, if this was played in the Power Phase like Shadow Organization or Blind Obsession it would be a much better tech piece to block your opponent w/ prio but in games you feel able to slow down, this can be absolutely brutal for locking your pieces in place. Seriously, give this a try when you get a chance, even at 1 power it can hold a flank together as M.O.D.O.K. or Enchantress or even Mind Gem Loki try to pull you apart / line up a beam.
2. Yep, Hired Muscle is Really Really Good
In a stunning move that surprised no one, Hired Muscle is the most popular non-restricted Tactics card full stop. It’s also more popular than half the restricted cards anyways. Almost 50% adoption across the entire league, with West dragging it just below with a very care-bear stance at 29% adoption.
I’m not going to go super deep into the ins and outs of Hired Muscle as its been covered everywhere relentlessly, but it has had incredibly high winrates when played and can be a severe Negative Play Experience for players who understand what it’s trying to do and how to stop it. I’m expecting high winrates to continue and would not be surprised if every player in the top cut is running it. Be aware of it, be aware of how to deal with it, and above all else win the roll for priority.
1. A-Force is Getting Slept On
I am quite honestly gobsmacked at how low A-Force’s representation is in Season 4. At 13% adoption between all brackets, it finds itself tied for 7th/8th, perfectly in the middle of the standings.
But despite being in the middle of the standings in terms of popularity, their constituent parts are not. The top 5 all bracket most popular characters are as follows (in order): Valkyrie, Okoye, Angela, Enchantress, Shuri. Notice something in common there? 4 out of the 5 are A-force. Now, admittedly Valkyrie and Angela are having their numbers boosted by strong Asgard representation this league, but still – why isn’t A-Force being taken more if the top characters according to the wisdom of the crowd are all A-Force?
If I were to hazard a guess, this comes down to lack of testing time. She-hulk and Angela/Enchantress didn’t come out until 4 days ago, and we’ve only known She-Hulk’s cards for a couple weeks at this point. Unless people were proxy testing its unlikely anyone has more than a ~half dozen games or so with them at this point, and with obvious meta threats like Brotherhood, Criminal Syndicate, Asgard, people might have turned back to the familiar. This might also have been reinforced by the fact that A-Force has a high tactics card tax. Everyone knows Special Delivery:
But pretty much every card in She-Hulk’s box is a banger. Stalwart Determination is 1 power/character to basically stop Wakanda Wave in its tracks for a round. And A-Force Assemble can be a brutal attrition piece to build a castle in the middle of the board for C and E secure crises. So in addition to fear of the unknown, I wouldn’t be surprised if the high tactics tax also turned people off of locking in the Defenders of Arcadia for the first 3 weeks of the league. That said, I expect their stock to rise in the second half of the league barring a meta shift from Inhumans.
That’s It For Now
These are my 5 quick takes from the start of Season 4, it’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out in the end. If you think there are trends in the data that people are not talking about enough, let me know in the comments below! But until then, it’s back to fixing Assemble for PC bugs.