This guide is here to explain the PvP meta for anyone who does not understand what it means.
What is the Metagame?
The metagame is simply what is being run at the time. For example there have been many different forms of Meta, Hex Metas , Blockway, spike metas, etc. During each meta metas different builds become prominent in order to spec/overpower other builds. The metagame arises as a result of this changing of builds in order to gain an advantage, as well as the skills that are currently powerful.
What is the current Metagame?
The current GvG meta revolves around damage compression. Power Creep over the last year in particular has enabled people to fit a large amount of damage into their builds while still maintaining strong defensive abilities, whereas previously people were forced to choose one of the two aspects of a build to focus on. In particular, this has lead to builds such as Rawrspike, which not only carries a huge amount of defense, but can spike regularly with huge amounts of damage mainly because of Turret Rangers. The increased popularity of Ritualists with Protective Was Kaolai and Weapon of Warding, and the resulting loss of a need for monks/emos to carry party heals has made pressuring through spreading damage and spiking low targets harder to achieve without highly specialised builds. Combined with the compression of a teams damage into a smaller number of characters, this has lead to a metagame that revolves largely around adrenaline spikes, which in turn has lead to increased numbers of spike counters such as defensive stances on most of the team. Recently, there has been an increase in the popularity of rainbow spikes such as Omegaspike and BOSS Spike in order to bypass most of the defense carried by the meta builds.
In other formats such as HA, the meta is largely based around heavy pressure, usually achieved with Lingering Curse and Savannah Heat, with builds such as Teaseway and Balanced being the most popular. IWAY has started to make a comeback as a somewhat reliable way to counter Teaseway. Lich Spike is by far the most popular spike build, and is effective against most of the meta builds.
What is meant by a Power Creep?
Power creep is the gradual unbalancing of a game due to successive releases of new content. As new expansions or updates are released, new game mechanics or effects are introduced making it increasingly difficult for older content to remain in balance without changes. Usually, this means new content releases grow successively more powerful (hence "power creep") while older content becomes relatively underpowered. Currently, there is a rather large amount of power creep in the meta due to increases in power older skills to bring them in line with new ones, as opposed to lowering the power of newer skills to be in line with older ones.
GvG Meta Builds
HA Meta Builds
Click here to view a full list of the current meta builds.
How does a Meta change?
Metas are often shifted by skill updates, these updates often nerf skills in the metagame, either forcing them out of the meta, or bringing them in line with alternatives to increase build diversity. Or on the other hand, skills that were not in the meta may get buffed and become a better option over different builds.
Alternatively, the meta may change due to the need to counter the current meta builds arising. Once a way to counter the meta has become popular, it in turn becomes the new meta. A good example of this is the Blinding Surge Elementalist, which while weaker as an anti-melee template than the Fast Cast Water Mesmer, is for the most part unaffected by the powerful hex removals such as Peace and Harmony that have become available, and is able to take both Weapon of Warding and Protective Was Kaolai to help deal with many of the main elements of the current meta builds.
So why are certain builds "Meta"?
Like explained in much of the above, Meta builds are meta because they simply perform best against what is popular (or meta) at the given time, meta builds often abuse the most skills or techniques to stack the odds onto their side.
Build Wars is where certain builds are specced to beat other builds (often meta ones). Build Wars is usually seen during AT's or mAT's where you know who your opponent will be and you will know what their common build is. For example, during many mAT's people have countered specced against Rawrspike by using extra defence (usually with a mid-liner maintaining Vital Weapon on low AL targets or versus Blood Spike, VoR or some forms of AoE damage are used.
Build Wars can occur at even lower forms though, where by simply speccing against a very popular meta build will often lead to victories. For example in HA, a common counter to Teaseway is IWAY where there are too many high AL target to spike down and high amounts of energy-denial. Or by simply take a PnH Support Monk you will be specced against various Hexways (although they are much less common).