“Meta” has a rather abstract meaning. The way I understand it, in the context of a video game it refers to the body of knowledge, the understanding of the game at a given point in time. In more concrete terms, people usually use it to refer to some aspect that is/was fairly significant: it could be a strategy/tactic, an item, a character, a game mechanic, etc.
For example, starting around the beginning of June 2016, Puzzle and Dragons (PAD) entered the age of the “heart cross meta”, which lasted until the end of 2016. At its peak in mid-October, we can see thanks to Setsu’s JP aggregate leader tier list that 3 of the top 3, 6 of the top 7, and 10 of the top 14 leaders in the game were based on the heart cross mechanic*.
*Clearing a formation of heart orbs reduced damage taken for the turn, while also spiking attack.
I think it was unhealthy for the game that virtually every top leader in the game was played about the same way. I’ve thought for a while that PAD seemed to be on the decline–while I’m not sure the heart cross meta caused it, it certainly did not help things.
Summer Zooey was released in August 2016, and I wrote a piece about her that I feel kind of embarrassed reading about now. I severely underestimated just how overpowered she was. It could be said that Granblue Fantasy (GBF) entered the age of the “Summer Zooey meta”.
In short, a person with a proper Hades build and Summer Zooey is nigh impossible to beat when it comes to raw damage. Any enmity based grid and Summer Zooey is a lethal combo. She enables various gimmicks like soloing Yggdrasil magna in 1 turn (no Strike Time needed), and beating all sorts of content in very few turns.
Because Cygames refuses to nerf her, they’ve had to find ways to limit her effectiveness like “nerfing” Dark Sarunan (first by implementing an honors cap in raids, later putting in a soft damage cap of 10 million on any single skill) and introducing elemental resistance to higher-level quests and bosses. This didn’t seem to dissuade people, so elemental resistance is being cranked up to eleven in various newer content, such as the Xeno Clash events, Primarch Trials, and future Unite and Fight (Guild War) events.
While this might deter people from using their Hades/Summer Zooey teams for all newer content, it has the unintended side effect of making the content really hard for everyone else who isn’t playing the “right” element. And that is how we entered what people are now calling the “rainbow meta”.
The Rainbow Meta
Simply put, the “rainbow meta” refers to the concept of having strong teams/weapon pools for every single element: fire, water, earth, wind, light, dark. One does not have a main element; or rather one’s main element is every element. This allows a player to bring an “on element” team–one that has elemental advantage against the enemy/enemies–to every raid or quest.
Frankly speaking, every rank 150+ player should have fairly decent weapon pools for every element. In order to advance past the rank 150 cap, one has to beat a quest called “Whispers of the Stars”, which are six battles in total against super-powered versions of the showdown bosses (Ifrit, Cocytus, Sagittarius, Vohu Manah, Corow, and Diablo). While it’s possible to defeat a boss by playing a team without elemental advantage, it’s a lot more troublesome that way. I think it’s pretty unlikely to find rank 150+ players who don’t have decent weapon pools for at least five elements.
At any rate, the game is being forced in the rainbow meta direction for newer content to hinder the people who play only one element (generally dark or light) and ignore the other elements. To be honest, it was amusing to see people rage about Xeno Ifrit Clash, even though I was one of the people badly affected by it due to my complete lack of a water pool.
Frankly, I think the rainbow meta is kinda bad. I feel that this is a consequence to a problem (Summer Zooey) that was left unchecked. Cygames should’ve found a way to nerf her early after release, instead of punishing the entire player base for their blunder. Beginning to intermediate players should focus mainly on building one element before they branch out to others, and so there will be content that they are soft locked out of. I think this is bad for casual players, who may not have the time to develop six weapon pools. Or if they do, all the pools will be mediocre. There’s also the issue that free-to-play players may be lacking good characters for several elements.
But yeah. To newer players, I say you should not worry too much about it. You aren’t expected to contribute a lot during Unite and Fight events, and the Xeno Clash events are geared for advanced players anyway. Developing Seraphic weapons could be an issue, but at least they’re usable even in their most basic forms. Keep working on a primary weapon pool until it’s at least fully 3*, and then maybe consider branching out then.
I think the people most badly affected by the rainbow meta are in the rank 120~150 region. People usually have one really good weapon pool at that point, and maybe several other decent pools. They were reasonably strong enough to do well in any content with their main team, before elemental resistance got added to stuff. Suddenly, they hit a wall and are are now scrambling to develop multiple pools at once. They get stressed and burned out. Well, at least I saw an example yesterday, when the now ex-captain of my crew passed the position on to someone else, and decided to try to sell off their account. From my perspective it was all pretty sudden, but I guess at some point they felt like GBF was too much of a chore, and they weren’t having enough fun.
I won’t lie. It’s frustrating to me that I have only one decent pool (dark), three so-so pools (wind, light, fire kinda), and two that have gone nowhere (water, earth). But something that I accept is that you cannot force the game. If you really want to finish a water pool in one week, there’s nothing you can do if the game won’t cooperate. Or if you somehow manage to pull it off, the stress drives you crazy. You have to have a lot of patience for GBF, and be secure in the knowledge that eventually, your efforts will bear fruit.