Not What You Play, but Who You Play
I have played Warmachine in three different metas, each over 1,000 miles from the others. One thing that has stuck out to me is how differently each group of players approaches the game. My first meta, the group of guys I would play against weekly, only had a few players interested in tournament play. We struggled to get sizable tournaments going and often had to travel; our practice was often against the same factions. My second meta was larger, but seemed less interested in competition. In Dallas and Fort Worth where I am now, we've got a very large group spread out over the two cities with frequent, well-attended tournaments and a big focus on competition. And in each place, I've had to play a little differently.
Adjust to What You See
I made great friends in each group, but the game I play has been very different in each area. Obviously some of that is affected by new releases and errata (playing Legion into Menoth without access to a Naga was pretty tricky for a new player), but the people I played against also shaped my lists. Arriving in DFW, I started looking into playing eVyros, but quickly discovered that there was another Retribution player here who had been running him very well for some time. I got my face stomped in quickly by players who were used to seeing Nick's much more experienced eVyros.
Now, I could have kept at it and gotten better and learned how to play Vyros from all these opponents who knew the list better than I did. I still intend to. But I have a strong case of SUSS (Special Unique Snowflake Syndrome) in me that surfaced and demanded that I find new, creative ways to win without Vyros.
Coming in from a Different Angle
I started playing Rahn. A lot of Rahn. I went to tournaments and only played Rahn. But I also played him very differently than the other Retribution players in my area. Instead of Hyperion, Imperatus, or Halberdiers, I went with Mage Hunter Strike Force, Stormfall Archers, and Ghost Snipers. I fell in love with the list and found some success in running something the other players here weren't used to. It forced innovation into a new style of play that caught some people off guard and helped me see cool synergies. Now, after a year of honing that same list, I'm leaving it on the shelf while I work on Issyria and Thyron. Those lists will change my Rahn list as I continue to adapt to the matchups I see.
Fight for Your Tribe
Analyzing your local meta and building lists to face the problems you know you'll see is a good way to start climbing and seeing success. It also is fairly obvious that you don't need a Cryx answer if there are no Cryx players coming to tournaments (does such a place exist?) But eventually, it comes time to represent your club at someone else's tournament, like a tribal warrior challenging the greatest fighters of a rival pack. This is often where you can learn the most. First time against pSkarre 30 Banes? Hope your tailored lists can handle that. Never seen a Rask before? Turns out, Minions do have good stuff! Confused by why that eLylyth list doesn't have any Ravagores? You'll soon discover that his list was custom built to counter your style of tricks.
Fighting these different styles shows you where your lists are weak, win or lose. This is a vital part of getting better at Warmachine. Build, play, adapt. It's an addictive pattern of evolution and improvement, and one of my favorite parts of the game.