So I decided to start out by playing in one of MTGO's recently added features - a competitive league.
It cost 80 play points to enter but even if you get zero wins they give you 10 back so I'm only risking 70 PP, equivalent to $7.
My first game was against this guy: Janez_Veliki, a Magic player with a good track record and also an interest in Chess. His record was absolutely dominant 18 months ago, a really serious player. Yikes.
Game 1 he dropped a Warden of the First Tree and beautifully pumped it at exactly the right times, my attack petered out by about turn 7 leaving me with no cards or boards and him with an 8/8 trampling lifelink creature.
Game 2 I blew a Titan's Strength and a Zurgo Bellstriker killing his Warden but that left him open enough for me to pull out a win. My single Goblin Heelcutter did valuable work that game.
Game 3 I established a strong board and got him down to low life before foolishly forgetting his Shambling Vent. It's a land that can suddenly turn into a lifelinking creature. Worst of all for a rookie it hides amongst his lands presenting an apparently clean board. It killed one of my creatures and got him 2 life back but luckily I was able to kill him next turn with Atarka's Command.
I ended up taking the match 2-1 after losing the first game. This was against a genuinely good player, a strong chess player too according to google. Very pleased with that.
Next I played Escarate, I think a rather newer player. He had a strong but slightly off meta deck, red aggro with lots of tokens rather than instant buffs.
Game 1 I flooded, got murdered.
Game 2 I won a close game.
Game 3 He utterly dominated. Then, with himself on 16 life and me on 5 life he used an Exquisite Firecraft spell to take me to 1 life instead of removing my only creature. Tapped out all lands all creatures, he passed the turn. I'm guessing he hasn't seen the Atarka Red deck much. My 1/2 Monastery Swiftspear rushed over as an 9/10 double striker and won me the game from nowhere.
I won this match 2-1 due to an opponent error.
I must admit it was a bit of a relief to play an opponent who wasn't perfect. I was getting the impression that all competitive MTGO players are years old veterans who own all the cards and who never make mistakes. Don't get me wrong, Escarate is a decent player, he's just human and not super-optimised.
This is such a scary format to start out in.
I played against Gamsbart, another newish seeming player with an off-meta deck.
Game 1: He started pretty scary with an early Hangarback Walker. I again used 2 cards to kill 1 early threat, again to good result. Without the Hangarback I ran over him.
Game 2: I had 1 land so I mulliganed, got no land so I mulliganed again, got no land so I mulled down to 4. We then had a rather pathetic game where my opponent got stuck on 2 land while I beat him slowly do death with tiny creatures. Reviewing it I think I was too keen to trade, I should have kept things back for the big finish. Ho hum, got there somehow.
Another win, I'm 3-0 so far. I have earned enough prize to pay for another League entry already which is nice - a win or two in my last 2 games would put me well into the black.
I played against JDDA3D, possibly another newish player, no results on the Google search. He played the same deck as me, Atarka Red, resulting in 2 very close games.
Game 1: I got a bit flooded and he out-resourced me, winning with a classic Atarka Red burst.
Game 2: I misplayed. A very tight game, I was one mana or one spell in the graveyard short of a Titan's Strength - Become Immense - Double Strike combo. I also had a Wild strike in hand and it occurs to me I should have cast it just to add a Delve card. I'm still learning the subtleties, or not so subtleties of this deck - blow everything except the killer combo seems like a fine way to play. On viewing the replay I realised I missed lethal, I could have used 1 mana to Wild Strike him for 2 damage, then the card would have been in the graveyard to pay for my delve spell. 2 damage would have been enough.
A loss, now I'm down to a more realistic 3-1 for the series. One match to go and I'm at least break even whatever happens.
Played against a really good player called seriocomic. Google turned nothing up. His deck was Azban modified for the meta with the inclusion of counterspells. Key disruption of the pump spells and the use of solid creatures like Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider overpowered me.
Game 1: Hammered.
Game 2: I managed to set up my win condition but he used 2 counterspells to deny me.
I still have some way to go learning the finer points of the incredibly complex interplay. I'm definitely playing the right deck as it's consistently brutal against anything not built to contain it. 3-2 is a fine result for my first competitive MTGO tournament and won me free entry into the next tournament.
Had the cards come out a little differently there was no one I faced who I couldn't have beaten. The deck is basically fine. At some point I may invest a little as I'm not quite running the netdeck version (3 cards different).
As for my opponents I feel there were 2 experienced players with very strong decks, one other newbie with a netdeck and 2 newish players with sub-par decks. So not totally offputting, there are people around I should beat more times than not.