Playing Magic online will improve your game

Written by Ron Saikowski, November 19th, 2017

That's right, playing Magic online will make you a better player. Playing in person with your local gaming group will always be great, but there's an edge to be gained by going online. What I'm talking about here is playing outside your regular group of opponents and that's exactly what online gaming allows you to do.

Playing the metagame
We all do it whether we mean to or not. In some ways we just react to it and in some ways we influence it. The thing is, there is more than one "meta."

Think of it like this... in your local group, there are certain kinds of players with certain styles that prefer to play certain cards in certain ways. Your style of playing is affected by this just as your opponents are affected by your card choices and playing style. Over time, this becomes the "meta" for your group. You grow accustomed to it, a balance is established... people have an idea of what to expect when they come to the gaming table.

This is not bad.
It's simply the environment that's been created by those players in it. But here's the thing... there are thousands of these environments out there. When you go online, you open yourself up to playing in all those different "metas" or environments.

You'll see cards you may not have seen in ages. You'll face off against play styles you've never faced before. And every one of these new challenges forces you to grow and in turn, improves your game. It challenges you and forces you to continually evaluate your choice of cards, your way of playing and maybe most of all, the way you look at the game.

A personal example
To say my local gaming group is small would be an understatement. Actually, nonexistent is much more accurate. In all fairness I'm only now getting back into the game after years of being away, but I've yet to find any nearby Old School wizards.

So I've taken to the internet in my search for opponents.
I've recently gotten involved online with an Old School '95 league. Now I prefer '95 to the ever so slightly older '93/'94 format because it introduces a few more cards that I'm fond of using(I really just like the artwork to be honest), but I'll gladly play any Old School format as I love the variety found among them. Going online gives me the opportunity to face off against opponents from all over the world. Each new opponent introducing me to a whole new world of play.

In particular was an opponent I faced off against earlier this week. We'd never met before and we play in completely different geographical locations influenced by completely different factors. In short, we come from different metas. He had an absolutely amazing Land Tax/Land's Edge deck that was utterly brutal. He knew how to pilot it and the games were unbelievable. Both brutal and beautiful in a classic Old School way.

After that match I found myself taking a good, hard look at my deck and how I thought it worked. How I wanted it to work. The games were nail biting close, each turn seeing the balance of power sway in favor of one player over the other. All in all, a tremendous match from a worthy opponent.
Someone I would have never have met had I not gone online to play.

So what did I learn?
Playing against his deck taught me a tremendous amount about playing my deck.
I learned (painfully) just how little mana I could afford to have in play and still be effective. Can you imagine having to play a UW control deck with only two lands for the duration of the game? I couldn't... until I played against this deck. Two lands (one of which was a stinging City of Brass) and a single Mox dropped late in the game were all I had in play for the duration of the third game. Talk about a real life lesson trying to play a control deck with essentially no land in play for an entire game.

It's those kinds of games against opponents you'd never regularly sit down across from that can have the biggest impact on your gaming. You owe it to yourself to seek those kinds of games out. Going online, getting outside your group of regulars, getting outside your "meta" is the best thing you can do if you want to improve your game.

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IMAGE: Wizards of the Coast, the two cards that taught me the most about managing my land.
KEYWORDS: Old School Magic, Old School 95, playing online