As you may have seen, I recently bought a Modern deck on MTGO in order to get more practice and play time in. It's allowed me the opportunity already--just in two weeks--to improve my skill and to know my deck better.
In the two weeks that I've been playing, I have put in a lot of games. I've played a handful of practice games, a handful of 2-man queues, and about half a dozen 8-person single elimination events. All of these matches were Modern format and I played using Patrick Dickmann's TarmoTwin list from GP Omaha.
(I made one change in the side board, though, because Batterskull is double the price on MtGO. I replaced the two Batterskull with two Thragtusk and have actually really benefited from that difference in the Burn heavy meta. Honestly, I should have just bought the Batterskulls. What's $80 to finish a side board when the other 73 cards already cost me $600?)
Observation #1 - Plan Ahead
This should be obvious--in any match, in paper or online, you should always plan your turn and your next turn. You should be considering alternative plans for the few likely scenarios based on what your opponent could do. This type of planning is even more critical in MtGO because you can so easily hit F6 and miss a critical priority pass or be blown out by an unexpected card choice in your opponent's deck.
You are also on a different kind of clock online. It's much harder to stall out game two (assuming you won the first game) since you and your opponent have individual clocks rather than one round clock. It's very important to plan several turns out to make sure you can close a game in a timely manner--putting the pressure on your opponent to have to close a game while you hinder them. Again, this seems obvious but is amplified by the digital medium.
Because the consequences for not planning well are so much heftier online, I'm becoming more aware of my (lack of) planning in paper Magic too.
Observation #2 - People Can Be Jerks... or Awesome
I played a match against Bogles where, in game two, he had his Lifelink aura going and got up to 20 something life. I knew blocking with that guy (Vigilance) would gain him 12 life so the combo was going to require more copies. Well, he forced me to go through the combo. I jokingly asked if he was really forcing me to step through it and his response was, essentially, that he was punishing me for playing too slowly in game one. Well, I went on to lose game three (yes, I finished the combo in time) because he just had the nut hand on the play.
(Note that I can't really blame him for forcing me to combo. It's my clock and my combo. However, he does not have to be a jerk about it. We can be polite even when delivering bad news to our opponents.)
On the other hand, I played against a Pod player who actively wanted to discuss my list, play decisions, and to ask for feedback on how he could play better against RUG Twin. He added me to his buddy list so we can play again.
As is the case in real life, people can be awesome or terrible. I'm choosing to be a nice guy as much as I can.
Observation #3 - Know Your Deck!
The more experience you have piloting your deck the better you know your outs... and when you are out of outs.
Knowledge of the meta is definitely important and can increase your percentage chances of a win. However, there's a much higher expected value for the time you invest into learning your own deck. Both are essential but knowledge of the meta is more useful when you know your deck inside and out.
I thought I knew Twin pretty well before these last two weeks--and I did, compared to many Modern players in my area--but I'm now revealing interactions and intricacies that can't be revealed except by more extensive testing against more decks and with more variance.
Bottom line, I'm loving this experience and I hope it's making me a better player on a technical level.
I plan to keep playing on MtGO and to share more of my results, observations, and hopefully cool plays I've discovered on both sides of the table.