This game isn't pay to win, but pay to speed things up. My experience is the further you progress, the slower the grind becomes, and progress gets really slow if you don't speed things up with the for-pay currency, Celestium. You get a small amount of Celestium daily for free, but it doesn't go very far if you use it.
The match making is pretty good, if you ask me. You'll be matched with other ships with a similar rank/rating to you. As you're increasing your power regularly at the start, you'll likely win easily. But once you start to plateau, you'll start facing more and more opponents who are very close to your level and will start to win/lose in a balanced amount.
That's where the pay-to-speed-up comes in: the higher your ship class, the longer the repairs take after a loss.