Wot I Think: Magic Duels of the Planeswalkers

worship at the alter of our cropping

My mission was a simple one. Take a look at the PC version of Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, and write a little bit about Wot I Think of it. Easy, right? I’d already played it a bit on Xbox 360, so there’s a good start. I’m familiar with the previous edition of the game. Nice. And I’m very familiar with the tabletop game. No problem. Easiest bit of writing work ever.



I’m going to start by taking aside those of you who have no idea what Magic: The Gathering is. Come with me, into the corner, and I’ll explain. I won’t bore you with the game’s importance, or state how far its influence has spread, I’ll just tell you what it is. It’s a card game. Each player has a deck of cards, from which they draw a hand. Then, they start to build their power by laying one type of card on the table, and express their power by playing other types of cards. These other types, these summoned cards, affect the game in many ways (so many ways) but fundamentally increase each player’s opportunity and strength of attack upon his opponent. You have 20 hit points. When you die, your opponent wins. That’s it. It’s a wonderful, elegant design. Trust me. Back we go to the rest of the group.

Hello everyone, we’re back. Were you all kissing?


So, let me tell you about my experience with the PC version of this game. Let’s get my experience with Steam out of the way first. On Wednesday night, I sat down at my laptop, ready for some fun. If I was penning a letter of complaint, it would read like this:

Dear Sir/Madam

I recently acquired Magic: The Gathering from your Steam game delivery service, and downloaded it up into the hard drive of my laptop, which I bought from Tesco about three years ago. I was only in for some crisps and ice cream, but there we are. I played it happily for a couple of days. When I say happily, I mean that the game soundly thrashed me whenever I lost focus, and I felt I had to keep smiling or it might leap from the screen and manifest itself as some vengeful sprite on my IKEA desk. On Wednesday night I settled down for a long session in front of the PC monitor, and then tried to play some Magic: The Gathering. Imagine my horror when Steam told me, and I quote, “This game is currently unavailable. Try again later.” Is this the downloadable non-physical game future you imagine for us, Mr Steam?

Yes, it was annoying. Had to troubleshoot and read FAQs and do the kind of hardcore Googling I normally save for when I’m convinced I have a fatal illness. A whole night gone, re-downloading and altering files and all that stuff I’d left behind years ago.


Non-physical. That’s the problem, really. Not with the future of games. Hell, no. But with this game. That’s the problem with this game. You can’t touch it.

Let me state this right now, so that there is no confusion. This is a fantastic computer game version of a fantastic card game. I can’t actually think of how they could have done it any better. The Campaign mode allows you to battle AI opponents, unlocking new decks and new cards as you advance. The AI, at the easiest difficulty, is smart enough to teach you the game while giving you a good strong fighting chance. At the hardest difficulty setting it’s a monster. It misses nothing. In a game where the recognition of a strong card combination is key, a match against the Magic: The Gathering version of Data from Star Trek is heartbreaking and brutal.

I had to shift it down to Easy. I just ain’t that good. I persevered for hours on the hardest setting, but it was soul-destroying. I couldn’t even listen to music while playing, because I’d have to be CONCENTRATING SO HARD. But at Easy it’s almost a mellow, chill-out experience. It’s like a Wing Chun master training at his wooden dummy. Yeah, that’s what I like to tell myself.

You want to know which characters are in the game? Well, there’s Jace Thing and Chandra Whatsername, and they’re battling to do something to the something. I bet the guys at Stainless just shook their heads at having to cram all of the Wizards of the Coast background fluff into this tidy little game. Magic: The Gathering has never needed a storyline – do we need a storyline for a game of Poker? “Oh, here’s Jallandra Jack of the Diamond Clan, what’s he doing on the River?” It’s nonsense, but it’s nonsense that inspires beautiful artwork, so we go with it. And the artwork is beautiful. Every card you unlock is a new “Ahhhh!” moment.

The User Interface now. Those guys and girls did a bang-up job in this department. You hover over a card and it starts to spill information towards you. You right-click, zoom in, and the card rises to meet you. You can click for more info, and the card effects are explained. Everything tinkles and sparkles, cards glow to let you know you can still use them, and everything on the virtual table can be examined.

But here it comes. The problem. The big problem. In a game where you can often step in on an opponent’s turn, the computer has to break everything down into pauses so that these opportunities aren’t lost. You activate a card’s ability, and a status bar will fill as it takes effect. This allows your opponent to pause the timer and play one of his cards in response. Even if he doesn’t want to play a card, you’re both still having to wait. And then you do the next thing you want to do. And you wait. And then the next thing. And then you wait. And these aren’t long waits, but there are lots of them. A drip-drip effect that starts to make you think “Hang on… this isn’t actually working.”

I don’t want to be that guy. The guy who says “Ugh. The card game is SO much better.” But the card game is SO much better. When you play Magic: The Gathering at a table, you’re either firing your responses at your opponent right away, or you’re saying “Carry on!” right away, or if you DO need time to think about what you’re doing, you can shoot some shit while you consider your move. There is no artificial PLEASE WAIT… moment. There is a flow. And flow is what all the best game designs are about. Magic: The Gathering isn’t so massive because of its addictive collecting component, or because of its wonderful art, or even its elegance of design. It’s the flow. The flow. Wing Chun. The Wooden Dummy. Form and flow.


Land. Tap. Summon. Laugh. Shoot some shit. Block. Laugh. Draw. Land. Tap-tap. Summon.

Not this:


It’s terrible to be sitting here typing this. As a computer game version of Magic: The Gathering, this game is perfect. It is a perfect representation of a flawed concept.

A couple more things on the content of the game. There’s Archenemy mode, which just doesn’t really work with AIs, and doesn’t really work with strangers. It’s a co-op battle against a Big Bad who has special over-sized cards he can use to alter the game in a big way. It’s a chaotic, fun game at a physical table with friends, but in this form is frustrating and silly. Archenemy is more laugh than game, and struggles to come over in this serious, sophisticated context.

And then there’s online. Flung in with randoms, when you can find a game, you are at the mercy of the Online gods Broadbandius and Dropoutiamadickus. When you’ve had two long matches of Two-Headed Giant in a row where your partner has fucked off to leave you instantly DEFEATED, you start to tire of the whole thing and feel a burning desire to get some cardboard in your hands.

(EDIT: Actually, having played some more of the multiplayer after writing this – tonight I had partners quit on me (one saying “yr play style is lame bye”) and the AI took over. Which still left me screwed, but in a different way. A much slower way. It must have been connection issues first time through. Connection issues are better. Your connection is more polite when it bails on you.)

And then there’s the deck construction element. There still isn’t one. Not really. And putting together your own deck for a match is one of the great delights of Magic: The Gathering. To omit it is dishonest, I think. We all know why they’ve done it. We all know why this game exists.

It’s an advert. That’s all. This game is an elaborate promotional tool for a fantastic game. It teaches you the mechanics, shows you how deep it all is, seduces you with gorgeous art and then steps away. It says “Come on, let’s play!” and then steps away.

“Want a card?” That’s what it says. And it doesn’t mean a virtual card. It means a cardboard card.

“Want a card?” That’s all.

And when you play this game, you probably will.


  1. Orija says:

    I liked Dulemasters better than I did MTG, too bad it didn’t really get successful outside of Japan.

  2. pakoito says:

    No deck building? I’m out.

    Anyway Wagic it’s still the best Magic The Gathering game, has all cards implemented with images and economy unlocking system so…yeah.

    • Jake says:

      It looks like neither Wagic or Cockatrice have a multiplayer over internet mode which is a bit of a deal breaker, even though they look awesome otherwise.

    • pakoito says:

      For that, LackeyTCG or Magic Workstation. We were talking about single-player Magic experience here.

    • sockmeistr says:

      “neither Wagic or Cockatrice have a multiplayer over internet mode”
      I’m sorry, what? I was pretty sure Cockatrice was almost completely built around internet multiplayer.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Generic Collectible Card Game had Magic: The Gathering cards last time I checked. Multiplayer with multiple players, use any cards you want, the game doesn’t enforce the rules. I liked it, but I still much prefer the cardboard version.

  3. DrGonzo says:

    Do you not have to buy extra cards in Magic? My flatmate has been trying to convince me to try the pc and card version of this but the idea of that really puts me off.

    • vivlo says:

      that’s the basic concept of mgt. it’s a “trading card game”, which means you’re supposed to buyu packs of random cards, and trade the one you don’t want with others, in order to build your deck which playstyle suits you. In the end, if you really want a good deck, you need to buy and trade lots and lots of cards, which are expensive, yeah, that’s true.

    • psyk says:

      Its not that bad, check out ebay and the like.

    • Synesthesia says:

      yeah, i thought so. This is why i dont like trading card games. We complain in MMOs about being able to buy the AXE OF HUMILLIATION +20 000 to EVERYTHING, i dont see how it’s different here?

    • Koldunas says:

      To Synesthesia: Because usually no card is strictly better than the other. Some cards are probably better than other in certain types of situations (and certain situations occur more often than others), but they should have some form of drawback as well (sorcery instead of instant, higher converted mana cost, more restrictive mana cost, built-in card disadvantage, useless creature type and so on).

    • Lightbulb says:

      Magic Online is ok. Pauper (only ‘common cards’ allowed – you can build a competative deck for around $5 to $20. I have about 6 or 7 and probably cost me about £30?).

      Used to play competitive magic – now that does hundreds of pounds and is totally not worht it much MTGO is better…

    • P4p3Rc1iP says:

      Try booster drafting instead. And now before people that know the game go “that’s more expensive”, hang on a second.

      The idea is that you build a small collection of random cards (Say 100 per colour or so), and get some lands of every colour. This is called a draft set. These cards can be commons, rares, whatever you want and however much money you want to invest. A big box of random commons can be gotten cheap on e-bay.

      Now with these cards you make boosters (take 3 random of each colour, shuffle them, take out 3 random cards (so you have 15 cards, 2-3 of each colour), no lands in booster). Every player gets 3 boosters. Pick a card from the first booster, pass the rest along to the player next to you. Then you take a card from the booster you got from the player next to you and pass the rest along, repeat. When the first boosters are gone, everyone takes a new one and repeats the proces (Alternating the direction of passing along the booster for more balance).

      When all 3 boosters are gone you should have a pile of 45 cards ranging from your favorites to random crap. With these cards you build a deck with at least 40 cards (including land it’s usually 23 cards – 17 lands or something along those lines).

      Now you play with these decks!

      The great advantage and fun part of this “type” of magic is that it’s completely balanced. Everyone has the same shot at the cards and no matter the quality of the cards it’s still a fun game. You also need to think a lot more about deck building and the drafting process is a game in itself (“Will this card make it back to me?” “What colour is he on?”)

      Of course for balance and fun, one should make sure that each colour has approximately the same amount of power, card types, mana costs, etc. so more options are available when building the decks. These things will become apparent when you play a few games with the set so there’s no need to stress too much about it at first.

      For more information about booster drafting and buidling a draft set, google it or see:
      link to boardgamegeek.com
      link to starcitygames.com
      link to associatedcontent.com

  4. Horza says:

    Bought this for the xbox a year or so ago (when it wasn’t on steam).

    Was expecting or hoping that it’d be something like the original 1997 Duels of the Planeswalkers (which was great). Noticed there’s no deck building and haven’t touched it since :(

    • Jarenth says:

      It’s strange that there really hasn’t been anything like Shandalar, isn’t it? I lost so many hours to that game, building decks, wandering through the overworld, and cursing every time I lost due to flukes or luck and I’l lose one of my better cards.

    • WPUN says:

      Yeah, the old Plainswalker game was magnificently ugly but very very fun to play. The deck building part gave me hours of fun and trying to get the cards you wanted for your deck was the driving force behind exploring the world.

      I should get it out again… but somehow I doubt I would be able to get it to run under Windows 7.

    • Qazi says:

      Not strange at all.
      The physical card game has deckbuilding; where people buy packs of cards to construct their decks.
      Magic the Gathering: Online has deckbuilding; where people buy packs of virtual cards to construct their decks.
      In this financially successful present, why would Wizards of the Coast ever want to startle the status quo and provide an alternative game where they’re not constantly profiting from people wanting to express themselves through full deckbuilding?

    • MondSemmel says:

      I don’t remember how I did it, but I did manage to get the Shandalar games running in Windows XP. I think it was with the help of some virtual machine software and an install of Windows 95/98? Alternatively, you could simply try installing the games in Windows 7 and use compatibility mode – I’ve often had good experiences with that one.

  5. Lars Westergren says:

    I liked the single player campaign, though I think the blue deck “Ancient Depths” or whatever it’s called is overpowered. 1/4 of the cards seem to be “draw or play extra land cards” so 5 rounds in you have twice or more the amount of mana of your opponents. That together with the Elvish Piper means you will be able to play unblockable flying Legendary monsters almost every match.

    • Jake says:

      Flying legendary octopuses – my favourite deck. I didn’t think it was overpowered though, from what I remember, the Vampire deck seemed strongest to me.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      The vampire deck is beastly, but Karn’s is the one that’s really cheating. Turn two 11/11 trample indestructible monster, in a format where you’re just playing some cards that you are drawing is a bit much.

      Which brings me to my real problem with this game. The power of the decks. I started out on hard, and ended up turning it down to medium, not because I felt I was being outplayed, though possibly I was, but because you’re usually playing against a deck better than yours, especially at the beginning. Both the green and white starting decks are woefully underpowered versus that initial red deck.

      Turning it down to medium didn’t really give me much satisfaction, because I started to see the AI making dumb mistakes. I don’t want to win by having my opponent intentionally miss obvious things. But often times the only other way to win is for the obviously superior deck you are facing to be faced with a monumentally bad string of draws while you get your engine running at optimal efficiency.

      This was the case with Karn, where I’d be forfeiting match after match on turn two or three when he dropped down some thing I just could not deal with. A zero mana artifact that generates coloured mana? How is that legal? I know I’ve been out of the Magic game for awhile now, but that just cannot be a card that’s in the core set, can it?

      But then again, the core set has Planeswalkers these days. Back in my day you’d hardly even see any keywords.

    • Jake says:

      Yeah Karn’s deck is a boss fight deck, totally imbalanced and using what I believe are banned or restricted cards, it’s just to give you a final challenge (but turn two Tinker is utterly unfair). To be fair, the first time I beat Karn his deck misfired and I beat him with full health.

      I also thought the difficulty curve was broken, and some decks were underpowered, but actually I think you are meant to keep changing between decks to give yourself an advantage rather than keep hammering away trying to win one match up. And when you unlock all the cards you can make some of the decks much stronger than they started, like the black/white/blue one that can become really competitive.

    • Joof says:

      ” A zero mana artifact that generates coloured mana? How is that legal? I know I’ve been out of the Magic game for awhile now, but that just cannot be a card that’s in the core set, can it?”

      The Moxes and Black Lotus were all in Magic from it’s first printing. They represent 6 of the power 9, and are all 0 cost mana artifacts that create colored mana. They are ridiculously powerful, and haven’t been printed since 1994.
      Power Nine

      Since then, a couple other moxes have been printed, but aren’t nearly as powerful. If I remember correctly, Karn has Mox Opals in his deck, which requires him to have 3 artifacts before it does anything, which usually takes a couple of turns.

    • omgitsgene says:

      @Lars Kiara is definitely beatable. A buddy of mine and I play 2HG a lot where she is most powerful and we regularly double Chandra even two of her down. Deathtouch, Kill spells, counters are all great options if played correctly against her. Her deck also has a tendency to misfire being dual-color and relying on land-grab to get to the real power cards. When it fires though, it’s pretty beautiful and terrifying.

      @Joof Karn’s deck straight-effing-up has Mox Sapphire in it. I yelled at the screen when I first saw it. Then I called my neighbor over to look at it since he’s a magic player too.

  6. MashPotato says:

    I’ve never played MtG (in physical or digital form), but I’ve spent an alarming amount of time playing Spectromancer. For anyone who’s played both, if you like one, are you most probably going to like the other?

    • Vinraith says:

      MtG is considerably more complex than Spectromancer, and contains actual card game mechanics (that is, you have a deck and drawing cards from that deck gives you a hand, what’s in your hand is what you can play), as opposed to Spectro where you have access to all your cards all the time. There’s a similarity of feel, in part because of their common design origins, but mechanically they’re similarities are purely on the surface.

      I say all this, mind, as a fan of both.

    • Pardoz says:

      If you enjoy Spectro, you’ll probably enjoy MtG, and vice-versa. I think Spectro’s a better game, not least because it doesn’t power-dive into the Byzantine loop of special cases of special cases of special cases that MtG can (or could, I’ve not played seriously in years).

    • Quirk says:

      Spectromancer’s substantially more tactically sophisticated – lots more real decision points each turn, and a lot less randomness – but more strategically limited, because you’re ultimately planning round the cards you’ve been given, whereas in Magic you’re playing a deck full of cards you’ve chosen. Magic is more frustrating, because you will lose much more often to things outside your control than in Spectromancer, but there’s a special joy in tinkering with your own unique deck. How well this particular computer implementation captures that I don’t know, I get the impression that deck modification is a bit on the limited side, but you might well find it pretty good fun.

    • qrter says:

      The second expansion to Spectromancer has introduced deck editing. Haven’t tried that feature myself, I have to say, Spectromancer is a fundamentally different game, where the strategy doesn’t really lie in deck construction.

      Digitally, Spectromancer is the better game, I’d say.

    • MashPotato says:

      Thanks for the feedback, sounds like something I’ll try one day!

  7. Xercies says:

    I wish there was a type of graphical game and representation of Yu-Gi-Oh card game. Which is much better then Magic The Gathering. Yeah I said it. What you going to do about it?

    • Renfield says:

      I’ll put down a mountain, tap, and [Lightning Bolt]. That’s what.

    • Quinburger says:

      There is, you just have to buy a DS

    • Jolly Teaparty says:

      Those DS versions are actually really good too.

    • Nick says:

      There are.. one on PC and about 5 on the DS and 4 on the GBA. I think there are some for various playstations too.

    • Qazi says:

      Yeah, there have been loads of Yu-Gi-Oh videogames that model the Trading Card Game’s mechanics.
      They usually offer the vast majority of the card library that existed at the time of their release; and feature full deckbuilding to boot. It just takes a moderate-to-obscene amount of grinding AI duels to save up the in-game currency and then buying boosters/boxes of random cards.
      Nightmare Troubadour on DS and World Championship 2004 on GBA were the last ones I have bought and they seemed to pretty much be accurate recreations of the trading card game.

      Just watch out for the wacky spin off games, where they’ve made bizarre and wonderful things with the IP like the Turn-Based Strategy War of the Roses one, or that Falsebound Kingdom game.

    • Xercies says:

      Hmm I knew about the DS and GBA versions, didn’t know there was even a PC version. I would love another one though with the same graphics as this one and level of playability on the PC because I don’t have a handhold system anymore.

    • Drakar says:

      http://www.duelingnetwork.com for YGO online.

      Not advertising or anything, simply proving that sharing is caring. Though some people may be off-put by the fact that it is the closest representation of an actual head-to-head card game, because you have to do everything manually.

  8. zind says:

    Actually I think one of the main reasons the game doesn’t let you build your own decks is because the card choices would have to be very much nerfed to avoid the sorts of things that are easy for people to deal with, but slightly harder for computers, like detecting an infinite loop (before running out of memory) or even dealing with stupid numbers of cards (like say Rite of Replication plus Precursor Golem, twice).

    Sure, it would be doable with a bit of effort, and the marketing angle is probably what has kept that effort from being put forth. However, as both a Magic player and a software developer I just enjoy thinking that I can still be better than a computer at some things.

    Also note that I’ve not played Magic Online at all, so if their client is somehow handling these cases with no issue, then disregard this comment :x

    • bglamb says:

      I’m pretty sure a computer would be able to handle spotting an infinite combo, and dealing with a large number of creatures.

    • dehumanized says:

      Here’s what DotP1 did when you reached large numbers of tokens. Not sure if 2012 altered the behavior, nor if there was a separate limit for actual creatures on the table.

      link to dl.dropbox.com

    • Stirbelwurm says:

      I don’t think, that the AI is the main reason for doing it this way. Just look at the game as whole, most of the things people are complaining about (game mechanic wise), are simplifications of the real game. You can change some of them in the settings, but not all.

      It’s just that the target group for this game are not the hardcore Magic players. So they also limited the deck building abilities, which also conveniently solves a bigger issue: game balance in online play. They create somewhat balanced base decks and add some stronger unlockables, so players have some kind of progression in the game. I can only guess, that they wanted to reduce frustration for new players, when playing online.

      Aside from that, the AI does have some problems. When there are too many creatures on the field, the AI simply does nothing, even if an all-out-attack would win the game. So maybe that’s also a part of the decision.

  9. Vinraith says:

    It can’t be a “perfect” version of MtG without deck building, which is the best part of MtG or any collectible card game.

    That said, I’d be curious to know how this one is different from the 2010/2011 version, which I already own.

    • johnpeat says:

      I’d like to know that too tbh – I have the original version of this and I enjoyed it, as far as it went – it seemed like a nice MTG-light and/or a decent tutorial to the whole shebang.

      I’ve no real desire to start deckbuilding or whatever – it did most things I wanted of a card game – so unless this offers something amazing over it…

    • Randomer says:

      One difference, if I understand correctly, is that you can modify your deck more in 2012 than in the 2011 version. Back in 2011, you’d unlock new, better cards by playing through the game, but all you could do was add them to your deck. You couldn’t take out out any shitty cards.

      In 2012, you have the option to take out cards, so long as you keep the minimum of 60 cards in your deck. Also, this version has Archenemy, which 2011 didn’t. It’s also got new puzzles in the puzzle mode.

    • DrGonzo says:

      It’s the bit that puts me off. You should all be on a level playing field. No one should have more choice or anything because of the fact they have spent more money on cards. Of course I could be misunderstanding it but that’s how it looks to an outsider.

    • Plinglebob says:

      For those complaining about Archenemy, get the expansion that was released this week. Lets you play as the Archenemy and, while still a bit broken, is a lot more fun.

      Great article and agree completely. Its a great advert for the game as well as being fun for people who don’t have any groups near them. Unlike everyone else, my biggest complaint isn’t that you can’t completely modify your decks (thats what the paper game/MTGO is for) but not being able to tap your own lands is a real pain. I get they do it to make it easier for begginners, but an advanced option would be nice.

      @ Lars Westergren: Try playing that deck against Jace and Nissa (or Anja in the expansion) and if you’re not good/lucky you will get creamed. Its my favourite deck, but very slow.

    • Plinglebob says:

      Sorry, forgot to cancel the reply.

    • Belsameth says:

      It are completely new decks,tho les imaginative then in the first and all based around swarming your opponent with creatures. Granted, the expansion fixed that a bit, but not much.
      With the new deck there is, ofcourse, new artwork and new flavour text to chuckle at. Also, the AI and the UI had an overhaul. Overall I prefer the new version even if some of the old version decks were more fun to play.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yup. Campaign is structured slightly differently, and the puzzle mode games are unlocked after each opponent. Decks seem to be a fair bit better this time around too.

      It’s not a huge step up by any means, but on the other hand it’s a quid cheaper than an actual starter deck at my local store.

    • Howl says:

      They aren’t going to let you do the full magic experience for two pounds fifty. This is the rock of crack that is meant to lead people to MTGO, where they go on to sell their souls for cards to make decks with.

  10. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    Deck building is probably the best bit, but speding all that money is definitly the worst. Its close to being a con. I think id prefer a pc game of summoner wars.

  11. Atic Atac says:

    This game is most certainly not a perfect representation of MTG. I used to play that game for 10 years, even went once to a pro tournament and ran local tournaments #serious.

    The game fails for me because I can’t make my own decks and I can’t draft cards either. I am stuck with some beginner decks that I can modify only slightly. MTGOnline is there I know but it’s the most ridiculously expensive online game on the planet so that’s a no go.

    • cptgone says:

      “MTGOnline is there I know but it’s the most ridiculously expensive online game on the planet”

      the FAQ at wizards.com seems to disagree:
      “The only required fee for MTGO is the $9.99 it costs to get an account, which also provides you with a new account package. There are no recurring fees on a mothly or any other basis.”

      am i missing something?

    • Jolly Teaparty says:

      You buy the card packs at the same price as their physical equivalents.

    • vivlo says:

      they have done that ? 0_0 GENIUS !

    • Archonsod says:

      I quite like it, but then I always preferred the sealed deck tournaments IRL anyway.

    • Randomer says:

      You buy card packs at more than their physical equivalents. MTGO charges $4 a pack. No self-respecting brick and mortar store is going to charge you more than $3 a pack.

    • qrter says:

      Wow. That’s astonishing. I mean, we’ve all become reluctantly accustomed to being fleeced regularly with overpriced games through download services, but asking the same price (or more!) for “packs” of cards is still.. astonishing.

  12. Sparhawk says:

    Concerning the Steam issue: ‘Verify integrity of Game Cache’ under ‘properties’ and ‘local files’ probably would have solved that issue.

    Agree with the whole review. And maybe it is a huge ad, not even maybe. But it is well executed still.
    No deck building really is a huge down fall to this game.

  13. Trillby says:

    In the same way that a David Bowie fan is always going to want him to play his hits at a concert, even though he is sick to death of them and would love to introduce people to some obscure B-sides, I always get pumped up and excited when Fat Rab off Consolevania reviews a game.

    We know you have moved on to bigger and equally good things, but you are always going to be my favourite VIDEO GAMES reviewer. And being a selfish consumer, I don’t care about what you enjoy doing more. Review more games!

  14. Jolly Teaparty says:

    There’s a few rules implemented wrongly, and there really needs to be end phases so you can play instants and abilities the way you would at the table. An example problem; Gideon Lawkeeper’s ability taps an enemy, a typical use being to stop an enemy attacking. Since there is no end of main phase in which to play it, I tapped an enemy pre-emptively in the main phase, and in response immediately afterwards he played a 4/4 dragon with haste and attacked. In paper MtG it wouldn’t have happened, here it does.

    There’s other issues such as poorly implemented automatic mana tapping, and issues with gang blocking. It’s best to play this as a separate game related to MtG but not actually proper MtG or you’ll get annoyed. For £3.50 I had my money’s worth many times over.

    • Plinglebob says:

      Sorry to be pickey, but in paper thats a valid tactic. In paper you would have been able to tap something at the beginning of his attack phase (which is maybe what you’re getting confused about), but even if he passed priority to you at the end of his main phase, after your instant/ability resolved he would have priority and is more then able to cast a creature.

    • Jolly Teaparty says:

      Officially there’s a beginning combat step where you’d usually do this, but it doesn’t exist in this game. After this you wouldn’t be able to play anymore creatures before you declare attackers, so it’s the game that’s got it wrong.

    • jonfitt says:

      I think he’s saying he *wanted* to play it in the combat phase but couldn’t because of the game, so tried to play it in the main phase as an equivalent. However the opponent played creature card afterwards. Which he would have been able to tap had he been allowed to play that card in the combat phase.

    • Archonsod says:

      The only thing that really gets on my tits is the automatic mana tapping. Machinations in particular, since most of the cards are simply generic mana and the coloured cards are important things like counterspells; so it can completely screw you over when it decides to tap the islands you need for a counterspell to pay 2 generic mana, despite having six swamps on the board which would have done equally well.

  15. Out Reach says:

    Play Cockatrice.

    link to cockatrice.de

  16. adonf says:

    Yay, alt-text! With a typo too (Or maybe a pun I didn’t get)

  17. Dervish says:

    I like that this review addresses the difficulty settings in a non-prescriptive way by saying that it was too hard for him and giving some explanation without claiming that the AI is “broken” or “unfair” or “poorly designed” or whatever.

  18. Blaq says:

    I had a very faint idea of what MtG is, having watched it being played a few times, but that didn’t stop me from getting the PC version. I mean, look at that art, how could a geek not give the game a chance. I loved how I got eased into the MtG universe and the rules through the tutorial and the challenges, which teach you how to think outside the box and abuse every card to the maximum.

    I agree that the Archenemy mode is shit and I’m very disappointed at there not being any kind of deck building (which I’m desperate to try my hand at without having to spend money on physical booster packs). But it’s quite remarkable how easily I was introduced to this complex card game and how quickly I got very fond of it. I might even have to get the physical version now.

    • MondSemmel says:

      If you aren’t averse to playing oldschool games, the (very!) old Shandalar games did feature extensive deckbuilding, but the interface barrier is obviously quite big…
      In any case, try searching for “Shandalar” on YouTube and you will see what I mean.
      How one would acquire these games (and then run them on a OS more recent than Windows 98…) is a different matter altogether…
      (Apparently, the game’s official name is:
      Magic the Gathering: Duel of the Planeswalkers)

  19. mmalove says:

    Saw this game on Steam for 5 bucks. I tip a minimum of 5 bucks, and my wife and I’s bagel and coffee this morning was 7… Needless to say that puts it in the category of almost free. A part of me longed to pick it up, figuring the worst that could happen is I don’t like it and refuse to play it. Another part of me slapped that optimistic little bastard and put him in his place.

    This is NOT Magic the Gathering. For folks who have played Magic before, you cannot truly construct your own deck, and the premade ones are openly gimped, presumably to balance them against one another, except many reviews claim some decks are still WAY more powerful than others. There is 1 “burn” deck and the rest are different flavors of dropping big creatures in to win. No land destruct, combo lock, discard, etc. None of the variety and unpredictability that makes Magic “magic”.

    Further, as I understand it you cannot control how your lands are tapped for mana. This will seem trivial to a novice, but with a multicolored deck it means when you need specific colored mana to cast more than one spell/ability in the turn, it will be entirely up to the computer’s AI whether you’ll have the mana to use them both.

    These are not glaring flaws made necessary by the conversion of a card game to the computer: there was a perfectly good MTG game back in the days of Windows 98 that not only allowed the player complete control over deck construction and mana tapping, it also included a far superior campaign that involved exploring a randomly generated world, running quests, running dungeons, battling monsters, collecting buying and selling cards, and building up not just one deck but multiples as you sought to defeat a master wizard of each color. I’d pay 50 bucks for an updated version of that game, but I won’t pay 5 bucks for this piece of carp.

    • Belsameth says:

      You can actually decide which lands to tap. It’s off by default tho. However, I did find the AI rather nice at deciding which lands to tap and almost never screwing it up.

      Same goes for targetting. By default you can’t nuke your own creatures but that can be turned on as well, in the options.

  20. HisMastersVoice says:

    Just go MTGO if you want an on-line Magic experience. Less flashy, much more like the real thing.

    • ASBO says:

      But spectacularly badly designed software.

    • Jolly Teaparty says:

      Too expensive. You get a lot of game here for £3.50.

    • HisMastersVoice says:

      Well hey, never said it was well coded or cheap if you just want to play a few casual games. People seem to be miffed about the “no deck building” aspect of DotP, so MTGO should be right up their alley.

      And it’s not that hard to break even on MTGO after you ship all the draft junk and packs for tix.

  21. Silver says:

    I really liked the cardgame 10 years ago, when I was quite young.
    And I really enjoyed playing duels of planeswalkers aswell. Very neatly done!

  22. ASBO says:

    I think there’s a bigger issue here. Who has played MTG Online? Because that game lets you do everything. But the interface sucks magnificent arse. It’s clunky, hideous and intimidating.

    I first got MTG:DOTP on the Xbox when it first game out and really enjoyed it (having never played any of the other flavours previously, wrongly assuming they were just things sold in sweet shops for kids. I got hooked and delved into MTGO. Was that a mistake. It’s wasn’t about the fact that the game was more complex, it was that the UI was terrible. So I abandoned that and went back to the Xbox version.

    At the end of last year, the 3rd expansion pack for the xbox version was inexplicably delayed, but by then I was discovering steam, and more importantly, the steam christmas sales. I bit the bullet and bought the whole thing, just so I could play with the vampires deck. Then the 2012 version was released, which doesn’t seem quite as good as the previous one (in terms of the awful top-level menu system), but will probably have a better set of decks after a couple of expansions.

    Also the expansion released this week is brutal. I routinely play on the hardest difficulty for the challenge of it, but I’ve yet to unlock the Liliana Vess deck after three attempts so far.

    I agree with the whole waiting around thing, but I tend to only play it when I’m also doing other things at the same time anyway. It’s a wonderful time sink, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to sink these days.

  23. Caerphoto says:

    “Plane Swalkers”

    stupid brain :(

  24. Snargelfargen says:

    I’m a little surprised that no one’s mentioned the interface problems with the game. It suffers from an incredibly bad case of console-itis. All of the options (single-player, options, deckbuilder etc…) are stacked like a deck of cards and you are forced to navigate through them one at a time by clicking. Except, clicking is incredibly finicky, so half the time you sort through the cards the wrong way. It usually takes me around 10 clicks just to start a new game.

    Also, there is no text chat. And with the long down-times, this game could really benefit from that.

    • Archonsod says:

      I suspect it’s more that someone thought having the options in the card format would be “cool” than consoleitis as such.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      Text chat was added with a recent patch.

    • Wetworks says:

      You don’t have to click, you can just hold the left mouse button and drag the card and it will scroll through the options.

  25. Morgu says:

    I’ll stick to my windows98 virtual machine and Shandalar. At least I’ll have deckbuilding. Or some Etherlords II if I want to mix it up :)

  26. KillahMate says:

    I find it amusing that ‘Ravnica’ in several Slavic languages means ‘Plain’ (of the kind grass grows on), so that third screen actually reads “On the plane of Plain…”

  27. Spinks says:

    *hide* I don’t really like deck building. I love the game … when someone else builds me a cool deck. You’re right about the delays, but I am pretty hooked on the computer game. It’s fun and the core of Magic is an awesome game.

  28. Spider Jerusalem says:

    I love this game. I’ve put in about 50 hours. It would be nice to build decks, yes, but 2v2 online is an awful lot of fun.

    Especially with DUALLUSIONS.

  29. disperse says:

    Reading about MTG is making me want to play Chaos Overlords. Is that weird?

  30. D4t4v4mP says:

    Does this one have the same stupid auto-tap land feature that its predecessor had?

  31. gwathdring says:

    I love Magic: The Gathering. I only sometimes enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering.

    The distinction here is a bit finicky. The pleasure of buying a bunch of different kinds of cards and trying to build a great deck with them is immense. When I have enough cards to mix and match and feel like a strategist … the game becomes fascinating and each game is sort of an interlude. An entertainment that is, at it’s heart, an extension of the dice-rolling sections in Risk. A little further from it’s center it is a passably entertaining game. But only if you know your deck. Only if you know what’s coming, weather you should just go with what you have or wait for your dream combo that took hours of planning and number crunching to design … how well do you know your deck?

    But if you don’t know your deck especially well, it is simply a game of random chances. Take away the deck-building, the down-time strategy and Magic is poker. Is nothing more than that dice rolling section in risk. It is chance with the illusion of choice.

    There’s another problem lingering in the wings, too. Magic has an enormous competitive audience. Everything has been meticulously play-tested by players and designers alike. This is a good thing. It means even the most game-breaking cards Magic has to offer are quite balanced compared to half the cards in games like Yugioh. Ridiculous cards get through and not all of them are banned, but then the community adapts it’s strategy so as to make those cards less powerful in the grand scheme of the game. It’s a fantastic machine. But it takes place over the course of years. If you’re not involved in the competitive scene and aren’t interested in hunting down the perfect card for the perfect plan, you run into a bit of a wall whenever your regular opponents dig up a strategy based on an unbalanced card or a new set of abilities in a new set of core decks. And all of this, in the grand scheme of the Trading Card Game, is fine. It works out in the end. You shape your strategy accordingly. But for people who don’t want to spend that much money, and just want to play the Strategy Card Game … Magic can be a bit of a rough ride.

    The best way to counter all of these issues without dumping loads of cash into the game is to play with a regular group. Have a bunch of players you default to playing and enough cards to have about three decks with spare cards to swap in and out for various strategies and combos (then you can also loan decks out to irregular players who join you). This way you get to know each other’s decks and strategies and you can all evolve your decks and ideas together at your own pace isolated from Magic’s beautiful money machine. You can pick and choose cards your group or individuals in it won’t play with or against.

    I’m sure most people play in a similar way. My group, though, is sort of in between. They all have competitive decks, but they also have casual and downright silly decks. My favorite is an EDH deck based with Pheldegriff
    as a general and 89/100 cards being basic lands; pheldegriff is a 4/4 and can gain very minor combat bonuses like Trample and Flying (minor for such a small creature) at the expense of various basic lands … but each ability also gives creatures, life, or cards to an opponent of the users choice. This deck has won quite a few times. Moving on, though, the group is competitive enough that I have no chance of winning. I simply do not have the resources. I have no desire to buy $10+ cards, and that’s the sort of thing I would have to do to compete against most of their decks. I have a lot of fun, but I don’t really get the pleasure from the deck-building portion I love so much as even my best works of design simply don’t have the material strength to compete. So instead I take the opportunity to hang out with friends and continue an ambivalent relationship with the game.

    At the end of the day, the parts of Magic I find most rewarding can be mirrored in games that require less investment and leave less to chance for the same level of personal satisfaction–living card games as a fine example. I guess I would say that I think Magic: the Gathering is one of the most Important tabletop games in modern gaming history. And I enjoy it quite a lot. But I wouldn’t recommend it to other people, exactly. I would describe it lovingly, but without recommendation.

  32. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    It’s a pretty decent Magic game if you ask me. Sure, decks can only be modified slightly. It is really annoying you can’t interrupt opponent with instants in the attack phase between declaring attackers and them actually attacking. Also annoying is the automatic land tapping.

    But still, what you get is quite a few decks to play with, a game which pretty much follows the Magic rules and it doesn’t cost you all that much. For me, someone who isn’t interested into sinking too much money into it yet willing to try my hand at some Magic, this is (or at least approximates) the perfect game of Magic. As good as it gets, shall we say?

  33. razer251 says:

    Why does no one mention Magic Online?

    link to wizards.com

    It’s Magic done right. You can build decks, buy expansions, play other people casually or ranked, play in tournaments for prizes, etc.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Because nobody really wants to pour money into a CCG, especially when you don’t even get actual physical cards in return.

      I like the M:TG game mechanics. Hate the business model.

    • malkav11 says:

      Doesn’t Magic Online allow you to convert your digital cards into physical cards (but not the other way)? or did they take that out?

  34. malkav11 says:

    I’m always somewhat bemused by the continuing success of Magic. I mean, I used to love it all to bits, and I still respect it for starting an entire genre of tabletop game that has some amazing things to offer. But it’s really showing its age these days. There are fundamental design issues that none of the umpteen new editions has ever addressed because they are a core part of the game, set at a time when nobody else had yet come up with something better, in particular the resource system.

    My problems with Magic roughly go like this:

    1) It’s a trading card game. You buy cards randomly (or for obscene individual prices), with the coolest cards (not necessarily the -best-, but the coolest) being the rarest. There are new ones coming out all the time. The cost of assembling more than a deck or two is ridiculous, as is the expense of keeping up with new releases. Duels of the Planeswalkers does at least address this.

    2) I don’t actually like deckbuilding much at all. Don’t get me wrong, I like that decks can be built and it’s not just a few fixed groupings of cards beating against each other. But I don’t like putting them together. The lack of deckbuilding in DOTP is therefore a plus for me, and I wish there were a lot more preconstructed decks in other computer TCGs.

    3) The game tends to encourage fast, boring wins over elaborate, lengthy strategies and card combos, and the card design seems to be skewing that way, too.

    4) The mechanics are not strongly influenced by the theme. They pretty much just come up with stuff they think would be cool and come up with some random fluff to go with it. Personal preference to be sure, but I vastly prefer games like Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (previously known as Jyhad, the second Deckmaster game after Magic and the only other one still going to my knowledge) or Mythos for their thorough integration of the two.

    5) The goddamn mana system, which is the problem that really, really kills the game for me. Having your entire resource system tied to specific cards that you draw at random (and many of which serve no other purpose) is just a terrible idea. Proper deck design can reduce the odds of your ending up with no resources, too many resources and not enough else, or the wrong resources, but nowhere near eliminate these problems. Similarly, they’ve tried various card design approaches to the issue, but although flexibility has increased, the problem still remains. House rules can fix the mana system, but at the cost of unbalancing the card design.

  35. roninnico says:

    I think you’re right its a great advert. The first one persuaded me to buy some cards (which I’d always kinda wanted to do) but then I realised I had no friends who were that keen to play. They where prepared to humor me in playing a game or two, but not buy cards.

    When we did have enough cards to play the fact that none of us knew the rules well enough meant lots of confusing moments when we weren’t sure whether we could play that card or not, or what the hell “shrouded” means. Ultimately we gave up.

    This game offers a way to play the game free of rule confusion and with limited amounts of money. Great if you`re not a MtG fanatic but still want to play.

  36. Wraggles says:


    That’s not strictly true, some cards ARE strictly better than their counterparts, the community pretty quickly realises which are and then buys them all up raising their price significantly. That said, every quarter year the entire game changes as some of the cards that are standard legal phase out. So just remember, every year, the cards you have become entirely worthless for tournament play (unless reprinted in a newer set).

    That said, if you’re just looking for fun, get 8 friends and a box of boosters (usually cheaper by far, especially if you spread the cost by 8 players), and do an MTG draft. It’s a fun way to see new cards, ensure everyone is on a relatively similar playing field and rather than getting totally random cards, you end up with a playable deck. Hours of fun.

    Edit – Reply fail, apparently the login to reply function doesn’t keep the “reply” part post login, live and learn I guess

  37. Shendue says:

    “…Magic: The Gathering has never needed a storyline…”
    Sorry, sir, but you are as wrong as a man can ever be.
    MTG always had a background storyline for every expansion since back to the Vision set.
    It started with the Journey of the Weatherlight, Gerrard Capashen, Mirri, the tragic Crovax, Urza and Mishra, Nicol Bolas, Yawgmoth, the golem Karn, Kamahl, Phage, Akroma and the Mirari, Ixidor, then Ravnica with all the conflicting guilds, The artificial Mirrodin plane created by Karn, Phyrexia and the invasion over Mirrodin, Progenitus, the Lorwyn plane and the corruption of it into Shadowmoor, Zendikar and the awakening of Eldrazi…
    You missed so many interesting characters and stories if you overlooked the background stories.
    The richness of flavour of the magic cards is what differentiate it from a billion other card games, some of those probably even miles better in terms of gameplay. Where do you think those beautiful arts and those magnificent flavour texts come from? All of those are inspired by the storylines, easily WAY better then some overglorified mediocre fantasy sagas that are so popular to fans of the genre.
    I’m not saying you should read everything from the expanded MTG universe like novels and comics, i myself didn’t do that. But a little understanding of what the backstory is about will only enrich your experience and make the game a lot more enjoyable.