Magic Relentlessly Continues To Gather

An evil goat? A Dalek picking up a pebble?

Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers – much like the FIFA games, except without any fantastical beasts quite as inhuman as Wayne Rooney. The vaguely long-running PC adaptation of the world’s most famous collectible card game (presuming you’re not counting lovely Top Trumps. Man, I used to know loads about motorbikes and aeroplanes thanks to Top Trumps) gets its latest more-or-less annual iteration in this Summer’s confusing-named Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. DotP continues to the major source of business for Carmageddon devs Stainless Games, so hopefully this being a success might mean a shinier, bloodier, sadisticer Carmageddon: Reincarnation.

Details are thin on the ground, which is just as well as somehow I’ve never played Magic in my life. A man at university tried to convince me to join his Pokemon CCG group, but I ran for the hills. Well, to the bar anyway. What has been spaketh about is 10 new decks, “optional manual mana tapping”, a new tutorial, a new and exclusive multiplayer mode call Planechase and the chance to battle Magic’s “ultimate evil mastermind” Ian Magic of Southend the dargon Planeswalker Nicol Bolas. Wow, a dragon with a first name and a surname. That’s terribly civilised of him.

Probably the biggest news about DotP13 isn’t strictly relevant to RPS, but I’m going to mention it anyway because I’ve got a sort of typing inertia going on and if I stop now I’ll have to go and find, resize, crop and upload a screenshot then think of a witty caption for it and for some reason that seems like a terrible chore so maybe if I just continue this sentence forever I won’t have to sort out the images so as I was saying there’s some big new news for Duels of the Planeswalkers and that’s that it’s going to have an iPad version which I must admit does seem like a jolly good idea for the digital version of a game that’s all about cards and socialising because you know while I love the PC I can’t exactly drag mine to the pub but even so I bet there won’t be a ‘multiple players on iPad’ mode so instead you’ll need to have a bunch of rich friends who’ve all got tablets too and hey why isn’t this on Android tablets too I know Walker’s got one of those Asus Transformer Primes and he loves it so they should totally also support that and oh God I’m running out of Steam now whoops I meant ‘steam’ but it’s become second-nature to capitalise the S anyway alright I’ll go find the goddann image I hope you’re happy you bastard.


  1. ArtyFishal says:

    Nice, I’ve enjoyed these games as a cost-effective way of getting my Magic fix. It doesn’t offer the full magic experience, but it hits the wallet much less.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      I have to say I actually now prefer it to the “full” experience.

      • Derppy says:

        I think Duels of The Planeswalkers is a good tutorial for playing MTG, but the whole point of the game is missing. At least to me 75% of the fun is building decks from scratch, experimenting with all sorts of crazy synergies and fine-tuning them for optimal results.

        Duels of the Planeswalkers and it’s premade decks feels like lending your friend’s character in RPG. It’s max level and the whole character is defined by your friend. You have no idea what to do with it and even if you learn to use it and win fights against other players, you don’t feel very proud, since you didn’t plan that powerful talent combination and attribute distribution.

        It’s a shame MTG Online is so expensive, but it’s far superior to any of the Duels of the Planeswalkers games, even if the graphics are pretty bad and the UI could use a lot of work.

        • Ninja Foodstuff says:

          There’s still customisation to be had by adding/removing cards, and there’s picking a deck that suits you. I’d say it’s more like starcraft- you pick a side but can’t mix and match units.

          • Derppy says:

            SC has room for complex strategy, even with fixed units. The strategy in MTG is 70% building the deck and 30% making the right decisions while playing. Some might want less strategy and more luck based games, but I think deck building is essential part of MTG.

        • noxxit says:

          The comparison between a high level char and those decks is kinda lacking…
          From the standpoint of a player with a lot of competitive experience those decks are mediocre at best. They are not as terrible as perconstructed decks used to be, but still nothing which would win a 128+ player tourney with a decent price pool.

        • MikoSquiz says:

          I find the deck building mostly a tiresome admin headache, but I must admit, without it you’re pretty much left with hoping that the right cards for your killer combo come up.

          (Am I imagining it or does the AI in 2012 cheat to make sure the final boss can always field a Darksteel Golem by turn 3? There’s no way he can have his deck so stacked with Mox Sapphires and Tinkers that he can reliably play that every time just by chance.)

    • Dana says:

      Well there are cost effective ways of getting full magic experience, in the form of various emulators. Like Cockatrice.

    • SketchyGalore says:

      Totally agree. It’s nice to have 12-or-so fully functional decks with unlockable rares for the price of two starter decks that would get you crushed by any collector. I used to play back when I was a wee one in comic book shops, but I have no desire to drop money on building a new collection, so this is nostalgiarific.

  2. ScubaMonster says:

    So can you just buy the new cards as booster packs of some sort or do you have to buy the new season and are restricted to what comes with it? Seems like a lame way to handle MtG if that’s the case.

    • heartlessgamer says:

      You don’t buy booster packs in DotP. There are set constructed decks that you play with. They offer a little customization by being able to unlock cards specific to that deck and adding/removing some of the cards as you see fit.

      The game is a great way to get a MtG experience without having to worry about collecting cards or trying to build your own deck. Its an all-in-one package.

      If you are interested in the real thing, there is MtG:Online – link to – which is the full blown MtG experience in digital form.

    • PoulWrist says:

      Yea, it’s just premade decks with a bit of customisation. It’s not the full experience, but for the 10 euro I paid this weekend for all of it and the expansions I think it’s a fair offering. Especially since I can’t be bothered to spend all those hours on the cards anymore.

    • Xocrates says:

      Aye, DoTP is mostly an introduction to Magic, not the full thing.

      It’s WAY cheaper than the real deal though.

    • simonh says:

      If you don’t feel like paying full price for virtual cards you could also check out Magic Workstation. You’ve got access to all Magic cards ever made to build a deck from, and some useful deck analysis tools. It’s got online multiplayer, but it doesn’t have a systemized ruleset, so the players have to run the game themselves.

    • Phantoon says:

      The entire “premade decks” thing may raise the ire of the more hardcore fans, but really, I just found in most cases it made the game actually manageable as compared to wandering into the store and trying to play any of the gamemodes against people that spent 300 dollars on a box of boosters for the latest edition alone.

  3. Mordsung says:

    I’ve bought both of these and the expansions for the sole reason of funneling money into Carmageddon’s coffers.

    I also actually own the Nicol Bolas card, the original 3 colour one, and all the other 3 colour dragon cards that came out with that set.

    Used to run a 5 colour dragon deck. Horribly ineffective most of the time, but sometimes the cards fell right and you end up with an army of dragons just tearing your opponent a new butthole. Nothing quite like putting out a Crimson Hellkite and having your opponent go “What’s that do?” “Well, it can basically cast Fireball whenever I tap it.” and seeing that look in their eyes.

    • Fumarole says:

      The only reason I opened this article was because of the Carmageddon link. That’s a dirty trick you did there Mr. Meer.

  4. DrScuttles says:

    Mr. Meer, I notice you refer to the game of foot-to-ball without including Ian Football. Tsk tsk.

    • Phantoon says:

      Maybe he took too many foots to the balls to remember Ian?

  5. Ravelle says:

    I love Magic but can we at least make our own decks now? Please.

    • jimmm25 says:

      But limiting you to pre-made decks is all part of their evil plans to convince you to buy real cards!

      • Ravelle says:

        I have those actually, if only I could register some card code to add them in game, like Naruto Generations did with their cards.

    • Sic says:

      This is basically why I never bothered with the digital versions.

      Building the deck is half the fun.

      Actually, scratch that. Building the deck is like… 3/4 of the fun, easily.

    • Timothy says:

      *cough* link to *cough*

      It doesn’t do the rules for you, but if you want to play a questionably legal game of magic without spending a fortune, it’s the game for you.

    • jacobvandy says:

      But that’s kind of the point of DotP… Using only pre-made decks keeps everyone on a relatively even playing field (provided they can balance them well enough, which doesn’t always happen). You’re simply playing the wrong game if you want the full card-collecting, deck-building experience. I, and many other people, just want to play.

      • Qazi says:

        Magic Online is the game people need to go to for the full deck building experience.
        MtGO turns quite the coin for Wizards of the Coast.
        It is increasingly unlikely they’d ever risk their golden goose by allowing full deck building in a game like Duels of the Plainswalkers.
        In Magic Online people buy booster packs in microtransactions for the privilege of full deck customisation.
        At a price very similar to buying packs of the physical cards, I believe?
        No printing cost. No shipping costs. No Local Gaming Store cut.

        • Timothy says:

          I think the online price is the RRP of the cards. When it launched, they had some deal where if you paid shipping they’d send you the virtual cards you had bought. After people had bought into it, this was quietly removed.

          • Joof says:

            The policy for getting physical cards is the same as it’s ever been. Have one of each card in a set, and you can exchange them for a full set of physical cards. You can still do it.

  6. Anthile says:

    I still prefer Tragic: the Garnering.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      Tragic: The Saddening was always my favourite derogatory name for MTG. (He said as the owner of 6000 cards…)

    • RedViv says:

      I feel a burning desire to open a new box now.

  7. DogKiller says:

    I am convinced this game is the reason Valve and Steam added a DLC toggle to the new releases page.

  8. Xocrates says:

    “optional manual mana tapping”


    Now they just need to make it a decent PC port.

    (also, we fought Nicol Bolas in every game so far)

    I actually expected them to go with Commander as opposed to Planechase for this one, though in hindsight I guess Planechase makes more sense within the game’s limitations.

  9. piratmonkey says:

    “the dargon Planeswalker Nicol Bolas.”

    • ColOfNature says:

      Also I think there was a run-on sentence in the third paragraph.

      • piratmonkey says:

        Imagine though if you finally met Nicol Bolas for a final duel and said, “I have you now Nicol Bolas, the dargon!” to which he corrected you “I’m Nicol Bolas, the dragon you fool!”
        And then wouldn’t you feel silly.

  10. mmalove says:

    I’ll happily buy this for 7 bucks like I did the 2012 game this weekend, and not for the 50 bucks that would be worthy of an actual MTG game (that allowed full deck construction).

    Damn I miss Shandalar…

    • lunarplasma says:

      Oh Shandalar, where art thou? :(

      • Gothnak says:

        MTG: Forge, get it now… Doesn’t look as nice, but scratches the itch with SO many cards!

  11. airtekh says:

    Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 has been one of my surprise finds of the year. I’d never played Magic before I bought DOTP 2012 but I’ve put 50+ hours into it since I got the game.

    Definitely keeping my eye on this.

  12. YourMessageHere says:

    So how do you swalk a plane, precisely?

    • RedViv says:

      Well, obviously with magic, and a gathering of people, which then might lead to a duel.

  13. mr.ioes says:

    I just hope they improve certain annoyances in the 2012 version. First being DLCs (haha!), second being unnecessary pauses during play. Also, what the frack is “optional mana tabbing”?

    Are there any rl communities out there? (Stupid question, but I’m too lazy to google and sure someone here knows the proper www-site by heart!).

    • nemryn says:

      “Optional mana tapping”, rather. The game decides which lands to tap to pay for stuff; usually this works pretty well, but occasionally the algorithm misfires and leaves you unable to cast something that you would have been able to cast if you were playing with actual cards. People complained, so they’re adding an option to let you manually choose which lands to tap.

    • Qazi says:

      In DotP and DotP 2012, when you cast your spells the game automatically chooses which Land cards to tap, to pay for them.
      Optional Manual Mana tapping, is an option to allow the player to choose which lands to tap… obviously.
      The reason this is a great thing? When using a multiple mana coloured deck, the game used an algorithm that did its best to tap the specfic colour Land you needed for the card you wanted to play next.

      The other two games had several options so you could gain more control from the automatic, newbie friendly nature of the game; so you could do ever more tricksy combos. Manual combat damage assignment, manual turn ending, etc. Stuff like switching on advanced targetting that allowed you to cast hostile spells on your own creatures… So it is about time we got this one.

      • Phantoon says:

        It was actually easier to do the challenge modes sometimes because it showed you that the combination you were trying wasn’t going to work.

        Except in a couple cases where there was multiple ways to complete the scenario successfully.

        Still, challenge mode remained my favorite part of the game.

      • mr.ioes says:

        Thanks for clarification, in some situations it’s ofc very useful (esp lategame…).

    • MikoSquiz says:

      The constant pausing does my head in. Why is there not a “skip timer” button even in single player? (In vs. play you could have it skip only if both players have hit the button, obviously.) I pretty much have to play the game in a window extremely slowly, peeking in every once in a while from whatever else I’m doing to see if it’s my turn to do something yet.

  14. Howl says:

    What they need is an accessible, minimalist iPad client, as slick as DotP but that offers “the full experience”. Then they will be able to print money.

    They need a decent team though that can make an almost invisible GUI that lets the card art take centre stage. The full Magic client on PC is the ugliest, clunkiest thing ever made and the DotP version is a visually busy, spinny, 3D affair that’s the gaming equivalent to eating too much chocolate.

  15. magnus says:

    The first time I looked at the accompanying picture I though it was some weird kind of gynacology diagram.

  16. Yosharian says:

    Travesty of a game, mention it not.

  17. Pointless Puppies says:

    If they can manage to fix the cheating AI (try playing 2 humans vs. 2 AI, the game’ll cheat in ways you never thought imaginable) and the certain cards that are bugged, the new version’s as good as bought. Played the hell out of 2012.

    • jrodman says:

      Have to agree on both counts.

      1 – buggy as heck
      2 – lots of fun

      Really the bugs are embarassing. Sometimes the server will decide two ip addresses never left a game and won’t allow them to play together anymore for weeks! If you want to play with your friends you can be completely blocked unless you know how to, and can, change your IP address. Complete fail.

      The timers work in such a way that on your turn, an opponent can play an instant, and then refuse to select a target, while your entire turn ticks away. This can be used to prevent you from ever being able to play a card on your own turn for an entire game.

      There are a variety of truly *bizarre* bugs I’ve seen like dead players continuing to attack, or targets going insane.

      Even without the bugs, the way the game doesn’t let you tap your own mana can completely ruin tri-color decks, and most “may” effects are not implemented as optional. This leads to some cards that would be quite good being very dangerous to yourself. For example “may draw a card” can result in tens of cards being drawn per turn, resulting in a loss.

  18. InternetBatman says:

    Has anyone played the Marvel Overpower PC game? They made it feel like you were collecting cards by getting new cards in booster packs during the progression of the game, and then they offered the ability to build decks. It was nice to have a complete card experience in one game.

  19. UnravThreads says:

    “The vaguely long-running PC adaptation of the world’s most famous collectible card game”

    Uh… wut?
    DotP – 2010
    DotP 2012 – 2011
    DotP 2013 – 2012

    How is that long running, even vaguely so?

  20. Gothnak says:

    Play MTG:Force from the slightlymagic website. It is only single player, but it has 8000+ cards, full AI (constantly updated) drafting, constructed, sealed and even a sort of campaign-a-like with a card shop.

    It’s awesome, although downloading the card images takes ages, so leave it running in the background if you are going to do that.

    Poos on Duels of the Planeswalkers from a great height, but then again, Duels looks lovely. Just wish i could fully edit the decks and it had an adventure mode…

  21. Jupiah says:

    I like these games, I used to play with physical cards but stopped for a number of reasons: lack of people to play with, not being able to compete with the guys at the local hobby shop who shell out 300 dollars to build tournament level decks of rare cards, trying to build a deck from my collection of 3000 cards becoming a bit tedious, too expensive, cards taking up too much room. Seriously I love the game, but the digital version are much more convenient.

    I don’t understand why they have to release an entirely new game every year though. The basic game doesn’t exactly change much they just release new cards. Why not just make one game and follow Rock Band’s business model of selling constant dlc with an occasional rules update patch?