Stoned: New Magic The Gathering Game Goes Fully F2P

Ah, Magic, my particular brand of cardboard narcotic. The first game in the Duels of the Planeswalkers series is what got me into it, while the last nearly got me out with its terribly designed interface, boring grind of unlocks and poorly thought out battles. Which way will the newly announced Magic Duels: Origins [official site] point me? It marks a switch from a yearly release structure to a free to play, updated regularly one. The former is what made it so popular, while the latter drove people off from last year’s edition. The trailer and more details below.

Not a lot of info there beyond that the base game is structured around the upcoming Summer set of the physical game, Magic: Origins. The feature list from the press release is much more forthcoming:

  • Improved Deck Builder with step-by-step deck construction guidance
  • First-ever playable Planeswalker cards
  • Solo Battle mode featuring virtually endless AI opponents
  • Expanded multiplayer options, including Two-Headed Giant mode
  • Quest system with new individual and community challenges every week
  • Limitless Free-to-Play with 100% earnable content
  • All-new Skill Quest tutorial system

Deck-building was added last year and the implementation of it was so bad, partly due to the way cards were earned, partly due to what cards were in the game at all, that it made me wish it hadn’t been. Including the namesake Planeswalker cards is a long overdue move that will be well received. For the unfamiliar, they’re allies that are summoned in battle, giving you abilities to use each turn and, in general, are extraordinarily powerful. The return of fan-favourite Two-Headed Giant is a good sign, even if I personally think the mode is for tiny babies who aren’t good enough for proper grown up children’s card games. Hopefully it means 2014’s excellent Sealed Deck mode will return as well.

The big one is it going properly free to play. The implication is that Stainless Games have at least removed cards that are only purchasable with real money, one of Magic 2015’s direst mistakes. However, it is a strange move. Duels’ strongest attribute was as a one-payment gateway to the continuous investment nature of physical magic or Magic Online [official site] (Wizards of the Coast’s more hardcore digital version). Changing Duels puts it not only into direct competition with those products, but also Hearthstone and, to an extent, all the other massive F2P titles.

We’ll see how it all muddles out, depending on specific pricing strutures, release schedules and included modes. Release is scheduled for some time in July.

Bonus Magic lore-nerd! Gideon Jura is from Theros:

Shock! Revelation!

44 Comments

Top comments

  1. NathanH says:

    Hmm, let's see how this goes.

    On one hand, the deck construction aspect of 2015 was much more fun than the previous games and it was surprising how much variety one can manage out of the small card pool. The new approach will probably mean more cards which is probably a good thing.

    On the other hand, I don't like it when I encounter people using cards I don't have. Probably more irritated than I should be, and it spoils my fun. Even if the card isn't very good, it's just GRRR. Also any move towards f2p brings with it the dark possibilities of screwing with gameplay balance to make money, something that the Duels series has mostly avoided (even the attempt at paid boosters in 2015 was quite well-designed from a gameplay point of view, and eventually abandoned anyway). Finally, f2p almost always annoys me as a consumer because what's offered in exchange for money is almost never worth it, and I i) don't like buying things that aren't worth it but ii) don't like getting stuff for free when I'd be willing to pay for it.

    Interested to see how the planeswalkers work. Unless they change the way Duels does priority (which would be a really bad idea), they're going to end up somewhat weaker than their paper equivalents.
  1. Zyvo says:

    Awww man, I really prefer the one-payment method. I don’t want to dump time and money into this and Hearthstone at the same time.

  2. mrpier says:

    Duels 2013 is still the highlight of the series. It’s funny how in the last two iterations their interface have gotten worse with each.

    I haven’t got the time to properly get into the deck-bulding part so fixed decks showcasing different playstyles worked well for me. I might not bother with this one.

    • nearly says:

      I believe I was really put off with Duels 2013 because, having not yet upgraded to a proper gaming pc, it had abominably bad performance for a game that should not in any way be performance intensive. Beyond that most basic level, the UI was also starting to get quite clumsy.

  3. The Unnamed Council says:

    Are they already feeling the pressure from Hex: Shards of Fate? That would make things better for all of use gamers in the long run. It’s about time WotC started to innovate a bit.

    • Namey says:

      Pretty sure Hex is barely a blip on the radar these days. The real elephant in the room for the entire digital card game market is Hearthstone, which is basically the golden standard for success now.

      At the time I’m writing this I’m looking at Twitch, and there are 80,000 viewers for Hearthstone, 2,000 for MtG and 20 for Hex. I know that isn’t exactly the most rigorous method of measuring playerbases and popularity, but it is pretty damn telling.

      • Dawngreeter says:

        Fairly certain this is pretty accurate. Hex seems to be geared toward people who play proper Magic Online, which I believe are a dying breed. Hex is sort of like building a better mastodon trap; might be effective but prey is scarce. Hearthstone is the one to chase, for better or worse.

        • Namey says:

          The release of this also really sounds like a MtG based Hearthstone-like, a more casual game experience compared to MTGO. I’d love if WotC can pull this off, but I’m pretty much expecting another game with terrible UI and bad monetization.

          Which is like the polar opposite of Hearthstone, that has a sleek and functioning UI, and very forgiving F2P model.

          • Dawngreeter says:

            Unfortunately, I am in complete agreement once again. Let’s hope we’re wrong.

      • The Unnamed Council says:

        If you don’t take into account that Hex is not even in Open Beta (only in Not-Open Beta ;-)), I’d agree with you.

        With the first PvE component announce for March (and I have played it on the test server already), I’d assume the cranking up of the Marketing engine isn’t that far off. Then things might change a bit.

        Hearthstone is just a different animal…

        • Namey says:

          My view on Hex is that it is already dead in the water.

          It kickstarted successfully nearly two years ago now, in between which Hearthstone had it’s beta, finished it’s beta and got released proper, and now has had a few new sets come out. Meanwhile MtG is busy cranking out new sets several times a year for the more hardcore TCG fans, keeping that audience busy.

          I just can’t see Hex gaining any sort of major audience at this point. It might have a dedicated playerbase eventually, but I’d expect it to be a niche game.

          • orionite says:

            I’m afraid you might be right. I backed it with a (for me) reasonably high amount, as I was lured by the PvE experience I had been missing since Shandalar. For folks like me who want to earn cards on the slow, and are intimidated by PvPing with those meta-game savants, a deep CCG with story and RPG elements would be a dream come true. Unfortunately, the PvE aspect is still missing and with the dwindling coverage – and from what I hear, following – they may elect to devote the remaining budget and resources to finishing the PvP part, only.

          • malkav11 says:

            The first PvE component of Hex, a gladiator’s arena with a randomized four stage progression including (reputedly) 30+ regular enemies and 7 bosses, including PvE rewards etc, will be going live next Tuesday, 3/10.

            It’s been a long time coming – too long for my tastes – but it’s almost here. Hopefully they’ll be able to roll out more PvE stuff on a quicker basis now that they’ve presumably got a lot of the preliminary legwork done. But I don’t really know what their workflow is. I definitely haven’t seen any sign that they’re planning to de-emphasize or drop the PvE end and I think it would be a huge mistake if they were to do so. Right now most of the other digital TCGs have little to no PvE content, and a strong implementation there would be a major way to stand out from the crowd.

          • orionite says:

            malkav11 Your words gave me hope!

        • Petrolbomb_Tom says:

          Hex is not still in Closed Beta – ANYONE can sign up and play. It also has a store to purchase packs with money and PvP costs money to play along with the fact there will not be any content wipes from now on it’s hard to argue that the game is not fully released regardless of what the developers say.

          • The Unnamed Council says:

            It’s not fully released in the sense that they are still working on quite a few items they have on their huge agenda for this game, like large-scale online tournaments, the real dungeons, PvE features like keep defense (where you can attack another player’s castle defended by AI-controlled deck that castle’s owner built – that’s how I understand it) and lots more.

            If you try to compare it with Hearthstone you are comparing apples and pears: Hearthstone is beautifully rendered, but a much simpler game. The scope of Hex is simply enormous by comparison.

            The Frost Ring Arena is set to release tomorrow – that is going to be a huge step forward, and it stands to be seen in the next few weeks what elephant is tackled next.

            Personally I am not a PvP tournament player, but I really enjoy the prospect of building my decks and go head-to-head with the AI.

  4. Dawngreeter says:

    May main problem with Magic is the cost. It’s ridiculous. It’s even more ridiculous given the fact that after a couple of years, the extremely expensive cards are rendered useless. I don’t mind the rotation itself, though. The other issue I have is that the land mechanic is simply not very good, there are much better ideas for resource management. But that’s not a dealbreaker in itself.

    So… I’m cautiously optimistic about this. Especially if it includes the two headed giant – I was hoping Hearthstone would include something like that for a while and the first card game that allows me to play together with my wife against other people in any meaningful way is going to see a lot of use in our house.

    • Kestrel says:

      lolwut

      Expensive cards aren’t rendered useless at all. There are many different formats to play, most importantly just casual kitchen table Magic. Play what you want there.

      And you don’t have to buy expensive cards to have fun. Heck, most of my decks are dirt cheap. They’re not competitive, but they’re fun and skill testing.

      • Dawngreeter says:

        We seem to be in disagreement over what “playing Magic” actually means. Not to get into pointless arguing, let’s just say that everything you mentioned isn’t meaningful in my gaming paradigm.

        • Kestrel says:

          I’m guessing you just play Standard. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but you’re limiting your gameplay to a tiny sliver of the overall game. It’s like buying a bunch of Legos then only playing with the blue pieces. Then complaining about it.

    • nearly says:

      I prefer land management to a lot of other resource options, though I do agree it can be a bit clumsy depending on what you draw. What it does offer, though, is a fair amount of versatility that’s much more compelling than something like Hearthstone or WoT:Generals (which I’ve just got into the closed beta for and has had it’s NDA listed: ask me anything) or Hex (which I’ve been in the closed beta for but don’t really find compelling enough to play often–not that I play Heartstone regularly or expect to be really gripped by WoT:Generals). It feels more active than just slowly gaining resources automatically, though of course you really are ultimately doing the same thing.

      I do have to admit to hating Planeswalker cards though, and this new gameplay aspect that all the card games are introducing. In Hearthstone / WoT:Generals it speeds up the game, sure, but it feels like a waste of time (maybe for the reasons you dislike land cards?) that you just have a free point or two of damage every turn.

  5. guygodbois00 says:

    Tragic: The Garnering!

  6. NathanH says:

    Hmm, let’s see how this goes.

    On one hand, the deck construction aspect of 2015 was much more fun than the previous games and it was surprising how much variety one can manage out of the small card pool. The new approach will probably mean more cards which is probably a good thing.

    On the other hand, I don’t like it when I encounter people using cards I don’t have. Probably more irritated than I should be, and it spoils my fun. Even if the card isn’t very good, it’s just GRRR. Also any move towards f2p brings with it the dark possibilities of screwing with gameplay balance to make money, something that the Duels series has mostly avoided (even the attempt at paid boosters in 2015 was quite well-designed from a gameplay point of view, and eventually abandoned anyway). Finally, f2p almost always annoys me as a consumer because what’s offered in exchange for money is almost never worth it, and I i) don’t like buying things that aren’t worth it but ii) don’t like getting stuff for free when I’d be willing to pay for it.

    Interested to see how the planeswalkers work. Unless they change the way Duels does priority (which would be a really bad idea), they’re going to end up somewhat weaker than their paper equivalents.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      Hmm. You thinking they’ll get to just kill spell/burn it before you get to activate it by abusing the STOP RIGHT THERE button? Not a bad shout. Maybe they’ll just make it so it activates automatically each turn and you pick the ability. Still be weaker, but less anti-fun.

  7. ArtyFishal says:

    Just fix Magic Online!

  8. Koozer says:

    I predict cut down versions of each new paper set for this, released around the same time as the paper set. I hope they do it right as I’d certainly play it over Hearthstone.

  9. malkav11 says:

    Yeah, no interest in this at all. I think Magic is pretty broken in a couple of ways, most notably its shitty, shitty resource system, and it’s also pretty light on theming. Sure, they make up some narrative context for whatever new keywords and such they want to try out in the latest set, but the theme isn’t baked into the core mechanics the way it is in things like Netrunner. So if you put it into direct competition with TCGs I think have better core design (really almost any of them) and/or stronger theming, I stop being interested in it real fast. What Duels had to offer was being a one-off purchase, thus freeing me from the endless money pit business model of most TCGs, and being based entirely on preconstructed decks, thus freeing me from the deck construction part that I really don’t particularly enjoy about these games. That was enough to keep it on the radar. Ditch both those things, as this appears to be doing, and the point entirely evaporates.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      Couldn’t really disagree with this more. Magic’s thematic elements are incredibly well put together and infiltrate every aspect of the game. Its resource system is one of the reasons its survived as long as it has, is as good and popular as it is and has as much diversity in deck choice as it does (helped along by a great R&D team)

      • malkav11 says:

        Their resource system is terrible. The only TCG I have ever played with a worse one was Spellfire, the ill-fated early D&D TCG (before WOTC bought TSR, IIRC), and that is because it didn’t have one at all so you could just play whatever you wanted and balance pretty much evaporated on the spot. It may have some interest value in terms of the strategic end (i.e., building your deck), but I’ve already expressed my distaste for that aspect of play, and in actual tactical play (i.e., playing your deck against another one), it means you either don’t draw enough resources to play the other cards you have, or you keep drawing resources instead of cards that actually do something. It places the entire fate of game after game on how your deck happened to shuffle this time. And certainly there’s some degree to which luck and failure thereof is a component of any card game, but there’s any number of ways to design things so that it’s not straight up sandbagging the fun value of the game.

        Netrunner, for example, where you can have cards that accelerate your resource gains, but you’re never completely stuck if you don’t draw them and you can build your resources over multiple turns so you can make big plays when it counts. Or a number of games, like WOTC’s own (defunct) Hecatomb or FFG’s Call of Cthulhu LCG, where any card can serve as a resource generator but you can’t then play it for its regular effect, forcing hard choices about what you need to get into play and what you can afford to sacrifice for resources.

        And Magic has had about fifteen different settings, none of which are defined by more than a couple of new mechanics. The core design itself is deliberately divorced from any sort of narrative or theme (and pretty lightweight, to boot) specifically so that they can take it virtually wherever they want just by slapping a few new keywords on the cards. It’s not a bad thing. It’s almost certainly a big part of why the game’s survived for multiple decades unlike almost anybody else. But thematic it certainly isn’t.

        I will say that Magic is mostly fine when the resource system is working and you get a smooth mana curve and a nice variety of spells and creatures going. But I only get that maybe 50% of the time. And when the resource system isn’t cooperating, i.e. the other 50% of the time, it’s miserable.

        • Frostbeard says:

          What you fail to appreciate is that the mana system IS a vital part of the tactics. You are comparing your casual kitchen table experience with a much simpler game (netrunner)
          Magic is the deepest CCG out there, and the mana system is a vital part of that. There are so many decicions just on wether to keep the opening hand. How well do you know your deck, what do I need to draw to make it work, what is the probability for that draw, Can I tutor up the answers I need.

          I can make a deck (tournament legal in Legacy) that will consistently win turn 1-2 with one land card. Its a glass cannon since it is easily hated but its strategy. Look up the Amulet Bloom modern deck. Thats how you play with lands. Or All lands in Legacy, or Scapeshift in Modern.

          Please dont spew nonsense

          • Frostbeard says:

            I retract the nonsense part, sorry. You do not spew nonsense. But I believe you dont have a deep understanding of magic.

    • ArtyFishal says:

      I also must disagree. The resource system adds a huge amount of strategic depth and really is something that separates MTG from other CCGs. It sets the pace of play and leads to tactics and mind games that have kept me playing for twenty years.

      Thematically, each blocks mechanics are fully supported by their backstories and the changing synergies of the colors are always accounted for in the mythologies if that kind of thing is important to you.

      I think Magic is really solid. I’ve tried every CCG that I could get my hands on, and though some are a lot of fun (Hearthstone), I keep coming back to Magic, because it makes everything else I’ve played seem simplified and lightweight.

      • malkav11 says:

        I can’t believe you’ve tried many TCGs, then.

      • Frostbeard says:

        I agree. The mana system adds a depth that few games I have tried match. I have tried all of the FF LCG games, have several of the early WoW TCG expansions, i dable in HS, and they are good, but not great the way magic is. Then again my collection probably costs as much as a few cars. Price as an entry barrier is Magics weakest point.

  10. Premium User Badge

    mecreant says:

    This is a little off topic, but yesterday I came across a starter deck for a game called Guardians that I had bought years ago and never had the opportunity to play. Has anyone played it? Is it any good? Is there a web site that compares and rates the various collectible card games that have come out over the years?

  11. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Interesting. I admit that I’ve not played the more recent versions of DotP, but those I did play I really enjoyed. If done well, this could make a DotP game which is more lasting, has more players and can grow in content.

    I just doubt the base will be good enough to allow this to happen. But I’ll probably try it out anyway.

    • Frostbeard says:

      It will never do that. DotP is just a gateway into proper magic. Magic the Gathering Online (MODO – Magic Online with Digital Objects) is the client that will see growth in numbers (if they ever fix some of the more horrible bugs and make a better interface)

      DotP is nothing more than a way for ppl to learn the basic rules and then start playing the actual game either with cardboard or on MODO

  12. Tiltowait says:

    I would really like a fully finished Magic Stainless version, each 20XX improves some things like deck building but never seems to be quite a fully completed game. I hope they do it this time. I would also like to mention Infinity Wars which I think seems to have a lot of potential and has a nice combat style that eliminates the annoying interruptions that can happen with MTG instants and such. link to infinitywarsgame.com

  13. AlexV says:

    Any chance there will be drafting in this one? I don’t really care if it’s against the AI, or if you get to keep the cards afterwards, but drafting is the one form of MtG play that I haven’t been able to try yet, because I am totally unwilling to pay-per-play anything.

  14. Mitch.sp says:

    If someone wants to play a much deeper F2P cardgame alternative to HeartStone, I can fervorous suggest Might and Magic Duel of Champions.

    With more that 2 years of life, great art, 2 Base Set, several expansions, Standard and Legacy game modes, every card in the game available to free players and with an economic model really generous for new players.

    Using a referal link for other player give new accounts 6 starter decks, one for each faction, plus another free one.
    link to signup.duelofchampions.com

    and here is a redeem code still active for more free packs:
    TH4NK5-70K-D0C-F4CEB00K-L3G1ON

    To redeem them after creating your account, you can either go to the official game website[www.duelofchampions.com] and login OR go to the ‘SHOP’ in-game and click on the blue ‘REDEEM CODE’ button on the bottom.