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Have You Played... Magic: The Gathering Planeswalkers?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers, to be specific. There’s a bunch of ’em, so I’m asking about any of ‘em, really. I’ve played two in my time, and fairly briefly, but last week I played actual, proper, cardboard Magic for the first time (somehow I won 20/0 against my extremely veteran opponent first time, then was demolished handily in the three successive games), and all of sudden those entries in my Steam library are a constant temptation.
Magic 2015 truly taught me the rules, and after for years thinking Magic was a fusty and over-complicated game, it turns out that they are extremely elegant rules. Hearthstone’s a different game for sure, but I can really see now quite how much it plundered from the granddaddy of fantasy card battles. In this age of designer boardgames which take five hours to learn, Magic is so remarkably stripped back, using this core set of inviolable rules then somehow spinning them off into vast amounts of per-card variety. It’s an amazing creation, though it is of course one designed to perpetually siphon ever-more money from me. Each clever card an opponent obtains requires me to obtain something similar, and on and on.

Magic 2015 lacks, I can tell even from these early experiences, an awful lot of what Magic For Reals has. Deck-building is so poor and cumbersome, the slow, clumsy UI is so much less fluid than the simple gestures used in cardboard play, and the overall structural rigidity is antithetical to the get in there, muck about, see what works and what doesn’t ethos of casual Magic-with-chums play. The 2013 version I played a couple of years previous seemed a whole lot less fussy, if less prettily presented. Even so, now they’re there, able to feed what is in some danger of becoming a habit. I wish there was a way to recreate my opponent’s best deck – this Black one which perpetually generates shedloads of mana and can insta-kill all my best stuff – though. I must know how to defeat him.

I guess what I am really saying is ‘Have You Played Magic: The Gathering’, but it’s also an excuse for people to hold forth about what did and didn’t work about the PC adaptations, and what future versions should ideally do.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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