Impressions: Magic Duels – Origins

Look, Yu-Gi-Oh jokes are really funny so I'm using them in this piece about an entirely different card game, okay? Don't give me that, I bet you couldn't even tell me the CMC of every WUBRG card. Have you ever even been to a PPTQ? Watched the PT? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I’ve been playing Magic regularly for the past five years, and the blame for all that lost time and money is the first Duels of the Planeswalkers [official site]. During that time, the game grew from gateway drug for its cardboard cousin into a full series in its own right, and one looked forward to by long-time fans and new players alike. Unfortunately last year’s edition did almost as much work making me hate it as the original did making me love it. I’ve been playing the next iteration, Magic Duels Origins, to find out whether it manages to fix the series amid the move to an ever-updating free to play model, or whether it falls into the same trap (cards) all over again.

Of course, the answer is a little from deck A, a little from deck B. To get it out of the way early, I think Magic is one of the best games ever made. I’m writing this with a horrible dose of nerd-flu, having come back from a full weekend of playing five separate Magic tournaments at a local basement-turned-store. I don’t regret it for a second because I get an unmatched amount of fun from watching the systems of Magic interact, devising the correct plays from twenty different bits of information spread across a half hour game and half a decade of learning. The art is immaculate and brings each addition to the game to life, be they subtle rule changes, twists on old cards or entire new card types. I’ve made new friends, developed rivalries, and through some intense wheeling and dealing even managed to reduce the cost of playing to almost zero.

If you don’t play Magic, I think you should. If you want to, Duels is where you should start.

This iteration’s attempts to educate new players are the best they’ve ever been. There’s no lengthy tutorial, you’re just kicked into the game and things are explained as they come up. The basics of playing lands – cards that provide you resources – and casting spells – the actual business bits that kill your opponents – are covered immediately and then everything else is left to be discovered. Each time a new card type or ability is introduced, there’ll be a pop up explaining it. Most also give you a ‘skill quest,’ a sixty-second minigame that quickly explains what it is and then gives you a scenario where it’s vital to victory. This is rarely more than half a turn of actually doing something, but it’s a lot better than just throwing the info at you and hoping for the best. They’re also optional, but reward you with in-game currency.

The great thing about living in a post-Davies world is nigh-abusive use of captions. For example: In Defense Of Lands, by Ben Barrett, aged 24 and one sixth. Land is very controversial within the lower-echelons of the MTG community and outside of it. While pro players have long since given up on complaining about mana flood (getting too many lands) and mana screw (too few) in a serious manner, newer and prospective players still find it a barrier to entry. I want to explain why really, it's not all that bad.

Gold, or “Nicol’s Bolas Bucks” as I christened them, can be used to buy card packs containing three common cards, three uncommons and one rare/mythic. It’s 150 gold per pack and you end up with about 10 packs worth after you’ve finished the story component. Currently this and foiling cards (a cosmetic effect that adds an animation to the art) are the only things to spend gold on, but Duels now being a platform rather than a yearly release means this can and will expand in the future. At the very least there will be a whole new set of cards released in tandem with the next Magic set, Battle For Zendikar, in early October.

But hopefully it will be more than that. I spoke to Wizards EU Community Manager Dan Barrett (no relation) about what could be added:

It’s possible we’ll add more play modes in the future. A lot of this is going to come down to what our Magic Duels community says they want to see. So if they say ‘we want a different multiplayer mode and that’s the number one thing we wanna see’ then that’s going to be bumped up our list of priorities. We have a list that’s miles long of potential features we could add, so it’s a case of picking the ones that are going to benefit most the community of people playing the game.

Right now the game has only one on one battles and Two Headed Giant (two versus two) modes, lacking my personal favourite of Sealed and the well received Planechase and Archenemy modes from previous years. Sealed gives you a pool of cards to build a deck from, while Planechase is large multiplayer games with additional rules in place controlled by a seperate deck and Archenemy is an all versus one mode, with the one starting on more life and given a deck of scheme cards that even the odds. These more random modes aren’t for me, but they were what kept a healthy non-competitive playerbase interested.

See, land are Magic's safety valve in tonnes of ways. It stops every game being about who can blow up all their opponents stuff and hit them for thousands of life points, as the resource-less Yu-Gi-Oh has descended into. It keeps games from being samey as the WoWTCG and Hearthstone both suffered from, with the vast majority of cards being unplayable due to not fitting the always identical curve of play. The colour system increases deckbuilding decisions without adding artificial-feeling class/race/faction-selection limits and, while I think Hex's threshold system is a touch superior, brings an amazing flavour to the game as a whole.

What Origins does have is its campaign mode, which is far and away the best the series has offered. It’s focused on the five main characters of Magic, each representing one of the colours of cards. As you may have guessed, the stories focus on their origins told through sets of five matches, with your pre-configured deck upgrading between them. While free deckbuilding is the obvious right call for the multiplayer side of things, using the campaign as a way to introduce playstyles and each colour’s identity is important not only as a teaching tool, but also to provide variation and allow more specific encounter design. The nature of Magic means any deck could technically brute force its way through any challenge. This means players (or, at least, me) will inevitably do that instead of trying to redesign their deck around beating that opponent, even as the encounter becomes steadily more frustrating to retry. That Stainless instead control what cards you have access to at any given moment makes for a better experience.

It means cards can also be introduced at story-relevant points, then read by players and reacted to or played on the fly. It encourages some core tenets of Magic – learning by doing and using all the information at your disposal to make decisions – better than ever before. This in turn makes room for more advanced plays, even in the slightly simplified version of the priority and phases system Duels uses that lets you respond to your opponents actions only in certain time limits. It doesn’t teach you that, it just lets you put the pieces together yourself, while providing the never-wrong guiding hand of rules knowledge that real-world Magic can sorely lack.

Unfortunately, it also suffers from two old problems. The first is that while total customisation isn’t required, it would be nice to be able to tailor each deck to my way of thinking. Rather than simply adding cards to it, I’d want each win to give me options to focus on specific areas or cut one avenue of attack to make room for another, similar to the precons of Duels 2013 and before. Basically, I don’t like playing with bad cards and I expect newer players would prefer to cut the ones they don’t like too, even if we disagree on which those are.

Let me explain that flavour. Colours in Magic are more than just a simple way to separate cards, they're entire design philosophies. The five colours (and colourless cards) each have different things they can and can't do at different costs and rarities. It's not a rigid system, it's changed massively since 1993 in fact, but 'colour pie philosophy' is, in the opinion of both me and long time head designer Mark Rosewater, the glue of the game. Without it, everything falls apart, and crossing those boundaries too often - printing burn spells in blue, for example, or unconditional removal in white - damages the game. Land is a vital part of that system.

On a similar angle, Origins continues a series-long habit of giving my computerised opponents far cooler decks and scenarios than me. One might start on a higher life total with the only intended method of victory being to run him out of cards to draw (I still beat him to death because that’s how I roll) while another is actually a series of four encounters with different demons, each keeping the board position of the one before it. They even have unique cards not available in the deckbuilding portion of the game. My CPU doesn’t care how cool these cards are and I do, so give them to me, even if it’s just for the campaign.

That other portion is where you get to use any cards or colour combos you like, building your own decks and challenging the AI or taking on human opponents online. If you’re thinking of Hearthstone, well, so were the developers. Every win gets you some amount of gold, with the most rewarded for online play and then scaling with AI difficulty. There’s a cap of 400 a day, which compares pretty favourably with Hearthstone’s 100, although requires fewer wins to meet at 20 vs. Blizzard’s 30. If you’d rather pay out, thanks to the way packs work (you’ll never open cards you already have a playset of) it’s around £40 to buy enough gold to get the full set, with no variation if you’ve bad pack-luck. Again, this compares pretty well to many other F2P games that would cost hundreds to complete, but will drop off as more sets are released with just as many cards to buy. Plus, as Dan said, there may be additional play modes or new campaigns too.

There’s also a few bugs currently plaguing the iOS and pre-release copies of the game. Daily quests, which offer bonus gold and keep things fresh, aren’t completing unless Wizards’ noobie-friendly deck-helper tool is used. This isn’t a huge problem since the tool is reasonably effective at creating a playable deck, but is compounded by being unable to edit those decks in the expert builder that gives full control – a baffling decision that I can only assume is another bug. I also had a desync issue in one of the few online games I played, causing the game to soft-lock and requiring me to restart the client. As with any online release, servers are unlikely to be fully stable at launch, but playing the AI, deckbuilding and running the campaign all work offline.

Land also play a small but key role in the power eco-system of Magic. Like any card type, they can have certain effects on them. Similar to how colours operate, there are limits on what is and isn't allowed, particularly in the more refined age of 2015 vs. the wild west of Alpha, Beta and Revised, Magic's original sets. However, lands can become or start as creatures, for example. This operates both instantly and in an uncounterable way, since lands are not spells so classic Cancels and Counterspells aren't effective on them. That's a very important thing to have access to if your opponent is on a pure-blue plan. Even if they aren't, being able to cast spells early and turn excess lands into threats late is very useful. How often have you been stuck at 10 mana in Hearthstone, drawing cheap cards into an empty hand with excess going to waste?

If you do manage to get past those issues and get a collection together, you’ll find Origins’ AI isn’t any improved from yester-years, but has been given far more powerful decks to play with. With purely free cards I found I was outmatched on card quality, meaning deckbuilding and play strategy actually mattered. Going online, this is less likely to be much of a problem unless you’re unlucky enough to go up against only people who have decided to buy the set. Even then your disadvantage is limited due to how many of each card Duels allows to be put into decks.

This is something my opinion has wavered on, but I think I now understand it. In paper Magic, you’re allowed four of any card in your deck, other than basic lands and cards that specifically say this rule doesn’t apply to them. In Duels, you’re allowed four of any common, three of any uncommon, two of any rare and only one of each mythic. While it’s not strictly true, in general this is also the scale of card power. A change like this in paper Magic would be both a massive upheaval of two decades of normality and require a total rethink as to how cards, particularly rares, are designed. In Magic’s 60 card decks, a one- or two-of that can only be naturally drawn is just not reliable enough to build a strategy around.

However, in Duels they can get around this problem via the selection of cards they choose to put in. It’s also a benefit in basically quartering how long it will take to build a full collection, helps keep cries of pay to win – which, for what it’s worth, Magic is, just not as much as you might think – to a minimum and creating a different experience to the world of fleshy hands and cardboard, uh, cards. Remember, this is a companion to and introduction for that game, not something designed to replicate or replace it. Magic The Gathering Online, Wizards’ other digital attempt, fulfills that role and comes with its own massive selection of headaches.

What’s not so great on the collection front is servers between iOS, PC, Xbox and eventually PS4 not being linked. As much as we’d love to believe your gaming heart is set only here, we’ve seen you round the back of the bikesheds with your iPad and Dualshock. But having to re-earn (or buy) all those cards again isn’t the way to make you happy. Hearthstone partially succeeds on the back of being able to rank up between drinks at the local or while on the bus, then get home and open the packs you’ve earned. Currently, Duels doesn’t have that and it will suffer for it. There’s also the issue of a split player base leading to depopulated servers, but in its current pre-launch state I can’t make a final judgement on how much of a problem that will be. Either way, crossplay should absolutely be at the top of Stainless’ priority list.

And while you can only normally play one a turn, Magic is entirely about breaking rules. Forget a Druid's Wild Growth, I've seen players go off to the tune of 8-10 land in a turn. Another system means another *flexible* system, and even in the modern game cards that allow for more mana and lands are still printed and still very powerful. So that's land. Don't knock it until you've tapped it. Or something.

I think Origins has the chance to be everything Wizards want out of the digital version of their greatest work, but the fixed release date to coincide with a real world release has clearly left some polish in the can. The game itself is solid, controls better and has a far superior UI to any other version, even if some mechanics in-game can get a little fiddly. You’ll mess up once and hopefully it won’t matter or will be against the AI, then you’ll know for next time. Dan put it best in our interview:

The reason it’s moved to this free to play model is so we can do this persistant ongoing client and because people have said ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if there was free to play Magic?’ and we’ve said ‘… yes it would.’

And when it has more cards and formats and all the bugs are cleared out, it will be awesome. As I noted in my thoughts on Hex, it’s also in desperate need of sideboarding, where fifteen additional cards are brought to matches and can be swapped out with ones in your deck between games, which are best two out of three. All the card selection and slight rules changes in the world don’t take the (needed) variance out of Magic and I know it’s another layer of stuff-to-learn for new players, but it improves the game immeasurably. Having this depth in normal ranked games would also give it the push it needs to stand up to Hearthstone – something that’s unlikely currently, but must surely be a target.

Beyond that, it’s good to see Duels back to its old quality self and surviving the transition to free to play intact. I’ll certainly be checking in with it just as often as I do with the real game. I wasn’t doing anything with that little remaining free time anyway.

Magic Duels: Origins will be out soon, apparently, on Steam. It doesn’t have a store page yet. Try here.

41 Comments

  1. LegendaryTeeth says:

    Not the first Duels of the Planeswalkers. That’s the expansion to the 1997 Magic: The Gathering game by Microprose. Which was the best magic game ever.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    • RedViv says:

      Modern version of the Shandalar adventure mode would be soooo goooood.

      • Gothnak says:

        Play Forge at slightlymagic.net. It has drafting, sealed and an adventure mode (Without the map, but with opponents and a shop) all against (A pretty decent and usually better than Duels) AI and all free… And open source…

        Latest beta link is on this page:

        link to slightlymagic.net

        Honestly, best single player MTG program online, it doesn’t have multiplayer though.

  2. EhexT says:

    “If you don’t play Magic, I think you should”
    Jesus what horrible advice. Magic has hands down the worst business model of any card game on the market, and in terms of gameplay it’s a dinosaur that’s been topped repeatedly.

    If someone wants to play a card game with a community there’s WAY better options, and they’re (almost) all LCGs instead of the horrible scheme of CCGs. Netrunner is mechanically the king of the 1v1 card game with continually expanding card pool types. Conquest is almost as good, shorter and less asymetrical. Game of Thrones is also mechanically fantastic, while boasting a hilarious 4 player FFA mode in addition to the usual 1v1. Then there’s Lord of the Rings, which stands pretty alone as a cooperative LCG, and it’s pretty fantastic for that too.

    Plus Star Wars, Doom Town and probably several more LCGs, all of which have better business models and better gameplay than Magic. And for most of them it’s as easy to find players as it is for Magic.

    • Cockie says:

      Netrunner is tons of fun

    • hennedo says:

      I have also come to prefer LCGs as they feel more rewarding in terms of time spent deckbuilding and money spent acquiring cards. They have stronger themes than I’ve experienced in Magic and I’ve had an easier time getting people who don’t have a background in deckbuilding card games to play with me (and enjoy the experience).

    • Dream says:

      Believe me, you could do worse than Magic so far as business models go. And I say that as an ex-competitive Yugioh player. At least you know when your cards will rotate out in Magic. At least you can actually read the full rules of Magic and get definite fixed rulings. At least there are multiple casual formats to cater to a wide number of player preferences. Maybe that is more a criticism of Yugioh than Magic though. =p

      I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with the TCG/CCG model providing you know what you are buying into. It’s very possible to spend a pittance on Magic and play casual games, and maybe have to update your deck every 6 months or a year if you go to local tournaments – but most people I know who are playing a card game they enjoy on that level do this anyway. It’s harder to get into the competitive tournament scene without spending a lot, sure; but it’s also not impossible either and I don’t think the game model really expects the player to reach that stage early on so it assumes prior investment and therefore experience and a larger collection.

      Since I haven’t tried to play the other games you’ve mentioned competitively I can’t really compare the models. The GoT players I know are quite casual so it’s not meaningful for me to look at their gameplay behaviour to determine what tournaments might be like.

      I certainly have criticised others for buying sealed TCG product in the past, but at the end of the day if they want to spend their money on the “gambling”-esque rush opening packs brings that’s entirely their choice to do so. If somebody enjoys that then it’s far more likely a TCG will be a game they’d prefer to a card game like GoT where you know the contents of every expansion you buy.

      I do sort of agree that “If you don’t play Magic, I think you should” is poor advice though, but because it reads as though “playing Magic” is something the reader should be doing indefinitely. I would have no problem with “If you’ve never tried Magic, I think you should give it a go.”

    • theslap says:

      At least you can re-use Magic cards. Anyone remember BattleCards?

    • Ben Barrett says:

      I disagree with you for an incredible litany of reasons that I don’t really want to spend another 1000 words explaining. I don’t think LCG is superior to CCG, I don’t think Netrunner (which I’ve played) or others (which I haven’t) have better rules systems and I know that MTG has a larger playerbase and will be easier to find games for, at least everywhere I’ve ever been. It also has a better organised play structure, more ways to play, a longer history, more support for playing professionally (dedicated websites, singles market, MTGO, etc).

      I don’t hate other games, FWIW, Netrunner’s and YGO are both quite fun, but I prefer Magic.

      • malkav11 says:

        I would be genuinely interested to hear an attempt to defend the CCG business model in general and the Magic business model in particular as compared to the LCG model, or the fixed set releases of something like Mage Wars. Because I’m sure not seeing the upside.

        That and the resource system seem like the places where Magic is clearly broken, to me. I can sympathize with preferring Magic’s relatively lightweight, flexible system and short game lengths, even while I prefer the longer, more thematically integrated and mechanically specific designs of things like Netrunner and Doomtown. That’s just a personal preference sort of thing. But I just don’t see the CCG business model as being acceptable both because of the financial sinkhole it represents for a reasonable playset and because it tends to warp the game design towards making the coolest cards the most difficult to obtain (although, really, even if rarity weren’t a factor I would still resent having my access to the full panoply of options gated not by game design or time invested in playing the game but by RNG). And as far as I can tell literally every other resource system ever used in a CCG/LCG is superior to the land system that obtains in Magic, short of things like the short-lived AD&D card game Spellfire, which had no resource system at all.

        • Ben Barrett says:

          booster pack system supports draft and sealed that I really like and LCG system, as it ages, means you have a significant upfront cost to play the game at a good level

          it’s more complicated than that but like I said, typing it all out would take a long time

          re: lands, there’s a cleverly hidden defense of lands in the above article

          • malkav11 says:

            Point granted on sealed and draft (although I feel like those formats could be replicated to some degree in an LCG with a little effort, minus buying $10+ worth of cards every time – but not as an official tournament, certainly). The increased entry cost of LCGs over time, though? Sure, like any other product that’s been expanded over time, to possess all of it means investing a significant amount of money. But to be competitive you almost certainly don’t need to buy every single release, just do a little research and pick up the specific packs that you need to build the deck(s) you want. And for casual play, hell, just pick up whatever sounds fun. I can’t imagine that it’s ever a more expensive proposition than getting current with a given CCG with options either being buying potentially dozens or hundreds of boosters at $4 a pop or $100-ish a box or picking up specific cards on the aftermarket for massive markups. And once you are invested, in an LCG you might have to pick up an addon pack or a box every so often to keep up with the meta, but with a CCG (or at least, Magic), all your stuff ages out on a regular basis and you get to play the random/inflated secondhand game with every single expansion.

            As far as lands go…yeah, I found that but I’m not convinced. There are other games with systems that do that stuff without the problems inherent to Magic’s land. For example, the ill-fated WOTC game Hecatomb, besides having a silly transparent pentagonal card gimmick (which I still liked a lot) also had a Magic-style color system, but instead of lands you played cards of that color as a resource, and there were a whole host of neat interactions that came from that. Plus no mana screw/flood. (FFG’s Call of Cthulhu LCG uses a similar system, but I don’t like that game nearly as much). Or Legend of the Five Rings, where your resource cards are part of a separate deck so much more controllable, and you still get very distinct factional play and theming because of the clan loyalty mechanic (but can splash in other “colors” of clan at a penalty).

          • Pantalaimon says:

            @malkav, if you’re interested, here’s Maro (Magic head designer) talking about the design theory of the mana system, on his podcast:
            link to media.wizards.com

            From what I remember it was a fairly robust defense/explanation.

        • lomaxgnome says:

          The biggest defense is that buying and opening packs is fun, as is collecting cards. Of course it isn’t as fair or balanced as the LCG model, and for casual players the LCG model is almost certainly superior (not that you couldn’t buy tons of inexpensive Magic cards for casual play just as cheap at this point). But there’s something about pack opening that can’t be replaced. In fact, the lack of pack opening and deck building has long been the biggest complaint about the yearly versions of Duels.

          • malkav11 says:

            Those people are mad. There’s a game that already exists that serves that purpose just as well – MTGO. The beauty of Duels was that you got what you got. No need to fuss with deckbuilding or buying cards piecemeal.

            Also, yeah, you can get a lot of Magic cards cheaply. What you can’t get cheaply are the best cards.

    • Scurra says:

      I too consider Magic to have been overtaken by many rivals in subsequent years. However – and it’s a big but – if you laid out all the different varieties of CCG game styles (1v1, multiplayer, casual, 1vN, drafting, sealed, quirky etc.), Magic would probably rank second in every single one of them, whereas none of the others even come close to doing more than one style well. That’s why it’s still around after more than twenty years.

    • Mctittles says:

      Depends on how you play. I bought a 1000 random magic cards off Amazon for $15 and my friends and I have been having a blast building and playing decks from it. Plus no one has an unfair advantage. You don’t HAVE to keep buying cards to have an enjoyable game.

    • rparmar says:

      MTG is popular because it was the first, and managed to exploit its position and remain dominant. While it is far from the worst card game (Spellfire? Doctor Who?), it is also far from the best. And as others have noted, it deteriorated seriously with the addition of mythics that exacerbated an already problematic chase rare situation.

      I have had more fun playing Dune, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek (the second one), Legend of the Five Rings, Doomtown, Pokemon (in early days), On the Edge, Netrunner, and many others. I think I have played about 100 CCGs, about a dozen of them competitively. This is partially because I worked in a gaming shop. And partially because I have an avid interest in game design.

      The absolute most fun in the world was had playing Shadowfist. Not only did it have an incredible setting and companion RPG, but it had the best rules and tactical dynamic of any game.

      Magic is nothing compared with Shadowfist. But, life isn’t fair.

  3. Soulstrider says:

    I have found memories of my childhood playing magic, buying decks and boosters, being happy for each new rare you got and getting by with what you got. Then net-decking started to get popular, everyone started copying tournament decks and buying the cards they wanted online, that utterly killed the joy of the game for me.

    I eventually moved to WHFB but lucky me it’s dead now, I guess I might try Warmahordes next.

    • Soulstrider says:

      fond memories I mean, goddammit hands.

    • LegendaryTeeth says:

      What killed it for me was the big rules update for when they started tying editions to years. 2011 or something like that? They changed how combat worked so you couldn’t do anymore janky nonsense like having two monsters trade blows and then unsummon yours back to your hand before it died. Maybe it was confusing or broken, but that kind of thing was like half the fun for me. All that tactical, tricky stuff.

      And the shift to hyper focused 60 card decks built around getting out certain combos just exacerbates the problem.. I would rather have a big pile of flexible cards that let you respond to different situations. That kind of tactical play was the best. Now it’s all about surviving long enough to pull off your combo, and recognizing what combo the opponent is trying to pull to stop them.

      I had a hilariously broken broken rainbow deck in the Alara block that was all about getting out the win combo, and it worked really well.. but it was no fun anymore.

    • Dream says:

      That behaviour does tend to occur in sections of most game systems when players try to compete against each other though. It’s less to do with the game, though it could be argued that if the game incentivises competition it might be more common, than the mindset of the group of players.

      But generally I’ve often found that as players become more experienced and informed they will move away from casual playstyles, specially when those limitations are imposed by the environment and by lack of knowledge (“I want to build the best deck I can, but even though some of these cards are weaker than others I don’t have anything else”), rather than self-imposed (“I want to play a deck along X theme or with Y card even if I know it isn’t as likely to succeed as a very similar collection of 60 cards”).

      If you’re looking for a less competitively-minded game experience it’s going to be as much about finding the right community as the game after all, since copying the unit/card/build lists of the successful is prevalent in every game in which players are competing against each other.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Forget netdecking, I remember when WotC started selling the entire decks of tournament winners. That would’ve been in the late 90s. That’s when playing against friends at school with my own weird decks got a lot less fun.

      • RuySan says:

        I remember that, but those decks had a different back and weren’t tournament legal. Those were when Recurring Nightmare decks were a big thing. I was a competitive player back then, and took it quite seriously.

        I say Wizards killed the game when they started releasing even more expansions per year (which were already enough back then) and making the better cards mostly rare. This wasn’t the paradigm in the 90’s, as it was possible to make good decks almost entirely without rares (suicide black, sligh, draw-go).

        As for this particular game, I think wizards will hamper it as to not compete with MTGO. I don’t expect much out of it.

        • malkav11 says:

          All I really want from it is the standalone Duels games except with each new content release adding to the pool of modes and decks and things instead of being a completely separate thing with no overlap. But since they decided to charge for packs of cards I’m probably not getting that.

        • MisterFurious says:

          Yep. All the expansions for the last several years have been five to ten insanely good cards that everyone wants and are Rare or Mythic Rare and then the rest of the set is pure crap. Yeah, occasionally there may be one or two good commons or uncommons, but most are worthless. No doubt Wizards accountants and analysts figured out that that’s the best way to sell boxes and maximize their profits in the short term, but I don’t think it’s really healthy in the long term as a lot of newer players are going to get fed up and quit like a lot of older players have. Games Workshop is dying off because their game is too expensive and they’ve been around for three decades. How long will it be before people get sick of dropping hundreds of dollars building Magic decks that are only good for a year or so and quit? I know I got sick of it over a decade ago and when my friends and I started playing again, I just printed off a deck to play with on card stock because I don’t have the money to waste anymore.

  4. trashmyego says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. And it’s not just the game itself, the community surrounding it has calcified into something tipping back and forth between belligerent and toxic. But then spending that much money on something does that to people, especially when it’s also tapping into addictive personalities like it does. It’s sad, so many better games out there that are more financially sound.

  5. DrollRemark says:

    Shame they haven’t updated the UI, there’s so much wasted screen space here. Which, on mobile (where I gave the last Magic a try) is criminal. There are so many good card game adaptations (or card-inspired, like Hearthstone) that know that you should maximise the information on display. Copying the exact layout of the physical game, and giving you a stupid “oh but this is about where you’d be sitting” view angle smacks of them really not thinking it through.

    • Banyan says:

      The UI in the last iteration was clearly designed by an misanthrope. I struggle to think of any game that went to such efforts to hide critical menus or waste your time with whooshing graphical effects as you try to find that g-d option you need. Every single action from tweaking decks to checking graphical options would take 20 seconds of UI effects and confusion to do what should be a maybe a two-level nested menu. My main memories of that game are waiting for options to stop whooshing by. All I wanted from this Impressions was word of if the designers of this game still hate people.

  6. Lessing says:

    Ben, thanks for the article.
    It’ll still crazy there’s no release date/Steam page, despite being out on iOS for nearly two weeks now.

    Please can you correct the info on HEX though… it *does* have sideboarding!!

    • Ben Barrett says:

      Hex does have sideboarding, just not everywhere, which is what I want.

      • Lessing says:

        Might be worth stating that though, currently sounds like you mean across the board (ahem).
        Also, as of tomorrow’s massive feature patch and Set 3 release, you can challenge anyone to a best-of-3… this may include sideboarding, will need to check. That would therefore leave only the “play random opponent” and “play against the AI” to be lacking sideboarding.

  7. Lessing says:

    PS awesome captions on the images ;)

  8. BluePencil says:

    I only played my first Steam-available Magic game after I’d played Hearthstone. What I can’t abide with Magic is the having to click to see what my opponent’s cards are. With Hearthstone everything is crystal clear in front of you and simply hovering your mouse reveals all.

    I saw a vid of this new Magic game which showed that when your opposition plays a card it flies out at you and then goes off into the distance. The idea being that you get a look at the card just played. But it flies back and forth so quickly that you can’t make out what the card was anyway.

  9. Ibed says:

    Magic in the Hearthstone F2P format is pretty appealing to me: I like the rythm of playing a few games every couple of days and slowly building my collection. Too bad it isn’t out on PC yet. Any word of it coming to Android too? It wasn’t mentioned on the official site, but it feels weird to leave out. And yeah, crossplay would seem pretty necessary.

    The fact that you can’t get more copies of a card than you need seems like a pretty player-friendly system, and a good example of taking advantage of making a game for computers. I also like that the number of identical uncommons/rares/mythics per deck is limited: this will make it a different, but just as interesting game, and this again feels like the right place to implement this idea.

    Inspired by this post, I tried looking for the previous Duels of the Planeswalkers titles. There’s an original version, and new 2012, ’13, ’14 and ’15 versions. The original seems to be semi-broken on Steam, in that the some links (like this one: link to store.steampowered.com ) send you back to the front-page of Steam. The newer ones (12-15) have ridiculous amounts of DLC: decks, foil conversions, sealed slots and combination packs. Serious question: are there any DLC guides on these games?

    • Dawngreeter says:

      Android version is specifically stated as not happening. I honestly don’t know why that is, but they don’t want their precious cards on peasant handhelds, I guess.

      But, really, with no crossplay I wouldn’t play it on Android anyway. It’s of use only if I can get an odd game on it occasionally, not if I have to pick it as my primary gaming platform.

  10. Premium User Badge

    FatOak says:

    “Post-Davies world”? Say it ain’t so!