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Magic the Gathering

Review: Magic Duels: Origins

Jul 31 // Caitlin Cooke
Magic Duels: Origins (PC [reviewed], iOS)Developer: Stainless Games Ltd.Publisher: Wizards of the Coast LLCReleased: July 29, 2015MSRP: Free As its name implies, the story mode within Magic Duels: Origins centers on the early lives of well-known Planeswalkers in the series -- including Jace, Chandra, and Liliana. Each backstory is broken down into five chapters, which detail coming-of-age moments in their lives before becoming full-fledged Planeswalkers. Chapters begin with a short prologue and art piece which set the stage for the upcoming duel, and upon completion end in a similar vein. Battle Mode is the main attraction, containing the normal modes you’d find in any Magic game -- Versus battle (vs Human), Solo battle (vs AI), and Two-headed Giant (2v2). Solo battles come in three flavors -- easy, medium, hard -- however, you’re not able to select your AI opponent (the deck is random). It’s also unclear how the matching system works for the Versus battle system, since the servers were down the majority of the time and I wasn’t able to test it out. I also found it unfortunate that there are no extra fun modes present, as was common in the DoTP series (like Planechase or Archenemy), which I personally miss. In Origin’s free-to-play model, players collect coins via completion of Story and Battle duels or by shelling out cash. Coins are then used to trade in for booster packs, which are added to your overall collection. A single booster pack runs for 150 coins, which equals roughly $2.00 if you were to purchase the coins yourself. You can also buy coins in bulk at a discount, going all the way up to 7,500 coins for $39.99. Origins makes it surprisingly easy to collect coins -- completing a Planeswalker’s story (5 duels) is enough to get you a pack, or dueling a random human roughly 7 times could net the same amount. Quests, which are essentially achievements, rotate in and out and dish out coins when certain stipulations are met (for example: win two duels with a forest/mountain combo deck, put 20 +1/+1 counters on a creature, et cetera). After only a few hours of playing through some of the story, a few battles, and earning Quest achievements, I had enough coins to unlock 3 or 4 packs. I was surprised that the built-in cards were fairly solid (and a lot of new ones, to boot). Origins also features Planeswalker cards, an added layer of challenge which is also a first for Magic’s online games. It didn’t take me long to build some decent decks after opening a few booster packs, although with 251 total cards and only 6 cards in a pack collecting them all seems daunting. Deck-building has come a long way since the Duels of the Planeswalkers series was first introduced. In Origins, the two options are to build everything from scratch or to use the deck wizard. Building a deck from scratch gives players pretty much any freedom they need when building a deck -- it even has a nice filter system, allowing players to sort by parameters including rarity, type, and cost. Swapping cards in and out is pretty seamless, and I like that I could go through my booster cards to pick out the ones I want and have the game do the math and complete the rest of the deck for me. The deck wizard is much more restrictive, but probably the best option for brand new players. After selecting mana types, it walks players through three steps and explains which cards to choose along the way. Being a casual player who doesn’t really enjoy building decks, I actually found the deck wizard to be even more overwhelming than the “build from scratch” option. It’s oddly restrictive, as it doesn’t really give you much room to look at your available cards -- each step only displays a handful of cards to choose from at any given time. Although Origins has a number of viable options for deck-building, there were a few strange occurrences I noticed when building decks. When using autocomplete in the deck-builder, sometimes odd choices would be made -- for example, a lone forest land card would be slotted in when no forest mana was needed, or a card that calls for enchantments when none were found in the deck. Origins also makes it difficult to rebuild a deck if it was originally made with the wizard, as you’re not able to switch freely between modes. This means that if you get new cards in your booster pack that you want to add to your decks built with the wizard, you’re pretty much out of luck. My attempts to join a multiplayer duel over the course of two days were pretty much thwarted with network errors, which is a real bummer seeing how playing with actual people is the crux of playing Magic. I also found that occasionally the game would boot me out of the server entirely, rendering my account virtually useless. Hopefully Stainless will be able to sort out the server issues, as the game does not allow you to collect or spend coins, even in Story mode or AI battles. This is quite frustrating since the main purpose of the game is to collect these coins to spend them on booster packs and improve your deck. I also found it disappointing that you’re not able to earn coins via playing with friends. I’m assuming this is because it would be much easier to cheat the system, however, even giving small rewards via Quests, or a small amount of coins seems like it would encourage more friendly duels versus people taking advantage. Despite their servers not being ready, I feel Magic Duels: Origins brings the best of both worlds together, finally: a fun way to learn and play Magic with the competitiveness of collecting and putting together strong decks for duels in a fairly balanced system. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt, hoping that the server issues improve with time, but in the meantime playing through the story and battling AI is still entertaining. Those new to Magic will find it easy to dive in and learn the intricacies of deck-building, while more experienced players should finally have the customization and card variety they’ve been asking for. Nothing beats the real thing (playing in person) for a lot of expert Magic players; however, I feel like this is a big step in the right direction. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Magic Duels: Origins photo
Free-to-play done right
My addiction to Magic began with the first Duels of the Planeswalkers game for the 360 back in 2009. Although it had its shortcomings (mana tapping, anyone?), the DoTP series created an accessible way for new (or rusty) playe...

Magic photo
Magic

Magic 2015 Duels of the Planeswalkers coming this summer


Introducing fully customizable decks
Apr 16
// Caitlin Cooke
Magic 2015 Duels of the Planeswalkers was announced for release this summer on Xbox One, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, and mobile devices. While not a surprise considering they've produced a new game every summer for the past...
Magic Tactics shut down photo
Magic Tactics shut down

Magic: The Gathering Tactics will shut down next year


All those cards you bought? Yeah, they'll probably be gone
Oct 22
// Darren Nakamura
Have you been playing the free-to-play strategy game Magic: The Gathering - Tactics? If so, you don't have long to continue, as Sony Online Entertainment and Wizards of the Coast have decided to "sunset" the game on March 28,...
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ESPN used to broadcast Magic: The Gathering tournaments


ESPN 8: The Ocho
Jul 31
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Wow. ESPN used to broadcast Magic: The Gathering tournaments. Fancy that. (Via Reddit)

DOTP 2014 preview photo
DOTP 2014 preview

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 introduces sealed play


New mode promises to shake up multiplayer
Jun 17
// Vito Gesualdi
The Duels of the Planeswalkers series has been a serious boon to Wizards of the Coast, Stainless Games' polished digital experience helping introduce new players to the company's flagship card game: Magic: the Gathering. Unfortunately, the game’s previous installments have all lacked one crucial element of the Magic experience: building your own original deck.
Planeswalkers photo
Planeswalkers

Magic 2014 Duels of the Planeswalkers to have sealed play


Yayayayaaaaay!!
May 08
// Caitlin Cooke
[Update: Further details on the sealed play mode and potential cost can be found here. It sounds like players will not need to pay for booster packs, rather the game will come with two sealed deck slots in which you can edit ...
Magic: The Gathering photo
Magic: The Gathering

Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers sneak peek


This summer Chandra is kicking ass and taking names
Mar 25
// Caitlin Cooke
Wizards of the Coast has announced the return of its Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers game series this summer. In addition to the usual platforms (iOS, PC, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network), the game is also being relea...
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SolForge being shown off at PAX


Aug 27
// Fraser Brown
Dr. Richard Garfield, creator of Magic: The Gathering and Gary Games, the company behind Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, have teamed up to create a new digital collectable game which is still looking for funds on Kicks...

Review: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013

Jun 29 // Caitlin Cooke
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (iPad, PC, PSN, XBLA [reviewed])Developer: Stainless GamesPublisher: Wizards of the CoastReleased: June 20, 2012MSRP: $9.99, 800 Microsoft Points DotP 2013 features the same general interface as the 2012 version but with some new artwork and a few added tweaks. A new Player Status option can be found in the main menu which displays historical information on your character and allows you to choose from unlockable personas without digging into the options tab. Players can also browse through achievements, leaderboard information, and a neat mana statistics bar within this menu. The Deck Manager now shows stats on the amount of creatures vs other types of cards, and stacks them in a neat display. However, the ability to customize decks is still very limited – players are only able to remove cards other than mana, therefore leaving mana to be dished out on a sliding scale. DotP 2013 contains 10 decks total to unlock, which are similar to the ones featured in DotP 2012 but with more streamlining. For example, there are very few decks that contain more than one type of mana, and most of the decks contain a medallion card that decreases the cost of mana for a particular color. Although the decks are a bit simpler, the gameplay is still challenging and there are still plenty of new cards to enjoy. Some of the builds are event a bit surprising, such as Jace's Dream Puppets deck. When selecting a particular deck for battle, stats appear with attributes such as Creature Size, Card Synergy, and Deck Speed and Flexibility for ease of comparison against other builds. The Campaign in DotP 2013 has distanced itself from the tree-branch method and instead separates itself into various realms within Magic lore. Within these realms the game progresses linearly with battles called Encounters – these are meant for the player to devise strategies against a certain type of card, or battle. For example, the first Encounter has you fighting off hoards of flying Suntail Hawks in order for you to develop a method of defense against flying creatures in battle. These encounters eventually lead to  boss battles, dueling against full-fledged Planeswalkers as in previous iterations. They now flaunt animations and character descriptions including history, stats, and relations to other Planeswalkers for story purposes. Revenge mode is still on the slate, which gives players the opportunity to duel against the Planeswalkers one last time in a harder difficulty setting. Challenges are also still present, however they’re off in their own section as they were in the first DotP. Rather than keeping the physical Magic card game advertising to the loading screens as they’ve done in the past, ads are now placed straight into the Campaign. Once a player beats a high-profile Planeswalker, they’ll find an advertisement for that deck pop up with a link of information on how to buy it. The ads are later stored in the “Extras” section on the menu. It’s a minor annoyance, but one that’s noticed. The most notable change is the absence of Archenemy mode, with Planechase in its stead. Archenemy was a much loved (although highly frustrating) addition to DotP 2012 and it is missed, but its exclusion is not surprising. Wizards of the Coast prides itself in creating a new game experience with each DotP, and they’ve certainly crafted a very different mode here. In Planechase, a player can duel against 1-3 other Planeswalkers  as they normally would in a game, with the addition of Planar cards depicting the different realms of Magic along with a set of conditions. These conditions can range from anything from adding mana to a player’s pool, to not allowing creatures to attack. Setting off the conditions, or changing out the planar cards (also known as planeswalking) is all determined by the roll of a die. The different configuration that Planechase offers is admirable, but it seems to fall short in areas. The chance factor that it presents is exciting at first but can become irritating after a time. Games tend to run on for an extremely long amount of time as the cards defy most Magic logic and often reset conditions which can make players extremely powerful in a short period of time, creating a stand-off environment -- or in the reverse case, having players start from square one. The random chance factor seems to override the skill of playing Magic. Overall, it’s a solid mode, but not the most memorable. Probably considered the most improved feature in DotP is the ability to manually tap mana. Gone are the days of pulling out hair in frustration when the game decided to choose the wrong mana to tap, leaving your next move completely doomed. The cost of mana is also highlighted when selecting a card, making it visually easy for the player to determine how much would be spent. Graveyard browsing is also much easier this time around, allowing the player to select their own or an opponent’s graveyard with the click of a button. Multiplayer touts the same options as other DotP iterations -- Two Headed Giant (2v2), Free-for-all (up to four players against one another), and Planechase (instead of Archenemy). The menus and lobbies are no different than before, but then again there wasn’t much to improve on in that respect. Loading times seem reasonable, and there are a plethora of random internet people to play against as there always has been with DotP. Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is an admirable attempt at creating the ideal gaming platform for Magic -- fans of the DotP series will be pleased, but not entirely blown away. The hindrances present in prior editions have been removed, and basic improvements to the interface have ultimately paid off, making this game a practical and perfect rendition of the physical card game. Although the decks are a bit simpler than I'd prefer, they're still highly enjoyable and interesting enough to capture my attention throughout the game. Planechase is no Archenemy, but it's still a valiant effort in creating a unique game mode that will excite most players. Overall, new features like the stat boards, the Lord of the Rings-esque music, and the ability to tap mana have won me over, making this third edition a charm.
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With two predecessors in its wake, Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is the third installment to hit Xbox Live Arcade, iPad, Steam, and the PlayStation Network. The DotP series has generally been known fo...

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First trailer for Magic 2013 has new mode, teases another


May 23
// Brett Zeidler
So, I've actually just been getting into Magic: The Gathering in the past few days. I picked up Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 over the weekend in the giant Microsoft sale in the Xbox Live Marketplace for just $5. Destructo...
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Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 announced for iPad, more


Apr 06
// Jordan Devore
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers has been quite the money maker for Wizards of the Coast, and I don't see that stopping any time soon. Especially not now that the series is coming to iPad -- in addition to Pl...
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That saucy vixen Tara Long spent some time hanging out with Magic: The Gathering brand manager Paul Levy at PAX today to take a look at the latest updates to the digital version of the biggest collectible card game in the wo...

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Expansion coming for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012


Aug 17
// Joshua Derocher
Magic the Gathering fans rejoice! A new expansion for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is incoming. Sure, we expected it would happen, but we have some pretty screenshots to prove it now. You'll be able to play the new Archene...

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