Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 PC Review

Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/magic_duels_2013/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

For the uninitiated

Strategy card game Magic: The Gathering is stronger than ever at shops and tournaments, despite what some may think. And while it seems more to do with good management on the part of Wizards of the Coast and its tight relationship with the community, some credit can probably be given to the Duels of the Planeswalkers series.

Duels, if you're new, is a group of video game adaptions of paper Magic aimed at bringing in new players and entertaining veterans. The latest iteration -- Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 -- launched this week on PC, consoles, and iPad.

The first Duels installment was rough around the edges to say the least, but seemed to prove a big enough success to warrant a much needed overhaul in 2012. 2013 operates nearly identical to that version in terms of user interface, modes (Campaign, Challenge, Multiplayer), and functionality; the main draw here is new decks and a new mode.

New decks

Good and bad news, here.

10 new decks are featured, and just about all are more strong and fun than ever. You've got your standard burn deck and green aggro deck, for example, but also some unusual choices like the white lifegain deck, which -- believe it or not -- could be top tier. And for those like me who missed the mill deck from the original Duels, there's a new one in here, and it's about everything a mill player could ask for.

Excepting the white/black Exalted deck, there are only mono colour decks. While each of them makes a very strong case for each colour and wears it definitively and with pride, there's a massive amount of players who prefer to work with at least two colours. My guess is Wizards knows this will be the first experience many people have with Magic and want to start them off slow with mono and then introduce two and three colour decks later on in DLC, which is understandable. Hell, even a four colour or rainbow deck could be crazy fun, but since dual lands are still excluded, I wouldn't expect it anytime soon.

Contradicting that somewhat, however, is the introduction of mechanics like Cycling, cards that can be played with either colour mana, and the aforementioned Exalted, just to name a few. Many of them are fairly complicated, which will make newbies a little scared but should please vets greatly.

More cards, Encounters mode

There are now 15 extra cards per deck from the get go for a total of 100 cards per deck, so while there's still no full-on deck editing, decks are more customizable than ever. The 15 extra still doesn't quite give you the power to completely transform the deck from one thing to another (mill vs. counter, for example), but more customization is always welcome, and of course, this could change later on with more cards for the original decks via DLC. Another drawback: you still don't get four of each and every card.

The downside to this is it takes ages to unlock the 30 extra cards for each deck to make it the best it can be. Your best bet is to try an "Encounter" your deck works well against and play it a ton of times until you're done. "Encounter" is a new mode similar to the puzzle-like Challenge mode in which your opponent follows a set pattern (plays one Primordial Hydra per turn, for example), whereas you proceed as you would in a normal game with random cards and do as you please -- these can go by much more quickly than a regular match.

Planechase mode

Planechase is the other big draw. This mode is similar to Archenemy in that it's crazy chaotic fun (especially with four players), and features special cards which wreak havoc on the entire battlefield. It's different from Archenemy in that it's every man for himself, and cards affect everyone, not just three opponents. Depending on who rolls what with the Planar die, you may or may not see a new effect each turn; on one you might see everyone shuffle all permanents into their libraries and replace them with new ones, and on another all creatures will be black and have deathtouch, with the possibility for extra abilities depending on further die rolls.

It all feels completely unbalanced, but that's why it's so fun. I'm more the traditional 1v1 type regardless, so I'll be sticking with 1v1 multiplayer, but for those that enjoy this brand of weirdness and big, chaotic games, you should find a good home in Planechase. Just for the love of all that is holy don't play with or against the lifegain deck in this mode, or this might happen...

Multiplayer issues

The question on PC players minds is likely "How is multiplayer connectivity now?" Well, it's still broken, which is especially disappointing given the fun of Planechase. For those who don't know, the past two Duels games have the glaring issue of rarely if ever allowing you to connect to another person's game. Hosting a game has always worked fine (and it still does now), though this sometimes requires you to wait around. This being the third installment, I would think developer Stainless Games would've fixed this huge issue by now, but from what I can gather, they may well not even be aware of it.

Final thoughts

So that's the jist of it: new, strong, fun mono decks, Planechase, Encounters, and broken multiplayer, all for $10. The downsides are a shame, but mostly shouldn't be hard to look past.

Magic: The Gathering - Duels 2013 is available now on Steam, PlayStation Network, Xbox LIVE, and the iTunes App Store.

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