Nicol Bolas – the super-intelligent, interdimensional dragon
– is back to his evil-plotting ways and he can get away with it too if not for
you and those pesky planeswalkers.
The card game, Magic: The Gathering, is back with its annual
downloadable offering, Duels of the Planeswalkers, brandishing new cards, a new
gameplay mode and the snazzy 2013 subtitle. This is the third installment of
the game in so many years, and it boasts a few more tricks up its magical
For those unfamiliar with Magic: the Gathering, players take
on the role of powerful wizards known as planeswalkers, who have the ability to
jump between different planes of existence. These mages participate in duels,
casting creature and spell cards in order to attack their opponents.
If you’ve yet to play Magic (either online or with physical
cards), then this game is a great entry point. It’s very newbie friendly with
good tips and tutorials to get you up to speed and playing Magic within a
relatively short time. Duel is a good, cheap way to learn how to play the game
in a low-pressure environment. Just don’t be surprised if you start craving
some tougher Magic after this initial taste. There’s a reason players refer to
the game as “cardboard crack.”
For those familiar with Magic and who’ve played previous
iterations of Duel of the Planeswalkers, not much has changed. The game still
provides a fair bit of challenge, even to those who have been in the game for
years. The biggest difference from the 2012 version is the removal of the
Archenemy Mode and the addition of Planechase gameplay. Here you’ll face off
against three other planeswalkers, shifting dimensions thanks to the Planechase
deck in the middle of the field.
Every turn, players have the chance to reveal a new
Planechase card, each of which has various effects on the battlefield. One card
might destroy all creatures, one may make creatures more powerful, and others
supercharge the spells you cast. It’s a welcome change from the old Archenemy mode and much
more interesting, fast-paced and fun to play. It gives you a better sense of
agency than it did when you teamed up with two other players to take on a much
more powerful opponent.
The game is also comes with 10 new decks. Each has its own
distinct strategies; whether you like flying creatures, mono-black control
decks, or overwhelming opponents with red goblin, there’s a deck for you. The
decks themselves are a lot of fun to play with and will please amateurs and
veterans alike. They also employ some new cards from Innistrad and the upcoming
2013 core set, and give you some pretty interesting and powerful cards to mess
There is also a new deck rating system, which shows players
how big creatures are in a deck, the decks’ flexibility to deal with opposing
strategies, and how much synergy the cards have with one another. The deck manager
also shows you how many creatures a given deck has versus other cards. It’s a
great way to get a sense of how each deck works at a glance; the more
information you have about your decks the better you can play them.
But overall the game hasn’t changed much. There is one minor
tweak that makes a huge difference, however. The game taps your mana
automatically and most of the time does a pretty good job of it. In the past,
though, it could make some pretty terrible decisions and screw you out of playing
a game-winning card by tapping the wrong land. Now at critical junctions the
game will allow you to choose what mana you would like to keep open, which
makes a huge difference. It’s a welcome change since this was one of our
biggest gripes with previous games.
Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 is, at its core, an update on
an established, popular series and shares in the problems of previous versions.
Veteran players will still feel a bit constricted by the relatively limited
deck customization options compared to real-life Magic. Also it’s sometimes tough
to know when you can cast a spell or use a card’s ability, especially during
combat phases. So it is difficult to plan out super-tricky tactics that require
Still, veteran Magic players will enjoy the new decks and
challenging puzzles here, and the game is a great way for potential
planeswalkers to learn the ropes of this classic geek gaming staple.