Magic Duels Reviews

AuthorReview
Fanta Morgana
384,767 (197,940)
Fanta Morgana
TA Score for this game: 2,723
Posted on 02 August 15 at 16:29, Edited on 12 December 15 at 14:14
This review has 11 positive votes and 5 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
So the new Magic game is out: Magic: Duels Origins. Its supposed to continue the Duels of the Planeswalker series but want to change up the formula.
Before this came out, the developers and WotC stated, that this would be a different game than the Duels iterations. This would be true free to play as in you can unlock everything in the game by just playing. This would be most content heavy title in the Duels series. By playing you should earn coins, that would not only allow you to buy Booster packs but also Avatar pictures, themes, music, premium foil and so on. This should be the most accessible yet most complex iteration in the series. Daily challenges would let you earn extra coins. There will be no more new yearly iterations but rather will this game be updated over time with new cards, features and so on.
So this is what I expected. Lets see if the finished product holds up to it.

If you didn’t know before I think by now you will have guessed that Magic is a trading card game. While the series gave you preconstructed decks to play with until 2014, from 2015 onwards you have a pool of cards, that lets you construct your own decks. While you play you unlock booster packs, which are additional cards. One booster pack contains 6 random extra cards for your card pool. What I really like about Magic is the awesome artwork on the cards.

UI & Gameplay:

Right from start you notice a new UI. It runs a lot smoother than previous installments and there are less and shorter loading times. Navigating the different modes is way faster .
In a match it displayes how many cards are in your library, graveyard and so on right next to the stack. Also there is a visual representation how many cards your opponent has on hand.
I find it a great improvement and if you don’t know what Graveyard, library and so on mean the game does a great job of teaching you, which brings me to my next point.

Tutorials and modes:

If you are new to magic the game does a good job of introducing you to the mechanics of it. Right of the bat you have to do some basic tutorials before you get into the main menu.
From here you can play story campaigns, single matches, online or offline and access the ingame store and the quest hub, more on that later.

The Story acts as a kind of extended tutorial. The game suggests you do at least the first campaign but you can if you want to ignore the warning and jump right into deck creation and real matches. However most people would want to do the story as it gives you rather good rewards in terms of ingame coins and the occasional booster pack. So even experienced players may want to consider doing at least the first campaign, which gives you 3 boosters upon completion and 150 coins spread over the various levels.But more on the ingame economy later. If you are familiar with magic especially the first campaign feels really boring though.

Whenever a new gameplay mechanic appears the game gives you the optiona to do a skillquest, which is a mini tutorial, that teaches you how to utilize this gameplay mechanic. These usually last only a minute so even experienced players will want to do them for the coin reward.

Besides the tutorials/story mode you can play against AI spread over 3 difficulty levels and two headed giant, which is basicly a coop 2vs.2 mode. Sadly we can't play against AI that uses our selfmade decks or be able to select an AI deck we want to go up against. I would understand if there would be no coin reward, but at least give the option to play that way. This would be great to just randomly dick around and basic playtest the decks you create.

I didn’t feel that much of a difference between the different AI difficulties and it appears like they all still use the same deck, but make smarter(?) moves as the difficulty increases. I feel like there should be restrictions on the easy AI though, like it not having access to certain legendary cards and planeswalkers. A turn 3 drop Leliana Vess is not what I would consider an easy AI. Though they are all very beatable and from what I can tell use real decks with real RNG, so occasionally you run into a mana-screwed or mana-flood AI opponent which is good in my opinion.

The game is missing the 3 and 4 player free for all and doesn’t feature any special mode from the series like Archenemy which I really liked in Duels 2012, Puzzles or Planechase. I don’t know why Stainless always leaves out modes that have been in previous installments. Also a two headed giant campaign would be much appreacheated.
Another major gripe is that appearently if you play 2 headed giant locally both players have to use the same deck.

I guess you can say the modes cover the basics and only that. Hopefully as this is supposed to be updated over time we’ll see extra modes and functionality. Right now I’m not sure if this has the required amount of content to create the longevity a f2p title needs.
A bit more stuff to do for singleplayer or something to bring more variety into the grind would be welcome.

Deck building:

This game features 251 cards, which is really not that much. I feel that there are not many viable deck options for each color combination. I think since the lack of cards mono-decks aren’t really an option here, so you’re looking at 2 colors minimum per deck. Also I feel like the cards provided are comparatively weak and don’t synergize as well as in previous installments. A lot of cards are rather techy with activated abilities or trigger effects. These weak cards make matches rather long. I get that as this is getting new stuff over time they start out with weak stuff but I feel as this is supposed to draw new players in there should be viable options for monocolor aggro-decks which probably are suited best for new players. You can only have a limited amount of the same card, e.g. you can only have four of the same common card. It is displayed orange in the deck creator when you have the max amount of that particular card. As with the limited card pool it just not as much fun and a timesink as it could have been, if you had more different options.

There is a deck assistant, that can help you build decks, or you can let the assistant create the whole deck for you. While of course auto-created decks are inferor to custom builds I feel they are somewhat capable of defeating AI opponents. I found myself winning against hard AI using the auto-created Gruul (red/green) deck most of the time, however I feel like some variants are just not good at all. The Simic (green/blue) autocreated decks are pretty bad in my oppinion. Its is advised if you use auto-created decks to build them again every few boosters as the deck assistant uses your current card pool as a basis. Havin the unlocked planeswalkers in my auto-deck for example helped quite a lot. So autocreated decks are a valid option to get you started, but with time you will want to build your own decks.

If you build decks yourself the Deck-editor is easy to use and allows for quick customization of decks by letting you filter for color, type or cost of card. You should put around 22 lands in your deck. (depending on ramp and land-fetch)
I would really love a feature, where you can send your friends blueprints of your decks, that they can build themselves then if they have the cards unlocked.

F2P-economy:

When you first load up the deck creator you get a basic set of cards. With this and having the campaigns played, spending the money earned in the progress spend on boosters you should be at around 140-150 cards (basic set of around 95 +3 boosters + 750 gold(=5boosters)+ 15gold per skillquest) . Depending on what you got out of boosters you should be able to get some somewhat valid decks together. They may be not up to snuff to beat pro-decks from people that bought everything right of the bat, but definitely good enough to beat hard AIs to farm for more gold, for more boosters. Its also nice that even though the cards you get in boosters are randomly generated cards that you already have the maximum amount of wont appear in boosters anymore, so you always get 6 cards that you can add to your pool.
A booster pack is 150 gold. You can buy multiple packs of boosters at the same time, but it always boils down to this price per pack (eg. 8 boosters for 1200 which is still 150 per pack) which is good, otherwise it would encourage you to safe. So feel free to spend the gold right away. This is good, since you unlock boosters rather regularly and its fun to tinker around with your few new cards tweaking your different decks here and there.

The way to earn gold is winning matches against AI or other people. Easy AI is 5gold, medium 10 and hard is 15. Online matches give you 20 gold. Also there is a daily quest each day which gives you either 20, 40 or 60 gold. You have 3 quest slots so you can have 3 quests active at any time, meaning that you don't have to check every day and rather let them pile up until you have 3 active quests. You can forfeit a quest once per day. If you do that you get a different quest instead but if you don't like that one either you have to wait another day. Most of the time the quests want you to win games with preconstructed decks of a certain colour which in my opinion kinda defeats the point of the exercise as this game is all about building your own decks and tinkering with them, however aother quests are great, like sacrificing x creatures or putting x 1/1 tokens on creatures as these encourage you to play with different coloured decks while still giving you some freedom on how to achieve the goal exactly.

Also there are community quests, which involve the whole community doing something (like fetch 50000 creatures from graveyards). Only people that contribute to the quest get the reward however.

You can also spend gold to make your cards premium foil cards (glow effect) but that is a purely cosmetic and doesn’t affect the gameplay. I think it looks rather bad in the digital magic games but to each their own. Appart from that other customization options that have been promised aren’t available.

If you spend real money 150gold are 1.99$/1.79€ (1$=75gold) but the bigger the pack of gold you buy the more gold per money you get. The biggest pack is 7500gold for 39.99$/35.99€ (1$=187 gold)

Is it pay to win? I guess so. Depends on how you define it. If you invest a lot of money you definitely have an advantage over people that don’t pay. However you don’t have to engage in online matches just yet. You can grind by yourself first and when you feel fit you can go online. I myself apart from a bit of testing stay offline for now as I don’t spend money. This grinding however can become tedious and boring but I guess its intended and best played if you stretch it over time. Just a few matches here and there. However the next update may just put you in the same spot again.

It was announced that when an expansion comes out all the content can be bought for ingame gold. I guess from then on there are just new cards that can appear in your booster packs but time will tell.

Achievements:

Pretty solid list. Most of them are for performing misc tasks in matches. Lot of which require you to have certain cards unlocked. However there are some that require a long term investment, like 500 wins vs. AI, 500 online wins, 500 daily quests completed and online rank 40. As this game is supposed to be updated for years I guess that is fine and you will work on them over time. However I don’t quite like that you can lose online ranks, so the rank achievements may be a pain. If you win you rank up, if you lose you rank down. All the misc achievements can be gotten in private matches but you would most likely unlock them over time anyway if you play with different decks from time to time. The achievement pictures are pretty sweet though and you may wanna put them in your showcase as they are awesome.

Overall:

This new installment is a solid foundation and quite fun however it is severely lacking content. The new UI is the best in the Duels series. More modes, cards and features are very much needed and I just hope that upcoming expansions go the extra mile to deliver more than just more cards. The Free2Play model is ok albeit a bit grindy, which I guess is by design. Overall not too much effort is required to unlock all the cards which is very doable if you spread it over days. The main draw, the online is however only really a viable option if you payed or grinded before.

After all its free so I guess there is not that much to lose. I f you are a completionist however you may want to check out the previous magics demos or Duels 2012/13 which are easy enough to still shlog through even if you end up not liking the game that much.
The game however is the most accessible yet and does a good job of teaching new players the basics, however the card pool isn’t that newcomer friendly with a rather techy set of cards.

As it is Duels 2015 in my opinion is the better choice. Yes you have to pay 15$/€ upfront (including expansion) but get a bigger card pool for a more fun deck creation and more content especially for single players. But as I said duels 2015 is done and Origins could very well end up being the better game in the long run.

For the state Duels Origins is in right now I’m giving it a 2.5/5 because of the small amount of content but if they expand on it well I would go up with the rating.

Update:
The first expansion is out on xbox now. I don't have access to my X1 right now, but I have played the expansion on steam, where its out for a month already. So far I'm not too impressed. It adds a new five battle campaign and new cards. You can now either buy normal or expansion boosters. Also the challenges don't want you to use preconstructed anymore which is great. I guess the update is solid. Once I get the chance to play the game on X1 I will give it a proper testing and this review a proper update. What I can say is that this kinda fixed my biggest complaint, which was the small cards pool. Still underwhelmed by the modes but I'll give this game at least a 3/5 now, maybe even a 3,5/5.
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