Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 improves on a lot of things from last year’s iteration, but also at the same time makes several things worse. The campaign is a little better, thanks to the innovative but mostly easy “Encounters,” and Planechase is a billion times more fun than Archenemy, even though it still fits a little awkwardly on screen. On the down side, the white lifegain deck is kind of ridiculous, the deck editor is somewhat frustrating (I don’t need 25 lands in a mono red goblin deck) and doing things on your opponent’s turn can be pretty difficult if they don’t do anything for you to respond to.
However, rather than write a lengthy review, I thought I’d look at what the game taught me about paper Magic.
Talrand’s Invocation is Really Good
Four power of flying for four mana is good? What madness is this?! Okay, but seriously, in limited this card is going to be ridiculous. With Lingering Souls in standard, the drakes probably won’t make the cut, but pick this card early in draft and be very happy.
Magic Needs Wraths
DoTP13 has almost no wrath effects whatsoever. While making an arbitrarily large number of Goblin tokens was fun for a while, it got pretty tedious and any human opponent would obviously concede long before the ~160 dudes I made last night. I haven’t played any multiplayer yet, but I also can’t really imagine someone sticking around when I’m on 840 life (did I mention the mono white deck is ridiculous?). The lack of removal in general, but especially board-sweepers, makes Duels feel sort of… not really quite like Magic.
Protection From Blue is Great
In real Magic, I’m often drawn to slower, controlling decks, but in Duels I quickly fell in love with the Goblin deck. The lifegain deck is probably better (etc etc) but the Goblins just felt more fun to me. Goblin Piledriver makes the Jace campaign games an absolute joke. To be fair, it’s probably the worst deck in the game already, but Piledriver makes it completely trivial.
Nicol Bolas is a Dick
Okay, Cruel Ultimatum is a card I’d love to resolve (I only briefly played with Alara block), but being on the opposing side of it after clawing the final boss down to one life is pretty annoying. The “Revenge” version of his deck is even more annoying, but fortunately I decided to play the mono white lifegain deck. He killed literally every creature I played, but fortunately I was on almost 900 life (this deck is stupid, by the way) and he just milled out.
Ajani’s Deck is Insane
Alright, so if you took this deck to a Modern tournament you obviously would get crushed, but in the world of Duels, this deck is incredibly strong. If you land a hit with Celestial Mantle (much more reasonable than in real Magic, since very few of the decks play any removal) the game is basically over. If you’re having problems with the Planechase campaign, play this deck and easily win off the back of Felidar Sovereign. It’s not my idea of fun, and it can take FOREVER, but it’s the most reliable way to finish the campaign/achievements.