I received my review copy of Duels of the Planeswalkers for the PC from Wizards on release day (thanks Dan!) but I felt I should invest enough time to form a proper opinion before writing a review on it. It perhaps took a little longer than necessary due to testing and taking part in multiple PTQs and getting ready for the upcoming WMCQ – questioning how I deep I want to go in preboarding/sideboarding for the expected mirror matches I’ll be seeing etc.
Duels of the Planeswalkers looks great, they really polished this one and it is definitely the best on in the series so far. You start off with an unskippable (from what I can tell) tutorial which is brilliant for newer players, although I did find it a bit tedious. This is perfectly fine for anyone wanting to get back into the game or new entrant to the world of Magic, but I feel it will be a bit frustrating for anyone who plays on a level anywhere beyond the kitchen table. I certainly would have appreciated a tutorial like this when I first started though.
One of the levels was questionable, you have your red opponent exactly dead on board and he attacks into your team with a 3/3 and 5 cards in hand, I don’t want to block here as any trick buys him an extra draw step and being green we don’t have the reach cards in our deck if he manages to double Incinerate killing all of my creatures. That said, for a newer player, the act of teaching them to block when it appears favourable is probably fine.
I really like the new “Red Zone” as it really draws your attention to the “this is the most important phase for you right now”, it really emphasises the combat step and serves to remind you that there are indeed two main phases.
I have been playing the PC version but I feel like it will be very good on any tablet device as the options are all swipe heavy.
I’ve mostly enjoyed the entire experience although unfortunately I have been frustrated a few times in the single player campaign. After you complete the tutorial you get to pick a two colour deck, I selected Red with a Green splash as when people are doing durdly things smashing them in the chops with some RG guys is probably what you want to be doing.
Unfortunately, the deck wasn’t very good and there was no way go back and switch colours. Foundry Street Denizen probably shouldn’t be in the same deck as Phytotitan. I managed to win a few games however, and I also decided to buy some Innistrad cards to add to my collection. I was a bit annoyed that the in-game price was different to the actual final price in the Steam store though, this was really not cool, but I wanted to make sure I had some decent cards to play with so I could enjoy the campaign more.
I made my purchase and continued onto the game where I was told that I would not receive my cards until I had completed the Innistrad story so I trundled through the matches beating the Innistrad boss with my Marauding Maulhorn & Advocate of the Beast combo to her Entreat the Angels miracle cast.
After seeing my new cards become unlocked I was really happy to make a new deck. The best I could come up with at the time was a weird half Vampire tribal, half Beast synergy deck that sort of worked if you drew only one half of the deck lol.
Although the initial challenges of having a very limited pool of cards to use was tough– especially when facing down the Hydra mission –once you’ve unlocked more cards the deck building part of the game is actually really sweet. I also believe that this is an important journey for new players to take; learning to make use of what little we have in any given environment is certainly a skill that we all need to develop in MTG.
Being limited to just 4 commons, 3 uncommons, 2 rares and 1 mythic at the start actually made me feel nostalgic, it brought me back to a place in history where I didn’t have access to any of the cards that I’d wanted and had to work out solutions to the problems I faced. These limited formats combined with the exact control over the deck composition allow for a brilliant deck building experience. Talking of deck building, you even have a stats bar to show you your curve and colours!
I am currently grinding my way into the full card pool and will be writing a second review once I’ve had some experience and made a few videos of the online PvP. I’m a little bit away from feeling like I have amassed the collection to play online in a competitive environment but I’m going to make the leap on the premium cards later in the week and see what I can come up with.
There were some ups and downs with this game, but overall it’s a positive experience and I think this is definitely recommended for any newer or lapsed players. It feels like it has a lot of casual appeal and I’m certainly looking forward to joining the online element of the game, it would be a pretty cool environment.
I do somewhat miss the pre-constructed decks that you started with in previous DoTP games, I think starting with something similar then being able to build on it may have been better. Just the option to try out or look at the decks before you pick would have been cool I think.
Some players may perhaps be put off by the micro transactions, but unless you’re planning to play online I don’t think you actually need to sign up for them as you can unlock 80% of the cards through just playing the game as normal.
I’ll be back after the weekend with two tournament reports and an explanation for my deck choices, and by extension some of the main deck choices I made in the standard WMCQ hopefully I’ll see you there!
Oh, and one last thing “Oh My Purphoros, they killed Vronos!“