Magic Duels Origins 2015 Review by Mario Ludwinski
A PC version of Magic Duels Origins was published last Wednesday. Due to technical difficulties we were not actually able to start playing till Thursday, but that’s ok. It happens, especially when thousands of curious players join servers at the same moment. (There is an IT thing called cloud to prevent such scenarios, but that’s another story)
To play the game you need to register to Steam service (easy, free), then download and install a FREE Magic Duels Origins. It takes some-teen minutes.
Then you launch the game, set all info the game needs (name, profile graphics). And it begins.
…er, almost begins.
First, there are some tutorials for how the game works. If you’re a seasoned Magic player, it’s possible to stormclick through them.
Then a new world finally unfolds.
In the Story mode you can play scenarios for five planeswalkers: five games for each one. Every game depicts an important point of their origins. If you’ve read short stories on DailyMTG, or watched segments from the weekend coverage of Pro Tour Magic Origins, then you won’t be surprised at all.
The Story mode isn’t too hard to complete. Opponents’ hands are set, but yours are not. You can draw great hands (and you usually do), but sometimes you need to restart a duel. I’ve found Jace’s 2 and Liliana’s 2 and 3 to be challenges. Duels themselves feel a bit repetitive: you need to attack with creatures. The only scenarios that feel different are Jace’s – since you can mill the opponent with Sphinx’s Tutelage – and Liliana’s – since her deck based on reanimation Zombies is really fun to play.
For each victorious duel in every Story mode you earn coins. For them you can buy booster packs in the game store: 150 coins for 1 booster that contains 6 cards (1 rare/mythic rare, 2 uncommons, 3 commons.) For one planeswalker scenario you can earn 10+20+30+40+50 coins – 150 exactly, a cost of one booster.
Battle Mode / Coins Mode
After completing the Story mode, you will probably go to the Battle mode. Here you can build your unique deck, then compete with it against AI players or live people.
Deckbuilding is quite straightforward, on your collection of cards you apply a filter of colours and card types, then you pick cards you want, add lands, and that’s it. There is even a wizard to assist you through the building process, if you’re new into this.
Battles you take a step into can earn you coins: but only if you win. Against AI you have three levels of difficulty: easy, medium, hard. Hard decks aren’t that hard, if you build a good-curved Aggro deck: White-Red and Green-White are quite popular. However, Perilous Myr and Foundry of the Consuls show up almost everywhere, so you need to plan ahead how to push final few points of damage through blockers and not die yourself at the same time. This is why Topan Freeblade shines the brightest.
I built a GW Aggro deck with renown creatures and buff effects. As a big finisher I chose Primal Huntbeast. Its hexproof shuts down many removal, while it allows its owner to buff it with enchantments or ETB effects of creatures. Later I added Boonweaver Giant which can tutor up Call of the Full Moon and Kytheon’s Irregulars which tap out opponents’ defenses.
After beating hard level’s AI a bit, earning coins, buying boosters, upgrading the deck with cards, I went to see how battles against live opponents go. Every time you win a duel against live opponent you earn 20 coins, that’s 5 more than beating hard AI, so it may be worth a try.
Well, it isn’t as they go quite bad.
My deck is far from optimal, I get that. I even win some games against even less optimal decks, but I completely lose to a deck with multiples of Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh and/or Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. And those decks happen quite often. Obviously, some players went with a perfectly fair shortcut: they bought lots of boosters with real-life money, then constructed their decks. If you go the slow route, playing hard AI and buying boosters for every 10 won duels, you may feel a bit… well not cheated, because it’s perfectly within game’s boundaries, but let down maybe. Maybe its because you will eventually earn a good deck, but it takes so much time to do that that you may end up getting bored playing vs the AI.
This feeling of boring is gone after a few hours, because there is a set amount of coins you can earn in a day. Yes, you’re reading correctly, we can’t sit all 24 hours straight collecting coins. On one hand, it’s cool, because you don’t spend too much time playing the game and instead you have to do other more important things (although what could be more important than Magic?!). But then this limit further amplifies the let-down feeling I wrote about just before. I know some free-to-play games that don’t exercise such limits. Magic Duels does, so it becomes more of a hobby game you can play an hour a day, instead of being a more serious commitment. This is still reserved to Magic Online, I get that – but if that’s the case, why charge money from players for shortcut boosters? That is what I don’t get. Why do you think Wizards did this?
Also, I can’t see a point of getting a better deck. In the old Magic: The Gathering computer game, we could play with Power 9 and defeat great mages who terrorized Dominaria. Here we duel, get coins, duel again, get coins again, and that’s it… It’d be so much more fun, if a campaign was presented in an RPG way: as a map of forests, cities, swamps, mountains on which we could “walk” with our planeswalker, instead of moving from one small round emblem to another. As it stands now, it’s just a way of getting new players into Magic and introduce Magic Origins cards to players who don’t want to spend tickets on Magic Origins drafts.
The play itself goes smoothly, if you know a bit of Magic. The game screen is more simple that the one from Magic Online, that’s a good thing. The game is more simple thanks to a smaller pool of cards, but we can still make mistakes. So, it’s a good tool to hone play skills without risking money on tickets.
Two-Headed Giant Mode offers a lot of fun, if – and it’s a big IF – you manage to find a player who knows how to play it. I’ve tried three times and didn’t win a duel in this mode, because my partner made mistakes in early stages of games. One time he/she didn’t play Divination on me when I had seven untapped lands and no cards in hand, while he/she had his/her hand stacked with four- and five-mana converted cost cards. Another time he/she misused Perilous Myr: instead of blocking a three-toughness creature to kill it, he/she chose to block a one-toughness creature. I understand there are new players to the game. I’m not angry for losing. But 2HG is a mode you need to know a game well to have a good time, instead it becomes a chore and a luck exercise in getting co-players. If you play with people you know, it’s much, much better so I would strongly advise that you are mindful of that when setting up a 2HG game.
For me, it’s a C for now. If Wizards fix a few annoying things (a coins barrier especially), it may go up to B.
Community Question: Have you played Magic Duels Origins? What is your opinion of it?
Thanks for reading,