Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013|
Odds are, if you're a gamer of any kind, you've heard of Magic: The Gathering. Even if you've never played it, even if you've never set foot inside the sort of store that sells the cards, you're probably aware of it. But if you're not, Stainless Games has been making it easier than ever to acquaint yourself with the game, play against online and computer opponents, learn the lore, and transition into playing in real life. Since 2010, they've been releasing Duels of the Planeswalkers, and each version has improved upon the last markedly. Duels 2013, this year's iteration, is no exception.
When you start the game up, one of the first big changes is that Duels of the Planeswalkers starts to overtly celebrate the lore of Magic. In the card game, each set of cards is about a different plane of existence, from the vampire, werewolf, and ghost-infested plane of Innistrad to the universe-city of Ravnica. Up until now, this was hardly mentioned in Duels, but the 2013 edition brings that flavor to the fore. It's a small change, but that, along with the planeswalker introductions when you fight the final foe of a plane, is a handy crash course for new players and a source of heady nostalgia for Magic veterans.
The changes to the game itself are minimal. After all, Magic itself hasn't changed much in the year or so between releases, and the major changes to the flow of play involve a series of slight improvements to the user interface. There are the new cards, of course, with a series of cards from the most recent expansion, but the big new introductions are the encounters in campaign mode, as well as the new Planechase multiplayer mode.
The encounters are scripted matches that let you bring your deck against a distilled version of traditional Magic strategies. Can the deck you made stand up against an opponent that produces a 1/1 white flier every turn? Can you beat a rapid mana acceleration deck before it produces enough to win the game with its Helix Pinnacle? Do you have any idea what in the world I'm talking about? The encounters will make sure that your answers to all three questions are yes by the time you push through them.
Planechase, meanwhile, won't teach you many valuable skills for one on one magic, but what it does do is increase the chaos inherent to multiplayer magic. At any time, players in Planechase are in a location on one of the planes of existence, which changes the rules of the game, and with planar chaos effects that further spike the game's dramatic swings. One turn, you might be fighting in Dominaria's Isle of Vesuva, home to doppelgangers and assassins, where each creature comes with a copy, and planar chaos wipes out all creatures of a type, the next you might be in Phyrexia's Fourth Sphere, in the heart of the enemy of all living things, sacrificing a creature each turn, and animating zombies when you're lucky. You might even end up in the fairytale land of Lorwyn's Goldmeadow, and be awarded a tremendous number of goats.
For online players, more advanced stat tracking comes into play, though I'll admit that I haven't touched on it very much. Still, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is another step in the steady improvement of the series, and well worth getting for anyone with the slightest interest in Magic.