Magic Duels: Origins -- MtG goes F2P
1 player offline, 2-4 players online competitively.
Rated T for Teen.
Magic the Gathering has had an interesting presence on consoles & mobile devices. Originally billed as "Duels of the Planeswalkers," the game is now called Magic Duels.
This first iteration is subtitled "Origins" as its campaign mode has you playing 5 of the Planeswalker characters from the game's lore.
These are the 5 planeswalkers you use.
For each person, you start with a very basic deck and unlock more cards as you progress. Each of the 5 paths has you exploring and exploiting the mana colors' strengths & weaknesses. They serve as excellent tutorials for newbies and give veteran MtG players a quick survey of what they will be working with/against.
There are also solo battles against AI, friends or strangers. Two-headed Giant mode is back which should satisfy the many players that lamented its lack in Magic 2015.
The currency system is simple. A single 6-card booster pack costs 150 coins. You earn enough coins via the tutorial "skill quests" and story mode to purchase several packs and begin constructing decks.
Like the last game, players have full control over deck creation. There are filters to streamline the customizing and an excellent set of tools for beginners. There are 3 recommended archetype decks that will walk you through the process of building a deck that is viable against average players & AI.
Unfortunately, decks constructed with the step-by-step method cannot be freely edited, so newbies will need to reconstruct their preferred decks from their collection of unlocked cards.
Currently there are 805 cards available and, unlike last year's fuckup, no cards are behind a paywall; It's purposely not pay-to-win, although the grind will be strong if you don't fork over some real-world monies. Beating the AI rewards 5-15 coins per win based on chosen difficulty, but even on Easy these AI decks don't mess around. You get 20 coins for winning an online match as long as it's not private.
Each booster pack adds 6 cards to your collection and you can buy/"unwrap" multiple packs at once but there is no discount for a bulk purchase. Community quests add bonus coins per certain victory conditions, but it will still take a lot of effort to attain all the cards.
Thanks to the random number generator, Uncommons and Rares live up to their status. Mythic Rares & Planeswalkers, though, are frequently encountered online.
Overall this feels like a good direction for MtG on consoles & phones/tablets versus playing the official Magic Online on PC. It loses points for infrequent bugs and a laughably small catalog of cards. (805? Yu-Gi-Oh! has thousands...)
+ It's free-to-play
+ Great artwork, as usual
+ Excellent tutorials for newbies, total control for vets
+ Clean, fast interface
+ Every card attainable without paying
- AI needs to be scaled back on lower difficulties
- Quests for bonus coins need to be more frequent
- Card pack purchases are random
- Grinding enough wins for a new pack takes too long
- Relatively small assortment of cards
- Can't earn coins playing with friends or 2HG mode
? Will expansions add more planeswalkers and artifacts?