Last month saw Wizards’ latest foray into the world of video games with Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014. If that sounds good for you and you haven’t already checked out our review, you should; it’s by far the best in the series and without doubt the go-to game for anyone with a craving for some trading card action.
Even as a kid I always had an eye on Magic: The Gathering. Sifting through boxes of pre-teen nostalgia, I recently came across a stash of cards I had collected over the years but never played with. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t grasp the rules or lacked the wits to build a deck; it all came down to the fact that no-one else I knew played Magic: The Gathering, usually because they lacked the patience or interest.
By the time Duels of the Planewalkers kicked off in 2009, I had moved on from Magic: The Gathering. It was a shame really as it offered the one piece of the puzzle I had always been missing: someone to play Magic with or against, whether it be AI or another player.
One day, out of pure impulse, I decided to download the trial for Duels when it launched on PSN back in 2010. I found myself instantly transfixed on the game, somewhat amazed that, even after the best part of a decade, Magic: The Gathering still operated on its watertight set of mechanics.
I carried on with the series, each annual sequel (2012, 2013) ushering in new refinements and gameplay modes as well as additional cards to experiment with. Now, in 2013, Duels of the Planeswalkers has reached its peak somewhat. With a steadfast set of game options and (at last) a fully operational deck builder, there’s little more the series can do to improve on itself. At least in my opinion.
However, as much as I enjoyed the series and its newest instalment, there was a part of me wanting to flip the table once more and return to the original paper-based card game I never got to play.
Well, the wheels are certainly in motion and I have Duels 2014 to thank for that. You see, the real beauty of the game is how accurately it represents Magic: The Gathering and vice versa. Even without the various menus and options, now that I have a deck of real cards in my hand I still know how to do with them. I don’t need to read a guide on deck-building or even refer to a rule book, all of my tutoring has come directly from DotP.
2013 is as good a year to get started with Magic: The Gathering than any other. This time around Wizards has kept on track with its annual core set (2014) and already has plans to follow up with a huge expansion, dubbed “Theros”, later this year.
Now, there are plenty of ways to get stuck in. It really doesn’t matter which sets you use to compose a deck though I’d advise sourcing from Core 2013 and beyond to ensure that you’re getting the most up-to-date experience.
The quickest way into Magic: The Gathering is through Intro Packs. This year there are five of them, each combining two different mana-types to create deadly hybrid decks. Retailing at around £12 they are an optimal entry point for beginners, presenting a pre-built deck of 60 cards, one premium card, a set of rules, and two boosters with which to customise your new deck.
Securing an Intro Pack will net you a sturdy collection straight off the bat, then. However, this approach is not for everyone, especially those who either have experience with the game or want to take on something a little more creative.
For them, the 2014 Deck Builder’s Tool Kit is an ideal choice. For around £16 you get 285 cards, including 100 basic lands, 125 semi-randoms, and four boosters -one for each of the game’s most recent expansions. The Tool Kit is your key to an instant stockpile or cards, affording plenty of flexibility for players to construct their very own decks from scratch.
Finally we have the “Fat Pack”, a choice more or less reserved for returning fans. Hovering at the £30 mark, this bundle will net players a visual encyclopaedia and quick-start guide, as well as 80 basic land cards, nine boosters, two deck carriers, and a special edition spin-down counter (which is basically a glorified D20 dice).
If you don’t know anyone who plays Magic: The Gathering then Duels of the Planeswalkers is still your best bet. It’s a solid game and a magnificent tutor, also available on Android and iOS. However it’s always good to know that, for less than thirty quid, you can start a big enough collection to suit two or more players.
It’s worth pointing out that on September the 7th, Magic Celebration is taking place in stores around the world. It’s a chance to try the game for free and get some free cards, and as I understand it, is aimed at new players. You can find your nearest location on the website. I hope to go along and give it a try.
It’s also worth mentioning that stores that stock this product often have free 30 card sample decks to give away to new players, so even if this is not for you, that could be a way to get a taste of the real game.