Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 is this year’s installment of Stainless Games’ Magic: The Gathering title. As with previous games in the series, it’s mostly the same game with slight changes and one new mode. I’m not going to review the game of Magic, but instead review DotP 2014 as a medium for playing Magic. I’m reviewing the Xbox 360 version.
Some history: I’ve played all four Planeswalker titles on the Xbox 360. I played cardboard Magic years ago, but have no interest in the physical card game now. I don’t like the mechanics of Magic well enough that I’m interested in investing my limited game time in building decks and getting good at the game (that time is reserved for [previously] L5R and [now] Netrunner). That said, I do enjoy the game of Magic well enough to play it without having to invest time in deck-building. Especially if I can sit down and blast a few spells at friends.
So, I am no Magic expert. I don’t know the terminology. I don’t know Magic meta or balance. I like blasting my buddies’ faces off with lightning bolts.
Magic : The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 allows you to do just that. The game is $10 and just under a gig download. For your money you get two single-player campaigns, a few multiplayer modes, and access to 10 editable decks (12 if you count sealed decks, see below).
The Game in Summary
The Planeswalkers series of games is based on the Magic: The Gathering card game. You take your deck of cards, summon creatures and cast spells, all in an attempt to kill your opponent before they do the same to you.
You’ll start the game off with two decks of 60 cards (a typical big-creature green deck and a typical direct-damage red deck). As you play through the campaign you’ll unlock additional decks. Each time you win a game with a deck you unlock one new card for that deck. In the deck editor you can add or remove cards from the deck as long as you have at least 60 cards.
You can then take these decks online in an attempt to dishonor your friends or strangers in a few different modes. You can also take on the challenges; a series of Magic puzzles to solve.
The gameplay is the same as the current Magic: The Gathering rules, although there are strictly enforced time limits to each part of the game in order to keep the game moving forward. They attempt to fancy up combat and card-playing by throwing in fireball animations and slashing attack noises, but those can be easily muted; and the combat animations which serve only to slow down gameplay can, thankfully, be turned off.
For players new to Magic, this game is an easy way to play. Any card you can play is highlighted during the times it can be played. With a couple button presses you can get a definition of any keyword on any card. All of the math is handled automatically, rules are enforced, and a tutorial as well as extensive tips will walk you through every single part of the game. The game will even make some “obvious” choices for you in order reduce button presses during the game. For the experienced player, all these can be turned off.
The single player campaign mode is probably where you’ll start, as it’s how you gain access to new decks. There is a feeble attempt this year to tell a story as you play through the various matches, but you’ll soon be skipping cutscenes and ignoring flavor text in order to get to the game faster. Something about a map? Whatever, the animated cutscenes look silly bad, the voice acting is forgettable, and the story can hardly be called such. Luckily, you don’t need a story to play Magic, we’ve never had one before, so it just means mashing (A) a couple extra times before your game starts. If you want story in your card games go play L5R.
The campaign is structured like so: you take on three different “encounters” and then you duel against a real deck. If you beat that deck you unlock it for your own play. You then unlock the next area with three new encounters and a new deck to duel and unlock.
The encounters allow you to pit your deck against a scripted opponent. The AI will play the same cards in the same way every time. A couple of them have extra rules in place (as in, you start with certain cards in play, or you only have a certain number of turns to win).
Assuming your memory’s not shot, these encounters are simple and pretty boring, and just serve as something you have to do before you get to the meaty unlocks you really want. You may lose the first time you play against one, but after that you know exactly what to expect and when to expect it and can play accordingly.
On the plus side, the decks you play against can be pretty fun to see in action (I like the deck where they summon all the cultists and then kill them all to summon a demon), but you don’t unlock these decks to play with yourself. In previous years you’ve just ended up playing against the same 5 decks or so over and over, while this year you take on zombies, then goblins, then clones, and so on. Each encounter deck is unique and has cards that synergize well and are interesting to see. But the replayability is hamstrung by the fact that they play the same cards in the same order every time. So it’s fun to see once, beat, and then never return. I can’t see ever replaying the single play campaign.
At the end of each area you take on an actual non-scripted deck. Beating it unlocks the deck for you to play and advances you to the next area. These matches are more fun, but can be set up as a custom match if desired, so again there’s no reason to revisit the campaign.
Each time you beat an area you also earn the right to challenge one of the Planeswalkers to a duel. There are 5 of them and you can take them on in any order. Beating each unlocks that deck for play (except for green and red, as you start with these unlocked). Play through the five areas and beat 3 of the Planeswalkers and you'll have all 10 decks.
The last thing to do, then is beat the main boss (you don't have to beat all the Planeswalkers to get to the boss). You play with the teammate of the direct-damage-focused red deck and try and take down a nasty deck that starts that 40 life. He generally draws all the cards he needs to beat you, but isn't so hard to take down.
Roll list of those responsible over some truly terrible music.
After that, you unlock the revenge campaign, which allows you to go back and take on all 11 decks, but this time they get to use some unlockable cards and are generally nastier. You get no unlocks for these other than the typical one card for winning, so these aren't all that different from just setting up a custom match against the deck, as far as I can tell. There are no encounters here, you just take on the different decks.
The AI in the single player campaign can be frustrating. For one, it sometimes makes really odd choices. It'll make an attack that is doomed to fail, without any surprises to help it out. It'll return creatures to my hand AFTER I attacked with them. One time I had it sit there "thinking" about its move for 30 seconds before it finally decided to pay the mana to attach an equipment to a creature that it was already attached to. Then it thought for 30 seconds more and did it again. Every turn.
The Sealed Campaign
Sealed is a particular way of playing Magic. Instead of using one of your own decks you are given a bunch of random Magic cards and tasked with building a deck out of what you received.
In DotP this means that you won’t be using one of the 10 supplied decks, but something you build from scratch from random cards. When you start the campaign you get 6 booster packs of 15 cards. You open a pack and the cards are laid out in front of you in a random and difficult-to-scroll-through way.
I recommend just hitting the “Open All” button and getting right into the editor where you can filter and sort.
All the cards you open are added to your “pool” and then you are tasked with building a 40-card deck using any of these cards, plus any number of lands. The editor can sort by type, cost, and rarity, and filter by color. You can add lands to the deck one at a time, or have it automatically adjust to the cards you’ve already added. The game also rates your deck from “Weak” to “Awesome” to give you a sense of how much you suck at deck-building.
You can also add a few cards to the deck and then tell the AI to complete it for you. It’ll take a gander at what you’ve added so far and then try and build something useable around that.
As a test, I added “Door to Nothingness” to my list, and nothing else, and hit GO. Door to Nothingness is an artifact card that costs five and comes into play tapped. You can tap it along with 2 mana of each color, target a player, and that player loses the game.
The auto-fill was smart enough to put in at least two mana of each color, so that’s good. It made some odd choices, I thought, like not putting in the two copies of a card I had that lets you search for land and put it in play (which seems nice in a deck where you are including many different colors, and would like to get a couple of each land). It rated the deck “Weak” which is understandable, as it’s probably not a great idea to build an entire deck around one copy of one card. Only a madman would create such a deck. Anyway, I deleted that mess and built my own “Awesome” deck and smacked the AI around a bit with it.
The campaign is six matches against pre-constructed 40-card decks. So you’re playing your deck of random cards against a deck of non-random cards, as far as I can tell. Luckily the AI decks don’t seem that great, although they can definitely thwomp you with them on the harder difficulties.
You can also "test" your deck against a deck that just plays 1/1 white flying birds and that's all ever. I have no idea why you would ever do this. Ever. For one, how much can you really learn about your deck if all you test it against is a bunch of 1/1 fliers? For two, why the hell would you not just "test" it against the next match in the campaign? You're not out anything if you lose, and if you win you advance.
After beating the 1st, 3rd, and 5th matches you get one more booster pack to open and add to your potential pool of cards. You can also go back into the editor and add/remove cards. You can completely change the colors or goal of your deck any time you want. You just have to always use the same pool of cards.
You get two slots for you sealed decks. You can start the campaign over and open 6 new boosters and earn 3 more boosters and add all these cards to a second pool of cards. So you can always have two pools of cards running around and can build one deck from each. You cannot delete these and open new boosters. You can, for $2, buy another slot so you can open more packs and have access to yet another pool of cards. If you’re going to start pouring money into this game to open digital booster packs, please just go play the actual game.
I have yet to test if you can delete your save data and then start again. I also don’t know how truly random the cards are; none of my friends have started the sealed campaign yet so I don’t know if their first 6 boosters were the same as mine (if not, and everyone gets truly random cards, that’s cool but also means online sealed play could really be too much about the luck of your booster packs). I’ve heard unsubstantiated reports that if you delete your save and start over, the game remembers what your cards were and you get the same ones, as well as that everyone’s cards are actually random pulls from a list of cards available to the game. I can’t back either of these up at this time.
In terms of playing sealed games, I don’t personally really care for it. You have to put a lot more time into the deck-building side of things and I’d rather just jump in and play. But my biggest problem is just that my sealed decks are boring as hell. You build a 40-card deck out of randomly chosen cards, so it’s not likely you’re going to get 4 copies of all the cards you need to make fun decks to play. Maybe I just suck at deck-building, but the decks you build just aren’t going to have the same potential combos, the same synergies between cards, the same goals.
The 10 decks you unlock, and the cards you unlock for them, all have a purpose. One deck can get 8 lands out by turn 4 and start playing huge creatures. It has cards to help you stay alive long enough to do that, and then a bunch of nasty things to win with if you make it that far. Another deck has a bunch of tiny creatures and tokens, and then large creatures that eat those tiny creatures when they come into play in order to make themselves awesome. These decks, and the others, have a theme to them, and the cards support that. Because of that they are fun as hell to play. You get to see your cards work together, pull off a crazy combo, and late in the game when everything is working as it should, you feel incredibly powerful. A deck made of random cards just isn’t going to be nearly as fun.
If you’re really into the deck-building side of things, and you really just don’t want to play the actual game of Magic, then the sealed system in DoTP 2014 is probably your best bet. You can take those decks online and challenge other likeminded people. Personally, I’d rather take a more powerful, prebuilt, 60-card deck, get into a game in a couple minutes, and start wrecking house.
There are 10 challenges you can complete in DotP 2014. Each challenge puts you in a situation in a Magic game and tasks you with winning, usually in one turn. You take some time to read what you and your opponent have in play, read the cards in your hand, and then try and figure out exactly how to get yourself out of the mess the game put you in.
If you like puzzles, these are plenty fun. The first one was laughably easy, and not so much a puzzle as it was just playing the game of Magic. By the end, though, they can get pretty tough. Personally, I don’t spend much time with these. You don’t get cards or decks for beating them, and there’s no multiplayer, so no anguish to bestow, so I don’t see much point. Once you’ve solved all 10, you’re done, there’s no reason to come back.
While I don’t personally care about these, don’t read that as a negative. These are fun, sometimes well-designed puzzles, and if you enjoy these types of challenges then there are a few good ones in here. It’s just not exactly my thing, personally.
The actual game. This is why you buy this game. No AI will ever challenge you the way an opponent will. And victories over a computer don’t seem nearly as sweet, as the AI never cries the way your friends do.
Multiplayer allows you to play either a ranked or player match. Within each you can play a 2-4 player free-for-all, the four-player Two-Headed Giant mode, or play matches with the decks you created in sealed. You can play public or private matches, and you can play Two-Headed Giant with a local partner against AIs or people.
The connections seem solid and I haven’t had any issues being booted from games. I think the menu system for multiplayer is stupid, as in order to play a private match I have to set up a public match and then MAKE it private. The menu here is as difficult to navigate as the rest of the damn menus in this game (and the cursor is the same color as the background, so you don’t know what you’ve highlighted. Yay!) and it takes take a few seconds to get it to finally switch over to a private match. In the meantime, someone else has joined your game, selected a deck, and is ready to play. Then you have to boot them. Why can’t I just start a private game? The same problem existed in previous editions; they’ve had time to get it right.
Even though the game is trying to appeal to new or casual players, multiplayer can be brutal if you aren’t familiar with cards or play slowly. Everything is on a timer, some timers shorter than others. You can always press a button to pause the timer, but that pause is ALSO on a timer. In a tough situation you might be trying to decide whether it makes sense for you to attack or not, but think too long and the game will force you forward and you miss your chance. If you’re not quick on the pause button when I cast a spell you may lose your chance to counter or react to it in some way.
The worst is when you have to look through an entire deck for a card. Try reading every creature in a deck, maybe having to click some buttons to figure out what a rule means, all the while assessing whether this is the one you want to choose, then after looking at all your options, go back and find the one you want. If you can do this 30 seconds, great! It’s even tougher if it’s your opponent’s deck and one you’re not familiar with.
Honestly, I played a couple matches against random strangers just so I could say, right here, that I did: I played against some random strangers. But I won’t again. To me this game is a fun way to throw down on a quick and easy game with friends while you talk about other things and throw in random suggestions about each others’ mothers. If you really get into competitive play, I’d personally go play Magic Online or real cards. You’ll find some fun competition in this game if you want it, but be warned that most games like this have a pretty limited online life; and there will be another installment next year.
Free-for-all is exactly how it sounds. A normal 1-on-1 match is considered a free-for-all. You can play this mode with 3 or 4 players as well, but we’ve found that to usually be flop. You can attack whomever you wish, so there’s a good amount of diplomacy and king-making going on. If you look powerful you’ll get dogpiled. If you get knocked out you’re waiting for the others to finish before another game (this isn’t an issue if you’re just joining random games), which could be another 20 minutes or more.
Two-Headed Giant is a 2-on-2 mode where you and your partner each play your own deck, but you share a life total (which starts higher) and you attack and defend together. It’s a fun change of pace, and our preferred way to play if we have 4 players on.
You can take either of the decks you’ve created out of your pools of sealed cards and play them online against others. I didn’t do this as, as I stated, I find sealed decks to be pretty boring to play.
The decklists are all available here. Have at.
There are 10 decks plus your two sealed slots. I’ll admit I have not unlocked every card for every deck due to the fact that I have a job and friends. There are a couple decks that I have not played with yet either.
Overall there seems to be a fun variety in decks. There are some slow decks with huge creatures that are powerful late-game. There are some rush decks with lots of little guys. There are decks that deal damage directly from spells and decks that piss you off by controlling your side of the board. They’re all over the place, which is good. There are a couple that I personally didn’t enjoy playing, but that’ll probably be true for all types of players and I’m sure there’s a deck or three for everyone.
In terms of balance I don’t have enough data. There are 45 matchups with the 10 decks, and I haven’t seen them all, and only a few of them have I seen more than about 12 games with. I have yet to win even once with the red phoenix damage deck thingy, and I’ve won almost every game I’ve played with the green get-all-the-mana-ever Eldrazi thingy (these are not official names of these decks). But it’s much too soon to start calling out imbalance issues.
Overall there is good variety, although they feel a little too similar to last year’s decks. I’m sure we can expect expansion decks to come, and hopefully we get some fun things that feel a little different. The encounters you face in single player are some really fun and interesting decks, and I would have loved to be able to play as those. Alas.
The Deck Editor
One thing I like about this series of games is that I’m just handed fairly balanced decks and off I go. I do not have to make any changes and I can just sit down and enjoy smashing faces with digital cardboard. Each installment, the deck editing possibilities have grown, but I hope this is far as it goes.
When you first get a deck it has 60 cards in it. Each match you win, you unlock a new card from a list of cards specifically for that deck. By the time you’re done you’ll have a large list of cards that can potentially be in your deck. Each deck has a separate list, and they unlock separately. If you never enter the deck editor, all cards you unlock stay in your deck and your lands are increased to match.
In the deck editor you can swap cards back and forth from your available pool to actually being in the deck. Each deck also requires land cards, and you can adjust how much land goes into your deck as well. This is a change from previous installments where land was adjusted automatically.
It’s nice to be able to personalize your deck a bit, while also being limited in your options. My green deck and your green deck will probably overlap quite a bit, but there are probably a handful of differences. From what I’ve seen there are not many cards in any deck’s cardpool which are plain crap and should always be taken out. This means the choice of which cards to remove can be tough, but creating a solid deck out of it is rewarding. Or, like one of my friends, you can just ignore deck-building pretty much all together and play with 90 card decks. Your call.
In the land adjustment screen it recommends about 40% of your deck be land. They could easily have ALSO listed what percentage of land your deck currently is, but no, you get to do the math yourself. The information screen also says that there is an auto-adjust button, but there isn’t. There is a “reset” option, which seems to adjust your land to the cards you’ve chosen; although to me, reset means put it back where it was with 60 cards at unlock, not adjust it to my current deck. Nitpicks, sure.
I will say, though, that being able to adjust your land gives me too many options. Now I can tweak my decks not only by removing cards, but also playing with the land balance. I’m sure there are plenty of people who want this control, but at that point you might as well go play Magic Online or buy some physical cardboard. I liked the auto-balance of previous games and will stick with it for this game (or the “resetting” or whatever). The more detailed control you have, the more fiddly options you have to mess with, and the bigger the barrier to entry for new or casual players. It’s not there yet, but could be eventually if the trend continues.
Also, the unfortunate obsession with microtransactions pops its ugly face up here as well. You can, if you want to spend $1, purchase keys. You can then spend a key to fully unlock a deck without having to win games. For me, this is a pointless feature; as soon as I have all the cards for a deck I stop playing it and go unlock other cards. It’s the playing, winning, and unlocking of new cards that is the impetus to continue playing a particular deck. But if you’re lazy, well, there you go.
You cannot get to your sealed decks from the deck editor. You have to go to the sealed campaign, under single player, in order to edit your sealed decks, even to play them in multiplayer. Well done.
The menu in the editor, like all the menus in this game, is just annoying to use. It’s just little things, but it makes the experience annoying. As an example: when you select the deck editor from the main menu it brings you to the list of decks. You select what you want and start editing. If you back out and save, it brings you back to the main menu instead of back to the list of decks, so then you have to navigate back to the deck editor, reload it, and pick the next deck you want to edit. You can change decks from inside the editor by hitting (X) for deck options and navigating to an option to change deck. You can save by pressing a different button, then another button to save.
Even the deck selection menu is dumb; it’s a wheel of all 10 decks. I can see that the deck I want is the deck that’s above the current one in the wheel, so I hit UP. However, UP rotates the wheel up, so the deck I’ve just navigated to is the one that was below the current deck. You also get to watch the damn wheel rotate slowly from deck to deck instead of having a nice responsive list of options. I know this sounds like stupid complaints, but the entire system is just…bulky. Unresponsive. Un...fluid? (What’s the opposite of fluid in this case, because it damn sure isn’t solid.) It has been in all their games.
The Little Things
Overall, the above modes and features make for a fun game. Magic is a solid foundation to build on, and they offer you decks, options, and ways to connect to your future enemies. But what they’re not so good at, and what they’ve consistently sucked at, are the little things.
The menu lags. I think “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” But it’s a stupid feature. You click up or down and there’s a delay before the highlight moves up or down. Due to this I'm consistently moving the cursor too far or not far enough and it makes menu navigation a pain. Why?
If you hit (Start) to pause the game and go navigate around, you cannot just press (B) to get back to the game. You have to (laggy) navigate to Resume Game and select it. Why?
The gameplay itself can be tedious at times, and that can screw you up if you play fast. For example: there’s a card you can play where you get to search your deck for a land and put it into play. In the previous iteration, the game would bring up all your land, you’d navigate to the one you want and press (A) and BAM. In it goes. In this one, now, you have to hit (A) to select it and (Y) to finalize your selection. However, the game just doesn’t read inputs very fast; so I see my list of lands, they’re all green and I know that, so I quickly hit (A) and (Y) to move forward. But it’s slow on the uptake and only reads the (Y) so it continues me without selecting a land and I’ve just wasted a card and got nothing. This, and plenty of other things (another often repeated example is finalizing your attack too fast before the game registered that you sent anyone to attack and you end up attacking with nothing), have happened repeatedly and I’ve had to be very careful about selecting my input, stopping to make sure it registered, and moving on. Don’t let these guys design a fighting game.
Many menus in the single player and multiplayer modes require you to continually press a button which is then not recognized. After beating an area in the campaign for example, it shows an animation of the lock disappearing from the new area. You then have to press (A) to continue. It rarely does anything, so you press it again and again and it finally moves on. Why?
I can’t start a private game without first making a public game. Why?
Moving the cursor around the board to select a card has always been way too difficult in these games. It never goes where you want it to, and sometimes you have to hit (Down) for it go left, or (Up) to go right, you figure it out. At random times the cursor will disappear, or move to other cards unpromted. Why?
In the deck editor, you cannot get to the definitions of the words on the cards. If you're thinking of adding a card to your deck but don't know what, say, "Cipher" does, then you have to wait until you see it played in a game before you can get to the definition. This is, plainly, stupid. Luckily there's a good Magic terms wiki online.
You cannot edit your sealed decks from the deck editor. Why?
Sometimes, both in multiplayer and single player, the music just...stops. It just quits. The music isn't anything special, so who really cares, but why is it bugging out?
If a foil card is played the game literally vomits is guts out on your floor. No kidding. If you’re going to play with foil cards you’ll need to set up a garbage bag or something. The framerate will get so bad that you’ll think the game froze, and then it’ll hiccup and fart along for the next 30 seconds or so. Why are we talking about framerate in a card game containing nothing in terms of graphical complexity? You tell me.
The same thing will happen sometimes when more than one effect is going off and cards are being played in response. Or it’ll happen when nothing’s happening and you just play a card. I’ve had the damn thing lag up just rotating that stupid deck selection wheel in the menu! Sometimes you’ll end up missing your couple-second window of time to pause the game, and miss your timing window. Why?
After the first time I turned the game on after downloading it, it had to pause and make we wait because: “A possible change in downloadable content has been detected. Reloading content.” I can tell you, there’s been no change; the game just came out, there’s no downloadable content. There’s nothing to “detect,” what’s the deal? Also, I wrote that sentence down from memory, you know how? Because I see it every single time I started up the LAST Magic game. Every time. This happens in this new iteration every time I start the game as well. Why?
One time, in the single player campaign, I finished a level and had to hit (A) to continue. I did, and it brought me into the multiplayer menu and started a public match which someone then joined. That was fun.
When you zoom in on a card, it sometimes shows a box detailing a bit about what the card does. If you then need to look at the definition of a keyword on that card, the help box covers it up and makes it unreadable. Why?
The problem with these, pretty much all of these little things, is that every one of them have been around since the beginning of the series. Why have they not been fixed? You’ve had four chances to get them right, and it’s pretty much unacceptable to still have framerate issues, in a card game, for three years running. Stop copy/pasting.
Are there little things they get right? Thankfully yes. The biggest one, for me, is your options menu. By default the game automatically advances when you don’t have any cards you can play. It automatically shows you tips. It automatically takes decisions away from you when the choice is (usually) obvious. It automatically takes a few seconds out of every single attack to zoom in on the cards and make a dumb noise and flash some slashes or blood stains.
Luckily, every single one of these can be turned off in the menu. Honestly, if I couldn’t take that damn attack animation away I would not have bought any of these games beyond the first.
You can even tell it to ask you, every time a card says that you “may” do something , if you actually want it to do that. I like having the control, so I turned that on, but turned it off again after a few games. I’m surprised at the number of cards in Magic that say “may” and I was hitting “Yes, I want to gain life,” “Yes I want to draw a card,” “Yes I’d like to go ahead and win, now, never you mind” 20 or 30 times a game. Turn all those other settings off, but leave this sucker going.
Other little things? The HUD now tells you how many cards are in each discard pile, which is nice. Cards that are removed from the game are now piled up next to your discards so you can look through them. There’s now an “Attack All” button that just sends everything you have across the screen. There’s a new section with a bio and artwork for each of the Planeswalkers. You can finally select a "Random Deck" to play. None of these are life-changing, and they for damn sure don’t tip the Little Things Scale into the “Meh, doesn’t bother me” section.
Let’s be clear on this: you are playing a commercial. This game is not designed to be fun for you, it is designed to make you go buy Magic cards.
Luckily it also happens to be fun, but that’s a secondary bonus, and given the number of unchanged little problems, not the one they’re focusing on.
You will have to spam (A) through commercials for Magic Online, Magic booster boxes, real-life Magic event details, and so on. In previous games it was usually just a loading tip and a part of the menu. Now you have to actively tell the commercial to go away before you get into your game. Not every time mind you, but it’s there. I’ve had to skip maybe 5 or 6 ads while playing? Just know it going in.
I enjoy the achievement system on the 360, so I thought I’d at least mention these for anyone else who also likes it. It was about this time last year when all arcade games started switching over to be 400 points instead of 200; last year’s game only just missed the cut, so this is the first version getting the 400 point treatment. You can check out the list here.
You’ll get most of it just by beating the single player campaign, the sealed campaign, and all the challenges. There are a few that are specific to certain deck types and will require having lots of land or slivers in play, or winning without doing damage. There are a handful of grinding-style achievements requiring you to do 5k damage, win 75 games, counter 25 spells, things like that. Nothing is too difficult.
I’m not a fan of online multiplayer-required achievements. There are only two multiplayer-focused achievements on the list: to win a multiplayer game and to win a Two-Headed Giant game. I got the first while eviscerating a good friend of mine in a private match. Winning the second will also count as the first. I do not know whether you can set up a “multiplayer” match against the AI and have it count, nor if you can play two-headed-giant with a local person against AIs and have that count. Regardless, these are pretty easy, can be done privately, and are the only multiplayer things required to complete the list.
Overall, it’s an easy list to complete. Since the decks are pretty balanced, you can win online eventually if you play enough. The rest of the list is pretty much just rewarding you for playing a lot, with a handful of fun goals for doing some crazier things.
Overall, DotP 2014 is another fun installment in the series. I moan on about the stupid little problems because we’ve been dealing with them for four years, but if I didn’t enjoy these games I wouldn’t keep buying them. DotP 2014 offers you 10 fun Magic decks to play for $10; at $1 per deck you’re getting a better deal than the physical game will ever offer you.
If you’re new to Magic and want to learn to play, this is a great way to figure out if you like the game. It’ll teach you everything you need to know and walk you through your games. You’ll get to see what constructed and sealed Magic games are like.
If you’re a casual Magic player this can be a great way to play as well. This is the group I’d put myself in. I like to hop online with a buddy, get in a game in five minutes without having to worry about deck-building or balance, and straight up annihilate. The decks are varied and fun, and by the time you’ve unlocked all the cards I’m sure new expansion decks will be available. The menus are a pain, the framerate can be unacceptably bad, and not much thought has been put into user experience. If you can deal with these things, this is a great way to play. Make some friends and plan to lose them.
If you’re an experienced Magic player, this edition probably has more for you than any of the previous editions. You have full control over you deck-building options, although only within the pool of cards available to the deck. The sealed campaign will give you two more decks with large pools of random cards to let your deck-building heart sing. You can turn off nearly every single aid, and force the game to give you full control of your cards on the field (albeit while wearing out the (A) button).
If you’re looking for good competition, you may not find it here. To make online play interesting, the decks remain fairly balanced, so you’re not going to be able to build a killer deck that no one thought of and go eat heads; everyone has the same cards you do. Due to the focus on more casual or new players, you’ll probably get paired online with them. There is a leaderboard system that I’ve never looked at, have at if your standings make you happy. It’s pretty tough to find a game online right now in last year’s version, and I expect the same to be true this time next year for this version.
Although I sometimes want to strangle this game until the frustrating menus and stupid bugs pop out of its damn head, I always forgive it when I draw the exact card I need to make my friends say horrible things to me. After four years, we just roll our eyes, pat the game on its head like a stupid child, open another beer, choose our decks, and begin another enjoyable campaign of the pain, torment, and destruction of our friends.
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- Chad Austin(chooka1)United States
Terrific review. Thank you for takingthe time to write such an extensive review. Of all the 360 Magic releases, which is your favorite if one does not care much about control over deck building and would rather play with pre-constructed decks?
Thanks again n
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Good question. Honestly, the biggest difference between them is whatever multiplayer mode they happen to throw in. The single player modes and the the 1 on 1 multiplayer is pretty much the same across all of them.
The first one was a bit rough around the edges. The second and third introduced interesting modes. The second one had a 3 vs. 1 mode, where the person on their own got amazing extra cards. That was a blast. The third one had a mode where you have extra cards that represent locations where you are playing and change the game in specific ways, and you can roll a die to get crazy effects or possibly change the location.
The location mode was really too much for us. A ton of extra reading when what we really wanted was just to play some cards. And the die rolling and effects were really random. We ended up just calling the die the "Chaosinator." Didn't really make for fun games.
The 3 vs. 1 mode was a blast, and with an expansion I believe you could have a player play as the 1 (it originally only let you all play against a computer).
I think between all four games we spent the most time with the second one. The decks also change between all of them, so you may want to go look at the decklists to see what you'd enjoy playing. I think the second one had the decks I personally enjoyed the most, so I'd go there. However, if you're planning on playing online, you'd probably have to stick with the newest one in order to ever find an opponent.
So it'll all depend on what you want. Single player? Go with the second one or look up the one with the decks you'd like. Multiplayer with friends? Grab the second one and kill each other 3 vs 1. Multiplayer online? Grab the new one, no one plays the other ones.
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After more play, one other quick note about having the land adjustable in every deck:
In previous games you'd be given two lists: one is the list of cards in a deck, and the other is a list of cards that could be in your deck but aren't. Say you're sitting at 66 cards in the deck and want to get it down to 60, so you go drop one card from the deck, but then the total drops to 64. It does this because when you removed that one card you passed the threshold for the game to automatically adjust your land, and a land was removed. Awesome! Four (or probably more like 2 or 3) to go!
In this one, that's no longer the case. You remove a card and it's removed at that's that. In the previous example you would remove 6 cards and the you'd be at 60, but you'd have removed too much and probably have too many lands in your deck.
So instead what you have to do is remove one card. Then pull the left trigger to bring up the land options and then hit (X) to reset and then hit (B) to back out. It might not have changed anything, or maybe it did. Then you remove another card. Then you go back into the land options to readjust it again based on the new cards. You could remove 2 or 3 cards at a time and then adjust, but as you get closer to 60 you'll have to do it incrementally. It's bulky and a pain.
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- Chad Austin(chooka1)United States
- Thank you for the advice and awesome review which, by the way, is the best I have read on Magic 2014.
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- Michael Nerman(nerman8r)Canada
pusherman42 wrote:After more play, one other quick note about having the land adjustable in every deck:I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you letting the computer automatically adjust your land? You could just decide how many land you want in there. 23's a good number most of the time.
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- Michael Nerman(nerman8r)Canada
In regards to only being able to make two sealed decks, in the Xbox 360 version you can simply play the game with a different profile to have two more slots.
If you exhaust all of your profiles, you could always make new profiles and delete them when you're done with them, in which case you can make as many sealed decks as you like. However, my understanding is that Magic uses the profile's name as a seed to determine which cards you get, so you'll have to make each profile a different name.
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