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Magic Duels: Origins

Magic Duels: Origins is the digital version of the trading card game Magic: The Gathering. Defeat opponents in story mode or test your luck against other players, earning coins to buy booster packs to expand your library and construct your own deck.

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast LLC
Playerbase: High
Type: TCG
Release Date: July 29, 2015
PvP: Duels
Pros: +Campaign mode. +Two-player cooperative duels. +Daily quests.
Cons: -Online only. -Forced tutorial. -Poor animations and environments. -No Android support

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Overview

Magic Duels: Origins Overview

Magic Duels: Origins is the digital version of the immensely popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering. Play through story campaigns that expand the lore of the Magic universe, and earn coins to be traded for cards upon completion. Unfamiliar players will discover an excellent introduction to the game’s mechanics through Magic Duels’ Skill Quest training system. Customize your own deck, with cards being added in new patches, and test your skills against AI and other players. An extensive Deck Builder offers guidance to ensure you combine suitable cards to secure victory.  A special cooperative mode called Two-Headed Giant lets you compete with a friend in 2v2 duels. Earn coins by winning matches and purchase booster packs to expand your library. Or exchange real money to buy more booster packs and collect every available card.

Magic Duels: Origins Key Features:

  • Story Mode - learn the basics of Magic the Gathering while absorbing the lore of one of the longest running TCG’s.
  • Two-Headed Giant - take on other players with a friend, in cooperative gameplay.
  • Booster Packs - earn in-game currency to buy card packs containing six random cards.
  • Deck Customization - customize your deck using collected cards and discover a strategy that suits your play style.
  • Daily Quests - complete new quests every day to earn coins and expand your library.

Magic Duels: Origins Screenshots

Magic Duels: Origins Featured Video

Full Review

Magic Duels: Origins Review

By, Sean Sullivan

Considering the monumental success of TCG’s like Hearthstone, I’ve been scouring the horizon for Wizards of the Coast to publish a free-to-play Magic the Gathering game. Turns out I was looking through the wrong end of my periscope. While 2014 and 2015 both saw respective releases of Magic’s Duels of the Planeswalkers, the summer of 2015 finally offers players a free-to-play Magic title: Magic Duels. It’s available on iOS, Xbox One, and soon PS4 (no Android support), but I chose to play through Steam for convenience. Magic the Gathering may be the world's best strategy card game to hold tournaments in the back of comic book shops, but can it compete with the limitless supply of other free-to-play TCG’s?

It's Time To Duel

The menu exclaims “Start here!” under story mode, and as an obsequious observer of rules I happily obeyed Magic Duel’s request. The tutorial is a series of Skill Quests, an introduction to Magic’s mechanics. It's designed to familiarize new players with the card game’s rules. Magic Duels' mechanics are simple enough for anyone who has played Magic or similar card games before. Zooming in on any card with the mouse wheel draws up an explanatory window highlighting its attributes. Shepherd of the Lost is a Flying Creature, with First strike and Vigilance. If you’re uncertain about of the previous attributes, simply click their title and you’ll be shown the description. It’s undoubtedly helpful but not every UI element caters to intuition.

Activating creature abilities is a bit odd, and feels unnecessarily clunky. Zooming in on the card you press a left-arrow icon to activate. It’s unassuming and looks like a Back button typically reserved for browsers. It's a facet of gameplay illustrated by Skill Quests, but a simple enough mechanic on paper that a tutorial shouldn't be necessary as a highlighter.

Sadly, the Skill Quest’s tutorials are unskippable. For anyone who’s played Magic before the tutorial will feel excruciatingly arduous, as every rule is slowly laid out, one-by-one. And if you quit the tutorial halfway you’ll be forced to start from the beginning.

Are We Done Yet?

Magic is a game of evolving rules, many of which require fast thinking—strategically using cards at precise moments. Each segment of a turn is counted down by an in-game timer, allowing players to activate cards if they choose to, or pause the game to consider their next move. But timers combined with slow-paced animations devour time like the final boss of Chrono Trigger. It can be painfully slow, with prolonged scenes that make me think they’re purposely instituted to stretch out a match’s length, demanding more grind-time before you can unlock cards. Matches can take up to 30 minutes. That doesn’t mean they’re not enjoyable but mobile players may be dissuaded from playing, especially when other card games like Hearthstone typically eat 10 minutes of time.

Magical Lore

Seemingly finished with the tutorial I was prompted to enter Story mode. Playing as a character existing in the Magic universe you’re confronted with the card game’s lore, something I had never considered existed. And it’s a nice touch, but as with any card game it always feel strange. When guards attempt to apprehend thieves do they take out their binders? Regardless, the story quests provide a solid introduction to the game’s mechanics, and I can appreciate the attempt at making a coherent universe. They’re not without benefit. Completing storylines grants gold that can be spent on new cards.

Got To Spend Money To Get Cards

Completing story mode quests allots booster packs in the game’s shop. Opening a booster grants six cards, ranging across the spectrum. At the end of the first story campaign I had 300 gold, enough to buy two booster packs. And with only six cards per pack it’s anyone’s guess whether or not you find something useful. 500 coins is enough to buy one booster pack, costing $4.99, whereas 3750 coins, enough for 12 packs, is $24.99.  It’s not pay-to-win as you can grind for in-game currency and purchase booster packs, but you’ll have to be dedicated to the grind. Games typically reward between 5 and twenty gold per match, with the ability to earn more depending on the difficulty of the opponent. Small rewards combined with length match times make for a grind rivaling Ragnarok Online.

Pavement Duelist

The budget was not sparse when crafting Magic Duels, perhaps in an effort to compete with the blockbuster aesthetics of Hearthstone. Almost every text string is finely narrated. While actors clearly spent time recording dialogue, designers did not spend time animating the game. Card animations are simple, with the same animation used for Scratch in Pokemon on display when attacking.

Whereas other games have colorfully animated fields of play Magic Duels is a boring grey, like it’s simulating kids playing on the blacktop at recess. Not that it's necessary for gamplay, but with money clearly spent on developing the game, designing fitting environments, particularly in story mode, is another touch that would create a more immersive experience. If I’m fighting in a Roman-stylized estate then the playing field ought to be a colosseum or at least lined with balustrades—something, anything. If the small studio developing Infinity Wars can vary its environments why can’t Magic Duels?

And beyond environment the FOV itself can be distracting. The field of play is slightly slanted, obscuring the details of your opponent’s cards. There ought to be a way to view the field from a top-down angle. If you choose to turn off card zoom from the options menu, it’s nearly impossible to decipher what cards your opponent is playing.

Crafting the Perfect Deck

t’s been years since I attempted to create a Magic deck so I elected to use the Deck Wizard, “a step-by-step deckbuilding assistant.” You’re prompted with an array of Archetypes, from flying decks to decks focused on artifacts, but I settled on Horde’s Thunder: using bigger creatures to smash enemies. The deck builder holds your hand through each portion of the process, even allowing you to Autocomplete each step, but I advise that enthusiastic new players familiarize themselves with proper methods if they’re invested in the game.

After building your own deck you can verse another player via Dueling. I decided to test my luck with the beginner’s deck. With so many players online I figured I had a chance at matching a fellow noob. Luck must have been on my side because I won. If you win a PvP match you earn coins, a nice incentive to keep testing your luck. And there are season rankings for competitive players to absorb themselves in.

Final Verdict - Good

Magic Duels is a great game for new players but it will take further expansions to turn it into something worthy for veterans. Story mode, deck building tools, and Skill Quests make for an extensive introduction that enumerates the basics of a Magic game. But the interface needs some cleaning, and no cross-device support limits your account to the device you're using. Without a draft mode veterans may feel dissuaded, unwilling to grind coins for cards of which they have physical copies—they’re better off with Magic Online. It feels like the game was developed to entice players into buying physical cards. But Magic Duels is still a solid game with enough depth to entertain and hold its own in the TCG arena.

Screenshots

Magic Duels: Origins Screenshots

Videos

Magic Duels: Origins Videos

System Requirements

Magic Duels: Origins System Requirements

Minimum Requirements:

Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: 2GHz CPU (Pentium 4 or equivalent)
Video Card: 512MB DirectX 11.0 compatible video card with Pixelshader 3.0 support
RAM: 1 GB
Hard Disk Space: 1 GB

Magic Duels: Origins is also available for IOS and Xbox One.

Music

Magic Duels: Origins Music & Soundtrack

Coming Soon...

Additional Info

Magic Duels: Origins Additional Information

Developer: Stainless Games Ltd.

Head Designer: Drew Nolosco
Lead Developer: Sam Stoddard
Development Representative: Ian Duke
Developer(s): Dan Emmons, Ethan Fleischer
Creative Designer: Ari Levitch

Release Date: July 29, 2015
Steam Release Date: July 29, 2015

Development History / Background:

Magic Duels: Origins is developed by British video game development company Stainless Games. The company is known for creating digital versions of the Magic series since 2009's Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers. Magic Duels: Origins is the first game in the Magic series of games to allow players free-form deck construction. There was no closed or open beta for Magic Duels: Origins. It released through Steam on July 29, 2015, and new features continue to be added by the development team.