Home Editorial A cynic’s guide to Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers

So, now that there is more information on DotP15 than what was probably produced after someone exclaimed, “You know PAX is in a week, right?” Does the game seem better? Worse? Absolute trash? Let’s find out, using the usual pillars of games.

1. Story

A little backdrop: with the Chain Veil, Garruk was cursed, he became a kind of a dickhead, blah blah blah.

Let’s be honest here, the story is as irrelevant as it is easily forgotten both in DotP and the printed product. Garruk is hunting after me, oh no. I suppose I’d best fight some dudes to perfect my arsenal in order to then fight the big dude, you know, like I have been doing for five games now. The point is raised that the game closely follows the story of the paper set, you know, like it has been doing already. Not only that, but the entire point of core sets is that they don’t have a story, isn’t it? They just exist to glue things together between Louie and Huey, reprint stuff nobody needs in Standard*, and give the usual pentad of walkers.

2. Content

Who needs story though, when the actual game is all that matters. DotP14 had Sealed, so that you could pretend you were playing FNM and enjoying yourself. Well, good news, that is now the entire game. You get booted into the world with a deck of two colours of choice, each victory earning you 1-7 new cards for the collection from which you can freely build.

It’s reminiscent of Shandalar, if it had been made during a less terrible era of Magic. The thing is, Duels of the Planeswalkers isn’t Shandalar. The latter is an RPG that uses Magic for its combat system (which actually works, surprisingly) while the former is like the rich friend who bought all the preconstructed Duel Decks. Playing DotP, I usually expect to be given a number of decks which I can slightly improve but not significantly alter, to then do battle with others who are also using the same decks and thus having a balanced duel. Now if only there was some way  I can continuously collect cards and build whatever I want from them – oh wait.

For me as a not-terrible player, that makes little difference, but keep in mind the playerbase to whom DotP actually caters: New players, those who do not want to toss lots of money at the game and who don’t know all the interactions between cards. Which means that Wizards has decided the best way to keep these players from being thrown against a wall of a collection and having no idea how to make a proper deck is to… throw them against a wall of a collection? You get enough of the normal Magic fit from MTGO and normal Magic, why does DotP need to mirror that as well? Additionally, if you give those players with experience the ability to make a Grixis removal spam deck to ruin the fun for everyone, you can’t expect that they would not do that.

I guess we’ll have to wait until release to find out just how degenerate the metagame becomes.

3. Rules accuracy, balance

Duels of the Planeswalkers has never been great on this point, and it doesn’t seem like it will improve in the future. Sure Tramplers trample over things and Deathtouchers touch death, but where’s the finer things in life? From all that is known right now, the game has fixed its glaring inaccuracies in the starting phases of the turn by completely removing them. Well at least with the multi-colour encouragement they bring good solutions for dual lands.

The card pool is now more varied, apparently ranging across all somewhat modern sets, between at least Zendikar and Theros. Again comes the issue that this is a game mostly aimed at newer players. In previous iterations, you could get 76 hand-chosen cards to vary your deck including what you started with, and some of them were surprisingly not terrible. Throwing what would probably be at least 400 cards spread out across everything without giving newbies an initial guide seems a bit cruel.

Oh well, you only unlock them in small increments, which hopefully always contains a rare… but that’s a potential problem too. You could easily open hundreds of rewards to get anywhere near a complete set going, meaning that you have to play hundreds of games, starting out with crappy decks sans the tools to fix them.

Or, you know, you could hand over a dollar or two and get five packs right away. I would say that good guys Wizards definitely wouldn’t do that… but I fully expect they will. No matter what, the game is just beckoning to use the mobile game model of financing, or for some people to hack their card pools. Even if that doesn’t happen, anybody starting out will still face opponents who have vastly superior pools, and will only spend more time trying to unlock things when she can’t win a game.


In conclusion, what we will get will most likely be a grind-to-play implementation of Magic that tosses all new player appeal and being a game instead of a mental exercise. Great, I was just waiting for the fourth version of that, after the trading cards, the online trading cards, and the RPG.

*A brief list of things no one needed in M14: Darksteel Forge in an environment with zero usable artifacts for it. Doom Blade.

13 replies to this post
  1. Anything that makes dotp more like paper magic makes me happy. Ok I played magic on and off for 20ish years and can understand it will be hard on the newbies, but when they learn, they will be stuck for life :).

    • As mentioned above, I can’t really mind a cheap way to play Magic literally all day, but if I want to use my own insanity condensed into deck form, I play Paper. Duels seems like an unnecessary second time unlocking everything, and it is not what the series is aimed to be.

      Well at least it’s likely that Karametra’s Acolyte is in the game, so I can indeed rebuild the Excessive Deck. Wait, that would involve the mana pool. Dammit!

      It’s a little odd, isn’t it, that Wizards is taking away the safety wheels preventing people from making Grixis removal spam decks, yet it seems that they have no intention to let us play with the big boys’ tools, and according to previews they suggest you build 34 creature, 26 land decks. Removing the idols from which to learn while giving bad advice?

      • You must also realise that WoTC don’t actually care for their Duels games (apart from this time they did listen to us wanting fully customisable decks).

        Duels is just advertisement for them and they really want you to go and play the real thing.

  2. Toraka, we’ve been down this path before, but one more time.

    I get it. You don’t like control decks ruining your mid-range fun.
    But Control is a legitimate Magic archetype. It’s been around since a guy named Weismann started *spamming removal* in the form of Swords to Plowshares and Wrath of God.


    If you can craft a decent control deck in this, fantastic, I do hope they give the tools to players to bust face with hyperaggro RDW to cull the control win% and keep things diverse.

    Anyway. I think you are probably right about forcing new players to build a deck. As a chronic brewer in multiple formats in MTG and having played on and off for about 20 years, I was daunted when I tried Spectromancer and the game expected me to throw a deck together with little idea of how that should be done.

    So I can only imagine a newbies reaction when confronted with a large Magic card pool, unless they have no interesting or complex cards whatsoever … on the other hand, I newbie could just turn down the difficulty until he wins with his 100 card 6 cost sorcery deck.

    • And my current Standard decks are Maze’s End and the BNG event deck which consists of 16-20 removal spells. I know the difference and am guilty myself. But it’s just my thing, you know? If I killed myself every five chapters, I would be… anyway.

      Really, all a true Magic player wants is a way to build new decks literally all the time, without digging around boxes if possible. The question is if all players are true. Even bloody Shandalar gave you a decent deck to start with. (Well, nothing even a new player would touch today, but this was Empires time.)

      Oh, almost forgot, Wizards are boasting with that DotP15 will contain over 300 cards. Yes. Let that sink in for a moment. 300. Like, literally Theros plus a third of Journey. If we remove all the crap cards and select a few great ones from the past you end up with… Theros plus half of Journey.
      I feel like there’s a joke to be made about dining in Nyx, but I missed that, didn’t I.

      By the way, control > RDW. Thus says the enchantment sheep of holy crud that thing is annoying.

  3. Yeah seriously, that sheep is dumb. Burn was already good, and this hurts burn, but RDW was bad and the sheep just put it to bed for the next 2 years. Good night, sweet Akroan Crusader or something :(

    I like the control-heavy elements of DotP13/14. Because having a plethora of powerful answers means they can stick Jitte, Geralf’s Messenger and Primeval Titan into the decks with a straight face. This is a good thing to my mind.

    Also, Shandalar was totally amazing. I recently played through it again (modded version that had all expansions through to 5th Ed) and it’s amazing they figured out a deck interface that still shits on the MTGO beta client 17 years more advanced.

    PS If they really removed the starting phases I’m gonna be pretty disappointed.

  4. So let’s see, quick point-by-point/counterpoint now that 2015 is out: story is pointless – true but at least useful if you delve into the extras the reference to Bolas speaks of an already-expected, no surprise, incoming DLC.
    metagame is so far centering around the easy to spot synergies and is quickly accelerating towards degeneracy a la agent of the fates and I myself will follow my herz and go with Krenko’s Legacy.
    rules seem to be better coded by Stainless this time around and if the tutorial didn’t have a skip function I would have a hole in my temple, they did btw attempt to explain deck building albeit not in a way that will learn ya well.
    As far as the money thing goes you can buy all the cards from main game at $20(excluding the Premium) and $5 per plane, but the only real potential for winning with money is the Premium booster set at $1.99 a piece. You get one each for pre-order and 2014, but if you miss out on the ones you’d like to have there are 120 premium in total at around 7 cards on avg i believe so enjoy yankin wins out your ass with your Talrand the Drake God and his Quaternary Season at a round $40 or so(doubling season looks gold plated at least) or only if you absolutely have to have all the cards.
    Other than that I didn’t even get to the new exploring planes stuff before I had a full collection and I hadn’t even beat the main game yet. The card total is 976-120 premium is 856 and unlocks ridiculous fast, at 10 or so a booster, im right at 95 won duels in around 24 hrs, so usually ten until you near the end of the plane’s cards and get less. So if you really don’t wanna play the game you just bought go ahead and waste $20, gj Wizards that’s how ya get em.

    P.S. – I checked for hacks and only found ios and android deck unlocks, which is still contradictory. Hope I didn’t spoil your fun Toraka with all the serious.

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