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.
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.
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.