Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 Expansion – Review

Title   Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 Expansion
Developer  Stainless Games
Publisher  Wizards of the Coast
Platform  iOS, PC (reviewed), PS3, X360
Genre  Collectable Card Game
Release Date  19th September, 2012
Official Site

An expansion to the latest Duels of the Planeswalkers game was as inevitable as Edward Price hugging me for a little too long at the recent Eurogamer Expo. Much like the hug, I was eagerly anticipating this expansion, knowing that it would supply new decks, new challenges and the warmth of another human’s touch that I so longingly crave.  The past Magic expansions from previous years have been a joy to behold, introducing not just new decks but also challenges, revenge missions and new cards for preexisting decks. I especially like the latter inclusions because they give players a reason to go back to the old decks and unlock extra bits to play with.

For those not familiar with the overall Magic formula, you and up to three opponents take turns in laying cards from your deck in order to deplete other players’ life points. You do this through a mixture of creatures, sorcery and, usually, a little bit of luck. The winner is, you guessed it, the person still standing at the end.

The biggest inclusion to this expansion is the new decks, of which there are five, all sporting duel mana sources, which allows players to make better use of the individual mana tapping that made an appearance in Magic 2013. Each deck is quite varied and presents a unique opportunity for players to test out a very different way of playing.  Take, for example, the Collective Might deck – a green and white concoction that focuses on getting out large swarms of token creatures, which then support cards like Scion of the Wild, whose toughness and power depend on how many other cards are in play. This may sound similar to the Peace Keepers deck, but the difference is you can spawn as many token creatures as your mana will allow, so while it’s a little slow to get started, this deck can become unstoppable if left to mature.

The same cannot be said for the Aura Servants deck, which is slowly turning into my new favourite, mainly because it has the ability to wipe the floor with just about everyone. While not unbalanced like Ajani’s Celestial Light deck, it is remarkably powerful in the same way Ajani’s Auramancer Deck from Magic 2012 was. Within a few moves you can have a flying, totem armoured, life-linked, vigilant hell bitch raining pain upon your adversary. Given that you can come across a more varied amount of auras this time round only makes it that much more enjoyable. This blue and white deck was my pick of the bunch.

The third deck is the Mind Storms deck, which focuses on being able to cast dozens of different sorcery, instant and enchantment cards to bamboozle the opposition, while casting lots of smaller-weak creatures. I found this a deck easy to defeat but difficult to play with. There is plenty of fun to be had screwing with the enemy, especially if they lack the appropriate counter spells, but you’ll suffer if any remotely powerful creatures come out early on. It’s still an interesting red and blue deck to experiment with though, and worth investing your time in.

Grinning Malice is also worth your attention, and is my second favourite deck, focusing on being one evil bastard of a player. This red and black deck is basically as evil as it can get from a colour perspective, and focuses on being extremely aggressive and killing as much as it can, even if that means your own creatures. While that sounds insane, the pay-off for sacrificing some of your creatures is to inflict massive damage on the opposition, not to mention that most cards will see them having to discard some of their own, or have them sacrifice a creature. Kamikaze never had a greater meaning than with this deck.

The final deck is Sepulchral Strength, which is similar to Grinning Malice, but with less destructive capability and more focus on bigger creatures. This black and green deck is the one I’ve used the least and that’s because it feels like the weakest of the bunch. I don’t know if it’s because I enjoyed the others so much, or because it generally feels poorer in comparison to the others. It does have a couple of awesome cards that benefit from having plenty of cards in your graveyard, which can be an excellent turning point midway through the game, but, aside from that, it feels like the black swan of the group.

Earning these decks is done through playing each of the planeswalkers that owns them, and while that sounds very straightforward it can be a real bastard. The first two decks were particularly painful to defeat, taking a number of attempts. You get a real sense of satisfaction when you do beat them, and using those decks to mop up the rest goes to show just how powerful they were. Having decks with two different mana types clearly has its advantages, although these can be devastating negatives, should you fail to get the colour you need. You’re not just waiting for mana, but a specific type of mana, which can be fatal.

The extras on top of the regular campaign include the popular revenge mode, offering a chance to replay the campaign against some highly unforgivable computer players. You also get a smattering of challenges to try and figure out, which are equally tough. While I understand the allure of trying to find a specific solution to a problem, I would much prefer if there were multiple ways to solve it, and we were scored on our efficiency; this would allow players to actually think creatively, rather than solving what is, essentially, a riddle.

This leads me onto my other gripe, and something I’ve covered earlier, which is the lack of new cards for older decks. Giving that it has been several months since the release of the main game, some new cards for these decks would have been very welcome. We didn’t need many, five cards per deck would have been sufficient; it feels like a corner cut, and an opportunity missed.

  • Five brand new diverse decks
  • More revenge and challenge fun
  • The same magic you know and love
  • No new cards for older decks
  • Challenge mode is starting to get quite stale

If you picked up Magic 2013 originally and you're looking for a fresh injection of card-playing pleasure, then you're in luck because this will fill that void. It's a shame that more wasn't done to make this an essential download for anyone who owns magic, and for people who have maybe drifted away from it after purchase there isn't much to come back for. For fans, there are five decks, five standard and revenge missions and five challenges for £3.99 currently on Steam, and you can't really argue with that.

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