It seems like Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers has become an annual franchise. The original was released in 2009, 2010 was skipped, and then in 2011, we got Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, which featured cards from the Magic 2012 core set of real life cards, and was used to serve as an introduction to that set. Likewise, 2012’s Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 served the same purpose for the Magic 2013 core set. Now here we are in 2013, and the next game in the series, Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers, is getting ready for release this June, and will feature cards from the Magic 2014 core set which won’t be available in stores until July. Over the years the games in the series have become more and more polished, and yet, many members of the community, including myself, have a wish list of features and fixes that could make the games in this series better.
Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers Preview
Here’s what we know so far about Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers: The game has 10 new prebuilt decks and features a campaign that includes an actual storyline instead of just a series of matches. Throughout the campaign, the player will partner with the Planeswalker, Chandra Nalaar, in order to track down an enemy Planeswalker. Personally I think this is a welcome change to the campaign, as in the previous games, there was little difference between playing through the campaign and playing a custom game against the CPU aside from the unlockable revenge matches (which were played against more difficult versions of the decks from the main game).
Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers will also include 15 new encounters. Encounters were a new feature in Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 in which the player had to play a game against a prebuilt and presorted deck. The encounters were the same every time, but provided unusual challenges and were an interesting diversion from normal play. It could be argued that they were an artificial method of padding out the campaign, but they were also handy for unlocking cards more quickly than playing regular matches.
10 new puzzles will also be included with Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers. If they are anything like the puzzles in previous games, the player will be challenged to defeat the opponent despite being placed in a very dire situation. There is typically only one solution to any given puzzle, and in some puzzles, that solution is hidden away in a very complicated series of moves. I enjoyed the puzzles of the earlier games, though occasionally found the solutions to be far too dependent on a “guess and check” strategy, especially those puzzles that involved drawing cards that were not even in the starting hand. Still, I’m glad to see puzzles returning in the new game.
Perhaps the biggest new feature of Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers is the new game mode, Sealed. While there have not yet been any official announcements about this mode, there are two achievements that have spilled the beans. By winning a Sealed game players can unlock, “Sealed the Deal,” and even better, “Maestro of Sealed,” is awarded for completing the Sealed campaign. In real life Magic: The Gathering, the Sealed Deck format involves players building decks from sealed booster packs of random cards. I’m curious to see how this mode is implemented into Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers, considering that none of the previous games in the series have allowed players to build their own decks.
Fans have long wished for a way to create their own decks in the Duels of the Planeswalkers series, and for many, the lack of such an option has been reason enough not to buy the game. In my case, I’ve found a great deal of enjoyment in playing with the mostly balanced prebuilt decks and in unlocking cards to improve them, but I understand why many players don’t think that is enough. Hopefully the Sealed mode will make the game more interesting for those players, but we’ll have to wait and see when more details about it are officially revealed.
(Update: Check out our new hands-on preview of Sealed Mode.)
The Wish List
There are many other ways that Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers could be improved over its predecessors. Aside from full deck customization, here is my wish list of new features and improvements that I hope will be added to the game:
1. Add an option to disable and/or customize the time limits in multiplayer matches. Magic: The Gathering is a complicated game, and it often takes more than just a few seconds to figure out the best strategy for any given situation. When the timer runs out, the game forces the game to move on, regardless of whether or not the player is done making decisions. My friends and I don’t want to feel rushed as we play, and great games have been ruined by the time running out.
2. It should be possible to save, load, import and export deck templates. One of the great things about this series is how very different the same deck can become as it is customized with unlockable cards. In most cases, there are several viable builds for each deck, and it would be great to be able to save and share them. As it stands, the only way to change templates is to manually add and remove all of the individual cards, which is tedious and discourages using multiple builds of the same deck.
3. While the true wish here is for 100% customizable decks, at the very least allow the player to manually control how much land is placed in the decks. As it stands the game automatically adds or removes land according to the cards placed in the deck, and that may or may not work with the player’s strategy. In multicolor decks that include Terramorphic Expanse or Evolving Wilds, players should be able to remove the basic lands in favor of these cards instead of adding them on top of the default land count. With the way things are now, many players build their decks to 61 cards, since the game doesn’t add an additional land until the player adds a card beyond the 61st, and that helps to reduce oversaturation of land cards. But this is only necessary due to the lack of customization features.
4. Put the real life expansion symbols on the cards. Since Duels of the Planeswalkers is supposed to be a preview of the next core set, seeing a D13 symbol on a Mox Sapphire in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 was a cruel, cruel joke.
5. Integrate Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers with Gatherer, the official Wizards of the Coast database of Magic: The Gathering cards. Players should be able to easily access all of the information about the cards in the game, including special rulings, user comments and details about which real life sets include the cards.
6. Allow games to be saved in progress and resumed, and more importantly, allow players to save and share replays of their games. Magic: The Gathering is full of moments that players want to share with their friends, and it would be great if this feature was built in. Go the extra mile and let players resume games from wherever they want in a replay, which would be great for forming strategies and teaching.
7. Add a game log that shows everything that happens during the game in text, including specific details like the order in which effects go on the stack and how effects resolve. This will be a useful tool both for advanced players and for helping newcomers learn or understand some of the more complicated game mechanics.
8. Include an optional “undo” or “rewind” button so that players can undo their mistakes in casual environments such as the single player campaign or unranked games. In a real life game, if someone makes a foolish mistake, such as forgetting an opponent has first strike and uselessly attacking anyway, it’s simple enough to cancel the attack if both players agree. Often the defending player will actually remind the attacking player of the mistake. This should also be possible in the video game.
9. Support the old games. I’ve always found it unfortunate that each of the Duels of the Planeswalkers titles was a self-contained game instead of an evolving platform, especially considering that the older games are not supported with patches and feature updates anymore. It’s sad that the older decks can only be played on an obsolete version of the game. Those games should be brought up to date, or alternatively, the decks from those games should be added to the newest game. Ranked multiplayer matches that affect the leaderboard would still only include the new decks from the most recent version of the game, but it would be awesome if the decks from earlier titles were playable in some other casual format. Wouldn’t it be fun to battle the old decks against the new ones? Of course there would be balance issues, but it should still be an option.
We’ll see how many of these wishes actually make it into Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers when it is released this June. The game will once again be available on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and iPad. It will also be making its series debut on Android tablets via the Amazon App Store and Google Play.