Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers Review
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Stainless Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Wizards of the Coast 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Jun. 17, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1, 2-4 (Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Magical
by Matthew Walker

I remember when I was younger, going into the comic book shop and finding a display of Magic the Gathering on display. It stands out mostly because I was a sucker for the collectible cards Marvel and DC always put out that were worth nothing. I asked the comic shop owner what it was and he said plainly, “Some new Dungeons and Dragons thing.” So I thought, cool, I bought my starter deck package and ran home and discovered this was unlike anything I had ever seen.

Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers screenshot

Thus began an unrelenting relationship with Magic the Gathering. Every time there was a new series of cards, I was buying booster packs left and right. I was playing in tournaments with other people that had discovered Magic. I lived and breathed Magic the Gathering, however, I then noticed a pattern. Every three to six months a new series was coming out, the older cards where no longer allowed to play in tournaments, and the price of booster packs and prebuilt decks was getting insane. Thus ended the long life I had with a trading card game, but I always wanted to play again, or at least see the new cards as they came out, but I refused to give into temptations. Thankfully, Wizards of the Coast and Stainless Games have delivered the same kind of experience, cheaper than it would be to start the “habit” all over again.

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Actually it is a much better deal than even trying to pick up the habit again. For starters, you start out very basic in the decks, and through repeat matches in either custom duels or the campaign modes, you will unlock cards for that specific deck for each victory. Eventually, you will have access to a deck of every solid color from the game and then a few multi-colored decks to play around with. This is both a great way to keep the replayability high in the game but it also creates one of the first annoyances about the game.

Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers screenshot

As you unlock more cards for the deck you play you can add the rewarded cards to your deck. You won’t have to add them all, only the ones you want. While this is great for trying to make the decks more powerful, the disadvantage to this, however, is further customization. You are not allowed to remove cards from the base build of the decks. Instead of trying to master the decks with only 60 cards and including some of the unlocked cards you have earned, you are forced to play with 60 cards plus each bonus card you add. As most players who know the core game will attest, a 75 card deck is generally slow and can create more problems in the long run unless you are able to fully modify it.

This annoyance aside, none of the decks are weak. Nor will they leave you hanging out to dry while your opponent delivers devastating attacks each turn. In fact, most of the decks are constructed in a way that even the most novice player can win a match. This is probably the games strongest appeal, the ease of playing the matches, learning the basics of the game, and, in general, figuring out if you want to rush out and pick up some Magic the Gathering cards of your own.

Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers screenshot

Breaking things down and giving you onscreen prompts when a creature comes into play, and always allowing you to view the last card played can help with making the right strategic moves against your opponent. You will also have cards in your hand highlighted for when you can play them to counter a card coming into play. This makes it a little easier to adjust to the attacks. While the highlighting of playable cards is great, it makes me feel like it was added due to the size of the board you are playing. Everything is much smaller than what it should be. It also tends to create problems keeping up with how much mana you have to play certain spells. This problem rolls in full force when you are playing more people, the maximum of four people playing the cards are restricted even further. This makes things much harder in planning out your attacks and countering attacks. In addition to this problem, you have the timer to worry about.

Screenshots / Images
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers screenshot - click to enlarge Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers screenshot - click to enlarge Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers screenshot - click to enlarge Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers screenshot - click to enlarge

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