Quick Hits: Magic Origins Duels

(Editor’s Note:  Please report any  one you see playing only basic mountains in their deck.  If you see something, say something.  Together, we can defeat this red menace.)

I have not been a fan of Magic Origins so far.  Initially, I wanted the set to be good.  I got back to a point where I enjoyed the game again and I hoped that Origins might keep the momentum going.  Then, the spoilers started.  Nothing caught my interest as particularly interesting and my interest waned again.

Mono red became stronger in standard with the set.   The ridiculous decks proliferated both in the events I watched and also the games I played against people online.  I just started autoconceding every time I saw a mountain played by the opponent.  I went from indifferent to actively hating the game and my red opponents.

Red Magic players are evil. Commies are evil. It isn't a coincidence.
Red Magic players are evil. Commies are evil. It isn’t a coincidence.

Thankfully, two things happened that puled me back from the brink of pulling the plug on Magic altogether.  Chris and I expanded the play group with decidedly mixed results.  The latest (and by all accounts last) version of the Duels series finally released at the end of last month.  This has actually led to an unquestionable increase in my Magic habit without any of the previous negative side effects.

I might have already mentioned that I was so excited for the new game and promised return of features taken from the previous version that I downloaded and installed it on the day that it released.  My favorite part of these games has always been the story.  Wizards recently announced that Origins represented a new era in storytelling for them.  If this game is any indication, then they have succeeded.  The story has always been secondary in Magic, but as I played through, I saw the story come into sharp focus through the writing and card art.  Five separate characters brought together by similar destinies to create a cohesive tale that will only become bigger with the coming sets.

No snarky comment this time. 4/5 of my favorites. Instead of Nissa, I'd prefer Garruk.
No snarky comment this time. 4/5 of my favorites. Instead of Nissa, I’d prefer Garruk.

I also said in that same article that the inclusion of daily quests did not entice me to log in to the game.  That has actually turned out to be false.  I log in daily, build a deck to match the quest, and play a few games.  The games are actually quick enough that I don’t feel locked into them as I sometimes do when playing a actual game of Magic.

They also borrowed from the Hearthstone model and allow you to buy “packs” (only 6 cards in each pack) with gold earned from quests and victories.  Opening these packs has exposed me to cards that I thought were interesting before and might make for cool combos, but never actually got to play them.  An example is the new Jace and Sphinx’s Tutelage or the new Liliana in a sacrifice deck.  That led me to try to come up with some new and different deck ideas to try.

I only have one complaint about the game, but it is a big one.  Past versions of the series, but not last years, have included puzzles based on board states similar to the ones that Gathering Magic (click the link for an example) does weekly.  I actually just learned about the Gathering Magic ones a couple of weeks ago and spent the whole weekend trying to figure out the Elemental one.  I did, by the way, and the one for last week, too.  I will take a look at this week’s in the next day or two.

Took me a while only because I didn't read Stratus Walk very well.  Hey, I'm a math guy, not a reading guy.
Took me a while only because I didn’t read Stratus Walk very well. Hey, I’m a math guy, not a reading guy.

So, it’s a bit of a bummer that they got rid of that feature.  I would replay the game several times over in an attempt to complete the puzzle.  At least in the last version, they also had achievements to chase, too.  All of that kept me plenty busy once I finished the story.  The potentially good news is that Wizards has said that they will keep the game updated via patches when each new set releases.  The possibility exists that they could patch the puzzles back in, too.  Here’s to hoping.

My thoughts:

  • Decent story.  Well worth playing the game once just for the story.
  • Almost Magic gameplay.  You get the cards, but it is for a casual/new experience, so some of the more intricate rules are diminished or eliminated altogether.
  • Free to play with a gold/daily quest system very much like Hearthstone.  I haven’t spent a dime in the game and already have a sizable and eclectic collection.
  • Replayability, if you aren’t interested in the “competitive” games is severely limited.
  • No puzzles again.  Holding out hope that they patch them in at some point.
  • Can’t import your collection from previous versions.

Overall, it is a fun game, completely free, and as close to actual Magic as such a casual game allows.  Download it, play through the story, and have fun for a few days. There are far worse ways to spend your time.

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