(Let’s Play) An Article on Duels of the Planeswalkers #4: The Green-Black Finale

The trader looked down before saying in a scubby baritone, “No, I haven’t seen nothin’ like that around these parts.”

I grabbed his shirt and slammed him against his cart, the wares and goods clattering as he collided with the wooden vehicle. He seemed much more open to talk.

“Okay, okay!” he shouted as he threw himself from my grasp. He stared at the dirt street again and muttered to himself, gazing up and across the midmorning crowd.

“You didn’t hear this from me,” he said as feebly as one can, “but if anyone knows where this place is, it’s that Riku guy. He came by the other day and mentioned he had come across some beefed-up idiot who kept sayin’ he was going to rip everyone apart.”

I thanked him, clearing the dust from the front of his leather jacket. As I wordlessly stepped away from his moveable shop, he called out with a hint of anger.

“Hey bub!” he said to me. “You ain’t even gonna buy nothin’?”

Reaching into my pocket, I took out the tarnished Meletis coin and flipped it at him.


This will be the last article in the series. We’ll open up the last plane and fight the last boss – and give a shot to the other three colors of mana.

Last Time on Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015

The Games: The rummage through Ravnica ended in a battle of wits against Jace, the Living Guildpact, who utilized illusion creatures and the game settings to win. He says Garruk needs to be stopped or he’ll blow everyone straight to smithereens, and we have to be the ones to get the corrupted green planeswalker under control.

The moving plane of Shandalar was unlocked, and it is there that the Onakke, demented ogre artificers, are headquartered. Defeating them might also heal the curse.

Our Deck: With all the games I played with the GW Tokens deck, three other starter decks have been accessed.

The way one must open up additional “premade” decks is a bit misleading, in that the deck itself is not really unlocked. Since every game gives out a Booster Pack, I’ve accumulated quite a number of cards, and the cards in those packs just happen to also be used in the default deck choices at the beginning of the game. Once getting all of the cards in a deck, it is freely choosable for play.

This means it’s not really an unlockable deck, but an unlockable suggestion/skeleton we could have been using upon getting the single cards in the first place. It simply takes our individual cards and puts those into decks, which I was just about to do, anyway.


(Let’s Play) An Article Regarding Duels of the Planeswalkers #4: The Green-Black Finale

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Shandalar is the home of the ogres who made the Chain Veil, the same Chain Veil that is currently causing Garruk to be Garruk, Apex Predator and not Garruk, Caller of Beasts. We either need to save him from himself, or neutralize him to save the rest of the world, or both.

I’m not really sure what else is going on in Shandalar. For some reason, they decided it was going to be relevant to the Magic 2015 Core Set, but perhaps only as a call-back. Either way, it has knights and some other well-known subtypes, and with all that generic fantasy allure, I’d bet Karn would really like it there.

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The Deck Menu has three new decks for us to play with – a UW deck with many flyers, an aggro RB, and one that is probably best described as “Blue-Black Control.” Like I said, these were decks we just kind of slowly acquired from the Campaign mode. There are cards that show up in two of them, and none of the lists have a card that isn’t in another.

I’ll be giving each of them a try.

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Oh, I guess Riku of Two Reflections is from Shandalar.

Shandalar, Game 3: Cruel Reflection

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Or he’s only vacationing in Shandalar.

Riku of Two Reflections was originally printed in the first Commander expansion as one of the premade deck’s commander…or elder/dragon/copyrighted designation of Scottish origin. I think he’s also given to people when they buy and download Magic Online as the emissary to the multiplayer-based casual format. Until now, I thought he was two guys.

In DotP 2015, Riku doesn’t bring a RUG-colored barrage of craziness. He just plays the same deck we’re playing, or whoever he’s up against.

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This is kind of unfortunate, because this was the first game I used with the one of new decks, going with the RB one that’s called “Chaos and Slaughter”. It was actually almost identical to a deck I was making up as I went.

Seems all right. Goblin Rabblemaster is its best card by a long shot, and so would be Anger of the Gods if it didn’t also exile all of our creatures besides the Charmbreaker Devils, the other very potent rare in the deck. Getting back heroic enablers/removal/burn spells every turn would lock the game down once we got to six lands.

But as a testing source, a straight-up-100-percent mirror-match doesn’t do so well. I can only tell how the curve is, which is something. I’m glad to play with the goblins – being their controller, for once. The RB deck has good removal (even a couple at instant speed…!), and the offense comes down quickly and can make the latter turns meaningless, the innermost desire of an aggro player.

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We win (and lose, I guess), 21-0.

Riku steps from behind the curtain and we must’ve had a laugh together. Oh, that prankster…

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We get another Shandalar Booster, and Ogre Battledriver will get promptly put into our RB deck.

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But since there’s another plane after this, I know the next duel is only the boss of Shandalar.

Shandalar, Game 4/Boss: Onakke Guardians

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I just want to say this dude would have three subtypes, and also be legendary, probably.

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It wasn’t much of a boss fight. The ghost ogre missed a land drop and he cast Aggressive Mining on Turn 5, but by that time the whole team of the UW deck (which I’ll be detailing in a bit) was getting in. There might have been a bloodthirst angle from the Onakke, by means of Duskhunter Bat and Reckless Brute.

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We win, 17-0.

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Lara Croft, we are not, sorry.

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Now, with the Onakke being makers of vile artifacts, I would assume they used Aggressive Mining (an enchantment) for the primary way to draw cards in their mono-red control deck with uber-burn spells. Then maybe they’d drop some huge artifact creature like Scuttling Doom Engine or any dragon, pretty much. But they’re actually very similar to the deck we were just playing with, just worse.

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With our objective complete, smashing the Onakke altar, we should be good to take on Garruk. There is but one thing in the entire multiverse that can stop him, or rather just one thing that the game is going to let us get – a hedron, from Zendikar. We just don’t know that yet, instead meandering about on the slightest bit of a hint.

The Next Plane: Zendikar

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I may or may not be the only person in the world who doesn’t like Zendikar. It was the set that had just rotated out of Standard when I really got into the game, and even when I took a look at the cards, I wasn’t able to be a part of that whole “questing and frontier-ing” diversion that turned into “oh no, Eldrazi!!” Everything just looked broken. I mean, without having any launch-day excitement or familiarity, most of the cards don’t really seem reasonable in any way, at least to me.

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People have said Zendikar is when Magic became the game it is today. This I will understand – but I’m just happy they decided to refine their land experiment, and the procession of following releases each improved upon it.

Having this plane in Duels of the Planeswalkers could spell out disaster…or “E-l-d-r-a-z-i”…though that’d be a huge stretch in toughness if It That Betrays is used by the opponents. A huge…stretch…

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However, it looks as though we only have to fight some everyday normal goblins in the first duel.

Zendikar, Game 1: Strength in Numbers

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And they’re violating our rights.

The ally creature type and the mechanics thereof are almost like constellation, but probably not as good…because everything that triggers it came from the same block.

But there sure are a bunch of them, in all five colors. I enjoy the way they only have the same second subtype, like people of many races coming together for their alike search for gold and glory, their differences in appearance mattering very little.

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The Ally deck begins with a Highland Berserker, meaning they’ll probably have first strike in the entire game.

It was the UW deck’s turn. The deck looked fine enough, and since DotP 2015 is basically Limited+, creatures with flying can only be good.

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They followed up their guy with a Joraga Bard and a Graypelt Hunter, and with all that Ally, they could very well go off, leaving the UW Flyers nowhere to run.

Running, as it was, was unneeded, as the deck I was using was just way too cool.

Chasm Skulker is great with Military Intelligence and, one of my personal favorites from Theros, Bident of Thassa. But Skymark Roc is simply OP in this game as an on-cost 3/3 with flying, and its ability, while not that great with a deck based on enters-the-battlefield abilities, could just win without really trying.

Getting more cards than the opponent while hitting them with creatures they cannot block will win many, many games.

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We win, (closely)

The first Zendikar Booster Pack has two enchantments which were but another cycle/theme from the set.

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People from Zendikar are evidently called “Zendikari,” though with all that Jwari, Kazuul and Kazandu…it’s good to know that. With that said, I can probably see at least five or six cards they could’ve played that would have flipped their tides straight around. But they did not play them.

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I’ll switch out the neat little UW deck with the last one we have, the deck called “Cruel Denial” which I guess would be “Blue-Black control.”

And it’ll have to face some very-mono-white equipment enthusiasts.

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Zendikar, Game 2: Kor Canyons

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I must be an upsetting person to talk to.

The Kor from Zendikar have a ton of synergy, with not only themselves, but that one artifact subtype with equip ability. While Stoneforge Mystic was probably, in retrospect, the best of them all, they do pretty well with just commons and uncommons such as Kitesail Apprentice, Kor Hookmaster, and Adventuring Gear.

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It certainly didn’t help that the UB Control deck totally sucks.

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With expensive removal, a weird curve, and really no good way to get card advantage, “Cruel Denial” is only cruel to anyone who plays with it. Dissolve in this D15 “format” is just a brick, unless it is being played for the winning move. Same with Flesh to Dust…if the opponent has an equipped Kor Outfitter and a few other creatures, our plays are just pointless because we’ve just lost the game!

I’m also not sure what the win condition is supposed to be. It could be Doorkeeper. It could be Agent of the Fates with very few things to target him with. But there’s Bident of Thassa again…meaning it…I can’t really tell what.

And what’s weird is that on the Wizards forums, somebody put up all the Starter Decks for this game…but what I got for these three color pairs were much different from what he posted. I’m not sure if what I said earlier was the case, at all – these decks were not the other starter decks, but just decks that matched their colors and had the same name. I didn’t even change them before playing with them…

The UB deck I was given plays multiple copies of Thassa’s Bounty! I’m not even kidding!

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There was no way (no way) that I’d be able to win the Kor duel using it without making drastic changes.

And drastic changes were had. Instead of crappy-crappy “control,” I went with semi-aggressive blue and black creatures, backing them up with Dead Weight and Dinrova Horror. Having removal in this game can do very big things.

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We win, (second try).

The Booster Pack doesn’t have what we’d want. I still can’t really say what the game claimed to be a Starter deck was. Maybe the person who posted the lists was using a prior version of the game, or they could honestly have been randomized collections of 36 nonland cards and 24 lands.

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We don’t speak their language, but they still told us what we need to know.

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Zendikar, Game 3: Roiling Plane

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Oh, neat! We’ll get to play against a five-color control deck with only manlands like Creeping Tar Pit and Celestial Colonnade!

This deck is supposed to be, kind of, a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle deck, as made famous by the Modern archetype based around it and Scapeshift. That deck uses a combo to win the game, putting six or seven Mountains into play all at the same time, without much an opponent can do about it.

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For this one, it just plays the Mountains. And while I’m cool with them trying to keep it “within the block” for these decks by having only cards from Worldwake and Rise of the Eldrzai, if someone’s strategy is to get more than five lands into play, they probably shouldn’t be using Magma Rift.

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We win, 20-0.

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These Booster Packs have been a bit underwhelming. I’m not sure why Burning Anger is with the Zendikar cards.

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Having thoroughly vanquished their second attempt at overwhelming us with “the land itself,” we can do what we came to Zendikar for, and that is a meeting with Ob Nixilis, the Fallen.

Zendikar, Game 4/Boss: Scorn of Ob Nixilis

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Hm…I guess I didn’t remember Sorin had hired us to do all this.

From what the game tells me, Ob Nixilis used to be a planeswalker, but they shoved a piece of metal into his head and that trapped him in his present confines. They printed Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath in Commander 2014 to sort of confirm and contradict this.

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Ob’s deck in DotP 2015 is a bit irritating in that it just kind of wins. He has (probably) four Death Cultists that actually do a lot of damage and a few Soulcage Fiend to hedge his other life-loss bets. Indulgent Tormenter is, for a demon, pretty scrawny, but it’ll be good for 3 life or one of the opponent’s creatures.

And he also plays Demon of Death’s Gate.

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Every so often, the AI decks in the game will show off a foil card to evoke some measure of jealousy and fear, in the way foil cards can sometimes.

Like previously mentioned, the mono-black Ob Nixilis deck pokes away at a person every turn, and with Covenant of Blood, any sort of race situation gets shady and they’ll just eventually win in some other way.

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Such as targeting us with Sign in Blood.

Going with the RB deck, because it had the best removal, it seemed like we’d be in good shape, but I lost a couple times before getting enough damage through.

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We win (after a few tries).

Beating Ob Nixilis earns us a cutscene.

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It is Jace’s advice to grab the hedron, fresh from the forehead, and it will, by itself, be able to put Garruk straight into the hamper. Garruk, ever in-the-know somehow, is aware of our plan. Jace goes on to say that we can take a quick coffee break and he’ll even help us out in our fated encounter.

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But as we turn around, Garruk is there to coarsely say, “Too late.”

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It was evident for a few games now, but with the hedron we can, at last, have our face-off sit-down Garruk. The man we’ve been chasing is right in front of us, and so is the game’s final boss.

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Final Boss: Garruk

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…after all this time, he was the one to find us?!

We could’ve just stayed in Innistrad!

Even before playing any of this game, I would’ve predicted Garruk’s black-green deck would have ramp, removal, big creatures, and In Garruk’s Wake. I was partially right.

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Nature’s Lore is used by Garruk to get friggin’ Bayous, and that gives him a lot of potential for his mana. His other non-basic is Golgari Guildgate, which might tell an interesting tale of balance.

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Garruk’s big foil creature is Rampaging Baloths, which he’ll play on Turn 7 to make the Landfall trigger immediately. With the RB aggro deck, there aren’t too many things we can do to get rid of it, and it might be one of the best and best-utilized cards we’ve come across.

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He also plays Harmonize and an alternate-art Triumph of Ferocity because, at least in DotP 2015, Garruk plays more draw spells than Jace. He throws out Beast Within, too.

But like with every other match, we can adjust and we’ll figure our way to a win.

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We win, (second try).

That was the final boss, as I said. The game gives us a cutscene as a reward!

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 looks to be over…

Spikes growing longer out his furry back, he laughs maniacally.

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Ha, ha, ha…

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Final form time.

Final Boss, Game 2: Garruk, the Worldslayer

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Garruk’s real deck is the same colors, and it differs from the first in odd ways. Downgrading to Rampant Growth, Cultivate, and mostly basic lands, it makes up for it with basically tireless monsters like Putrid Leech and Spiritmonger.

He also uses the all-spot removal spell Putrefy, along with probably his new favorite card Consume Strength, and clutters up the early game with Child of Night and Runeclaw Bear. In general, the deck is more efficient (and much better), but I almost have to believe it was originally intended to be the first Garruk deck, and not the second, as it just seems less frightening. This is the final boss! It needs to be more than simply more challenging to defeat!

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Either way, Garruk, the Worldslayer, beat me.

But that’s fine! All I have to do is play until I win.

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The Garruk duel is a two-stage boss fight that repeats from the first stage when a player re-tries. This means, of course, we can beat the first Garruk deck as many times as we want, but if we don’t make it past the second one, we have to do it all again.

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And again.

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And again.

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And again.

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And again.

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While it was becoming evident the RB deck was the wrong choice for this duel (mostly the second part), I wasn’t one to not allow it one last chance at victory.

Goblin Rabblemaster proved to be a bit more of a problem for Garruk than it originally seemed – especially when Tormented Hero has been attacking for a few turns before it gets cast.

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A tight game resulting in another defeat, for varying reasons, told me it was indeed possible to win with it.

In the next last chance, we again got off to a good, offensive opening, and even when Spiritmonger made it into play, I got to activate the evil Act of Treason-Corpse Blockade combo to rid us of its regenerating presence.

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However, Garruk took out the Goblin Rabblemaster, which was going to be our best road to beating him. The next draw was our second (and luckier) copy, and another token gave us a few more creatures.

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As Putrefy put a firm end to our rambling-rollin’ role-call, we still had everything we needed for a win. With Coordinated Assault to prevent him from gaining life from the Child of Night, we had automatic-win-topdecks with either Act of Treason or Bolt of Keranos.

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Volcanic Geyser for five does it pretty well, also.

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We win.

These types of boss fights leaves one a bit suspicious after they actually win. The final cutscene is, joyfully, the true end of the Campaign.

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Jace could have either been behind us the whole time or just now giving us advice through his telepathic abilities. With his guidance, we forcibly give Garruk the hedron, and the surrounding area crumbles to the ground.

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Mr. Beleren gives us a thumbs-up, goes on to talk about an existential subject, and the credits play. The final shot is actually the opening moments of the intro video, two apples hanging from a tree branch.

After the special thanks, they have a short post-credits cutscene.

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Ob-Nixilis is freed from the hedron’s restrictions and sprouts wings, cackling the game’s second vile laugh.

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I’ve always felt the credits are an important part of any movie, television show, video game, or whatever else. They can hold a sort of farewell attitude, and there can be many things the developers can do to extend the aesthetics of their product for just a few more minutes.

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With video games, though, they end up taking a long, long stretch of time, sending their appreciation for multiple parties at multiple companies for multiple releases of the game. The credits for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 are hardly an exception.

I still sat through it. I try to sit through the credits for every game and further think about what I have just completed. It’s relaxing, at least. As a bonus, they even say who wrote the flavor texts from M15. And the song that plays is “Change of Luck” from a group called Ministry…it’s post-alternative semi-metal with the lyric “Your luck is gonna change. It’s gonna go from bad to strange.”

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Before fighting Garruk, DotP 2015 actually had an update – or an improvement to a previous update. They added a new DLC-based Campaign mode where players take on the role of Garruk himself, appropriately called “Garruk’s Revenge.”

It’s $5 and probably involves searching out planeswalkers and killing them with his axe. But, to make it seem like we would be playing as the huntmaster, they’d have to only permit people to play GB…and they probably couldn’t get away with that.

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I’m not buying it.

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We have saved some innocent people, and can loudly claim we have finished the main Campaign mode of the game (which took me over 11 hours to finish), but there is some more I didn’t really get to – in these articles, I only played 21 out of 25 games in the main Campaign (skipping four of the Explore sections, also), and I didn’t even try out the multiplayer. A lot more is in the game.

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There’s also some Magic information about its worlds and the planeswalkers in the game, which I sort of got a kick out of.


In many ways, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 reminds me of my first few months of playing Magic with my friends. We’d get a Starter Deck, and with each booster pack we opened, we’d put some of the new cards in it, becoming fairly attached to them and the whole Magic game as we went along.

This is a redeeming element of the game DotP 2015 – it can adequately emulate the series of “buy-play-buy-add-play-repeat.” Or perhaps it only a recognizable element, one that really has no place in a video game.

But with all the puny decks and cards they expose a person to – and I’ve hinted at this before – if anything, a person will be way overconfident if they are learning to play Magic through this game. Same goes with the other target audience, the players who quit many years ago.

As it is intended, it might perform some aspects of the instructor job but trips up in probably the most important one – the friendliness of casual Magic. Without people, Magic isn’t quite as good.

I’ve played DotP with friends and also just by myself, and I can claim the former is much preferable, though not entirely so. Sitting down and playing matches against the AIs, and just going through a semi-story, is actually kind of intriguing.

If Wizards really wanted to, they could come up with something to turn Magic into an entertaining single-player RPG-ish game, one with a more invigorating plot involving the characters they have developed, and it could serve as both an introduction and a continuation of the trading card game.

And, from what it sounds like, they just might have done that with these Duels of the Planeswalkers, though only in the past. This version isn’t exactly what I’d call “a passable game.” The popular YouTube reviewer ProJared recently did a video about Magic, and he talked at length about the old PC Microprose game called Magic: the Gathering (now known mostly as “Shandalar”) and also briefly spoke about DotP. I agree with just about everything he says in the review and I’ll recommend it to almost every Magic player.

The gameplay in DotP 2015 has holes and could be touched up, but it does hold up every now and then, which is far more than I can about its overall feel.

Everything is well-made and appreciable, but it totally lacks personality or tone. Maybe without the human interaction with the actual cards, all of Magic would be like that – just elves and nice-looking pictures from skilled artists, but remote in terms of identifiability. This could be a somewhat skewed opinion.

However, what I’ll say is that if someone told me they wanted to get into Magic and didn’t want to buy cards in paper, I’d send them the link to Magic Online and ask when they wanted to play.

MTGO and Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 are exactly the same price. It almost seems ironic.

 

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