Magic: The Gathering – Tactics Preview Coming Up

Today, we have a subject matter that’s still Magic (all that matters!) but is a bit different from the MTGO-centric norm that we strive for- it’s in the realm of PC and PS3 gaming. (Whoa.) More specifically, this is all about Magic: The Gathering — Tactics, a soon-to-be released online, turn-based tactics game, featuring the MTG Multiverse, released by Sony Online Entertainment LLC (proprietors of EverQuest). MTGOAcademy has been invited to an exclusive preview for this upcoming title, and we want to know what you, our wonderful readership, would like to know about the game! From press releases and 2010′s E3, Comic Con and GenCon previews, here’s what we know (or don’t know) going into things:

(It is important to note that many of these previews were some months ago- the game might have changed drastically in certain areas.)

Product Offerings

Magic: The Gathering — Tactics will have a trial package that is free to play! According to an E3 GamePro preview, additional content, in the form of boosters, single-player campaigns (presumably planeswalker-inspired lore that fits into the Multiverse) and other customizations, will be available for purchase via micro transactions. The additional booster packs will cost roughly 3 dollars- their contents (whether they are randomized or more similar to preconstructed decks) were not specified.

As of the E3 GamePro preview, the launch version of the game is scheduled to include approximately 100 different units (you might know of them as creatures or planeswalkers), 100 spells and 30 maps. As far as names we’ve seen or heard thrown around, many Magic icons (Serra Angel, Shivan Dragon, Ajani Goldmane, Garruk Wildspeaker, Birds of Paradise, Giant Growth) have been uttered.


At first glance, the gameplay looks like a combination of D&D Miniatures and Magic: The Gathering. As stated earlier, it is a turn-based combat game where you command a planeswalker, navigate a 3D battleground with grid system, cast spells, summon creatures and combat an opposing spark-ignited foe.

In the GamePro preview, it was stated that the game will launch with one-on-one matches with plans to expand up to eight player slugfests (but it was not stated if they are teamed or free-for-alls). There are also plans to have a variety of play options, including casual play, draft competitions and other bracketed tournaments (but it was not stated if these are single elimination events, swiss-style pairings or some other system). GamePro’s Patrick Shaw also compared the gameplay (presumably the feel of actual combat) to other tactical titles such as Heroes of Might & Magic and Final Fantasy: Tactics. demoed the game at E3 and offered a recap of gameplay. You bring a deck without lands, but your planeswalker automatically generates mana at the beginning of each turn. Creatures that you summon also have turns (presumably ordered by some sort of initiative system). During a turn, a unit can perform a single action: move, attack or use a special ability. In this demo, each deck could only have five different types of creatures and five different types of spells- we are unsure if these will be the final deck construction rules. Planeswalkers also level up (but this might only be for single-player campaigns), transverse through trees of specialized skill sets and unlock the ability to expand the size of the deck they bring into battle.

In the Escapist Comic Con 2010 preview report, it was said that even countermagic will be represented in the game! At the time of the preview, Counterspell could be selected when you choose to cast any spell, but it resolved when your opponent casts their next spell (or at least tries to cast their own spell); if this stays the same, it means that you do not choose what you specifically are going to counter.

The Escapist’s Greg Tito also reported that there will be no random draws- your whole deck is available to you in each battle (you just have to accumulate the mana you need to cast everything)! Typically, decks have five uses of a particular card in them, unless the card has been deemed restriction worthy. (For example, SOE’s Blaine Loder cited Black Lotus as a unique effect spell that would only be able to be used once per battle.) In regard to deck construction, everyone’s favorite term, metagame, has even been thrown around- what would Magic be without a healthy meta?!

Collection Management

MTG — Tactics also features a collectible aspect. According to’s E3 preview report collections are supplemented through (at least) two different ways: trading at auction houses or purchasing packs from Sony’s online store. What a booster purchase is comprised of is unknown to us at the moment- it could be randomly generated (with or without different rarity levels) or each booster could have a set selection of cards. The auction house is where you go to trade with other players in the game- though the full set-up of the in-game economy or barter system is also currently unknown to us.

Another interesting tidbit: the Escapist preview cited that individual cards would be available for purchase at the launch of the game- an effort to jump charge the trading environment before the player base has grown enough to allow players to find any card that their heart desires up for trade.

What Do You Want to Know?

ChrisKool will be flying out Wednesday to the SOE Denver development studio to see what Magic: The Gathering – Tactics is all about, and he wants to know: what you want to know?! Please leave any questions below, and he will try his darnedest to deliver the goods!

  1. The Final Fantasy Tactics series has always been a very challenging and entertaining series of games. I have played through each one over and over again and enjoyed every minute of it. I attempted to try Heroes of Might and Magic V and it was mildly amusing for about 2 hours. Then it got quite boring and the glitches got to the point where I gave up the game and have no interest in trying any other game in that series. So when I hear that MTG: Tactics is like both of them I am a little confused. If it’s like Heroes, I’ll probably pass. If it’s anything like Final Fantasy Tactics I’m probably going to end up being a die-hard fan of it. Unfortunetly, from what little I know about it, it looks more like Heroes. Still, I would like to know more of the details around gameplay, here are my questions.

    How are turns handled? Do you move all of your pieces at once or is there something like an Active Time Clock that determines how units take their turns.

    Are Units customizeable or is all the customization in your planeswalker and deck construction?

    How is character/planeswalker growth handled? How is it balanced with one-on-one play?

    How do you win a match?

  2. My initial gut reaction is to ponder why I’d be playing and paying money by the pack to play this game over just firing up MTGO and actually PLAYING MTG. Not to say that I don’t enjoy 3-D images, but perhaps I’m not the target audience for this game either…. that said…

    If they’re going for the “tactics” of FF: Tactics, etc. then they’ll need to not only incorporate the pokemon-esque style of gameplay battling it out against other walkers, but actually have an involved storyline and overall goal to accomplish (I’d be much more interested in a God of War type game set in the Magic Multiverse).

    On customization- having a huge inventory was crucial to these sorts of Tactics games- not only did each unit level up on a specific track that you wanted them to fulfill (monk, knight, paladin, thief, summoner, etc.), but their weapons and armor could be broken, stolen, and sold. Different items were harder to find, and only available from specific enemies. So from a gameplay aspect, your planeswalker character should at least be able to

    1. Be on a specific trajectory of experience (Liliana wouldn’t be capable of specific things (like counter spells) that Jace could do). Color Pie wheels still apply. This could apply to a specific level of spells that they’d be able to learn.

    2. However, with those spells it’d be neat if you had to actually find the various parts of a spell to use it, or find a scroll of text that tells a Planeswalker how to form a black lotus card for their library of spells,etc.

    3. Be able to have different weapons and armor. Also possible for the creatures they summon (or the armies they create).

    As for questions, I suppose it would be if the game actually has an overarching goal- like defeating the Eldrazi, or some other mechanism or quest that you’re trying to achieve so you can actually complete the game. Not just more one on one battles with no real reason or difference between that and actual MTG- where you’re playing for tournament prizes,etc.

  3. Also…. will there be a function where you can travel to different planes? What plane will this game be set?

  4. Thanks guys. To anyone else interested- I will be able to ask questions tomorrow (Dec. 2), so anyone else should speak up before then!


  5. Interesting to see that Wizards of the Coast and Sony Entertainment have really pushed the collaboration to leverage the Magic: The Gathering brand to a diverse audience.

  6. Apparently I should acquire Final Fantasy Tactics? I used to play Heroes of Might & Magic for quite a few hours… I haven’t played 5, but I had #2/3/4. They admittedly get old after a while, but they’re really fun for what they’re worth. I could see myself wasting a few summer days on this game if it’s good. Even though it’s a different thing altogether, this brings to mind the two weeks in college when I discovered the Shandalar game and basically didn’t do anything else besides class and sleep and Shandalar.

  7. FF Tactics is pretty amazing- If you can get the PS1 version that’s awesome, otherwise the gameboy advance versions are very similar.