Tomorrow, Magic Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 drops for PC (via Steam), Xbox 360, Android, and Kindle. It has already released for iOS, coming out on July 9th., for iPad’s that run iOS 6.0 or greater. It is slated to come out for XBox One, later in the year. Sadly, there is not planned a Sony platform (PS3/PS4) release this year.
This is a software title that I look forward to each year, as it allows me to play from a sampling of current card sets and some classic favorites from times past. This software title was responsible for me being brought back into the game, after a long hiatus from playing in my college days. This also helped me learn new mechanics and synergies, to help me catch up on potential metas that I might encounter, in my local stores/playgroups.
The game has had one drawback, until this year: no custom deck building. The closest we have ever had was Sealed mode, from last year, as a Supplemental mode; not the main game. All Duels (2011-2014), relied on pre-cons, card unlocks/deck, deck packs, expansions, and promo codes that unlocked special cards, if you either went to Magic events or got them from gaming websites.This year, custom deck building is the framework that the game is built upon.This has been one of the most requested changes/additions, since the game’s inception, but it has come at a cost. For Magic 2015, there are significant changes to acquire cards, and game streamlining.
Every version of the game, until now, always had supplemental modes that were fun, unique, and varied year-to-year. You have had Archenemy (One player is the enemy, with scheme cards, opposed by three challengers to try and defeat them), Planechase (Four-player free-for-all, that uses Plane cards to change game conditions), Sealed (Limited format, where you build 40-card deck from random Booster packs), and a personal favorite, Two-headed Giant (2v2 Teams, that share life total, and work to defeat opposing team, with their two decks).. Now you only have Single player against the A.I. or Standard 4-Player Free-For-All Multiplayer; that’s it!
People are upset and really feel that these added to the game. They also do not like the developer’s attitude that people did not really play these and would not miss them. They have gone as far as to say that Two-headed Giant has not been done well to their satisfaction, so let’s just get rid of it. I have to agree with the gamers on these, as I do miss them, and mainly played 2HG, almost exclusively.
The biggest upset is the new monetary model implemented by Magic 2015. Up to last year, you could get all of the content, throughout the year, for around $35.00 (base game, expansion, deck packs). In Magic 2014, they added Sealed slots for $1.99 each, above the two included in the base game. I understand they sold well, so the handwriting was on the wall.
This year, the base game costs the same (depending on platform), but that is where the similarities end. We know that Alara is an Expansion Plane, almost ready for prime-time, so that will show up, very soon after release for more money, above the base game. That is not normal. Secondly, buying the Gold Bundle on Steam does not get you deck/card unlocks, that costs an extra $15.00 this year. Lastly, and the most inciting thing is the “Premium” Booster paywall. If card were in the base game, you could unlock them without extra cost, by playing. Now that we have open deck building, you have to buy random “Premium” boosters to try and chase 50 pre-selected cards, to get all of the cards, in the game at release. These cost $1.99 (sound familiar), and are estimated to need 14-15 packs to get a full set; an extra $28.00!!!!
So now, the base game (main game, Premium Boosters) costs $38.00, plus speed unlocks for the other 250 cards, if you so desire. Ouch!! This is just when the game launches, and does not cover future planes, card packs, expansions, etc. The cost might push people away from the title, and considering other, online Magic-playing options. I know as a low-income, disabled player this has given me pause, and question buying this title. I do not have $38.00 burning a hole in my meager wallet, and I suspect many others feel that way too. I will probably get this, so I can play with the bulk of M15, but I see this going further to MTGO-Duels hybrid, in cost very soon!
As an addendum to the aforementioned, critical review of the cost model of Magic Duels 2015, I see more people moving to clients like Magic Workstation (www.magicworkstation.com), and its offshoot, Virtual Playtable (www.virtualplaytable.com). While they have a cost upfront (shareware), they allow people to play past, current, and future sets with either their, own cards or digital proxies of cards needed for fun deck making. I, for one, may be moving to that format for the future.