Magic Duels Preview [E3 2015]

Magic Origins

With Magic: The Gathering spearheading a revival in the popularity of card games, the Duels of the Planeswalkers series has been the go-to way to play with a controller for the past few years. Although most of the entries into the series were solid updates, last year’s offering was possibly the worst, stripping away a ton of features and generally failing to push the games further. Luckily, a major shakeup is in progress, and Magic Duels looks to be the most complete and compelling way to experience the card game yet.

Perhaps the best change to the series is the completely revamped tutorial system, which is aimed at both newcomers and those who have played before but forget some of the specifics. Rather than jam the entire concept of the game down your throat in one tutorial at the beginning, Magic Duels has given each concept, both basic and advanced, its own tutorial, and they can all be viewed separately and at any time. For a lapsed player like myself, it was fantastic to see the option to revisit some tougher concepts without having to slog through tapping lands or turn orders.

The tutorials are further bolstered by the introduction of skill quests, which are small challenges that utilize each tutorial individually. For example, if you are having trouble understanding how a Planeswalker functions in a game (more on that later), then you can read the tutorial and play its skill quest, which tasks you with winning a game in one turn by using a Planeswalker’s abilities.

These skill quests can even be completed in the middle of the match without interrupting play. If you encounter a new concept in a match that the game recognizes as one you’ve never seen before, it will ask if you’d like to complete the quest. If you choose to, it immediately takes you there, and once you’re done, drops you back into your match with no progress lost. It’s one of the most intuitive tutorial systems I’ve seen for a game before and it looks like a fantastic way to introduce new players to the series without completely overloading their brains.


If you couldn’t tell from the name, Magic Duels aligns itself with the upcoming series of Magic cards coming out soon, which tell the stories of the Planeswalkers that inhabit the land. As such, the campaign will follow the past of each of these characters, and loading screens have now been replaced with plot details. The art in each one is still gorgeous and full fan-favorite creations, but this time around it also serves the plot.

Gameplay itself, by the looks of the preview, is largely unchanged, although the interface for matches has been cleaned up immensely. There is no clutter on the screen, making it easy to comprehend what is happening each turn. This will make matches go by faster for pros and should help newcomers understand the ins and outs of the game pretty quickly.

Longtime fans should be most excited about the deck building capabilities that have been included, again to cater to both new and old fans. There are two options for building decks: an assisted system, which offers you a few different choices of each category to pick which eventually rounds out your deck for you, or full freedom, which displays all of the cards in your collection and lets you go crazy. You can even name and customize the box that holds each of your decks, a minor detail that will appeal to the most hardcore of fans.

All of this customization is bolstered by the store AI, which ensures that any cards you purchase with in-game currency are never wasted. If you’ve reached your limit for a card, you’ll never receive that card again, meaning each pack will be useful. Wizards of the Coast promise that all of the cards in the game can be purchased in-game, meaning you don’t have to drop any actual money to buy cards unless you want them immediately.

An all new Daily Quest system has been introduced, tasking players with both individual and community goals that can be completed for extra currency. What’s nice about the quests is that if they don’t suit your style, you can refresh them once a day for a new one that might be more appropriate for you. Wizards of the Coast have also announced that the content in-game will continue to expand as the series of cards does, meaning every few months when a new series is released, they will also become available in the game, as will a new campaign, all for free.

With an insanely popular card series backing them up, Wizards of the Coast are poised to make Magic Duels the best way to take the series online in quite some time. All of the new additions are aimed at newcomers and veteran fans alike, managing to bring the two together in an impressive manner. So whether you’ll be showing the game to your loved ones for the first time or dusting off the old shoebox full of cards, this should be the perfect entry for you.