Giving up the ghost

7 Dec

Magic: The Gathering haunts me.

bold magic jace

I’ve quit thrice before, but it’s never left me. Aside from the physical box of cards I’d hate to get rid of without some kind of monetary compensation, something reminds me of the addicting mechanics every few months, forcing me to check out what’s new with the game.

I’ll never play paper Magic again, and the money-trap element keeps me away from Magic Online, but I spent several weeks tapping islands and swinging with drakes into early summer mornings nonetheless thanks to Stainless Games’ Duels of the Planeswalkers.

At first, I was content helping my roommate understand the mechanics of the game as he played the demo, but by the time he was done, I was offering to pay for half. It wasn’t just because it was a cheap, legal way to play Magic again. Duels of the Planeswalkers‘ streamlined execution adds a subtle but unique element to the game I loved to hate.

The seemingly endless amount of cards to buy often left me making budget variations of tournament-worthy Standard decks. My refusal to publicly reveal how much of a nerd I am left another roommate as my only opponent aside from the interesting folks at the occasional pre-release tournaments we went to. I longed to compete against quality, expensive decks with some of my own.

bold magic chandra horiz

Duels of the Planeswalkers was designed from the ground up to be a streamlined version of Magic that anyone could pick up and play. Some reviewers claim this renders the game obsolete for people who are already familiar with the game, but for poor quitters like me, the game is a ten-dollar nostalgia trip that puts everyone on a level playing field by offering a set number of cards with minimal customization.

This lack of customization forces the eight playable decks to revolve around slight variations of the same win condition: creatures. Of course, white has loads of those creatures and green has big ones while red burns, blue counters, and black does a bit of everything, but none of them do it very well, not when compared to real competitive Magic. That’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned, though, since everyone is playing with the same limitations. These limitations are liberating, but the streamlined process is taken a bit too far, leading to the game’s biggest fault.

You earn new cards as you progress and can choose whether or not to add them, but they’re restricted to individual decks. The original sixty cards can’t be customized, so you can only weigh your deck down with extra cards, reducing your chances to draw more reliable cards early on and preventing you from altering your mana base, which can be a bit heavy at times.

DLC has been released since I stopped playing Duels, adding a few more decks and several extra cards for the original decks, but again, I think I’m done with Magic: The Gathering, this time for good. I haven’t checked out what’s new with the game since the day I first drafted this post back in the summer, but I’m content. The ghost is gone for good.


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