Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wizards' New Direction with Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012

[All screenshots here are from the 2011 version of the PC game.]

So Stainless Games and Wizards of the Coast have just released new decks for Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012. I'm very happy with "Forest's Fury," a green deck focused on quickly fielding huge treefolk that buff each other and/or spawn more creatures. While this concept is nothing new--certainly sliver and goblin decks have introduced this to players in the late 90s--it's definitely something that the aforementioned developers are continuing to bring to the table (pardon the TCG pun) decks that are more geared towards establishing victory-assuring combos. They're not by any means decks that have the same complexity as Kai Budde's red-artifact deck that he used in the 1999 MTG World Championships, much less Jakub Slemr's black control deck, but this speedy turnout of new decks is starting to revive my interest for the TCG.

Read more after the jump.

I started to slow down on purchasing Magic cards in mid-2000, when it became clear that the rich kids had a greater probability in winning matches. I mean some of those guys were crazy; some spent nearly $75 every week on booster packs. While the diversity of decks that came out during those times have been unmatched so far, the competition was stiff to the point that trying to win was nearly an exercise of futility. There I was spending about $5 a week on packs and some of my friends were spending more than ten times that amount. I was packing an Armageddon-less en-Kor deck and they were unleashing decks that had Living Deaths, Wraths, and decks that had that infamous Tradewind Rider combo.

The last straw was when I noticed most of the players were copying decks made by pro players. That did it for me; not only did that raise the bar for deck building, it also stomped dead creativity.

Fast forward to the future and a friend gifted me Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2011. I played it for a while (barely reaching four hours) and then stopped. I was expecting full deck editor but the game didn't provide that. Sure it had unlocks, but it didn't allow you to swap out inferior cards; only add the unlocked cards in. It was a strange design that broke the deal for me.

This one surprised me. The Kor are back? Nice.

Barely a year has passed since that gift when this new incarnation arrived. Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 still doesn't provide players to build decks from scratch but at least now it allows you to swap out old cards for unlocked ones. While this initially put me off, what Stainless Steel and Wizards of the Coast are trying to do gradually dawned on me: here at last is a version of the game where the playing field has been leveled. No longer do you have to be at the mercy of rich kids who can shell out an insane amount of moolah buying booster packs. The decks might sometimes be frustrating in their simplicity sure, but at least you won't get burned to cinders by someone who has got a trust fund backing up his collection of cards.

I'm hoping that Stainless Steel Games and Wizards would release more combo-intensive decks that are in the same mold as those of Kai Budde's and Slemr's but I also recognize the need for a more developed AI if we are to see decks like that in the future. Also, releasing decks that rely on combos might be too weak if they are to be tailored to be on the same level as the existing ones in terms of win probabilities.

Still this direction that Wizards is taking might just be the very thing that will bolster the TCG community.

This was one of the best turnarounds that almost happened. At 3 life, I casted the sorcery Overrun, winning me the game--or so I hoped. The next thing I new, the AI casted Unsummon on my 10/10 wurm. You got to hand it to Garfield for creating one awesome game.