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Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
by Jon Wilson on Sunday 13th Jan 2013

Duels of the Plainswalkers 2013


If you are reading this expecting an in depth analysis of the differences between Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 and Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 you’ve come to the wrong place. If, however, you are relatively new to Magic: The Gathering and are considering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 as a purchase this might just be for you. All will be revealed below.

I am not new to Magic: The Gathering. I’m not one of the originals who took up the trading card game when it first came out in 1993, but I did start playing way back in 1999. I don’t remember the exact date but it was around the time when the 6th Edition came out. I know that my first decks were a mixture of Classic and its previous edition, Urza’s Legacy. There was a small group of us who would meet up every Sunday evening for a few hours of Magic: The Gathering (MtG) multiplayer. Well I say a few hours but in reality the evenings would quite often drag into the wee, small hours of the morning. Not such a clever thing to do when I’d have to get up the next morning (same day) for a 7 o’clock start, but this was the grip that Magic had on me. On all of us.

And then it stopped. I don’t even know when or why. We just sort of stopped meeting up. At its peak the group was only ever six players strong. I guess things just change, and with these changes so do our priorities. The games carried on but the number of players each week would become inconsistent, so much so that some Sundays there would be only two of us. Things fizzled out and my cards and decks would be retired to a space in my attic where they now sit dormant, awaiting their fate.

Skip forward 10 years (one wife, two kids, three cars, four cats and more grey hairs than I care to mention) or so and I now find myself in possession of Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. If my cards were a TV series they would be the original Star Trek, and the iOS version would be the pilot episode of The Next Generation; a taster of better sets, clearer pictures and a cast that is full of freshness and yet clings faithfully to its old traditions.

So why now, after so many years in the wilderness, do I return to the MtG brotherhood? Truth be told I bought the ‘trouble and strife’ an iPad for her birthday recently, and although it is technically hers she has been kind enough to let me get my MtG kicks on it when she’s not using it for my least two favourite things in life: Facebook and shopping. It caught my eye a few weeks back and so I gave the trial version a go, got hooked and the rest, as they say, is history.


My first impression of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (I’ll just call it DotP from now on if that’s ok) was a sense of nostalgia. Playing on an iPad might not be as tactile as playing with a set of cards in your hands, but it felt just as real and tangible. Part of me did miss actually going into the local indie comic book cum mini-figure cum trading card store to buy a load of new MtG cards, the thrill of opening the packs up, the smell and the feel of fresh cards. Looking through them to see which, if any, were rare or foil, or both!! My goodness I really should take these rose tinted glasses off.

Well I say I missed that bit, but in truth I probably spent (read: wasted) a lot of money trying to acquire my perfect deck back then. At least with playing MtG DotP you get immediate access to a lot of cards, and as you play through the game so you unlock more. The decks are all ready to use right from the word go, and the cards you gain as you progress can then be added to your deck. The Deck Manager they give you isn’t great, well actually I was a bit disappointed, but then I suppose this isn’t a full version of Magic the Gathering. It’s more like MtG Lite.

The single player ‘campaign’ involves the player having to go through a series of 1-v-1 games, with each one getting more difficult as you progress. The format isn’t ground-breaking but it is a good way of getting used to new cards, new decks and in some cases the game itself. It is also a good way of unlocking the additional, more powerful cards for later in the game. And believe me you will need them. Some of the later opponents have some really nasty decks and beating them becomes as much a case of luck as it is to what cards you have unlocked. This is the price you pay for not having completely editable decks.

On top of the campaign mode there are three other offline game modes available: Revenge, Challenge and then various Multiplayer options (Free for All, Two-Headed Giant and Duels of the Planeswalkers)

“Revenge” is like the campaign but instead of playing everyone again you just fight the planewalkers, only their decks seems a lot more difficult. Good luck is all I say.

“Challenge” mode puts you in a series of games where each one is part way through and you need to try to finish off your opponent. So the scenario will be something like your opponent has 14 life points left, 4 cards in his deck, 0 cards in his hand, with a set list of cards in play and in his graveyard. You will have 4 life points left, 5 specific cards in your hand and certain cards in play and in your graveyard. You need to figure out which cards to use to kill your opponent (usually within one turn). It sounds a lot easier than it is. In fact some of them are real brain-teasers. 

 “Free For All” is a multiplayer game where you face two or three other opponents at the same time (your choice). The rules are nearly the same as a two player game in so far as each player takes their turn (with the usual five phases: Beginning, First Main, Combat, Second Main and End), however they can attack and/or assign direct damage to any of the three opponents and their respective cards. This adds another level of complexity to the game as you need to be aware of all of your opponents and what they are doing (for example killing an opponent might leave you susceptible to attack from another, yet sparing them might also leave you prone). Games often last a lot longer simply because players are more cautious. One game I played lasted for about 90 minutes and only ended when the other players ran out of cards. Winning via attrition might not have been my proudest moment but there is a certain sense of pride having chosen to play with a slightly larger than normal deck.

“Two-Headed Giant” is like a mix between 1-v-1 and Free For All. Two players play on the same team with a combined life total of 30. Each player is in charge of their own deck (no joint manna tapping) and players are individually attacked or targeted. It’s just the life total which is shared. It’s kinda fun, but it’s only really effective if you know your partner’s deck, which I didn’t.


“Planeswalker” is the same as “Free For All” but with one big difference. In the middle of the table is a six-sided die and another set of cards: the Planes cards. At the start of play the top Planes card is revealed and its instructions must then be followed until a new Planes card is revealed (which is done by rolling the aforementioned die). The instructions will usually alter the standard Magic rules in some way, for example Creatures with flying get +2/+0 and Creatures without flying get -2/+0. These Planes cards can work to each player’s advantage and disadvantage, so quite often during a game the rules of the game will change. The “Planeswalker” mode is not new to the MtG universe as it was first introduced back in 2009, but it is new to me and to be fair I found it both enjoyable and frustrating. The additional luck element does seem to detract a bit from the skill involved in compiling your own deck however it does give the game a new level of unpredictability and excitement. I have won a few games by getting lucky on the last role of the die and the turn of a Planes card.

You can also play “Free For All” and “Planeswalker” online against other people around the world. I was a little disappointed to discover I could only play against one person at a time as I was looking forward to a potentially marathon-like game against three other people. Perhaps Stainless (the development team) or Wizards of the Coast (the publishers) didn’t see enough merit in adding this to the game, or perhaps it is technically too difficult to do, or maybe there’s another reason altogether. I don’t know, but it would have been nice to have had that option. But let’s not dawdle on what wasn’t available. The multiplayer is still a lot of fun; just don’t expect your opponent to hang around if you beat them in five or six moves. =)

For the most part my Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 has been a positive one, but it has had a few problems which have irked me a little. The first one concerns how the game fails to accommodate how busy the screen can get at times, especially when playing a four-player game. The longer a game goes on then invariably the more cards there tends to be in play, especially when multiple token creatures are brought out. The screen becomes to packed and it becomes near impossible to target specific cards, which is extremely frustrating when trying to block attacking creatures.

Another, more serious issue I found was a game ending bug. I don’t know exactly what triggered it as I haven’t been able to replicate it since, but it basically left me stuck in a perpetual game. I couldn’t quit but could only restart, if I died it would only let me replay the same game, and if I closed the game down when I reopened I would still be in the same place where I left off. The only way out was to uninstall the game completely, which meant I had to also lose all of my progress in the campaign (including all of the cards I had unlocked).

No matter how frustrating these issues can be when encountered (even if only once)  ‘Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers’ still manages to deliver the spirit of MtG that I first encountered 14 years ago. The cards and the various traits each colour possesses, it’s all there. The old benefits and pitfalls of creating and playing with your own deck, as well as the newer twists that are found playing Planeswalker. Yes there are a couple of niggles but for the most part Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is still very much the same, albeit cut down, game I fell in love with back in the day.


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  • Sound: 6
  • Graphics: 6
  • Gameplay: 7
  • Longevity: 8



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