Gaming App Of The Day: Bringing You Back To Magic: The Gathering

Gaming App Of The Day: Bringing You Back To Magic: The Gathering

I, like many a reformed* geek, have many fond memories of playing Magic: The Gathering in my youth. My time with the game took place entirely during middle school, when after school each day we would ride public transportation (this was a big deal!) and go sit with the high school kids in our town’s public library. There, they would show us the ins and outs of Wizards of the Coast’s sublimely compelling strategy card collecting game.

I had a pretty sweet deck, too — a black/green hybrid that I still remember had one Force of Nature and two Nightmares. Hoo boy, I could wreck your stuff if I had enough Swamps in play.

Times have changed since Magic: The Gathering‘s 1990s heyday, and the most notable addition to the Magic pantheon has been the digital versions of the game. Released more or less annually, each version brings a new set of cards, some expanded rules, and generally keeps players going for another year of magical card-battling. Magic 2013, out now for the iPad in addition to game consoles and PC, continues that tradition in fine form.

The setup doesn’t differ that hugely from past Magic games — you’ll play through an increasingly difficult, varied series of computer opponents, choosing from any of a number of pre-made decks before going into battle. As you proceed, you’ll unlock new game modes, cards and decks, increasing your options as your enemies get more difficult.

It all gets very hardcore, and while I haven’t had time to play enough Magic 2013 (nor its predecessors) to have a definitive sense of how they all compare, I can report that it holds up very well when compared to the classic Magic: The Gathering that we all (or at least, the geeky among us) know and love.

Games are quite challenging, and you’ll have to figure out good strategies for your given deck in order to climb up the ladder through your opponents. However, spend a few games with a single deck and you’ll quickly begin to work out successful strategies.

There’s a whole lot in the package in addition to the basic single-player game. For starters, every game can be played with one of several unlockable decks, so there’s a ton of content, and lots of room to customise how you play. There are also several multiplayer modes, one based on the new “Planechaser” mode, which throws down all manner of rules onto the game, which shift as you progress.

The intricacies of Magic 2013 deserve more space than I’m going to give them here, but that’s really at the heart of what makes the game cool — it’s a deep and yet approachable game. It offers myriad tutorials and assists for those who have never played Magic, or for those who may have forgotten some of the rules, and for such a deep, complicated game, it really is quite accessible. Also, the art on the cards is terrific.

Best of all, it’ll make you want to head down to the comic shop and pick up a fresh deck. Just like middle school. With the added bonus of being… well, not middle school.

*OK, maybe not so reformed.

Magic 2013 (free trial with $10.49 unlock) [iTunes App Store]


  • Anyone interested in card games on the iPad (or iPhone), I recommend also checking out Ascension. It’s a very polished game and a great deal of fun.

    • Another good card game for iPhone (and Android! Heck, the Android version actually came first) is Rage of Bahamut, an adaptation of a japanese card game that incorporates some MMORPG mechanics. Unlike Magic, the card “battles” play out automatically so most of the skill required to win is applied to deck construction and improvement. Best thing is that is totally free, and though you may buy “card packs”, it’s not really necessary as you can earn cards in several ways and trade them with other people.

      If you give it a go do yourself (and me) a favor and use this referral code: cgy77055. You’ll get 100k of the in-game currency (used to evolve and enhance cards and trade) and a powerful -for the first levels- rare card, if you do.

  • Only problem is that the interface is clunky as hell on the iPad. Touches not registering, strange way to have to drag things and an inconsistent way to target things…. probably just takes a while to get used to. Looks great though and it’s got all the gameplay there!

    • I’ve been playing on PC and it feels like it is very much made for consoles then ported across.

      That being said, my biggest issue is that the decks given aren’t very good. After the early game, most games will turn into “draw, play X, go” and just hoping that whatever you drew is the big bad card that will win you the game.

      In the revenge campaign, you are up against opponents who don’t have that problem. Their decks seem to be considerably better constructed. It means it doesn’t feel like I am relying on skill but luck of the draw that I’ll get the one or two cards in my deck that’ll help early on.

      • It was revealed by the developers back around the time of the first Duels of the Planeswalkers digital release, that the AI opponents have an advantage in that their ‘most useful’ early game cards are compartmentalised to the top section of the deck, meaning that the AI is more likely to receive ‘good’ cards earlier. I still have rage-filled nightmares about the AI always drawing vampire nocturnus and vampire nighthawk (IMO one of the most unbalanced cards ever) early in the game, making Soren Markov pretty much a crapshoot as to whether you’d beat him or not.

  • I have been playing this pretty much all I can the last couple of days. Very good. However I think I prefer Shadow Era, it seems more suited to the touch interface.

    • Shadow Era is amazing… the cross platform really sells it, and I’ve sunk much time and money into it so far. Highly recommended: Especially for Android users, as it doesn’t look like Magic 2013 is coming to our devices anytime soon.

  • grabbed the trial other day on ipad, paid for the full version after 1/2 an hour, played it everyday since. It’s great, I loved the idea of Magic back in High School but the manual calculations slowed the pace and made it inaccessible, except for the hardcore. I’m loving the pickup and play nature of the ipad version and yes the art is great.

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