I love Magic: The Gathering. I've loved the card game since it first showed up back in the early '90s. The depth of strategy present in these bits of coloured card stock is astounding, and the work Wizards of the Coast has put into building an empire based on them inspiring. I love Magic: The Gathering. I hate the people who play Magic: The Gathering.
Perhaps it's better to say that I hated who I was when I would play Magic: The Gathering with other people. Back when the game was first introduced and we were just tearing open packs and playing with no regard to colour combinations or any sort of strategy beyond the moment we were in, I was pretty bearable. Once it became plain that the best way to play was to invest heavily, trade aggressively and build intelligently, I became a total arsehole. I'd dump my disposable income into cards. I'd trash talk. I'd try to slip packs into my other groceries so cashiers wouldn't notice them. I was a real jerk.
I grew out of it, eventually, but I never lost my passion for the game, so the various electronic incarnations have been received warmly on my part, especially since they've made the jump to iOS and now Android tablets. It's almost like I am lugging about a locked cardboard box (who locks cardboard!?) again.
The latest instalment of Wizards of the Coast's now annual Magic: The Gathering jam gives me more of fine single-player Magic I've come to expect. Magic 2014 has got an extensive campaign that sees the player travelling the various planes, battling AI chumps and taking their decks. It's got a wonderful series of challenges, puzzling battle scenarios that really deserve their own standalone title.
It's got everything I loved from the previous instalment, plus one major addition — Sealed Play mode.
Sealed Play mode gives the player a number of booster packs to unwrap, and then tasks them with building a deck out of this random collection of cards. Oh, the memories. This really brings me back, while at the same time holding my hands with some AI deck-building assistance, highly necessary if you've not played with physical cards in a while. Now I know what a Sliver is, and I want to hug all of them.
Sealed Play mode sees players working through a series of battles, with new booster packs rewarded as they progress. Unlike some of the pushovers in the proper campaign mode, these battles can be particularly brutal, depending on your building skill.
Available as a limited free download, with the entire game (barring card unlocks and future DLC) unlocking for $10.49, Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers gives fans of the series a lot of fun things to do without ever having to interact with another Magic player. There are multiplayer game modes too, but I can't see those ending well.