Summer is upon us in the world of Magic, and that means it’s time for another Duels of the Planeswalkers game. The past few entries in the series have each been fundamentally the same, with new decklists and a new mode, but not much else. Duels 2014, however, shakes things up with the addition of a Sealed Deck mode, and for the first time in the series players can build their own decks.
Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (PSN [Reviewed], XBLA, Steam, iOS for iPad, Android)
Developer: Stainless Games
Publisher: Stainless Games
Released: June 25th/26th, 2013
MSRP: $9.99/800 MS Points
As I mentioned above, the newest and most interesting thing in 2014 is the Sealed Deck mode. Sealed Deck is a format played most often at prerelease events, where each player gets 6 booster packs, from which they have to build a 40 card deck. The pool of cards that are used to make boosters in this game is a much smaller version of the Magic 2014 Core Set. It’s a pretty small card pool, so you will end up with more duplicates of commons and uncommons than in a usual Sealed Deck. Building a deck can be a bit annoying, since the deck manager interface wasn’t really designed with 84 cards in mind for your card pool. It lets you sort by colors, though, which helps a little. The game also features an auto-build function for the Sealed pool. I’ve found it works pretty well, but you should still make sure to flip through the cards to make sure nothing really awful got through.
After you’ve finished building your deck, there’s a single-player campaign where you can unlock new packs to add to your pool. When all packs are unlocked, your pool will consist of 126 cards. In my experience, a fully unlocked Sealed pool may have the cards for several different decks, including some mono-colored options.
Duels 2014 is more than just Sealed, however. As with past games, there are ten premade decks available to unlock, which you can use in the single-player campaign or in online multiplayer. The deck selections are pretty varied this time around, with more multicolored decks to choose from than past iterations. While I haven’t had the time to unlock the full decks (which involves winning THIRTY games with a deck), a look through the future unlocks shows some good potential, and there are several decks that I look forward to fully unlocking in the coming weeks. The amount of cards you have access to is absolutely staggering considering the $10 price tag (when compared to $10 worth of paper Magic cards).
Another marked improvement in the game is the implementation of a much better AI system. While they still make some mistakes, the highest level computer players play much better than they did in 2013. In fact, it’s so good that I wonder if the computer is stacking the decks. However, that only makes it even better when you beat the computer on a regular basis.
Overall, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 is a good iteration on the series. The addition of Sealed helps evolve the series and adds a great element of creativity and deckbuilding that was sorely lacking from the earlier games. The low price and large amount of content makes Duels 2014 a great entry point into the game of Magic. However, the improved AI ensures that there is content for the more experienced players as well. For these reasons, I’m giving Duels 2014 a solid four out of five. Magic fans will like it, but the very nature of the game of Magic makes it unappealing to nonplayers who aren’t looking to learn.