As I said last time MtG was mentioned I stopped playing the game around the Urza’s Saga block. Since then the game has changed. A lot. The entire turn structure was re-done as well as eliminating an entire class of cards (interrupts). Since I wasn’t around when the changes to the game happened and I can’t seem to find anything on-line describing when the changes happened and why I can only guess… So, I will. I think most of the changes they made to the game had to with simplifying the rules in order to bring new players into the hobby. I’m guessing bringing new players into the game is why we’re seeing a new electronic version of MtG across the gaming (the last time was in 2002 with Magic the Gathering Online, a straight up port of the card game that included the purchasing of electronic booster packs. Before that was 1997’s Microprose MtG game that included a TBS component.)
So how is this version of MtG and who well does it simulate the real world, paper card version? This is a good electronic version of the game. The developers went out of their way to make sure that players understand how to play the game, how turns progress, what the various cards do, and what all the jargon specific to MtG means. Despite having not played in over a decade I quickly was able to grasp how the game was played and how to use the vast and seemingly complex cards in front of me did and how I could use them to defeat my opponent. Speaking of opponent’s while the game has on-line PvP I haven’t been able to play against/with friends yet… I have become well acquinted with the various opponent AIs though! All of which have different playstyles (consistent with the decks they play.) I’m not good competition, I’m sure, but I do find myself while playing the AIs on medium difficulty sweating and often losing. Even on easy I’ve been caught unawares and lost. I don’t want to know how badly I’d be crushed if I tried the hard difficulty setting.
In addition to the normal one-on-one game there is also the new Archenemy style game wherein three people attempt to defeat a single opponent who in addition to extra life has a special Archenemy deck of cards that for each round of the game effect the board. This would be a very fun and interesting way to play the game. It seems impossible to do so though with the AI, who seem to have some problem with working together with their two compatriots in order to defeat the archenemy…
My biggest gripe with MtG 2012 though is that it lacks an entire central component of the game. There is no deck building! Players start out with access to a mono-white or mono-green deck and through battles with the various AIs unlock their decks. Most of these decks are mono colored decks that really on creatures to defeat their opponents. You can use big creatures or you can use small creatures but the only way you’ll be winning a game is by reducing your opponents life to 0. In real world MtG, mono decks are the exception and are almost always mono-red (mono-white makes occasional appearances,) and there are multiple, devious ways to defeat an opponent! I know for some people the most important part of the game is deck construction and not having it in the game really hurt it for me. Each deck has 16 unlockable cards that can be added into the deck for some customization but this small taste of deck building only made its absence more keenly felt!
Don’t let this stop you from picking it up though! And if you’re playing it on XBLA please let me know cause I need some friends to play with!