Magic Duels: Origins Preview

July 8, 2015

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Will from Wizards of the Coast and preview their upcoming game, Magic Duels: Origins. The biggest change in Magic Duels: Origins is that this year’s release will be a persistent client instead of the precious yearly refresh. This means that as new card sets release the game will be updated with new content. Theoretically this will occur all the way through to the end of this generation of consoles.

The term ‘persistent client’ has come to mean one thing in the minds of most gamers: free-to-play. Magic Duels: Origins is indeed free-to-play, but all signs are pointing towards Wizards making the game extremely fair for people that don’t pay. They estimate that by playing 2 hours per day you will unlock everything in the game with roughly a month to spare before the next content drop. Additionally, they have introduced a brand new deck format that will even the playing field quite significantly. Decks will be limited to 1 card of ‘Mythic’ rarity and 3 cards of ‘Rare’ rarity. This means that players can’t load their decks with extremely powerful cards just by buying as many boosters as possible.

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You will earn gold in various ways as you play through Origins, including through a brand new quest system. Each day your game will update with 3 new Daily Quests for you to complete. As you complete each quest you will receive Gold to spend towards booster packs. There are also Community Quests that are larger and will require the whole community working together to be completed. An example of this could be the community dealing a total of ten million damage within a two week period.

Playing multiplayer games in Versus Battle or the returning Two-Headed Giant modes are another way to unlock gold and more content. Both of these modes can be played online or offline with the help of AI controlled characters. When playing against the AI, the gold you receive is proportional to the difficulty mode you select. Versus Battle is a standard 1v1 mode, whereas Two-Headed Giant is a 2v2 mode where you and your teammate have a shared pool of health.

You will also unlock gold while playing through the new campaign mode. The campaign mode will focus around the Planes Walkers, incredibly powerful mages in the Magic Universe, and how they came to be who they are. This allows Wizards of the Coast to gradually roll out information and tutorials to players in a relatively controlled environment.

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Previous releases in the franchise have had an issue with accessibility. While experienced players could jump into a game with issue, newer players would get a massive info dump right at the start. This typically led to new players forgetting what was shown to them or writing the game off as too complicated. This is set to change in Origins, with the introduction of a new tutorial style. Instead of forcing you to learn everything at the start, the game will pop up with a small tutorial during a game when there is something to learn. During our playtime this occurred when a card with the ability ‘Flying’ was drawn from our deck. The game popped up asking us if we knew what ‘flying’ was, and by selecting no we were taken through a quick tutorial that also gave us a reward for completing it. This is definitely a much more elegant solution to tutorials and will make the game much easier for newcomers to play and learn.

Arguably the biggest addition in Origins is the addition of a brand new deck building system. In addition to the standard deck building system found in all online card games, Origins will also include a deck building wizard. This allows you to select certain deck-archetypes and the game will then start suggesting cards for you to add. The example we saw had the game giving you the selection of 2-5 different cards at a time, with you needing to select towards a pre-set total number. To make building your deck even easier, you also have the option to have the game automatically select all of the cards in your deck for you. While this isn’t for everyone, this is a massive inclusion for newcomers.

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While Magic Duels: Origins seems to be extremely fair in its balancing and content unlocking, there is one drawback. Regrettably, all content you unlock will be tied to the specific platform you are playing on. While cross-platform content is never an easy prospect it would have been excellent to see cards and content linked to an account system that could migrate from platform to platform.

Magic Duels: Origins will be available for PC, Xbox One and iPad Air sometime in July, with a PlayStation 4 release coming later this year.