There's a new Magic The Gathering set out, and it's called Theros! Thanks to Wizards of the Coast, I've gotten in a review sample of the set, and its time to unbox it and set what's inside!
The D20 Experience is a column I run on this site where I talk about the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, both aspects of the game and how they apply to my adventures playing in a regular D&D group. If you are curious as to what D&D is about, I suggest you take a look at this previous article. If you've been around D&D long enough, you've probably heard people talk about "editions" and which edition is their favorite to play. Some people get really heated about which version of the game is the best one. If you want to get a bit of insight into this, and are curious about what this "beta" edition of D&D that is going around, stay tuned for a short story on editions and the thought process I went through when I decided to take a spin in the DM chair.
I had this big post planned out and written up about the various editions of D&D and why people get so fierce about one edition over the other. Well, Evernote decided to erase it before it sync'd back to my account and I lost that post. I was not looking forward to rewriting it, so instead I'm going to summarize it here. For any extra information, I'll point you over to this wikipedia page. There have been 4 editions of Dungeons and Dragons; two by the original company TSR, Inc. and two by Wizards of the Coast when they bought the rights to D&D when TSR went bankrupt. Fourth Edition is the current edition of the game, but many players did not like the changes to the game have stayed with the very popular "3.5 Edition".
There is a 5th edition of the game that is currently being worked on called "D&DNext". Wizards of the Coast has been "beta" testing the game by releasing versions to players for free and encouraging their feedback. They have been incorporating the best aspects of all the other editions and rolling into one improved edition. According to what I've seen, this edition will come out sometime in 2014.
Being a giant D&D nerd, I have been really interested in D&DNext. I have access to all the beta materials, read through all the materials, and have been listening to the official D&D podcast talk about it. Everything that they have been talking about has me really excited to try out the new rules. In our group, our DM has mentioned that if any of us wanted to take the wheel on the adventures for a little bit we were more than welcome to. Given all of this, I started thinking about creating my own D&D story, using it to experiment with the D&DNext rules (and not touch our current campaign).
I've been a DM before, several times in fact. However, usually when I had been running games, I could not get people together often enough to have a regular running campaign. So the adventures that I created were one-time stories, maybe with a possibility of extending into another session if I got the same group of people together. With the regular schedule that my D&D group keeps fairly well, I wanted to experiment with building a "world" and creating an extended story that would last several sessions.
With this in mind, I went about delving into the D&DNext materials to get as knowledgable about the rules as I could. Yet, the more and more I read/heard about the game, the more I began questioning my decision. You see, I would have to teach everyone at the group these new rules, which would make the first couple of sessions rocky to say the least. On top of that, every couple of months they send out revisions of the rules to address concerns/ideas that players had submitted. So, every little bit, I'd have to teach everyone the rules AGAIN. That's when I realized that for now, D&DNext would work best for one off dungeon crawlers instead of a long ongoing story.
So what did I do? That's a story for next time :)
This week, Wizards of the Coast will release the latest core set to the Magic The Gathering Card Game, aptly titled "Magic 2014 core set". To prepare players for this release, a couple of weeks ago, they released the latest edition of "Duels of the Planeswalkers", their video game adaptation of the card game. How does this game stack up to the previous editions? Well, I received a review copy of the Steam version of this game, which I will gladly talk about past the break.
I mentioned that I got the steam version of this game, and I'd hate to start off with a frustration, but I want to quickly get it out of the way. The game is available for several different platforms such as Xbox, Playstation, Steam, iOS, and even Android this time around. As they add more and more platforms, I always struggle with figuring out which edition to buy. Usually I end up picking up the platform I think ill get more playtime on. Last year, I was grateful that I bought the iOS version, as I got so much farther in the game than ever before due to playing small games while on the couch. However, I always seem to get the Steam version as well, and it always annoys the crap out of me that the different platforms do not "sync" with each other, unlocking content and decks with other copies of the game. I would pay much more money buying the game on multiple platforms to play it wherever I want if I knew that I could continue the progress I made on my Xbox or iPad. This is just a small frustration that I have had on the series from the get go, and 2014 does nothing to change it.
Most of the game plays out like the previous editions: you select one of a variety of decks and play through a campaign against other "Planeswalkers". As you progress, other game types unlock, such as harder versions of the people you have beaten previously. Not only that, you can modify these decks with cards that you get from winning in the campaign; and even use these decks against your friends in the Multiplayer mode. The other games did a fabulous job of all of this and Magic 2014 carries on the torch in these regards extremely well.
For this iteration though, one of the big draws is that of the "Sealed Deck" mode. In this mode, you are given 6 "booster packs" filled with various cards and are tasked with creating your own custom 40-card deck. You then can use this in a similar campaign mode, which can earn you further booster packs, or against your friends. It is in this mode that this game shines over the previous versions, as a common complaint against the Duel of the Planeswalkers games was that deck customization was very much downplayed. This version has an entire game mode designed to appeal to those who want to build their own deck from the ground up. If you have no idea how to do that, the game can either auto-build you a deck with the cards available, or provide hints to you as you go along in the building process.
I enjoyed the previous iterations of Duels of the Planeswalkers, and I REALLY like this new version. One of my weaknesses in Magic (the physical version) is that I don't do a very good job of building my own decks. Magic 2014 shined a bright light on this fact when I tried out the new Sealed Deck mode myself. I did a horrible job at it. I went through all the cards, tried to come up with a theme to build my deck around, and managed to put together some cards that really made me feel confident in it. I had an idea that it might not go so smoothly, but I thought the good cards I put in would balance out the risky ones. Boy what I wrong. The first game I played I was ripped a new one, and I'm not even playing on the highest difficulty. The second game started off equally as horrible to the point where I gave up knowing how the game was going to play out. It might sound like this would affect my opinion of the game, but actually I am really glad this feature is available. Previously, I'd have to wait until a tournament to test my deck building skills and see how I'm improved. Now I have an easy environment for me to experiment with, adjusting and perfecting my deck building skills which should help me out in the physical game. Not only that, but I can access this anytime I have some spare time to sit down in front of the computer, giving me lots of potential practice time.
So if you have any interest in Magic at all; from having played the game in the past, currently playing it, or have been curious as to what this game is about, I highly suggest that you pick up this game. I'm sure that you will have lots of fun and develop a new love for the card game.