Did you know that, despite taking eleven days to finish Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World, I actually gamed as much in the last two weeks as I did for any comparable period in the history of the blog? It's true, and the reason for that is Magic Duels.
I hadn't planned on doing this as one big post with no forewarning, but then, I hadn't really planned on playing the Free-to-Play Magic: the Gathering game for twenty hours outside my normal schedule. It's just a thing that happened. I saw that there was free game that let you build your own decks and I figured, hey, I'll just download it and try out a couple of hands, and then play it for the blog when I'm feeling a little burned out . . . and then BAM, less than two weeks later, I'd passed my usual deadline without even meaning to.
So I figure, what the hell, let's just toss up a post about this.
Not since Path of Exile have I been so impressed with a Free-to-Play game (though, to be fair, that was my most recent FtP). It is everything I might want in a basic Magic: the Gathering video game. It gives you a whole bunch of cards to play around with, you can build your own decks, and then play those decks against a competent, but not too competent AI (though I do wonder if it uses some kind of special shuffling algorithm because I've yet to see it get mana-screwed).
In fact, the biggest problem I have with Magic Duels is that I'd much rather play a full-price version that did not use the Free-to-Play business model. If I could just pay fifty bucks and have all the cards unlocked, I'd rather do that. As it happens, you can theoretically get all of the cards for free by playing hundreds of matches against the AI, but the cost of that is that buying all of the cards with real-world money would take something like 400 dollars. I like Magic, but not that much (I say, having spent way more than 400 dollars in real life, but that was spread out over the course of 20 years).
That being said, it's still a ridiculously generous game that costs nothing to play, but which also has the advantage of being really good. After buying that hat in Path of Exile, I think it would be both measured and just to drop a few bucks just to show my support, but then, getting so keyed up about Magic: the Gathering again, I wound up buying a few packs of the physical cards. I figure that Wizards of the Coast probably got their money's worth out of me.
I think, on balance, that I prefer the old Duel of the Planeswalker games, if only because I could play around with unreasonably expensive pre-constructed decks. Maybe after I unlock dozens of booster packs so I can put some rare cards in my custom decks, it will feel as wild and experimental as I know Magic: the Gathering can be.