If you’re someone who hasn’t yet picked up Magic 2014, head over to Ashe’s review to get the full story on the latest Duels of the Planeswalkers. If you’ve already got the game and want to find out whether or not the new expansion is worth the money, then keep on reading.
1. This expansion works pretty much the same as the one for last year’s DotP. It features five new decks that mix things up a bit, as well as a new campaign and some challenges. It even costs the same. The running theme for these decks are specific creature types. Only one of the new decks doesn’t fit that profile.
2. Up first is the new Hall of Champions deck. This one is a white, blue, and green deck that functions much like the exalted deck from last year’s game. In fact, the exalted mechanic is the primary focus here. Cards with exalted grant bonuses to a creature that attacks alone. This means you’ll generally want to fight with one big creature instead of a bunch of smaller ones. The difference with this deck is that it features three colors and a larger number of creatures that can fend for themselves. There are overall fewer exalted cards, but when the creature getting the bonus is already a 3/4 with lifelink, the payoff is going to be better. The bigger creatures are also capable of winning the game without using exalted, which you can’t say about the previous deck. The setback is that having three different mana symbols to worry about means you could have land problems early on. It might even be worth using the deck editor to bring it down to two colors after you’ve unlocked some cards.
3. Dodge and Run is the only non-creature based deck. Instead, it features a classic blue and red combination. Red provides the burn spells, while blue keeps your hand full of cards. The big focus is on using your spells to clear away enemy troops in order to make room for a group of specialized creatures that get bonuses when you play instants and/or sorceries. One card brings back a random spell from your graveyard each turn, meaning you should always have a few options at your disposal. This deck is easily the most flexible of the bunch, and is just my kind of style.
4. Next we’ll talk about Lords of Darkness. This is a mono-black deck that’s all about the demons. Seriously. There are a lot of demons in this deck. Now demons are among the most powerful creatures in the game, but they usually come at a cost. You may have to sacrifice a creature or lose life in order to keep them on the field. In the early game, you have cheap creatures that annoy your opponent as well as spells that will keep their creatures off the field until you can bring in the big guns. Like with many black decks, the key here is understanding that your weaklings are expendable and should be expended whenever the opportunity presents itself. It can be a fun deck, but it certainly won’t be anyone’s cup of tea.
5. Then there’s the elf deck. Sylvan Might is about as straight up as it gets. It ditches the use of all but a few non-creatures spells in order to put out one or more elves each turn. A number of these elves have special abilities that allow them to affect the board through activated or triggered abilities. One elf keeps coming back whenever it dies. Another can bestow huge bonuses to a single ally. Taunting Elf is a classic card that forces all opposing creatures to block it instead of anyone else. There are a number of cards that allow you to search ahead for extra elves while tossing extra land to the bottom of the deck where it’s more useful. I think I need to model my own elf deck to be a bit more like this one.
6. The last of the new decks is Sword of the Samurai. As you might have guessed, this deck deals with samurais. Samurais have a unique ability called “Bushido”. Whenever a creature with Bushido blocks or is blocked by a creature without the trait, they get bonuses to strength and defense. Since no creature in the game outside of this deck has that ability, you’re pretty well covered. The kicker is that samurai tend to be quite weak when they can’t activate this ability. Most are 1/1 or 2/2. To help them out, the decks uses equipment and spells that give boosts. While it has a nifty theme, I’m not a fan of this deck to be honest. If you don’t draw the boosts, you’re pretty much screwed in the long run.
7. Included with the expansion is a new campaign. It involves you attempting to find an anti-aging potion, and runs you through a gauntlet of new encounters and duels. The encounters were a bit more challenging than in the main game, but there was no real boss encounter to tie everything together. Still, having more encounters is always good, especially if you’re grinding for cards.
8. Also added are five new challenges. The first three of these are very easy and even a novice should be able to figure them out without much trouble. The next two are much more involved, and will take a degree of trial and error to complete. One involves selecting the right equipment from the deck, graveyard, and your hand in order to swing in for the kill. The final challenge is nuts. You need to take nearly twenty specific steps and one wrong move makes winning impossible. You’ll need to take notes even if you’re a master of the game. I feel no shame in saying that I went to the internet for help.
9. While the new stuff is great, it seems like a bit of an oversight to not also expand upon the sealed play mechanic introduced for 2014. Some new cards are even an extra deck slot would have been simply fantastic. As it stands, you’ll still need to fork over some cash for a new slot.
10. For five bucks, this is a solid investment. It’s pretty much a buck a deck with the everything else coming in as a bonus. If you’ve got the game and you’re looking to infuse some new blood into your time with it, this is something you should definitely pick up.
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