Robert Chesley

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 – Review

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The latest installment of the nearly yearly “Duels of the Planeswalkers”. Wizards introductory and reacquistion product geared towards Steam and Console players to learn the basics of Magic the Gathering, stepped up their game. How does the game fare for a Magic junkie like myself?

In “Duels 2012” you’ll battle your way through a stream of different planeswalkers. Sometimes by yourself, other times with a team of three others in what is known as “Archenemy”. The game does a great job of mimicking the paper game and can help even players with Pro Tour aspirations. Even as recently as Pro Tour Nagoya where Carrie Oliver went from just starting out on the original “Duels” and a year or so later finished Top 32 in a Pro Tour.

This time around we are given a lot better decks and deck adjustment tools. Each of the ten decks includes cards that you can add or take away to gear your deck the way you enjoy to play. One of the biggest knocks against the original game is that there was no deck building tools. There is a fair compromise this time around. While you cannot build your own deck from scratch (players wanting these tools should try out Magic Online), you can however remove ANY card from the deck to add new ones into. In the original game, you could only add or remove the cards you “unlock” this makes your decks get progressively better and lets you take different configurations depending if it is a multiplayer match or a duel situation.

Another welcome addition is that it takes far less time to unlock all the cards in a single deck. Sometimes when you win a game with a deck it will unlock 2 or 3 cards at a time. This saves on the “grind” that the original game felt like at times. Particularly after downloadable content there were over 20 odd cards to unlock for each deck. Playing with the same deck 20 times just to unlock cards so you can jump in online was a daunting task. I bought the original game on release week when it came out on the 360 almost 2 years ago and I still haven’t unlocked all the decks.

Another change is how you play the puzzle missions. In order to spice up the campaign mode, they decided to add the puzzle elements to the core game experience. While I prefer to do one or the other, I could see how this change made for less repetitive game play. But it is unfortunate that you cannot just go through all the puzzle missions right from the get-go.

Lastly, instead of a typical co-op Two-Headed Giant style multiplayer mode, they added the all new Archenemy mode. This mode, which is taken from last year’s Magic Multiplayer product line, is a 3 vs 1 format. In that one player plays the “Archenemy” and has a special deck of ultra powerful spells while it combats 3 players at once. It is an incredibly fun format that is difficult to pull off consistently in the paper realm (Each Archenemy deck costs about 20 dollars and there are 4 of them, as well as you need to track down some buddies to play with.) This is worth the price of admission for most casual Magic fans alone.

Better deck building options. These were one of the biggest knocks on the original game and the compromise here still maintains the introductory nature of the game while offering advanced players better tools to build their decks.

Better decks in general. Each of the ten decks are more balanced and more powerful then the ones in the original game. It was fun playing with a lot more of the “marquee” cards and less of the more mundane simple cards. It shows what a lot of people find fun with the game.

Better UI. The menus and other game options look a lot better and feel less jumbled then in the original game.

Archenemy mode. This is one mode I was most excited to play with. It is hard putting together an Archenemy game in the paper world. You need at least 3 friends and the Archenemy cards. This was an interesting and welcome change of pace.

Still incredibly hard to read the cards. It is near impossible to read cards without zooming in on them, and when you zoom in on Archenemy cards the names of those card get cut off at the top. I’ve played “Duels” on a 42″ HD TV I should be able to read cards without using a “zoom” option.

Initial settings are wrong. Magic is generally played at a slower pace then the games’ original settings dictate. It works on sort of a “timer” system. In the settings, you can change it so you hold priority just like you would playing the game proper, it is just a little annoying that they don’t show new players that and bury it in the options menus.

Overall, I feel that is is well worth the purchase price of $10.00. You get a lot of Magic for your buck. There is also a robust online mode and you can play in player run events all the time. I can see myself playing this weekly for at least for a few weeks just to get Magic in. Once you start playing Magic you’ll have a hard time putting it down. I fully recommend the first game and I fully recommend this game. The deck “tooling” adds a lot to the overall experience for a more experienced Planeswalker and helps guide newer players into the game proper a lot better then the first game did.

A review copy of “Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012” was not provided for review. This reviewer spent about 6 hours playing the game on the Xbox 360. I unlocked most of the achievements for a Gamerscore of 175. I did not try out the online capabilities or any of the online modes.

Robert Chesley is a geek of all natures and can be found at or here on our own WPR forums.

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