Magic 2013 Review

There are five colors in the Magic universe. Are there five stars in our review?

Magic on iPad is something I’ve longed for since the day the device hit the market. The large screen and touch screen interface is perfectly suited the collectible card game, and all these years later, it is finally available.

I have played Magic: The Gathering on and off since I was a little kid. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve been dreaming of this game for years, means I had some extremely high expectations going into the game. I would say this is my single most anticipated iOS game since the platform launched. No game can possibly live up to those expectations; right?

Normally, I would explain what Magic: The Gathering is in this part of the review. Honestly, that would take me more words than I care to write, so instead, I am going to link you to an article that breaks down the basics of the game. Check that out right here.

The game also features a fantastic tutorial. If you are new to Magic, you absolutely need to play this or you will be lost.

So how does this incredibly deep collectible card game work on the iPad? In a word: stupendously. It’s clear that Wizard of the Coast took their time making sure the user interface functioned well with a touch screen. The feature set is similar to that of the console and PC versions, but it’s clear they did not rush on the user interface. It warms my heart to see that they took their time and really thought about how to best make this game work on a smaller device with a touch screen.

The controls are quite simple. You choose a card that you want to play and drag it into the battlefield. In the iPad version, you mana is tapped automatically, but you do need a sufficient amount to play the card. If you want to play an ability on a card already in play, simply double tap the card and tap the ability.

Everything about the controls feels obvious, which is exactly what this game needs to be successful. Magic is a deep, complicated game. Players have enough to learn just trying to figure out the basic mechanics of the card game. Layering on overly complicated controls would spell disaster, and thankfully, this is not an issue.

There is plenty to do in Magic 2013. There is the main campaign mode, where you face a series of challenges that test your skills as a magic player. Each plane features a major boss, a minor boss and varying encounters.

The encounters are one of my favorite additions to Magic 2013 because they keep the game fresh. Basically, you play against an enemy who only does a certain thing. They are allowed to break the rules in regards to playing more than 4 of a single card. These really force you to choose a strategy wisely to deal with what they are doing.

Besides the campaign, you can also make a custom game. In here you can choose to play two-headed giant (team-based magic), Planechase (a special variant of Magic that uses giant, game altering cards) and regular games.

Another awesome game mode is the challenges. In here you are given a certain situation that you have to overcome. In the very first one you are face with opponent attacking you with enough power to kill you, and it looks like you are dead. There is one combination of moves that can save you, and you must find and execute them to move on to the next challenge.

Magic would not be Magic without the ability to play against your friends, and thankfully, there is some awesome multiplayer included in Magic 2013. The only difference between the multiplayer on iPad and the full console versions is that you can only play with two people. Other than that, it is just as full featured and just as awesome.

Visually, the game looks stunning. The art on the cards is beautiful, the planeswalkers are gorgeous, and the short cutscenes before a boss battle really fit in the with the Magic universe. The game also animates incredibly well, but I did notice some frame rate issues on my iPad 1. That’s not really a point of contention with the game itself, but rather, the fact that my iPad 1 is past its prime.

The sound design and music in the game is good. The sound when you play a card or hit an enemy is great, and makes the game feel much more alive that it would otherwise.

There is so much depth to this game that I could go on for hours talking about all the features. There is the deck manager, where you can add and remove cards you’ve unlocked while playing, the player status page, which gives you a breakdown of your play style, and leaderboards to see how you stack up with the other Magic players around the world.

If you are not a hardcore Magic player, you can probably skip the next two paragraphs, as you won’t care about this stuff. First, like an Duels of the Planeswalkers game, there is no deck building. Second, you may want to turn off some of the settings before you jump in. I turned off auto assign damage, simplified targeting, hints and tips. This helps create a more “hardcore” experience.

I actually had a situation where having simplified targeting would have cost me the game. I won’t go into the full play, but basically, I needed to kill my own creature to defeat my opponent that turn, or else lose the next. With simplified targeting, it will not allow you to target your own creatures, which would have made me lose the game.

Let me save you a long-winded conclusion and just say that Magic 2013 is awesome. You can get a good chunk of the game for free to see if it is for you, and then unlock the rest for $9.99. It is literally the most fun I have ever had playing a  game on my iPad, and it is almost flawless in execution. Seriously, just get the game now.

Magic 2013 is available free ($9.99 IAP to unlock the whole game) for iPad. Get it on the App Store.

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  • Torbjorn Kamblad

    What Dave said.

  • Legendinc

    I had never played Magic before, but I had heard good things about it. This iPad version is just the thing i needed, it seems, because I have fallen in love with it. I think it was clever of them to offer a free download as an introduction into the game as I would have hesitated to buy the full version otherwise. 

  • Mitch Harris

    What Legendinc said. I’m 37 and have only avoided Magic back in the day because I never took the time to learn it and didn’t want to invest in a game I didn’t understand. This? It was free to try—and then I was hooked. I’ve been having so much fun learning the intricacies and earning cards as I do it, I can’t speak for it’s other implementations, even as a physical and real card game, but as for a Retina iPad game? It’s in the ranks of the top 3 along with Ticket to Ride and Pinball Arcade—both of which are more expensive fully expanded (but worth every single red cent).

  • Stacynolen

    WotC did a fairly good job with the gameplay aspect of MtG 2013 but a game that is based on a customizable card game where you can’t actually build a deck, only slightly alter theme decks, falls far short of a real MtG experience.

  • Bryce

    Major flaws to this game:
    Can’t build a deck. Pretty odd limitation for a deck builder game.
    Can’t choose which mana to use for payment. This DOES matter sometimes.
    Can’t increase play speed. The game moves through some phases way too slow.
    Don’t have access to all the cards. Would be more of an issue if you could actually build a deck

    I’m surprised MTG (cardboard and digital) hasn’t gone to a LCG model yet. I really wish I could like this game but after a few plays this game will get tiresome. Tthey havTe to fix some of these major issues to get continued play.