By Madeline Ricchiuto
Magic: Duels Origins is the latest attempt by Wizards of the Coast to give you the Magic: The Gathering experience from the comfort of your own monitor.
This version of Duels will be as truly FTP as a game can while still turning a profit. You buy booster packs with an in-game coin currency which can either be bought or earned. So if you have a compulsive need to buy every new card pack when it comes out, you can still do that. But you can also earn your way through by playing a lot, since the Duels team has spent a lot of time making sure their in-game economy is balanced so that dedicated Magic players can earn every new card in a set before the next set is released. Which is a nice break from the usual "FTP just means pay-to-win" since they do give you the option to earn the new cards. Personally, I like it because I am cheap.
You can earn that in-game currency by completing daily quests, community goals, story modes, online ranked battles, and by battling the in-game AI. Card packs from the traditional paper format will be pushed to Duels within a very short window of time, so you won't be waiting for months for the new cards.
That in-game AI has such a massive bank of cards to choose from that you will never see the same deck build twice.
One of the updates to this installment of Duels is that Two-Headed Giant – the 2vs2 multiplayer mode – is back by fan demand. Several of the others make it much easier for new players to get into Magic. One of the problems with MTG is that trying to start playing it requires a massive info dump, so the development team made sure to create a sort of digital coach for new players this time around. The tutorial is broken up into small bite-sized sections so that it is easier to digest all the information and you're less likely to forget how to do things. The game AI will also tell you when you do something wrong and explain how to fix your error. In the tutorial, that is. Another great addition is the guided deck builder mode, which suggests cards and can calculate the exact proportion of land cards you need to balance your deck, which means it adjusts those numbers depending on your specific deck.
The daily quests (you get one new quest per day) will give you coins for completing certain goals, and since the AI tracks your play style it incentivizes players to try different deck combinations and different strategies. So you aren't using the same old deck every single time.
The story mode of the game, at launch, will allow you to play through the origin stories for each of the Planeswalkers as it syncs up with the Magic Origins expansion. This Fall, a story mode will be released allowing you to play through the Battle of Zendikar when that expansion launches in October.
Also of note: you can play local co-op for THG.
Magic: Duels Origins will be released in July for Xbox One, Steam, and iOS. It will be coming to PS4 at a later date to be determined.