I typically play 2 games at a time, one as a main game, the second as a change-of-pace. While Hearthstone has been my main game for quite some time now, Magic Duels has become my side game in the last 2 months or so. It is fitting that it is also a online card game like Hearthstone, so it allowed me to compare the games.
What is Magic Duels?
Magic Duels is essentially a dumbed-down version of Magic the Gathering, with selected cards taken from the vast body of cards made in the TCG. The initial card set was called Origins, and the first expansion, Battle for Zendrikar, launched about a month ago. I play Magic Duels on Steam.
I had zero background with Magic the Gathering, other than seeing other people play it in public. Thus, I will spot some obvious differences between Hearthstone and the Magic experience, as well as some more subtle differences in the gameplay experience.
- Classes vs Colors – Hearthstone has 9 classes, and each deck has some combination of class cards and neutral cards. Magic has 5 colors, and decks could combine any or all of the colors. Typically decks will contain 2 colors, and some workable decks have 3 colors. The Magic format allows decks to be more diverse, but the Hearthstone classes are typically some combination of Magic colors. For example, Rogues are like some combination of black, red and blue.
- RNG factor – Unlike Hearthstone, Magic Duels has no in-game RNG, outside of the inherent randomness of drawing cards out of a deck. Hearthstone is known to mold of its model off fun and some randomness here and there.
- There is a lot going on – Magic Duels is simply more complex, and reminds me of Yugi-Oh. There is a lot of countering going on, and various types and subtypes of spells used. There are numerous graveyard interactions in the game. The resource system of Magic is like Pokemon, in that there are many copies of resource cards in a deck. Hearthstone prides itself on being user-friendly for new players.
- Heroes vs Anonymous Planeswalkers – The Hearthstone heroes are known quantities in the Warcraft universe, and have personalities. In game, each hero has their own hero power. The avatars of Magic Duels are all the same, lacking the hero power. In Magic Duels, you design your deck with a random anonymous avatar and a random landscape. The funny thing about it is that these “cover models” are nameless in Magic Duels, and really have no bearing over anything.
- OP is OP – Really strong cards in Magic Duels are really, really strong. While the game is essentially won at that point, there is a lot of setup required. Some minions cost 10 lands to play. Planeswalkers have a virtually 3 step process before becoming an “emblem” to gain some game-ending ability. In Hearthstone, one of the best minions, Dr. Boom, can be eliminated by Big Game Hunter.
- Everyone goes face – The default attack in Magic Duels is some minion hitting a planeswalker in the face. At this point, the defending character will use minions to try to block the attacks.
- You can get every card – In Magic Duels, there is only 1 in-game currency of coins. In Hearthstone, you have gold for spending, and dust for crafting. Because it is impossible to craft a card in Magic Duels, the only way to acquire a card is to get it from a booster pack. Because of this, there is a guarantee that if you open x number of packs, you will get every card in the game.
- Blizzard vs Wizards of the Coast – While Blizz is often criticized by patrons, the transparency and information provided by Blizz is worlds ahead. When the Magic Duels expansion was delayed, there was literally no date given of when it will actually come out (it took about 1-2 months) after the projected launch date. Blizzard has numerous employees handling social media and avenues for information to get out on release dates, concerns, etc.