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Preview: Magic the Gathering Tactics

Greg Tito | 28 Dec 2010 19:30
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When a figure attacks, it deals damage equal to its attack power, but unless that kills the defender outright, it gets smacked back in return. You can conceivably kill your own creature by attacking a bigger baddie. That makes abilities like First Strike (counterattacking occurs before the attacking damage is dealt) and Vigilance (no counterattack against attacking creature) super important, as well as spells like Fear, which prevents counterattacks from non-black creatures. Toughness is persistent, in that damage dealt in one turn stays on a figure until it is killed or healed by another spell or ability. Flying creatures can only be attacked by other fliers (or those with Reach and Ranged attackers) but they also have the ability to move over obstacles. All of these changes make for tactical battles that are fresh but still feel based in the Magic universe.

One change that seems unnecessary at first is that all of the numbers that are the basis of the card game now have an extra zero next to them: Each Planeswalker has 200 life, and cards like the Lord of the Pit have 70/70. Lead Designer Mark Tuttle said that he did that because it's more satisfying for players to deal bigger numbers of damage, which I'm not sure I agree with, but it does make the math a little easier because some modifiers multiply damage by one half or 1.5 times and that would force the use of decimals with smaller numbers.

Where the UI really shines is in the spellbook building mode. Like Magic, you can assemble a spellbook from any spell you possess but you can only have 4 copies of each kind of spell. Spellbooks have a minimum requirement of 40 spells, and not worrying about land means you can concentrate on the combinations that you want to throw at your opponent. The UI has so many metrics to help you build the perfect spellbook, including pie charts of color distribution and bar graphs telling you the casting cost of your spells. The kind of Magic player that geeks out over spreadsheets, formulas and mana-generation ratios will have plenty of information available in MTGT.

The economy and balance of MTGT is where the game will succeed or fail, and SOE is well aware of this fact. The game is free to play, but you can purchase boosters of 10 spells for 4 bucks. The boosters work like Magic cards; you will get a single rare and a couple uncommon with mostly common spells. SOE is playing around with the pricing so that $4 (or 399 Station cash or whatever it's called) is subject to change, but there is something awesome about hearing that deliciously satisfying crinkly sound when you open a virtual booster pack. Campaigns will also cost money ($5) and depending on the popularity, SOE will continue to support the game with additional storylines, complete with rewards.

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