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Another year, another welcome iteration of Wizard of the Coast's venerable card-battling franchise. Last year's iOS debut of the delectably nerdy spell-flinging card game really hit the sweet spot for longtime fans itching for a portable version of Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers. At a quick glance, Magic 2014 may seem like more of the same — and it is, to an extent — but many subtle refinements, tons of new cards, a fresh campaign to battle through, and a sealed deck mode (that finally lets you construct your own custom decks) makes this latest installment well worth another dip into your coffers.
The turn-based wizardly card battles still involve tapping mana, casting spells, summoning monsters, and waging supernatural warfare in a bid to get the upper hand on your opponent. It's all a blast for grizzled vets, yet it remains accessible enough for newcomers. Either way, tremendous strategic depth and the unique way that different cards play off and against one another will keep you glued to the screen for match after match. The main campaign throws lots of diverse opponents at you across numerous planes that favor different deck colors, though there's also plenty of combat to explore in optional challenge missions and in local or online multiplayer matches. As before, the initial free download allows access to limited features, but it's well worth the $9.99 to open everything up.
Just like last year's version, Magic 2014's main campaign forces you to work within the confines of unlockable pre-build decks, though you do earn extra cards for each by winning matches. The best news for hardcore enthusiasts is that Magic 2014's Sealed Play mode offers a secondary campaign that lets you build custom decks of your own design using booster packs that you unlock from matches. It's a welcome and long-awaited update — even if it doesn't extend to the main campaign itself. Lots of new card offerings, including Slivers, keep the numerous decks you'll wield across the entire game punchy and interesting to play with.
The bottom line. More than just checking the familiar boxes you'd expect from a yearly update, Magic 2014 adds a few welcome fresh elements to the mix alongside a glut of new cards and foes to tussle with. It's a must-have for Magic fans, whether you played last year's edition or not.
iPad running iOS 6.0 or later
Gameplay remains a great fit for iPad. Tons of new cards, including Slivers. Excellent campaign and multiplayer modes. Sealed Play lets you (finally) build custom decks.
Some minor hiccups in cinematics and transitions. Custom decks don't carry over to the main campaign.