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Ever since I was first introduced to the tabletop fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering in high school, I've spent countless hours of my existence tapping mana, flinging spells, and sending hordes of bizarre beasts onto the battlefield. The Duels of the Planeswalkers spinoff series did a great job of reviving the classic wizard dueling strategy on consoles in recent years, but Magic 2013 is the first installment to hit a portable device, and it's absolutely fantastic on iOS.
The iPad serves as a perfect conduit for the familiar turn-based card battling action. Laying down mana, summoning creatures, clashing in combat, and using sneaky spells from your hand to trip up and ultimately annihilate opponents is a very fluid affair with the touch screen. You can tap any card to get a closer view, and the hands-on interface feels as natural as if you were playing with actual cards. This lets you focus on strategy, which is what makes Magic 2013 so engrossing.
Each of the game's unique deck colors comes with its own approach to battle, including strengths, weaknesses, and special perks. You can play the whole campaign through with a single favorite deck only to turn around and take a spin with an entirely new deck. There's a tremendous level of variety and replayability here, and the unlockable cards and new decks you earn for winning matches offers great incentive to keep playing.
While the free version has a few decks, a helpful tutorial, and several foes to test your skills against, the glut of extra content found in full version -- available for $9.99 as an in-app purchase -- is absolutely worth the investment. With a lengthy campaign, multiplayer matches, challenges, and a crazy new Planechase mode, there's a lot of ground to explore.
The bottom line. Magic 2013 brings the series to iOS in a polished and brilliantly absorbing way.
iPad running iOS 5.0 or later
Gameplay translates perfectly to portable format. Tons of new cards. Great interface and extras.
Takes a long time to download. Still can't make decks from scratch.