This last weekend at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), I spent time with the developers at Wizards of the Coast, the creators of Magic: The Gathering, to talk about their latest Magic: The Gathering expansion, due out on iOS, PC, and console, Return To Ravnica. They sat me down in the nice room behind the Magic and Dungeons and Dragons booth for some hands-on time with the expansion, which takes players to a new plane in the Magic: The Gathering Universe, Ravnica.
The expansion comes with new single player opponents, each with their own deck and playstyle. As in the original iOS version of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, once you beat one of the computer enemies, you unlock their card deck to play in your own battles with the online multiplayer.
Ravnica is a plane that is a lot like Star Wars’ Coruscant, or it’s inspiration, Isaac Asimov’s Trantor, the world-spanning city-planet. The five new decks included in the expansion each represent a new guild, each of which uses two-colored lands to power the card battles. The guilds are Azorius, Golgari, Izzet, Rakdos, and Selesnya, if you’re keeping track at home.
The main point of Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers is in customizing the decks and battling friends, of course, and this new expansion has plenty of that to add to the already stellar Magic: The Gathering gaming available on the iPad. That we can play the same game on the iPad as we can on a PC or a big console says a lot about the commitment Wizards of the Coast has towards Apple’s mobile platform.
In addition to battling, there are puzzle challenges, as well, where the game will set up a duel between you and an AI opponent, with a playing field all set up, and challenge you to win the game within a certain number of moves. It’s a fantastic way to improve your game, as it requires you to work on learning the subtleties of the various cards in the different decks.
We played through a round there at PAX, fighting Rakdos, the boss of the demon guild. I totally won the card battle, but mainly because I had the experts there to help me out. The game plays as well as I expected it to, since this is not a new game, but downloadable content. The subtleties of playing a new boss with new cards was lost on me, a relative novice, but it was a ton of fun battling it out with someone who designed the game sitting as co-pilot.
While the people at the Wizards of the Coast booth weren’t able to comment on a specific release date, the Return of Ravnica is expected to release on iOS and other platforms this fall, so keep your eyes peeled.