Behind the Wizard’s Curtain with Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers

Attention, strategy fans: Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers made its Xbox One debut this week, and it is the most complete digital Magic: The Gathering experience to date. We recently sat down with the game’s principal designer, Nik Davidson, to talk about what’s new in Magic 2015, and how the development team at Stainless Games went about bringing Magic’s collectible card game experience to the Xbox One for the first time.

Xbox Wire: What are a couple of the coolest rare and uncommon cards that are new to Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers?

Nik Davidson:
One of the best features of the Magic 2015 Core Set was the group of cards designed by some of the biggest names in gaming. One of my favorite rares in the set was Genesis Hydra, by George Fan of Plants vs. Zombies fame.

Garruk’s Revenge expansion brings with it some exciting cards from Magic’s Shards of Alara block, including game-changing mythic rares like Rafiq of the Many, and Maelstrom Archangel. The addition of new tri-lands will let people build new kinds of decks and archetypes, which should really shake up multiplayer. Some other favorites include Esperzoa, Rhox War Monk, and Obelisk of Alara.

Xbox Wire: How will matchmaking work over Xbox Live? Will players be able to face off against Xbox 360 players, or only other players on the Xbox One?

Nik Davidson:
Matchmaking over Xbox Live will be random within your platform. But you can also play against your friends. As you win matches in multiplayer, you earn more cards from the Battle Booster Collection.

Xbox Wire:
Will the “sealed play” feature (which was introduced in Magic 2014) make a reappearance here? How will players earn boosters and new cards?

Nik Davidson:
In Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers, sealed play gave players a sample of deck-building… whereas in Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers, the entirety of the game is focused on a complete deck-building experience. Winning games against the A.I. in any of the five planes of the campaign mode, or against others in multiplayer mode, will allow players to earn more boosters – and eventually all playable cards – for their collection.

Xbox Wire: Tell us a bit about the story and themes. Are there new Planeswalkers? Who are they, and what are they after?

Nik Davidson:
This is the most immersive Duels of the Planeswalkers experience we have created to date. Garruk Wildspeaker, the greatest hunter in the Multiverse, has been cursed by Liliana Vess and the Chain Veil. Now, the former beastmaster is becoming more corrupt and hunting down the ultimate quarry – his fellow Planeswalkers. You play as a Planeswalker enlisted by Avacyn to assist Garruk in breaking the curse, but you rapidly find that Garruk doesn’t necessarily want to give up the powers that are corrupting him. Your mission is to stop him before it’s too late.

In the expansion, that storyline is flipped: In
Garruk’s Revenge, you play as Garruk, picking up the plot from the original video trailer. Playing with Garruk’s own deck, with each victory you notice that the deck becomes more and more corrupt – and more powerful. Featuring a boss battle against Vronos, the very fencer Garruk defeats in the trailer, it is an immersive experience that ties gameplay directly to storyline.

Xbox Wire: Give us your best tips for using some of Magic 2015’s new cards. What early strategies move well into late-round strategies?

Nik Davidson:
The initial decks that players start with are fairly low-powered, but offer a sense of the strategies and archetypes available. Players will find that the cards they earn in boosters will fit into those strategies, but generally improve the power level and options available to them.

Xbox Wire:
As usual, the card art is beautiful. How are card artists chosen, and how are the cards digitized into the Xbox One version?

Nik Davidson:
Magic is known for featuring the work of only the highest-quality fantasy artists. It is something our players and fans have come to appreciate. Our team of art directors is constantly looking to grow and expand that pool of artists, if the level of their work is up to our standard. It’s a high bar to hit, but it’s one of the most integral components of the game.

In translating that incredible art to a digital format, we use the highest resolution possible to take advantage of an HD platform like Xbox One. Tremendous care is taken to ensure that the digital representation of our cards is as close as possible to the real-world versions.

Xbox Wire: How was the decision to port Magic 2015 to Xbox One made? What key elements of the Xbox One user base make it well suited for a Magic: The Gathering game?

Nik Davidson: Delivering the game on Xbox One was an easy decision to make, but it’s one that we knew we had to get right. This is a discerning group of gamers, many of whom probably grew up playing Magic in a face-to-face setting. Xbox One players are looking for an immersive experience that takes full advantage of the technology in their hands. As the world’s best strategy game, Magic delivers on both a creative and game experience level.

Get in on the action, and download
Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers today on Xbox One and Xbox 360!