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With countless fans and players each, Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone are juggernauts in the card game space. In this feature, let’s take a look at the distinct advantages that each game offers.
Given the game is 21 years old, Magic: The Gathering features many avenues by which you can enter the game. For those who have never played a single game of Magic before, it’s easy to recommend Duels of the Planeswalkers. The series has multiple entries that can be played on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Steam, iOS, and Android with the latest editions costing $10 to play. They teach you the game and typically use the simplest cards, mechanics, and formats to keep the game from getting too complicated for newcomers.
There’s also the paper and cardboard form of the game – the one most are likely to be familiar with. You build physical decks and crack open physical booster packs. Having tangible cards you can hold, trade, and revere may have great appeal.
In addition, there’s Magic: The Gathering Online that functions similarly to the physical game, in that the prices for booster packs and starter decks are the same and it operates entirely online and can be accessed 24/7. If you can collect certain entire sets of cards on Magic Online, you can trade those in for real cards. While this is a popular way to play the game, it’s hindered by its poor execution and interface to the point where it may only appeal to the most hardcore players. Even they, however, will admit to its being an unmitigated pain to use.
An average Friday Night Magic event.
While Magic isn’t the easiest game to get into, it makes up for its lack of accessibility with depth. With Magic, you are open to playing dozens of interesting game types ranging from the casual to the ultra-competitive with over 11,000 cards at your fingertips. Throughout the years, Wizards has been overhauling their casual formats with a focus on creating new and interesting ways to play.
Formats like Planechase, Archenemy, and Commander add twists to the gameplay you can’t find in any other card game. The lack of accessibility of the game can make these fun formats difficult to get into, but they’re becoming increasingly popular. In addition, paper Magic players can devise their own rules and formats to play casually due to there being no online restrictions.
The physical version of Magic also offers players an opportunity for social interaction that most digital card games cannot. Sitting around the kitchen table with friends playing a casual multiplayer game of Magic can be a great way to get people together. Due to Magic’s age and influence, there are more opportunities for competitive play through Friday Night Magic tournaments, which can involve dozens of people playing simultaneously. There are also higher level tournaments, where players travel all over the world to compete against thousands of others for championship prizes and grand sums of money.
There’s no excuse to have not tried Hearthstone. It’s free, it’s mega-popular, and you can play it on Mac, PC, or iPad, and iPhone and Android versions are set to release later this year. The fact that it doesn’t cost a dime to play is a huge appeal for many. While you can buy packs and pay to play in the Arena with Hearthstone, you can also just grind and complete daily quests for in-game currency and pay with that.
The simple, fast-paced gameplay makes Hearthstone an ideal game to play both in short bursts or for hours. Addicting Arena and casual/ranked constructed formats are the perfect drop in/drop out experience. Everything is easy to learn and can appeal to even the most intransigent.
A screenshot from Hearthstone.
Due to an excellent interface, Hearthstone is both easy on the eyes and highly entertaining to watch. Streaming Hearthstone on Twitch has become wildly popular. The interface is easy to use and you can learn the game straight from the free client.
Ultimately, Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone are both great games, and your choice of which to play will come down to the type of experience you’re looking for. Thanks to its age and various formats, Magic offers players more depth and variations, but it can also be more expensive and not as approachable for newcomers as Hearthstone. Conversely, despite Hearthstone’s charm and fast-paced, accessible gameplay, card-game fans may be left wanting a deeper experience, especially if social interaction is important to them.
Email the author Dimitri Gedevanishvili, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.