- Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
- Developer: Pipeworks Studios, Seismic Games
- Release Date: August 10, 2022
- Platform: iOS / Android / PC
- Genre: Collectible Card Game
Magic Spellslingers had what could be called a relatively muted “official” launch. The game released without much fanfare or even promotion from either Wizards or the teams that developed the game. Initially announced as “Valor’s Reach”, the game is a mobile card battler similar to games like Hearthstone and Legends of Runeterra, but with a Magic spin, both in aesthetics and some general gameplay.
Developed by Pipeworks Studios and Seismic Games, the game is now released globally on PC via Steam, iOS on the Apple App Store, or Android on the Google Play Store as of August 10, 2022. After a couple of years in a quiet soft launched state from 2019, it’s gone through various changes (including a name change) until its full availability, and all player’s progress have now been reset for a fresh start.
Whereas Magic Arena is true Magic: The Gathering for the modern age, Magic Spellslingers is a modern age CCG with connective tissue to Magic. So, given how quiet the companies associated with the game have been over it’s launch period, what exactly happened with this game, and is it even any good? For a deeper dive into the game’s systems, check out my beginner’s guide on the game:
Magic Spellslingers drops you into the game with a brief tutorial on it’s unique mechanics, and with one free Planeswalker at your disposal: Chandra Nalaar. The game functions like a more limited version of Magic, with several elements from the main game ported over. The game board can only hold up to five creatures on each side, similar to other modern CCGs, and Instants have been replaced by a card type called Traps, which function similarly but must be set up and trigger automatically. Sorcery spells exist here much like they do in traditional Magic, and Artifacts are ported over, albeit with a limited number of charges for use.
The mana system resembles the other CCGs I mentioned, with each player going up a mana gem each individual turn, and the player on the draw getting a temporary, single-use “fragile mana gem” (and an extra card) to compensate them for that disadvantage. Several mechanics are lifted directly from regular Magic (Trample, Flying) or from Magic Arena (Perpetual Buffs, Drafting), but some are new, such as permanent damage and mechanics like Relentless.
Cards are acquired in two ways: Grinding your weekly wins earns you some cards, and you can crack open boosters packs, earned by either completing Challenges or purchasing directly from the Shop. Each Planeswalker has a unique starter deck that you can use, as well as a unique Spellslinger ability that you can leverage to your advantage during duels.
After completing the tutorial with Chandra, you’ll be able to get a second Planeswalker and their starter deck, but any further ones will require a bunch of grinding or, alternatively, spending real world money. The economy of this model is a bit stingy, but if you’re willing to invest time into the game, you can acquire a lot of what it has to offer.
It’s also worth noting that the game uses a unique crafting system, where you leverage different colored “Mox Shards” to craft individual cards. Shards are acquired from your weekly wins and from dusting excess cards (decks only need two copies of any given card), but even in this respect I found the economics extremely harsh. This is not a game that gives you a ton of resources to start with, it’s a game that offers you enough to diversify your play but still require a ton of grind to see everything it has to offer.
Speaking of the resource system, one element that potentially can help issues with the economy, at least in theory, is the Teams. You can either create a Team, or join one, and Team Mates are allowed to share their resources directly, as well as engage in 1 v 1 duels. While the functionality is nice, the current system has countless teams with only one member, as everyone wants their own Team and Team Name.
It’s possible that, in future, Wizards solves for this issue, but as of this writing, your best bet is to not do as I did, and instead join an existing Team with a healthy roster already established. That is, if this is a function you want to engage with. It’s worth noting that this is all entirely optional, and just another way to try to accrue resources you need while sharing ones you don’t.
Currently, there are sixteen total Planeswalkers available: One for each mono color, one for each two color pair, and mono green gets an extra Planeswalker due to Nissa and Vivien both appearing on the roster. Each Planeswalker, again, has a unique Spellslinger ability (like Hero Power in Hearthstone – apparently called Auras at one point during development), three exclusive cards only they can use, and a unique starter deck that comes with them once unlocked.
Some Planeswalkers are better offensively (Angrath, in particular, seems crazy strong for Aggro builds), while others can play to the long game in various ways, such as Kiora or Teferi. The two color Planeswalkers are limited in that their decks can only contain cards of their respective colors, while the six mono color Planeswalkers can splash a handful of off-color cards.
Leagues and Events
Like most modern games, there’s a ladder system, here called League. Progressing through the League earns you various rewards once the Season ends, and progression is based on winning duels on the League ladder. There doesn’t appear to be any real competitive aspirations that I can tell in this game currently, that can always change in the future.
There’s also various Events being run for gameplay, each with unique rewards and rules. These Events have a “first entry is Free” policy, allowing you to get some rewards without using your Coins. These are your gameplay options, on top of 1 v 1 Duels with Team Mates, for the time being. Not the most robust, but decent enough for a game that just launched.
So with the basic information now out of the way, how’s the game itself? I’ve found myself really enjoying the gameplay thus far, despite essentially downloading the game on a whim. It’s not quite Magic, instead playing closer to more modern games, but there’s definitely elements, like the combat structure, that are directly Magic. I like it.
Visually, the game is also very slick, apart from the really dated Planeswalker character models, which look like something from twenty years ago. It’s very odd, as they stick out like a sore thumb against everything else going on. If you can look past the characters, you’ll find it very polished and clean. I’ve been playing both on PC and mobile, and the game runs incredibly well, and honestly, the mobile version runs significantly better than Magic Arena does on my mobile device.
On top of that, it plays better as a mobile game, since you’re not dealing with massive boards and the stack, instead managing a smaller number of creatures and simpler mechanics and effects. Whereas Magic Arena was seemingly retrofitted to work on a mobile device, this seems like it was designed from the ground floor to work really well on a phone.
I guess the last question to ask is: Is Magic Spellslingers worth your time? It feels like a product that was designed and developed before Magic Arena hit mobile devices, which is true, but the fact is, Arena can be played on your phones and tablets in 2022. There’s a big ask of a new card battler when it comes to attracting an audience, especially one so laser-focused on targeting a specific audience: Potential Magic: the Gathering players.
I play Magic Arena almost every single day, so it was a tall order for me to want to dedicate time to a new card game. I tried getting into Legends of Runeterra, but very quickly lost interest, as the gameplay wasn’t what I wanted out of that sort of game. Magic Spellslingers, with several mechanics and gameplay elements lifted directly from actual Magic, is a lot closer to something that appeals to me. And honestly, it’s absorbed me for the last few days. I like it a lot, and I would recommend you try it out. The game isn’t Magic, again, but it feels like Magic taken and redesigned to better match both the current competition and the mobile landscape. If that’s something you’re interested, give it a shot. The cost of entry is low, since the game is free on both Steam and on mobile devices.
I think you’ll like what you find, at least in terms of the general gameplay, despite any minor issues. If Wizards can sort out the economy issues, which are definitely noticeable and problematic, I could see this being a relatively successful endeavor, unlike some other attempts to create other games based on Magic (RIP Magic Legends).