A Gateway Drug To Bring You Back to Magic: The GatheringI, like many a reformed* geek, have many fond memories of playing Magic: The Gathering in my youth. My time with the game took place entirely during middle school, when after school each day we would ride public transportation (this was a big deal!) and go sit with the high school kids in our town's public library. There, they would show us the ins and outs of Wizards of the Coast's sublimely compelling strategy card collecting game.


I had a pretty sweet deck, too—a black/green hybrid that I still remember had one Force of Nature and two Nightmares. Hoo boy, I could wreck your stuff if I had enough Swamps in play.

Times have changed since Magic: The Gathering's 1990's heyday, and the most notable addition to the Magic pantheon has been the digital versions of the game. Released more or less annually, each version brings a new set of cards, some expanded rules, and generally keeps players going for another year of magical card-battling. Magic 2013, out now for the iPad in addition to game consoles and PC, continues that tradition in fine form.

The setup doesn't differ that hugely from past Magic games—you'll play through an increasingly difficult, varied series of computer opponents, choosing from any of a number of pre-made decks before going into battle. As you proceed, you'll unlock new game modes, cards and decks, increasing your options as your enemies get more difficult.

It all gets very hardcore, and while I haven't had time to play enough Magic 2013 (nor its predecessors) to have a definitive sense of how they all compare, I can report that it holds up very well when compared to the classic Magic: The Gathering that we all (or at least, the geeky among us) know and love.

Games are quite challenging, and you'll have to figure out good strategies for your given deck in order to climb up the ladder through your opponents. However, spend a few games with a single deck and you'll quickly begin to work out successful strategies.

There's a whole lot in the package in addition to the basic single-player game. For starters, every game can be played with one of several unlockable decks, so there's a ton of content, and lots of room to customize how you play. There are also several multiplayer modes, one based on the new "Planechaser" mode, which throws down all manner of rules onto the game, which shift as you progress.

The intricacies of Magic 2013 deserve more space than I'm going to give them here, but that's really at the heart of what makes the game cool—it's a deep and yet approachable game. It offers myriad tutorials and assists for those who have never played Magic, or for those who may have forgotten some of the rules, and for such a deep, complicated game, it really is quite accessible. Also, the art on the cards is terrific.

Best of all, it'll make you want to head down to the comic shop and pick up a fresh deck. Just like middle school. With the added bonus of being... well, not middle school.

Magic 2013 [iTunes, Free Trial With $9.99 Unlock]

*Okay, maybe not so reformed.