You might say that this article arrives a bit late considering how the Garruk’s Revenge expansion to the dismal Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 has actually been available since the start of last November.
But it’s only by virtue of Humble Bundle that it now resides in my collection. I decided though, if nothing else, that playing it might at least give me an opportunity to hammer in the final nail of the Duels 2015 coffin. After all, it deserves it.
The Garruk’s Revenge expansion then, claims to add “hours of new gameplay” including “dozens of unique cards over multiple battles” with “five new single-player campaign levels” as well as the obligatory “much more”.
In reality of course, the truth is hardly that rosy.
The first new addition is a five stage campaign game featuring Planeswalker Garruk (now as a playable character) as he fights through practically faceless enemies on an uninteresting quest to rid himself of the curse that he picked up during the last game.
There are no animated cutscenes this time around though, merely static screens of text explaining how Garruk has killed this guy and is now moving on to hunt this next guy and so on.
It doesn’t exactly inspire.
Garruk wields a set deck that you can’t make any changes to and neither may you alter any of the cards featured within. To say this lack of unrestricted deckbuilding works against the one strength of Duels 2015 is an understatement.
It perhaps wouldn’t be so much of a problem though if your opponent’s cards had been better thought out. One thing you’ll discover quickly is how annoying the enemies are in this campaign, each of their decks featuring very specific tactics that your deck can sometimes feel a bit ill-prepared for.
For example, one of Garruk’s powerful “kill-cards” has the stipulation of only targeting non-black creatures and yet at least one of the enemy decks makes heavy use of black mana creatures throughout the battle. You don’t have the usual option of tweaking your deck to combat this however, so if you pull that specific dead-weight card during the fight then you have to consider it a wasted draw and just push on. It doesn’t feel right at all.
Even then I was able to squeak out a win for each battle during my first try, leaving my entire playthrough of the new campaign at a mere 45 minutes in total. If there really are “hours of new gameplay” in this expansion, then I guess it must be somewhere I’m not looking? It could be a lie I suppose, but Wizards of the Coast wouldn’t do a thing like that.
After completing the camp- you know what: no. It’s not a campaign at all.
After completing the main side-quest, you are then able to equip (he says through gritted teeth) your own deck and challenge those five levels again if you wish, but I can’t imagine why anyone would really want to do that other than to grind the new expansion cards.
Yep, that feature is back again. After dropping your cash on this expansion, Wizards of the Coast will try to angle even more money out of your wallet by hiding the new cards behind grindy battles that can be skipped with a handy one-off payment.
I know it’s terrible, you know it sounds terrible, let’s move on.
But where do we go from here?
Well, you have 51 new cards in the Alara plane that have been added and once you’re done grinding them all into your collection you can start what is meant to be the real attraction of this expansion; adding the new cards into your existing decks.
Only there’s another potential problem here and it actually concerns a fundamental aspect of card game design.
You see, Garruk’s Revenge features a new set of cards that follow a linear approach to design. This means that the cards form a sort of group and they feel like they belong together as a result. Collectible cards designed in this fashion encourage (as well as sometimes force) players to construct decks that are based on a particular attribute, rather than the more freeform nature found in the modular approach of the Duels 2015 core game.
When you look at the Garruk’s Revenge cards you’ll see many artifact, exalted and multi-coloured cards that don’t mix well with the existing cards from the base game and sort of require their own dedicated deck to work effectively.
Granted this isn’t the case with every new card that has been introduced, but it’s certainly something that has the chance to disappoint players looking to overhaul one of their favourite decks from the original game. You could approach it with the mindset of trying something new rather than relying on old strategies perhaps, but wouldn’t it be nice to have both options accounted for in full?
It may seem pretty counterintuitive to design an expansion in this linear way but then I think you sort of have to, mainly because of the ever present blight on good times that can be the multiplayer side of the show.
Multiplayer has to be balanced in order to be enjoyable and there’s no point introducing a ton of new powerful and interesting cards that will allow you to stomp players online who have not yet purchased the expansion.
It works like that in paper Magic: The Gathering I guess, but maybe people complain more online, I don’t know!
I should also mention that this expansion was preempted by an update that removed the paid premium boosters and replaced them with more grindy (but free) battle boosters that reward you with cards for playing online. It was certainly a step in right direction but didn’t really do anything to address the mountain of other inadequacies present in Duels 2015 already.
Since this update is free to anyone who didn’t buy the expansion though, I’m not counting it as a plus point for Garruk’s Revenge. I’m mean like that.
People that did pay the hefty price to secure the premium cards beforehand are being gifted a free copy of this expansion as recompense but really, I can’t imagine that feels too good to be honest. And the simple reason for that is that this expansion is another incredibly poor release that adds far too little to be worth recommending.
With a low price point as its only plus, Garruk’s Revenge feels like a damp plaster applied to an infected wound; a wholly inadequate solution that does very little to address the rotten core it sits upon. Clearly released with little faith and expected to fail, this lightweight expansion set is simply not worth your time and I can now only hope that Wizards of the Coast have a backup plan this year to save the Duels franchise from further ridicule.