PT Guides: Like... Magic: The Gathering? You'll Love These

By Nick Vigdahl 11 Jan 2017 18

Magic: The Gathering is an awesome game that appeals to a wide audience in a great many ways. It is somewhat lacking, however, in a mobile presence. It can also be very expensive to play, especially competitively. What follows are five great games to give you that mobile Magic fix without breaking your budget.

Card City Nights

Card City Nights is a single-player card-slinging adventure that came out back in 2014. It’s part CCG—although all of the cards are acquired within the game itself, no IAPs here—and part RPG. The story is focused on a quest Magic: The Gathering players know all too well: getting their hands on those coveted mythic-rarity cards.

You are new to town and are surprised to find a deck of cards waiting for you. Before long you are accosted to play and soon learn that this card game is all the rage in town. The narrative of the story leads you from location to location to meet new people, battling them at cards, and winning booster packs to continually improve your deck. Once you get good enough, you can take on the better players in town in a bid to beat them and get their mythics.

Card City Nights

The card game itself is fun, challenging, and both similar to and different from Magic. Cards are played onto a nine-square gameboard, often cleverly styled to be reminiscent of the playmats that are so popular (and their own cottage industry) in Magic. You win by reducing your opponent's vital statistic—in this case defense—to zero by assembling combos. A combo is formed by matching up directional arrows on the cards to connect enough symbols to enact its effect, usually damaging your opponent or adding to your own defense.

Card City Night's deck building and card-battling gameplay will appeal to Magic: The Gathering aficionados as well. Deck building offers some solid crunch. Rather than considering mana costs you pick cards based on arrow orientation and effect. It can be an interesting exercise in geometry planning how the arrows on your cards will align, especially when you start working in cards that rotate and move around your playmat.

The card battles are similarly engaging. You need to plan your next several turns based on the cards in your hand and in play. You also will want to keep an eye on what your opponent is up to, and look to disrupt their plans where advantageous to do so. Rather than blasting an opponent's defense directly, you can damage a card and render it inert. There are also effects that recover inert cards, adding another layer of attack/mitigate strategy to the game. 

Card City Nights is available on iOS and Android.

Dream Quest

Dream Quest is another Magic-like deck-building card battler from 2014. Rather than immersing you in an ongoing adventure, Dream Quest is a rogue-like. Its levels are generated by the game itself and when you lose a battle…it's back to square one!

You play as one of thirteen unlockable classes (the game starts with four) each with unique cards and a different playstyle. You set off on what is essentially a dungeon crawl and will quickly encounter and fight monsters. These fights will feel a lot like a game of Magic. You take turns playing cards that target your opponent to reduce it to zero health.

There is no Magic-style deck building in Dream Quest. You can't access or edit your deck directly. The game does offer many opportunities to change your deck, however. When you win battles, you gain gold and XP. You can spend your gold at a merchant's store to acquire new cards or pay gold to a monastery to forget a spell you know, thus removing the card from your deck. There's also a blacksmith who will gladly accept your gold to upgrade the effectiveness of a card in your deck. As you gain XP you'll frequently level as well, which allows you to choose new and improved cards for your deck.

Dream Quest

Magic-like mechanics are certainly present. You can thin your deck and pack in certain effects with which you want to play, card draw is always good, for example. Dream Quest also provides good card-playing punch and dueling difficulty. Opponents certainly scale with your ability to dispatch them.

No discussion of Dream Quest is complete without mentioning the art. The art is bad…really bad. A random-person-off-the-street-can-do-better bad. Don't let this drawback dissuade you, however. If you are into Magic: The Gathering, and can look past bad art, Dream Quest is right up your alley. Dream Quest is available on iOS.

Five Card Quest

2015's Five Card Quest: Tactical RPG Battles is a turn-based tactical RPG where you control a party of adventurers using a deck of cards. You pick three adventurers from five different character classes, each has different moves and abilities represented on those cards. Cards for each party member are combined into your deck and you are presented with five cards for your turn.

Your party's goal is to move through computer-generated dungeon levels in search of treasure and the Golden King, who you want to beat like a bass drum. This is easier said than done as Five Card Quest is not without challenge and plenty of it. Combat is fast-paced, tricky, and quite deadly. You face multiple enemies—there are sixteen types in total, each with their own abilities and combat behaviour—across three different combat lanes. Most cards have you fighting the creature in the same lane as an adventurer but some attacks cross lanes and allow adventurers to swap lanes to find an advantage.

Like Magic, Five Card Quest really rewards great decision making. It challenges you to play the right card turn after turn and to plan ahead based on what's in your hand and the other cards in your deck. There is no real deck building, your cards are tied to the adventurers you pick, but there is similar strategy in picking the right party makeup to suit your combat style from the start. Five Card Quest is available on iOS.

Lost Portal

I very recently wrote a five-star review extolling the virtues of one of my favorite games of 2016: Lost Portal CCG. I won't reiterate everything I love about this game here, though I will say that Lost Portal is the most like Magic: The Gathering of all the games in this article. The card battling gameplay will feel very similar to Magic, right down to color identity and many of the card mechanics. Deck building is similarly challenging and the number of cards and variable difficulty of foes makes maintaining multiple decks a must. Lost Portal wraps all this CCG goodness in a fantasy role-playing narrative that feels a lot like Dungeons & Dragons and adds a great deal to the experience. Lost Portal hits all the same notes as Magic and can deliver that CCG fix without the cost of constant booster packs (or singles) and is a must for any Magic fan.

Lost Portal CCG is available on iOS.

Treasure Hunter

Treasure Hunter is a deck drafting game designed by Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic: The Gathering. It is a mobile digital edition of the tabletop card game of the same name. In Treasure Hunter, your goal is become the richest player by the end of the game's five relatively short turns. You do this by capturing treasure from three different game locations, all while defending your loot from greedy goblins.

Treasure Hunter

You draft cards that represent adventurers, color-coded for your convenience, that are headed for each locale: red, blue, and green. The adventurer cards are numbered and each location has two treasures. One is won by the team with the highest value among adventurer cards of that color and one is won by the lowest. Not all treasure is created equal, however, and there will be heavy competition for the right cards to get the best treasure. Treasure isn't the only way to get rich. There are also coin cards you can draft that go right into your pile of loot. You can't focus fully on treasure acquisition, either. You have to keep an eye to security and draft guard dogs to protect your treasure from goblins. Defeating these dastardly fiends also contributes toward the final score.

Juggling these different and competing goals while keeping an eye on what your opponents might be going after makes Treasure Hunter a solid and entertaining drafting game. It doesn't have the depth of play that a Magic: The Gathering draft would—not many games do—but it gives you a taste of drafting strategy, table reading, and many other of the same competitive flavors. The game is not without some flaws—the tutorial needs better translation and some cards could be better explained for new players—that might turn off new players, but once you get the hang of it there's a heck of a lot to like about Treasure Hunter. It is worth checking out for any fans of drafting card games. Treasure Hunter is available on iOS and Android.

This is but a taste of the great mobile titles that await the Planeswalkers among us and I left a lot of games on the cutting room floor. What do you like to play to get that Magic fix? Share your favorites in the comments! 

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