Can a Hearthstone player graduate to Magic 2015? Part 1

It's a testament to the enduring legacy of Magic: The Gathering that I remember being fascinated by it as far back as 1994. At tabletops during indoor recess, I would watch my friends with rapt attention as they broke out their decks and took part in tournaments that could last days. Interested as I was, though, I never got into it personally. I was a spectator, not a participant, and even the digital Planeswalker games didn't win me over. I understood the basic mechanics, but I always struggled with grasping the intricacies.

That fascination might be why I fell so hard for Hearthstone. Blizzard smartly stripped down the systems and automated a lot of the processes. It's a refined, elegantly simple game. Still, as Magic 2015 approached I was curious if my newfound CCG experience might help me finally bridge that gap. Seeing some of its own smart ideas in play during E3 piqued my curiosity even more.

After finishing the opening areas of Magic 2015, I can confidently say that I feel much more comfortable with Magic, but only time (and my forthcoming review) will tell if it ultimately captures me long-term.

Though I'm sure Hearthstone helped kickstart my brain into the right space to appreciate CCGs, I can't give Blizzard all the credit. So far my taste of Magic 2015 has shown a more refined experience that's friendlier to newcomers. Tutorial areas in previous games walked me through a few simple battles, but did a poor job of explaining when I might want to attack, or hold back to have access to a block. 2015 is much clearer about not only what I should do, but why.

Upon finishing the tutorial, it grants access to a choice of colors. But rather than feel confused or make a decision arbitrarily, I felt informed because the game offered clear, concise explanations of their various strengths. Connecting this to Hearthstone, I could see some parallels to different play styles: rush, healer, zoo, and so on. I ultimately chose a White/Green combination, figuring it was the best analog for my Hearthstone class of choice, Paladin. 

Even given the clearer explanations, though, I'll admit I would be completely lost when it comes to building a deck. In both Hearthstone and Magic, I find I'm more adept at choosing a few great cards than I am at seeing connections and synergies. In Hearthstone, this has manifested itself as constant iteration and revision, as I slowly learn what works and what doesn't.

Magic 2015 is actually better in this respect, with a deck building tool that impressed me at E3. It's no less formidable in practice. More than once I found myself losing against a boss repeatedly. I'd then go back into the deck builder and let it auto-complete after I had chosen a few standout cards. The resulting deck was always good enough to handle myself against whatever threat had previously plagued me. The balance seems aimed at keeping players on their toes and forcing them to revise decks before each match, but the deck builder serves as training wheels for those (like me) who aren't as skilled in this area.

All that said, Magic can still be somewhat arcane to a newbie. Hearthstone has gotten me accustomed to only a few special states like Taunt or Charge. After playing a dozen or so matches, you may not have seen every card, but you've probably seen every kind of card. By comparison, Magic has the tendency to throw out new terms at a regular pace, to the point that I still regularly need to tap the "More Info" tab to see what exactly a card can do. Games of Magic move a little slower by their nature, but especially because I'm constantly pausing to get a better handle on the abilities of my enemy. 

Maybe I'll get more accustomed to all those terms as I continue to play. I'm committed to finishing the campaign at the very least, and if Wizards of the Coast convinces me by then, I'll be happy to divide my time between the two card games. For the time being, I can only say that this one seems more inviting, which may be enough to hold my interest while I finally learn its complexities. I'll keep seeking and update with my progress into Magic.