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Duel Masters TCG(Wizard's of the Coast)
SETTING:A card game based off a card game played by kids in a cartoon(actually, the card game may have come first, I'm not sure). The show is a parody of Yu-Gi-Oh, but the card game is superior to the YGO tcg.
GAMEPLAY:Gameplay in Duel Masters falls somewhere between M:tG and ARC System. The rules are not complex, but there is plenty of room for strategy. Sometimes I like this game better than M:tG.
Okay, to start off, both players have 5 shields, represented by face down cards. Whenever you lose a shield, you add the card to your hand. If you have no shields and are attacked, you lose the game. You can also lose by deck depletion.
On your turn, you can put any card from your hand upside down into play as a mana card. Like lands in M:tG, you tap these cards to play other cards. Unlike M:tG, and card can be used, which means no more manadrought.
To play a card, tap a number of mana equal to its cost. At least one of these mana cards must be of the same color(red, blue, black, yellow, or green; although dual colored cards were introduced in later sets). If the card is a spell, activate and then discard it. If its a creature, put it into play. It has summoning sickness. Certain creatures can evolve, or fuse with other creatures to form bigger creatures.
Then you can attack with you creatures. Attacks are made one at a time by tapping a creature, and then choosing either an opponent or a tapped creature to attack. If you attack and opponent, destroy one of shields. If the shield has a 'Shield Trigger' ability, it can be cast for no cost.
If you attack another creature, the creature of the higher Power wins, and the loser is destroyed.
Attacks can only be blocked by untapped creatures with the 'Blocker' ability, who intercept the attack, and are then fought.
There are a plethora of other keyword abilites that can affect battles, among other things. My personal favorites are 'Survivors', who share abilities with other Survivors, and 'Silent Skill', which gives you abilities if you leave a creature tapped during your untap phase. 'Double Breakers' are also nice, who, as the name suggests, break two shields when they attack an opponent.
As you can see, the gameplay is both different and similar to M:tG. It is also simple enought to teach younger children. I have heard several people comment that this game is a stepping stone to Magic, and I agree.
ART:Really good/cool/nice/awesome. The art is all done by Japanese artists(the game was imported), so the creatures are all very cool looking. The holofoiling is also very nice, and the layout is easy to understand.
PACKAGING:10 card boosters, 3 pairs of theme decks, and several starters. The starters really annoy me for several reasons:
1.The packaging is a wonkily shaped rectangular/hexagonal box.
2.While advertised as a 2-player Starter, it contains two 20-card decks. A legal deck must contain at least 40 cards. Aaaaargggh!! Would it have killed them to make two 40 card decks? Or at least advertised them as 1-player starters?
3.In the original release starters, the two decks were very unbalanced. The Light/Nature deck was clearly superior to the Fire/Nature deck because it contained 'Blockers'. The Fire deck only had 'Power-attackers", who are very inferior to 'Blockers'.
4.As a possible redeeming quality, all starters come with a holo promo and a booster pack.
Conversely, the theme decks are quite nice, especially the second pair, which contained wicked-cool dragon cards.
NOTE:The theme decks do not contain rulebooks.
BEST TRAIT:The art. Or the gameplay. Or the fact that it's like Magic, but cheaper. Or all of the above. Also, the game has some really bizzare names and races. Epic Dragons of Hyperchaos introduced Zombie Dragons, Earth Dragons, and Volcano Dragons. Shockwaves of Shattered Rainbow gave us Wild Veggie creatures. And who can forget Uberdragons and Quixotic Hero Swine-snout? And also, this card...
WORST TRAIT:Ugh..the starters. And I'd like to see official rulings on the very cool dual-civilization(color) cards.
FINAL THOUGHTS:A very good strategic game. I'd definitely reccomend to anyone who can read fairly well. There are no funny out of turn effects(other than Shield-triggers), and the mana system eliminates Magic style manadroughts.
-Insane Kobold(aka EonTai)