With its roots firmly planted in the same soil as Magic: The Gathering, EPIC Card Game is a 2015 deckbuilding and card battling game that is about to see a full digital relaunch. As someone who first learned to play MTG via the Duels of the Planeswalkers system, I couldn’t wait to try it.
As a complete newcomer to EPIC Card Game, what initially surprised me was how close the similarities to MTG are. Anyone who has played the classic Wizards of the Coast game will immediately recognise the turn phasing, the way creatures and spells work and even some of the artwork, which is pretty classic fantasy.
As the name suggests though, EPIC Card Game ramps things up rapidly, and I was shocked to see cards with ten or thirteen strength AND a destruction spell effect land on the first turn. You see, EPIC only has two card costs — zero, and one. Players each receive one gold at the beginning of their own turn and their opponents turn, and since this can’t be carried over, they must either use it or lose it.
Because income appears on the opposing players turn, it seems as though a large proportion of cards are built to be played out of turn. Some have better or worse effects depending on when played (or whether played for free or for gold) but in any case, the result is organised chaos.
Never in MTG did I ever see the action flow back and forth quite so violently, and if two of the most common problems with MTG were “mana screw” (where a player doesn’t have the resource to play cards for any reason) and “board stall” (where no player can gain an advantage over the other) then I can promise you’ll never see those things in EPIC Card Game.
In fact, if anything, making the adjustment from playing MTG to playing EPIC is more jarring than I thought because of the actual strategic elements, rather than the mechanical ones. EPIC is incredibly easy to pick up, but I found it hard to come to terms with the rate at which my troops would be thrown onto the table and then straight into the graveyard.
Because of the size of the creatures (or sometimes because horde style decks go very, very, very wide with a lot of small creatures), a single successful attack can often result in a game win or loss (depending on your perspective.) The run-up to such an attack is almost always about establishing any board presence for more than a turn or two. Indeed,
Having made some strong comparisons to MTG, there are a couple of notable differences. The first of these is undoubtedly the income and cost system that I’ve already mentioned. It seemed odd and unbalanced at first that seemingly powerful cards and effects might be played for zero cost on the very first turn, but any card that actually costs gold will almost always have one or two powerful effects, as well as often being a tough creature in its own right.
The second notable difference is the combat step, which resolves as a series of individual battles rather than one large swing. To summarise, this means that each creature a player wishes to attack with is able to attack on its own, or in several smaller groups. This is more of a headache for the attacker since they will need to determine what combinations their attackers will be most effective in.
Of course, there’s also a chance that during the block phase, the defending player may have their one gold still remaining, which can give them the chance to play powerful events that will affect the attacker. It is not at all uncommon for attacks to become nullified because of a board sweeping spell, a creature with the Ambush effect or some other unpleasant surprise.
All of this in terms of the digital app (I played on iOS) works very smoothly. There’s a surprisingly brief and simple tutorial, a tutorial campaign and then a number of other modes to play through, each of which is built around introducing players to the more and more specific aspects of deckbuilding
Of course, as the player unlocks cards and plays more, their own deck becomes more powerful and deckbuilding becomes viable as an activity in its own right. Cards in EPIC Card Game are split between four factions; Good, Evil, Sage and Wild. Each of these has a different focus, and in general, a player will want to have one or two factions represented in their decks, whilst occasional splashes of a third colour can also work.
I particularly like that the digital version of EPIC Card Game has a number of preconstructed and draft modes available for the single-player, so even if you don’t want to play online, you can draft against the AI. I can’t speak to the quality of the AI deckbuilding really, but overall given that it is still in late-stage testing, EPIC is great looking and very stable, with the only bugs I saw relating to in-game decisions (which could just as easily be difficulty scaling.)
If like me, you miss the accessibility of a Duels of the Planeswalkers style game, but you want the extra responsibility of some interesting draft and deckbuilding modes, then EPIC Card Game fits the bill. Regardless of what kind of specific ask, it’s also a very enjoyable card combat game that is probably more exciting on average than MTG, whilst arguably just as cerebral.